Software Salesman Programs Job Switch

One executive outlines the tracking system he put into place to optimize his job search, and the success it resulted in.

Dollar_SearchWhen Matthew decided to change jobs, he approached the search like another exercise in enterprise software sales. After all, he was already working full time as a senior sales account executive. “I treated it like another full-time job,” he said. “I just added evenings to my work hours.”

In November 2008 Matthew decided he needed to find a job that would keep him closer to home; he was working from his Washington, D.C., home office but traveling more than he liked. Among his first moves was to sign up for SalesLadder.

Matthew’s approach mixed metrics with psychology and kept him organized and motivated. “I put a couple of pieces of business practice around the job search, such as metrics: how many calls per day, how many e-mails per day. And I put in some process improvement. I looked at the hit rates from resume submissions and adapted my submissions based on what did best.”

Tracking metrics to optimize process

He even developed a tracking system for the resumes he sent out. “You can get into a logistical nightmare when you are sending out so many resumes,” he said. “I kept track of what I had sent to whom and what I wrote in my cover letters. My cover letters were tailored to each company, so I needed to be able to recall my approach and what skills I was playing up.”

This came in handy when he got calls from prospective employers.

“It really helped me to deal with on-the-spot calls,” he recalled. “You never know when someone is going to call. And I would have to think, ‘OK, who is this company? I’ve contacted 10 in the past week.’ So, I had a tracking system that let me look at someone’s information quickly.”

Add statistics to the mix as well.

Knowing that, like many other exercises, you get better at interviewing as you go along, Matthew said he went through a “warm-up period. At first, I went after a couple of jobs that I was interested in. But I didn’t want to hit all of the best ones right away because I thought there was a learning curve there. And I thought as I went along, I would get better at it.”

All the while, he was retooling his resume to highlight skills specific to the company to which he was applying. As he got better at writing resumes and cover letters, he ramped up the quantity of contacts, finally applying to the companies in which he was most interested. He started to receive responses to his inquiries.

And this is where psychology came in. “I used the responses to build a positive attitude, which I think is critical in this process,” he said. Matthew said that he counted every response he got, whether it was via e-mail or mail, whether it was a phone interview or face-to face interview, as a success. And he used those successes to feel confident about his prospects.

“Basically, I counted every small step forward as a win. I tell my friends who are looking for a job, ‘Envision success. Try to have one step build on another.’ That’s how I did it.”

Creating perceived value

He also applied another classic strategy from the sales profession: By having many potential opportunities out there at the same time, you can honestly tell prospective employers that you are speaking to multiple firms about opportunities. “You should never lie to an employer,” he said. “But if you are making progress, if you are talking to people, then you are considering other opportunities. And that reflects positively on you. It’s perceived value.”

By mid-December, Matthew first heard from the company that would eventually hire him. Ultimately, he ended up with six opportunities and narrowed his choices down to two jobs, but then, “it was a hard decision,” he said. “I went back to my goals, which were to be in a specific segment of the IT industry, to find a company that was offering a good opportunity, a good culture and good compensation. It was still hard to decide, but so far so good, and I’m happy with my new job.”

Matthew said staying positive during his job search was an important part of his success. While there is good news and bad news about the IT market — banks and brokerage firms are just some of the firms laying off IT people at a rapid clip — Matthew said there are always segments of business that are growing. You need to look for those growing segments.

“Reading newspapers, Web sites, CNN, Fortune, will help you figure out where you should be looking for work,” he said. Matthew nevertheless acknowledged that staying positive sometimes required him to ignore his own advice. “There’s a lot of bad news out there,” he said. “I have to admit, I stopped reading the Wall Street Journal for a while.”

The bad news still bothers him, he said. He thinks it can discourage people from looking for jobs — they might take a “Why bother?” attitude. But he does tell friends who are looking for jobs to “try not to get overly focused on the uncertainties out there. Focus on what segments are growing, find out what people need.”

Matthew started his new job in early February. About the time he started reading the Wall Street Journal again.