How to look for a job, DevOps-style

Back in 2011, on a Sunday evening, I updated my Seek profile. It seemed like a pretty innocent innocuous low-risk update: I changed my mobile phone number. Sadly for me, when I woke up on Monday, I felt sick. I went to a doctor nearby, spent two hours in the waiting room and finally got a prescription for some antibiotics after a short examination of my throat.

Then I came home and turned my phone on. Total score: 11 emails, 6 missed calls. It was just 11am.

Hunting for a job is almost a full-time job per se: past the 1st week, you often find yourself juggling between 10 different recruiters, some of them coming to you for the same position. In these conditions, it’s easy to drop the ball, to forget who wants what, who you have to see tomorrow or even remember if you already applied for a position in that popular bank. I know from experience things get fairly messy, and that’s a problem.

Luckily, like every problem, it has at least one solution: getting more organized. What’s best to tidy up things from a DevOps perspective than using a Kanban, in this case, the fabulous, the marvelous, the almighty Trello ?

In this article, you will learn how to use Trello to manage your own treasure hunt: what columns to create, what labels you need, a ready-made template for your cards and the rules to follow when it’s time to move a card. Plus, right before the end, an experiment you can try with your favorite recruiters in order to leverage their own knowledge to help you succeed.

Getting ready to level up

Create a board

Sign Up, it’s free !

empty trello board

Add 7 columns:

  • Init
  • Details
  • iView1
  • iView2
  • Challenge
  • Out
  • Scored

Their use and meaning will be explained later on.

Create a template

card template

Creating a template for your cards will help you save time, make the card creation process less tedious and will also prevent you from forgetting anything.

Title: Name – Company

The full name of the recruiter and the company he works for.

Description: All contact info goes here

LinkedIn profile, email address, phone number, Skype / Zoom / Hangout / Facetime IDs…

These information will be very handy to keep in touch with recruiters.

Checklist: Positions

It’s important to keep track of the positions advertised by a recruiter, with their exact reference. This will allow you to avoid applying more than once to the same position.

Checklist: Progress

The overall progress of the card:

  • Initial contact
  • Details provided
  • Interview 1
  • Interview 2
  • Challenge
  • Out
  • Scored

The raison d’etre and use of these checklist items will be explained later on.

Create labels

labels

Accepted

Put that label on a card once you moved it to the Scored column. Congratulations !

Raised

iview1 raised card

Put that label on a card if you had to send a email / message or place a phone call to a recruiter / client to remind him of your existence. Love yourself, just do it once.

Wait 3 business days before moving the card to Out with Timeout as a label.

Timeout

Put that label on a card after you moved it to the Out column. Usually, that card had the Raised label added to it 3 business days ago. That’s likely to be a No in disguise.

No

Sorry about that, but keep believing in yourself. Also look for things you could improve in order to achieve a Yes and move one of these cards to the Scored column.

Move your card to Out, and apply the No label to it.

Too cheap

The price the client was willing to pay didn’t match your needs and expectations. Move the card to Out, and apply the Too cheap label to it.

Missed

You had a meeting scheduled, but you missed it, or the other party didn’t show up. It’s bad and shouldn’t happen ever again. Move the card to Out and apply the Missed label to it. You might never do business with that recruiter again.

Columns: the vertical part of things

Init

init column

In that column are the newly created cards. The recruiter just called you and while you were on the phone, you were very careful to ask all the right questions in order to be able to fill all the fields.

Same thing if the initial contact happened via email, but you made use of the power of copy & paste.

It is crucial to collect as much information as possible, especially about the positions advertised:

  • Job title – Client – Reference
  • Carpet cleaner – Carpet Paradise – VAP133742

Tick the first step of the Progress checklist.

Details

details column

Initial contact is usually followed by an email providing extra information about you:

  • Your latest resume
  • A short presentation of your career
  • What I call a Skills checklist: I copy/paste the requirements section of the job description and indicate how well I match it.

The card is moved from Init to Details. Tick the second step of the Progress checklist.

At that point the recruiter should have enough material to decide if he will move you forward or not.

details card

iView1

Great, you have been selected to go through a first interview !

iView2

Even better, you went through the first round of interview and are now among the (hopefully) happy few coming back for round 2. Good luck !

Challenge

Some clients may ask you to go through a knowledge test under the form of a challenge, a time-boxed exercise to assess your skill level.

Out

Most of the cards will end up in that column.

You know it’s true and that’s precisely why looking for a job is such a challenge: every no, every email/message/phone call left without an answer, every failed interview is a punch in the stomach of your ego.

Carry on though, because one day, at least one card will land in the Scored column.

