Job search timeline

Here’s a timeline and commentary about my recent job search. I hope it’s useful to others.

2021-12-09: I decided it was time to look for a new job.

I wasn’t yet clear about the desired position, industries, or company attributes. I had possibilities for each but they weren’t crisp nor prioritized. The clarity would come to me gradually in a few weeks, after many meetings and much reflection about what I wanted. I wish I had crispness at the beginning but that wasn’t to be my personal journey. Tl;dr: It’s OK to start a job search before you’ve figured everything out.

2021-12-14: My resume and LinkedIn profile are updated and good enough to start circulating. But I’ll continue to tweak them through December 18.

I have a hard time with my resume. I’m never happy with it at the start of a search. The description of each position, layout, whitespace, level of detail, etc. all look wrong. Most of this is imagined but I still must get past it before I can feel good about the document — and about marketing myself. A dear friend of mine, Cindy Dickey, was enormously helpful and I’m indebted to her for her advice. Tl;dr: If you’re like me then find a really good friend to review your resume and slap you in the head when needed. (Thank you Cindy!)

I start uploading the resume to sites such as Glassdoor. When I make improvements, no matter how small, I re-upload it to all the sites…

2021-12-15: I set up job alerts. LinkedIn was far and away the most productive site for me. Indeed, ZipRecruiter, Glassdoor, and others didn’t carry many pertinent listings for me.

If I did it all over again and had to use only one site, I’d use LinkedIn. But was useful for salary comparisons and Glassdoor was great for company reviews. I used them to get useful clues about company culture.

I received my first ping from an interested company, and from headhunters trawling LinkedIn.

2021-12-18: Company interest starts climbing. With each one there’s a predictable pipeline: The introduction, introductory Zoom or Google Meet meetings, first-round interview, maybe second-round interview, then one party deciding on no further interest. Rinse and repeat. I expected hardly any activity in December, yet I conversed with about 15 companies. The distinction of my first interview goes to Mpathic. (Interesting business and job, I thought I brought a lot to the table, but they ultimately passed on me. A major disappointment! They’re a company to watch.)

Around this time I also contacted friends for job leads and to get a sense of the job market.

2021-12-23: I pause the search for the Christmas holiday.

2021-12-28: From now through January 4 I had only a few e-mail and video conversations.

2022-01-04: The tempo dramatically increases. Everyone returns from their December vacation and holidays and -wham-!

2022-01-20: Starting January 4, I was increasingly consumed by the time-juggling needed to do right by my current employer. I’d make up time spent on interviews after hours or on the weekends. This got to be challenging and energy-draining.

I took seven PTO days to search full-time. I had five to seven meetings each day. In-between I researched companies and refined my goals.

I settled on my search goals by around January 15. I’m respectful about other people’s time, so I declined further interest as soon as a job seemed unlikely to be a good match. I usually determined this before the second-round interviews.

The companies in play coalesced into three groups. (1) Front-runners that were good matches and far along in the hiring pipeline. (2) Companies that were just as, or nearly as, interesting but significantly behind in the pipeline. (3) Companies beginning to evaluate me and/or were slower than the rest.

A job search is a numbers game. You must continue scheduling interviews and engaging with companies until you have an acceptable offer in hand. You can’t stop when your first choice is about to generate an offer because it ain’t over until the fat lady sings. You must keep going full-bore until you have victory.

Only then do you cancel other pending interviews and respectfully disengage with recruiters. If you don’t do this, you run two risks. (1) You won’t be in as strong a negotiating position when your first-choice company generates an offer. (2) You’ll lose time and standing with other companies if you disengage and then learn your first-choice company changed its mind — and then have to sheepishly resume talking to them.

And BTW, it’s also a numbers game for the hiring companies!

2022-02-01: By now I’ve had more interviews than I can recall and my head is spinning. But I haven’t yet taken up glue sniffing. Some vignettes:

  • I’ve “designed” Google Docs, Shazam!, automated parking garages, and a credit-card processing backend. Oh and if you want to start an anagram company, I’m your man!
  • All of my coding tests were in Python because that’s how I roll.
  • Two of my coding tests worked correctly on the first try. Two I got close to fully completing but didn’t quite make it. The remaining were successfully completed after some debugging.
  • All of my coding tests were collegial. As were most but not all of the architecture and design tests. (Dataflow diagrams, sequence diagrams, etc.)
  • Only one company intended to give me a bona fide leetcode test. I declined further interest because of it.
  • Only one company intended to give me a multi-hour take-home coding test. Ditto.
  • I knew I had flunked interviews with two well-known firms as soon as the interview was over. I had blown some of the questions or felt “off” about the interview.
  • OTOH, I was sure I had flunked out with the company that gave me the offer I eventually accepted! ::shrug::

Three companies coalesced as front-runners. They were all first-rate and interesting. They all were working on an offer to me. I had great chemistry with the interviewers. The compensation targets were acceptable. I could see myself super happy in any of them:

  • One was a health care start-up, offering salary plus options
  • One was a public company providing cloud-based technical services, offering salary plus RSUs
  • One was a financial services start-up, offering salary plus RSUs

One was referred to me by an independent headhunter; the other two were referred by friends.

2022-02-03: Three days of meetings between the three finalists and me. This was a crazy time. As the saying goes, “It’s a good problem to have.”

There are many online articles about this: You do not want to even accidentally set up a bidding war. It’s disrespectful and will blow up in your face. Be clear and direct and honest and keep the companies separate.

By the end of February 3, I had made my decision. I tended my resignation to CMB the next day.

Afterward I promptly disengaged with every other company and headhunter in progress. Tl;dr: Treat everyone with respect and do not ghost them.

So, eight weeks from start of search to a successful completion. With Christmas and New Year’s holidays getting in the way.

All of the headhunters I worked with were great. But three were head and shoulders above the rest and I highly recommend them:

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