30+ applications, 5 interviews, 1 perfect job.

Sergei Akulich
4 min readMay 10, 2016
Search landscape

It was a sunny Thursday afternoon. Our sad CEO and Founder walked in and announced that we are shutting down the company next week. That is where I started my search. There are 6 simple steps I took to find a perfect match.

Step 1. Socialize.

I started with meeting friends and colleagues, to reconnect and see what are they working on. That is not explicitly job search but close to that. Likely, I wasn’t under pressure neither to find a job in 30 days, nor sign the first offer.

Step 2. What do I want to do and Who do I want to work for.

I worked with James Pratt at Reflective Management on Career Coaching program. It took about two weeks in my case.

I was hesitant to spend the money and time because I thought I knew the answers. I was skeptical about bits and pieces of it all the way until the first interview. Payback was quick and obvious. No matter if you are going to work with career coach or not, I highly value the following things done.

  • I understood the types and qualities of companies I would like to work for. An interview question asked every time: “Why do you want to work here?” I had an answer before I was applying. “What are you looking for in a new job?” Asked every time. I had an answer for it as well. I’m looking for a great puzzle to solve and a user problem to address, passionate/experienced team I can learn from, an end user facing product. Simple.
  • I clarified my key accomplishments and examples of those accomplishments. That was a great pay back during interview. Instead of talking about projects I worked on, we could talk about what I did. Sample questions: “Tell me about a time when you had to make a decision with no access to data.” “Give me an example when you made a big impact.”
  • I learned how to read job descriptions. That is not a joke. Here are 2 reasons: you learn a lot about the company and, the best one, you get your list of questions to ask. Every single time I was asked if I had questions. After reading job descriptions I always had my questions.
  • I updated the content and structure of my resume. James interviewed hundreds of people and he has an eye for structure and content delivery. What I’m trying to say is work on your resume.

Step 3. What would I ask.

I sat down and started writing questions I would ask Product/Program Management candidate myself. I made a list:

  • Give me an example of a product/application you like. It was actually asked 3-4 times. Note to myself: Think about who are you going to talk to and pick the product they can relate to. None of them were ready to talk about Snapchat or Google Opinion Rewards. My bad. Uber is your best friend there.
  • How would you improve/change product X? Asked 2–3 times. Not many people appreciated my counter question: Why do we need to change it?
  • Tell me about yourself. Asked every interview multiple times. Prepare a great but short story. Practice!
  • What are your learnings from the last job you had? Was actually asked one time. I think the prepared answer and a story to illustrate the learning really helped me get the job.

Step 4. Design time.

I’m lucky to have a Graphic Designer at home. Victoria helped me a big time to make my resume clean, easy to ready, and visually appealing. Long story short she is great with layouts. I was underestimating this step. So reach out to her or designer you know and get some help.

From -> To

Step 5. I was delaying it, but it was time to start the search.

I made a list of companies I wanted to work for around Seattle. Check out CrunchBase, Angel.co, and Linkedin. I also checked out the companies whose products I like. For example medium itself.

Step 6. Get in the door.

  • Try to find a connection with a hiring manager. I got 1 interview this way.
  • See if you know someone who works at the company and can refer you. Don’t hesitate to ask. People are happy to do it, there is a referral bonus if you get hired. 1 interview as well here.
  • Just apply online. 3 interviews.
Career path.

Summary.

  • 30+ applications sent.
  • 5 interviews done. 1 offer, 1 pending, 3 NOs.
  • Total search time until offer: 5 weeks.
  • I’m lucky I got an offer form the company I really liked.
  • You don’t just interview for a job, you compete with other candidates. In one case the same interview for the same positions was happening in the meeting room next door. That is the place I didn’t like and they didn’t like me back.
  • Product Manager is a most freely used title, I think. So ask twice about the role and responsibilities. One of the places was really looking for a User Experience designer. That was a mutual NO. We cut it short.
  • I didn’t taylor my resume to job description keywords.
  • I got a number of calls from recruiters who found me on Linkedin. Nothing gained, nothing lost.
  • The moment I got an offer, other companies were ready to move so much faster.
  • I was asked to design an airport men’s bathroom just once.

Good luck in your search!

Sergei

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