A yes requires many no.

Scored

You finally made it: a contract is on its way.

Back to work !

Cards: no tricks, just a simple workflow

The ideal journey of an ideal card

In Trello, cards can be moved from one column to another freely. Just drag and drop where you want it to be.

Your cards will always move from left to right.

The scenario described below is an ideal course of events unlikely to happen in real life. Nevertheless, it’s useful to know it as it reveals the rules at work in the kanban.

Starting with Init

Most of the times, the initial contact happens over the phone. Anyway, make sure to fill all the fields while creating a new card from the template I gave you earlier.

From Init to Details

details card

The card is moved from Init to Details.

Recruiters often ask for extra details about you; be kind, provide them with your latest resume, a short overview of your career and a skills checklist as described previously.

Don’t forget to check the second entry in the Progress checklist. At that point, recruiters should have everything they need to determine if they go ahead with you or not.

From Details to iView1

iview1 scheduled card

The card is moved from Details to iView1.

The third line of the Progress checklist is ticked after the interview has taken place.

From iView1 to iView2

iview2 scheduled card

The card is moved from iView1 to iView2.

The fourth line of the Progress checklist is ticked after the interview has taken place.

From iView2 to Scored

The card is moved to Scored.

Congratulations, you got a new job ! Leave that board on the side for now.

Back to the real world: (moderate) chaos & (mild) madness

From Init to Out

3 days later card

Their last words were something like « I will send you an email this afternoon », and then total silence. You might be tempted to call back or send an email yourself, but I wouldn’t advise it: respect is a two-way street and failure to follow up after the initial contact is a red flag. Leaving these out is a very good way to get rid of people that were just trying to do their daily quota of calls.

Move the card to Out, apply the No label on it and leave a comment stating the No is coming from you.

From Details to Out

Despite this one looking very much alike the failure to follow up after the initial contact, it’s actually not the same beast and deserves at least a tentative of regaining connection. Most of the time you didn’t hear from the recruiter, because he found better profiles than yours or because he himself didn’t hear from the client.

The point to get in touch again at that stage is to obtain feedback from a professional. Listen to what the recruiter has to say about your resume, and use that knowledge to improve whatever has to be.

Move the card to Out and apply the right label on it.

From iView1 to Oblivion Out

You went through the 1st round of interview and didn’t hear back from either the client or the recruiter after at least 3 business days. Get in touch with the recruiter and ask for news. If he tells you he doesn’t know yet, rinse and repeat 3 days later.

Once you received confirmation your profile has been discarded, move the card to Out and apply the No label. In case you don’t hear from anyone for a while, apply the Timeout label instead.

The many flavors of Out

There are many reasons why a card can go to Out, the bin of that board:

  • No news after the initial contact
  • No news after you provided your latest resume
  • No news after an interview
  • No news after you completed a challenge

A variety of causes might have landed the card in that unfortunate place:

  • The recruiter was careless and forgot to come back to you
  • Your profile ended up not matching the requirements that well
  • You didn’t complete the tech challenge in time
  • You didn’t complete the tech challenge in a way that was deemed suitable
  • You failed during an interview
  • Your resume is not as good as you may think it is
  • You are not showcasing your work properly

Whatever the reason, whatever the cause, always remember to:

  • Improve your skills: there are plenty of Youtube videos, blogs and online courses to help
  • Listen to the feedback provided by recruiters
  • Get your profile picture taken by a pro
  • Get your resume refreshed by a pro
  • Make sure your LinkedIn profile is doing you justice

And most important, keep trying.

Getting to Scored

In some extreme cases, it might be possible to go from Init to Scored in one step, but that surely won’t be your average experience. You are more likely to see cards fill both the Details and Out columns, with between 1 and 5 in iView1 and iView2 combined.

Your average card will go from Init to Details, wait between 1 and 48 hours, then move to iView1, then move to Out. Am I being dark or sadistic ? No, that’s simply how things will be, and that’s OK.

Eventually, with enough preparation and effort, you will push one or more cards to Scored.

More than one in Scored

It might already have happened to you or to someone you know: you signed a contract for a position you applied for and are meant to show up at your new office in 2 weeks.

Then, someone else says yes. What you do next is up to you, but it had to be stated that the Scored column can hold more than one card.

Something you can try: sharing your kanban with recruiters

As silly as it might sound, I’m convinced there are benefits in sharing your job search board with recruiters: First, they get a better understanding of where you’re at. Second, they can see what positions you already applied for, which is ideal to avoid applying twice for the same job (it both kills you and the recruiter).

Indeed, I can’t guarantee this will be without side effects, as it is something new I am currently trying. Time will tell.

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