Looking for a job? Understand the disconnects.

Looking for a job

Looking for a job in the modern era can be kind of tough. There are a variety of reasons for this:

That’s just a partial smattering of the issues with looking for a job. I didn’t even really touch on the job-hopping stigma, whereby you need to hop jobs to make more money, but the process of hopping jobs makes you look bad to HR departments. D’oh!

I can’t promise to necessarily “hack” the process of looking for a job for you, but I can help you out a little bit in terms of understanding the disconnects.

Looking for a job: The company-side disconnect

Liz Ryan defined this disconnect well once:

I hope you don’t make your customers and prospects create their own records in Salesforce! You value your customers too much to make them unpaid clerical help, and you need to value job applicants that much or more.

That right there is the disconnect. The sheer fact that Applicant Tracking Systems exist — that we have to go through 18 screens and input all this repetitive crap about ourselves — means that the true “decision-makers” of a company could care less about hiring. If a customer had to on-board that way, they’d all bounce. Execs would be livid. And yet, it’s fine for people whose salary you will soon pay.

That’s the disconnect. It’s around caring.

How would a job-seeker reduce this disconnect?

You care less too. Here’s what you do:

  • Network through LinkedIn, past jobs, professors, your parents, your parents’ friends, etc.
  • Find a few places you have a potential “strong in” and focus there first
  • Also find a few places that seem cool for what you want to do but you lack an “in”
  • For those places, look at their various resources and frame up an awesome letter about how you could help them solve some issues
  • Combine that with the “strong in” places and that’s the crux of your job search
  • Now do about 100/week “Indeed Easy Apply” and “LinkedIn Easy Apply”
  • Zero fucks given

You need to think on looking for a job this way because honestly, the company-side doesn’t care. So you should care even less. You need a job and I get that, but something off LinkedIn Easy Apply that pays you for three years is better than running yourself through an emotional gauntlet over a bunch of mostly-uncontrollable factors. Jobs are means to an end. Career arcs are journeys. We get there, even if it takes a long-ass time.

Looking for a job: The candidate-side disconnect

Near the top of a new Wharton article called “The Biggest Mistakes Job Seekers Make Today” is this gem:

One of the things that seems to be taking up a lot of people’s time and not getting as much in the way of results as they would like is personal branding. People are putting in a lot of time in to making sure that their online presence reflects what they see as their authentic self, and on the hiring side, nobody seemed to care about personal branding. But personal branding, as you know, takes a lot of time.

Literal LOL right there. People spending days/weeks cultivating and managing their Instagram and Medium channels. You think some HR flack could care less? Or even the hiring manager? Personal branding is important, don’t get me wrong — hit this target — but it doesn’t matter as much as we think in hiring.

But don’t employers look at your social / digital footprint?

Of course, although it’s dubious how much true “social recruiting” is really happening. Oftentimes when people look at that stuff, it’s vetting. They want to make sure there are no dubious drunk pics, etc. It’s not necessarily a check of your “personal branding.”

Let me try to explain this as clearly as possible. I may get off-task.

  1. Most offices, and definitely most hiring processes, are managed by “sense of urgency.” That means there’s a lot of yelling about “I need this now!” and everyone is responding to that instead of contextualizing anything.
  2. In such an environment, it really doesn’t even matter how impressive your background is. Kinda what matters is (a) are you available now? and (b) do the right people seem to think you’d work out?
  3. We could make this process more scientific, of course — People Analytics? —  but we don’t, because we don’t care.
  4. It would be easier to vet if we had legitimate interview questions, as opposed to the drivel we currently have.

So a rushed process (that feels as if it’s taking forever) rooted in small talk and supposedly urgent need is going to get you hired. It’s not necessarily your “personal brand,” no.

What should candidates do instead of personal branding, then?

  • Work connections
  • Frame yourself as coming in immediately to help
  • Be professional and respectful at every turn
  • Smile and nod when you get to the hiring manager
  • Realize that even if this doesn’t seem like a great fit, the business model will pivot in 10 months and you might be in a great job
  • Try to see if the job role legitimately makes sense and seems to need to exist

Anything else you’d add on how to understand the disconnects when looking for a job?

