The Job Search Funnel: How to Get Better Results on Each Step

October 7, 2021
5 mins

Photo by Liz Maslakova.

How do you get your dream job offer? For me it took sending out hundreds of applications and having 35 interviews with 18 companies. I want to share in this article what learned along the way.

Where to look for leads (job opportunity channels)

Chances to be hired after a referral are 85x higher compared to applying through a job board. So let’s just agree that sending a cold application is never a good idea – here are some alternatives.

Meetups

My keywords at the time of job search were ‘fintech’, ‘product management’ and ‘women in tech’ – so I’ve started to attend popular events that matched them. I even organised a meetup series myself. 

Results: Attending meetups for me personally resulted in 3 very successful referrals – two got to final stages and one more ended up in a job offer.

Startup mentoring / Pet projects

I was lucky enough to become a mentor in the core program of TechStars and I formed very warm relationships with some companies. The startups participating in the program were aware of what they lacked and what they needed. 

If you want to get startup experience and are willing to work with lower wages for the opportunity to join the project at its early stage (and possibly for a share option), mentoring can help you build your network. Joining a co-working space like Google Campus can be an easy way to make connections and find a startup for mentoring.

Results: two startups were interested in offering me a position in product management. But, like many startups, they did not have the financial capacity and hoped they would find the money faster than I could find another job. It turned out the other way round.

Online Services

Here is a list of online services that I have used to look for a job.

Shapr. This application helps you build your professional network. It is similar to Tinder in how it works. You only need to specify what you are looking for and what you can do, and the rest is swiping. There, you can find a mentor, become a mentor, find clients for freelance projects and even get referred for a full-time job.

Results: Shapr referred me to a well-established design consulting agency, and I reached the final stage of interviewing.

Hired. Using this service feels like having a personal agent, but there is no need for constantly calling or messaging one. The service is fully automated. You may have to wait quite a long time for your profile to become active, though. The service takes some time to discover enough job openings for you.

Results: I do not know how many companies I was referred to, but two of them contacted me. Both were pretty interesting startups, although I reached only the screening stage for one job opening and the first interview for another.

Job Fairs

In London I attended Silicon Milkroundabout. It is an excellent opportunity to personally hand out your CVs to company representatives instead of HR robots. That way, you can also learn how to pitch yourself, ask the right questions and get the general feel of the companies’ attitude.

Silicon Milkroundabout is a well-organised job fair. Pre-COVID it used to take place twice a year, and you could attend it for free. If you attend a job fair do not forget to:

  • print your CV, 
  • study the list of participating companies beforehand,
  • wear comfortable shoes and clothes at the event.

Results: through this event, I managed to connect with four companies. Two of them withdrew after my phone screening with their HR, the third one did so after the first interview, and the fourth after the second interview.

It is typical for companies to be very active for a few days following a job fair but slow down two weeks later. Only one company I had talked to wrote me a rejection letter. The others just disappeared. Apparently, they had underestimated the amount of work and initially opted for too wide a funnel that they could not handle.


Traditional Recruitment Agencies

Some agencies specialise in recruiting for specific roles. These are the ones I prefer working with. They have a good understanding of what vacancies would be a good fit for you. They search vacancies for you not just by vacancy names but by what is actually behind them. 

The good thing about working with agencies is that they do the initial pitching and make you more visible among other candidates. However, the client here is the employer. The agency’s priority is to satisfy the company’s requests rather than go an extra mile for the candidate. Another problem is the misrepresentation of information, as it often happens when communicated through mediators. Something like this is very likely to be revealed at the first interview.

Results: I had four leads from two agencies, but none has made it past the first interview.

How to get from application to offer

Through all these resources, I got to do 35 interviews with 18 companies, which took more than three months and ten days.

To keep track of the statistics, I made a spreadsheet where I took notes on all the leads that ended in interviews, the dates of various interview stages and the dates I learned the decisions on them. 

I’m currently working on making a feature out of the advice in this article: if you are looking for a job right now, message me at liz@wojo.works and I’ll give you personalised advice in exchange for some feedback.  

The interviewing procedure may differ from company to company. However, here are some general steps:

Screening

Usually, it is a 15-minute phone conversation with an HR manager who does a basic check of matching competencies and expectations (salary, eligibility, notice period). Depending on the lead channel, it can also be a face-to-face conversation at a job fair or a phone conversation with an agent. If it is the latter, the agent will be the one calling or corresponding with the employer.

At this stage, I recommend that you prepare a clear answer about the job expectations and a short version of your pitch (2-3 sentences max!). Prepare to answer questions about your last job and reasons for leaving it. The screening may start with a question like ‘What do you know about us?’ Providing a concise description of the employer is an easy way to make a good impression.

Results*:

The average waiting period between submitting a CV and the screening call is 15 days.

The average waiting period between screening and decision-making is 8 days.

The conversion rate for achieving the first interview stage is 67%.

*Here and after all estimates are based on my personal data set.

