Monster, HotJobs, CareerBuilder, Dice, SimplyHired, etc. etc. are all great but when the rubber hits the road, it’s friends that will help you beyond all other sources when it comes to finding you a new job. I’m switching jobs in a few weeks and this is all possible because of the referrals from my friends. Having a friend on the “inside” helps you get into the door, helps you navigate the interview process, and gives you, hopefully, their honest opinion of what it’s like to work there. All three parts are critical because while the job may pay better, the work environment may not be a good fit. This is the last article of this brief series and explains why it’s so important for your friends to give you an honest opinion of the company.
Learning How It Really Is
It’s hard to really know what it’s like to work at a company before you actually work there. If you look at the classic stereotype (Dilbert-esq world) of a defense contractor, you’ll see a company that’s consistently late, under delivers and is always over budget. In actuality, we’re talking billion dollar contracts with decades long lifecycles and some very hard working people turning that mouse wheel of progress. I’d like to see you build something new on the first try while sticking to a arbitrary schedule and arbitrary cost. You can’t just order satellite parts off Amazon, you need to build them. The only way you know what’s it’s like is if you’ve worked there… so that’s why you need your friends to tell you.
Friends will also tell you all that nice useful benefits information that isn’t included in the offer package. How long does it take to get a promotion? What do you need to do or demonstrate? How is the performance evaluation done, how does it actually work? What are the real work hours like? How are the people in this group? These are all good questions and many of which you can’t ask your recruiter or interviewer but you can certainly ask your friends.
For example, at my new company a promotion from a level 2 to a level 3 gives you an extra week of vacation as well as a 10-15% increase in pay. At my old company, you don’t get anything from the same promotion. That information isn’t included in any documentation that I’ve received… it’s from personal experience and from my friend.
Getting In The Door
If you imagine that a publicized job for which you are qualified candidate, now imagine that your resume enters the same database as 10,000 other equally qualified candidates… what separates you from everyone else? That fancy paper you printed your resume on certainly won’t differentiate you. What separates at least one of those 10,000 candidates is how he or she entered the database, likely as a referral. At that point it’s basically luck that will get you an interview because that company won’t interview 10,000 candidates, or even 100. Having been referred, perhaps by someone who has even talked to the hiring manager and able to give a honest opinion of you, gives you a huge advantage. Now imagine a non-publicized job for which you are a qualified candidate, if your friend refers you then you’re competing with far less than 10,000 candidates thus giving you another leg up.
Many companies treat referral candidates much differently than candidates they’ve discovered on their own through their hiring process (visiting colleges, scouring resume listing sites) because they have at least one trusted source, the employee, vouching for that candidate.
When I started looking for a job, I mentioned it to a few of my friends, one of which had recently left my current company and began working at my future company. He offered to submit my resume into their system (he does get a $1500 referral bonus if I stay for 90 days, but he’s not the type of guy that would only do it for the money, that’s just the icing) and within a week or two I had a phone interview. Another one of my friends, who also left my current company for a consulting gig, also referred me to a software company in the local area because he worked with them before. The contact netted me another interview a few weeks later as well.
So, in the few weeks I was looking for a job, the only two interviews (I’d been hit up by headhunters via email multiple times, it seems like everyone is) I ever went on were direct the result of referrals from friends.
Depending on the size of the company, the interview process may as formal as a full day or two with a rigid itinerary or as informal as “show up at 4pm, we’ll just chat.” Having someone who had gone through the process will give you an idea of what to expect, whether it’s “beware heavily technical questions” or they’re just giving you reassurance that “if they’re asking you to interview in person, they’re going to give you a job” (even if it’s not 100% true).
Even if they aren’t familiar with the interviewing process, they might be familiar with the people (if the company is small enough) and the company so you’ll feel more confident and comfortable when you actually interview.
In interviewing, information is critical in performing well and having some inside information is always helpful, even if it’s just knowing someone appreciates humor.