Ted Bauer


  1. Great stuff as always Ted. Yesterday, I ended up on Reddit’s r/jobs sub after Google-searching “ignore job requirements” (it may not have produced the direct link to the thread I’m about to discuss, but that’s where it started, at least). The job I’m applying for which inspired the search term is listed as a project management job for a community nonprofit (it’s waaaaaay more than that, of course), but details grant-writing experience as “required”, although it’s not a grant writing job per se—the grant writing duty is listed in the posting as “contribute to grant writing”. I would hope they have a development staff member or contracted grant writer to actually perform that duty.

    I met all the other requirements of the job and have experience as a copywriter, fundraiser, and minored in Writing way back in college (a school that’s well regarded in the town this job is in). I’m not here to say grant-writing is easy, but I do think it is a skill which can basically be grasped in a short time period if one is a talented writer and quick learner.

    Anyway, the point about the job that led to the Reddit garbage is that the job posting listed several incongruent tasks (project management, development, marketing) as REQUIREMENTS when usually these are the domain of different departments within an org, even at a small nonprofit. If I had to guess, the hiring managers are looking to replicate an especially well-rounded employee who is on their way out, hence this weird job posting. While I think it’s OK to ask for these things as “desired”, listing them as “requirements” severely limits the candidate pool. So, I’d add that confusion between desired and required skills on a job requisition often adds unnecessary complications to a hiring process.

    I know I threw out the Reddit r/jobs thing and didn’t follow up on it, so here goes—I went down a rabbit hole in one thread that was essentially about salary negotiations. In this thread, one particularly arrogant Redditor argued in favor of requiring candidates to provide prior salaries, as this:

    a) helped the company determine whether the person was being “realistic” about the job they were applying for,

    b) informed one’s “market value”, which he/she insisted on being “important”, seeming to ignore the fact that people often work in jobs for companies that have no idea what they’re doing with regards to compensation structures, or that certain jobs (mine included) don’t easily correspond to salary data available on the Web.

    Now I disagreed with this Redditor’s stance (interestingly, the person that they were arguing with ended the discussion civilly by noting that they would have to agree to disagree); I understand the logic that informs the practice, but I don’t think it’s

    a) useful as a technique writ large (maybe it’s been effective for his/her company, but I cringe at the idea of this being implemented at scale, especially in the nonprofit sector),

    b) grounded in peer-reviewed studies/the result of anything academic (seems to be derived from a certain understanding of economics which doesn’t necessarily correlate to human resources; i.e., it’s a gimmick dreamt up by someone who thought they were smart and stood to make a few bucks from selling it to companies).

    The impression I got from reading that reaffirmed my belief that some in the recruiting/headhunting space (I think this Redditor identified as a company recruiter) exist in a world unto themselves, populated by their own ideas and terminology (most of which is impenetrable to the uninitiated) and perpetuate unfounded hiring practices (salary negotiation games, the whole “passive candidate” crap which is little more than a highly flawed hypothesis AFAIC) as the result of a giant circlejerk about clever little games they can play to give their companies the advantage in the “war on talent”. So, as it relates to your piece (I hope I’m bringing it all back home), I believe this to be another broken link in most companies’ hiring processes: pseudoeconomist twerps who alienate strong candidates by playing games with them (plenty of others in the thread chimed in to state that they’d drop out of a hiring process if it got too gimmicky).

    For me, I’m looking for a new job at the moment, but I’m thinking that putting a 3-to-6-month deadline on my search to instead focus on developing my freelance/consulting base might be necessary…there are a lot of people involved in hiring who don’t know what they’re doing and haven’t got the foresight or guts to admit it.



  2. as an addendum to yesterday’s comment: just saw a job posting at another nonprofit that listed grant writing experience as “required”, while experience working at a nonprofit was “desired”….

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