Some thoughts on Job Searching

So, long story short, I left my previous job for personal reasons and I am currently searching for a new one. I’m not going into the details because people can search me and find this blog but I made an informed decision with no regrets.

That being said, there are a few tips and tricks that I have learned that may be helpful to other job seekers.

Disclaimer: I am not a job counselor but these are some things I have picked up over the past few years that may be helpful.

1. Network at every opportunity you can. Networking is really really important. When I was searching for jobs this time last year, the two jobs I got offers from were jobs that I was personally recommended for, and not published yet online. Have business cards in your bag and update your LinkedIn. You never know when you will meet someone that will help you find a job.

2. Create a spreadsheet with your jobs applied to, date interviewed and need for follow up. This helps you keep track of jobs and when you should follow up. I have applied to over 60 jobs at this point and it can sometimes be difficult to keep them all straight.

3. Create a document with all necessary job application information. This includes your references, former work information, etc, so you are not constantly looking up emails or phone numbers for references.

4. Ask references in person or via email first before putting their names down and send them a copy of the job description.

5. Conduct Informational Interviews (by phone or in person). This is probably one of the most important things you can do. This is how I got my most recent job. My supervisor was a professor of one of my classes and I did an informational interview with her. She did not have a position with her research group but held on to me until she did. Also, someone you interview with may be able to get you in touch with someone else who may help you. They may do an email introduction or just drop a name. These interviews are generally set up by email and can be by phone or in person.

A sample email may go like this,

Dear John Smith, 

My name is <insert name here> and I would like to talk to you about potential job openings with your company. <List degree and qualifications> I got your name from <insert name here>. <List availability>. I have enclosed my Resume/CV for your perusal.

Thank you in advance


<your name>

For example, I had a phone interview with the head of a branch of a state health department, and I got her name from the program manager at the university where she works as an adjunct faculty. She got me in touch with a local public health officer in a county I wanted to work in. That local public health officer met with me for an informational interview. That local public health officer sent emails to other people she thought it would be good for me to be in touch with and I set up interviews with them. She also forwarded job opportunities to me that were at the state and county levels.

If someone knows you, they may be more likely to hire you than a random person who applied to the job.

When you speak to the interviewer, be able to describe yourself in a minute or less, sell yourself and tout your impressive qualities. Remember to thank the interviewer for their time.

6. Do some homework before the informational or job interview. What does this company do? What does this person do? Do they have similar research interests? what should they be addressed by? Where did they get their degree? etc. Look them up on LinkedIn. The internet is great for this!

7. Send a “thank you” email. If you do have an informational or job interview in person or by phone thanking the person for their time and effort. It may seem silly, but it is always a good idea.

8. Do not be afraid to follow-up. Once you have had a job or informational interview, feel free to be a little annoying and check in after a few weeks. Sometimes the person you are interviewing with has more things on their plate than hiring people and may need a reminder.

9. Realize that the hiring process is complicated and it is a two way street. Many jobs have HR requirements and paperwork that has to go through. Because of that process, it may be easier to hire someone from within the organization than to add someone new to the system.  I had an experience where we interviewed someone for an open position at my last job. She had a second interview with my supervisor, and did not hear back for a few weeks. I found out later that the position would no longer exist and would not be filled by anyone. Also, the person in charge of hiring you may have other duties that take priority.

10. Hiring depends on Funding. If you are working in a university/academic setting, they may rely on grants to fund positions. They may wait until they receive the grant money to post a position, and then they need to hire someone relatively quickly. They also might list a position and then eliminate it because funding was cut for that project.

11. Do not bring up bad things that happened at your previous position at a job interview. From a former recruiter on the RPCV Jobs facebook group: Tell the interviewer how you can be an asset to their company. Challenges in a previous job may be asked about, but always turn the negative into a positive.

12. If you are looking to relocate, go visit if you can. If you have the financial means to visit an area you wish to relocate to, that can be very helpful. You can get a sense of the commute, neighborhoods and culture.

13. Come in with a set of questions before the interview. These may include, is there health insurance? Do you have other benefits? do employees get bus passes? etc. Also, if you have questions later, feel free to email the hiring person.

14. Come in to the interview with an idea of a salary for your position. the GS government system is a good place to look and varies by location. For example, with a Master’s degree, I am technically a GS-9. I can look up what a GS-9 would make in let’s say, Alaska, and if I were to interview, I would at least have a baseline idea of what that salary should be.

GS Levels are explained well here:

GS Levels with tables from the US Government Office of Personnel Management(OPM)

15. Even rejections can lead to jobs. Someone I know got a cold call from a big tech company in California. The job would have been perfect for him and his dream job. The first interview went well, but the second did not and he got rejected. I told him that at least the recruiter knows who he is and what his qualifications are, and that he might get contacted for another job. A few weeks passed, the recruiter called him back for a job that was not as perfect as the first one, but one that he was still interested in. He did much better with the interview process, and got flown out for an in-person interview.

The point is: even though he got rejected for the first job, he was on the recruiter’s mind for a second job which he ended up getting. Hiring managers would rather deal with people they know, rather than ones that they do not.

That is all I have for now and information I have gleaned from personal experience. I hope this helps people in their job search.


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