We all know the basics of getting a job. You need to spruce up your resume. You use that resume to get some interviews. An employer, at some point, will make you an offer. Finally, you close the deal. Simple, right? Of course not.
A. Be a Planner When It Comes to Building Your Ideal Career
Getting that position that fulfills you, that gives you meaning, that motivates you and gets you excited about the next step in your journey is a hard goal to reach. But, without question, that dream job is achievable – with a little insight into the lifecycle of a talent acquisition.
It has often been said that the work it takes to get a job is a job in itself. That is absolutely true. Yet, just like any job, if you tackle the issues you face in a more systematic way, understanding the mechanics of each step along the way, you can have better control over the process, and a better outcome.
It is like building a house. You can choose to buy a bunch of materials and just start hammering away. Or, you could carefully plan the construction by starting with a blueprint, assessing the materials you need, and laying out the steps towards completion. Whichever choice you make, you will have a house at the end. But odds are that the scattershot, haphazard approach will take a lot longer, will be a lot more stressful, and may result in a not-so-great house.
So, let’s be planners when it comes to our job search, and look more deeply into the talent acquisition lifecycle. As you will see, we can take the four job-search steps mentioned above and really dig into the major lifecycle milestones along the journey. That exercise will not only lead to much-needed insight and reduce the job-search stress, but it will eventually lead to building that better house – a fulfilling career.
B. Insight Begins with the Cover Letter
When it comes to the documents you need to prepare at the beginning of the lifecycle, the resume is always the first thing you should tackle. But aren’t there other documents you need that should be on hand as you begin the job-search lifecycle? Of course.
As experienced lawyers, you have written client alerts and other published articles, so you need to have a publication list on the ready. If you specialize in transaction work, you most likely have deal sheets, which need to be laid out for ease of review by employers. Finally, you also need to have a set of people who will serve as solid references. Make sure that you have the proper contact information for those references ready to go.
The one document, however, that stands out as the thing that requires your focused attention as you begin the lifecycle is the cover letter. Now, if you are like most people, you probably think of the cover letter as the afterthought, as the thing that you can quickly write immediately before you are ready to reach out to an employer. Not so.
The cover letter is like your first handshake with an employer – it is your first impression. Just like when you meet someone in person, you need to make that first impression a good one. Accordingly, when drafting a cover letter, you need to start thinking about some important things – What type of job are you applying for? What is the company looking for in a candidate? What in your background will most clearly speak to what the company is looking for in the position? What is the culture and tone of the organization?
Those questions are where the insight begins. The more you consider those questions, the more strategic – and competitive – you become. While some (those scattershot house builders) might simply send a boilerplate cover letter, your added insight will be your secret weapon. You can, in a one or two paragraphs, show the potential employer why your background is a perfect fit for their specific position, and you can even match the tone of the organization with the way you write the cover letter. With just a little bit of added insight, you now put your application ahead of a lot of other applicants.
C. Got the Interview? Now Up Your Research on the Organization
Good news, you got an interview! Now, you need to step up your insight into the employer. Indeed, the energy spent, and the insight gained, when customizing your cover letter needs to go into overdrive so you can nail the interview.
Begin your interview preparation by getting to know the organization better. Review the biographies of each person with whom you will interview, and see if there are any commonalities with your background. Great insights can come from doing that homework. Of course, if you are working with a trusted legal search firm you will have a wealth of information available to you and your recruiter will share insights about the client, its people, culture and what to expect during your interviews.
Finally, see if there is anything about the organization that gets you really motivated. Is the company focused on staying “green?” Does the organization have a mission statement that speaks to you? The more arrows you have in your quiver that will generate substantive conversations with your interviewers, the better and more free-flowing the interview will be.
D. Debrief After the Interview – More Insight Abounds
One of the most educational parts of the job-search lifecycle for you, the interviewee, is the interview post-mortem. As can be expected, you will learn volumes about the company by just being in the building, speaking to those who assist you in getting to the interview room, and of course meeting with the interviewers.
Don’t waste this insight. What was the culture of the office space? How many people interviewed you? Did the interviewers meet with you as a team, or separately? Did the interviews range over several days, or all in one day? Did the interviewers seem to know about your background? Did they do their homework before the interview? What questions did they ask? Who will be making the offer, and when? Again, your recruiter will guide you through a debrief and will share feedback with you from the client so that you know where you stand. Your recruiter is also uniquely positioned to share your feedback with the client so that your interest, enthusiasm, and passion for the organization and the role can be properly communicated. That is often a game-changer.
All of those factors will give you a detailed understanding of the job and may indicate the urgency with which the company wants to fill the position. It will also give you a strong “feel” for how the company runs its business in general. Don’t forget that you are interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing you.
E. The Timing of the Trains
It is possible that you may be in the lifecycle with more than one employer. Of course, as Murphy’s Law would have it, the opportunity you are less interested in is the one that is moving more quickly in the process. Perhaps the “lesser” of two opportunities comes in first, or the cycle has not even started on the preferred opportunity. You need to prepare yourself for this “timing of the trains” problem, whereby the position you are most interested in is moving on the slower track.
Here, again, is where the insight you have gained will be vital. Based on the information you have on each opportunity, you can better assess whether it is worth it to wait for that slower track opportunity to come through. Maybe there was information imparted during the interview for the more enticing position that would make you feel comfortable that, while they might have a process that is slower than your expectations, it is still the right job for you. That being said, perhaps the fact that one employer does not seem interested in getting to the next milestone in the lifecycle, that informs you further about the culture of that organization.
F. Finally, What Do You Do with All of this Lifecycle Insight?
There are some short term and long term “deliverables,” if you will, with all of the intelligence you have collected during the job-search process.
With regard to short-term considerations, all of the insight you have gathered will inform the thank you note that you will send to your interviewers. Again, areas of commonality are always nice to mention as you lightly touch upon your fit for the job when you thank the interviewers.
More importantly, however, the insight you have gained will inform whether this is the job for you in the long term. As we noted at the beginning, you are looking to build your dream career. If you have a good idea of what that career looks like at the outset, then you will be able to intelligently assess whether the job for which you just interviewed is the right next step. If you really don’t know what your dream career looks like, or you have not given it any thought, then you may not be able to evaluate whether the job is the right one when you receive an offer.
The lifecycle of talent acquisition for a company is also a marvelous learning experience for you as the job seeker. As the information above demonstrates, the more you have a plan and have given serious consideration to what career you are looking to build for yourself, the more you can determine which is the best next job for you. So, take the time to gain insight and use that insight as you move through the job-search lifecycle. It will help you immensely in building the career you want.