The First Interview

It is most often a CV walk-through. At this stage, you are expected to tell the company about your experiences. The interview is usually conducted by your potential direct supervisor or teammate who understands the duties well. It usually lasts 45-60 minutes and is conducted online or over the phone. Face-to-face interviews are less common.

In my experience, it is very important to explain the logic behind your moving from one job to another. The employer would like to know what you were responsible for in your roles at the beginning of your career and your last job. The best way to go about these questions is to focus on the tasks and projects directly related to what you are expected to do at the new job.

For this stage, it is also helpful to research the company's business in detail and try to provide examples relevant to their needs and challenges, whether it is entering a new market, digital transformation or organisational transformation.

There will be time for questions, too. I recommend that you don’t wait too long before asking your questions. Later, you may not have enough time or courage. The first interview is perfect for asking technical and organisational questions. For example, what technology stack you are expected to work with, who sets goals, and what the team structure looks like.

Do not hesitate to talk about the corporate culture, the company’s plans or anything else that matters to you, especially if that was the reason you decided to quit your last job.

It is probably not a good idea to ask questions that are too general or to which the employer has ready-made answers. For example, I preferred not to ask about the corporate culture in general but rather about the feedback delivery process in the company. To brainstorm for questions, I would normally do a background check:

  • Go through Glassdoor ratings and negative reviews.
  • Explore my potential colleagues and executives’ profiles on LinkedIn.
  • Check the corporate Instagram account (if there is one) to see what everyday life and team building looked like.
  • Watch the company’s videos on Silicon Milkroundabout (if they’ve been there). Especially short video interviews with the employees talking about what they liked about working in the company. Those are often filmed in the office with other people walking around. Watching such videos helps you get a feel of the atmosphere in the company.
  • Watching YouTube videos. There you may find an interview or a talk recording of the CEO or the founder of the company. It is a great way to understand the company’s business goals and mission. You can also use this information to prepare an answer to the question ‘What do you know about us?’
  • Sometimes, I also looked up the companies at CompanyCheck. That helped me to get an idea about the company's financial situation and top management. The latter may tell you a lot about how much the company’s decision-makers are distanced from the company’s everyday tasks and challenges.

Results:

The average waiting period between learning the screening results and doing the first interview is 10 days.

The average waiting period between the first interview and learning the decision on it is 5 days.

The conversion rate for achieving the second interview stage is 50%.

The Second Interview

The procedure for the second interview may differ significantly depending on what company conducts it. However, four things are typical of this stage:

  • Firstly, this is where you meet your potential supervisor. At this stage, you can try and see if you can work together.
  • Secondly, this interview will focus on the things the previous interviewer has found confusing. So, if you suspect the way you handled some of your answers were not exactly thrilling, make sure that you are ready to provide clear answers this time.
  • Thirdly, you may be asked to do a case study. Sometimes, they let you know the details beforehand so that you can prepare for the questions at home. Sometimes, you get one during the interview. If there was no opportunity to prepare beforehand, I searched for examples to get a general idea of possible questions.
  • If they let me prepare for it at home, I would not hesitate to search for useful frameworks and terms. I would also ask my husband to watch me practising the case presentation. Do not look down on the opportunity to do extra research and ask for help when preparing the case at home because you will have plenty of opportunities to do so at the new job, too. Moreover, nowadays, obtaining and processing information is more important than having a blueprint in your head.
  • Fourthly, by this time, you have probably already met in person. For all in-person or zoom meetings I would carefully select my outfit and makeup. “Don’t judge the book by its cover” but when you are the book – why not have a cover you feel confident in? In order to easily be recognised as ‘one of the tribe’ I also made it a rule to check photos of the company’s office and figure out the dress code before attending face-to-face interviews. The aim was to put together an appropriate outfit that looks a little less ‘loose’ than that of an average employee.

This interview may last up to three hours. That is why feeling comfortable in your outfit is so important too. 

Results:

The average waiting period between learning the decision on the first interview and doing the second interview is 11 days.

The average waiting period between doing the second interview and learning the decision on it is nine days.

The conversion rate for achieving the third interview stage is 17%.

The Third Interview

This interview resembles the second one. The only difference is that you can meet top managers or the company's founders at this stage. Even though I reached the third interview stage just once, I heard a lot about the third stage interviews from different interviewers.

Results:

The average waiting period between learning the decision on the second interview and doing the third interview is three days.

The average waiting period between doing the third interview and learning the decision on it is one day.

The conversion from attending the third interview to getting an offer is 100%.

The conversion from screening to getting an offer is 6%.

The main advice is to have the same attitude to interviews as the interviewers do. For them it is just one in a dozen meetings for the day, and their lives do not depend on its success. It would be best to have a mindset that gives you that very feeling. This way, you will be able to communicate with the employer from the position of strength.

After all, you are also interviewing them, and you can decline their offer at any time. I tried to do it once, by the way – it is very empowering.

I’m currently working on making a feature out of the advice in this article: if you are looking for a job right now, message me at liz@wojo.works and I’ll give you personalised advice in exchange for some feedback. 

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