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The Handymen Problem and Why You Fail to Land Job Interviews
Your problem is not lacking skills, but focus and visibility.
It's Monday again, and for the twentieth time in five months, you wake up, grab a coffee, breathe deeply, and tell yourself this time will be different.
For some reason, all the other applications you put in did not capture their attention. You still seem not to understand why since you have a diverse background and extensive battle-proof experience honed with sweat and labor.
I am acquainted with the feeling. I was in your shoes two times in my career. For the ones that were around the job market during the 2008 crisis, you know it well.
Besides the similarity, the change is more abrupt this time. We came from a very hot-quiet-quitting-can-pick-any-job to just-want-my-job-back market in no time.
You have tried everything. From applying for roles requiring less experience to completely changing areas, you no longer know what else to try. They never call you back. And when they do, you can't get in front of a hiring manager.
The problem is that you sell yourself as a “Handyman”.
The Handymen Problem
Handymen are versatile. From plumbing to squeaky drawers, they can virtually fix any problem in your house, car, bathroom, backyard; you name it. As techies, most of us would not survive without one.
The problem is what you hire a handyperson for. You never hire them to do something requiring deep expertise.
For example, you could hire one to change all power outlets in your living room but not to design the electrical blueprint of your house. To fix a leaky pipe, but not to install your sprinkling system.
“But how does that apply to me?” — You might be thinking.
We are conditioned to be handypeople. We are recognized for putting fires out, being involved with various problems at work, and always having extra-mile projects unrelated to our primary job as a forcing function for our success.
That requires learning more about different areas and becoming proficient with parallel tracks of knowledge and skills. That is amazing, and we should strive to grow and become more valuable. The only problem is we sell ourselves as someone that does ALL THAT.
But then, why is that bad?
Well, this goes in opposition to the market we are in.
Panorama of the Current Job Market
Most open roles in the current job market are very specific and critical. Three years ago, at the peak of the hot job market, tech companies were betting on hypergrowth, leveraging the change of habits in people triggered by the pandemic.
In the face of broken expectations, waves of layoffs started due to poor bets and subpar financial results, leaving only critical roles open to the market which not even internal talent could fulfill. Candidates that already have the inner experience of their organizations but not the required in-depth expertise.
I know this sounds like bad news. Shedding some light with a different perspective, markets like these are the ones that make you valuable.
And the most effective way to show your value is to understand what hiring managers search for when willing to fill a critical role and picture yourself as such.
I call it the push-and-pull strategy.
Becoming a Job Magnet: The Push-and-Pull Strategy
The strategy is comprised of two different goals. Becoming undeniably the best fit for the role and pursuing the least resistant path possible.
Generally speaking, you need to attract the attention of recruiters and hiring managers by eliminating all fluff, and focusing on the role’s requirements, highlighting everything that overlaps. You must be a perfect fit!
Then, find the best way to get their eyeballs on you, your skills, achievements, projects, experience, and how much value you bring.
The best part is that you don't have to change who you are. Just make them look through different lenses. Don’t believe me? Let me introduce David.
David created focus. He made changes to his profile that conveyed a single message.
The strategy works. It worked for me, for David, and twenty other engineers I helped land jobs at Meta, Netflix, Google, Wayfair, Carta, and other companies.
If you want to reproduce it, here is how I break the process down:
Becoming Undeniably the best fit
Focus: Convey one message
Research: Who are you, and what the market needs
Identity: Skills and context overlap
Scope: Identifying the best fit
Pursuing the path of least resistance
Attraction: Becoming visible and attracting eyeballs
Awareness: Identifying points of contact
Networking: Warming up connections
Marathon: Prepping up for screenings
Those are the basic steps of achieving optimal results. Wash, rinse, and repeat.
Next week, we will dive deep into the focus problem, the first boulder to be removed in the path to become undeniable. Here’s a sneak peek of what’s to come:
Everyone has technical skills. These are the bedrock to work in the capacity of a technical role. But despite how much you achieved, you cannot stack up everything you have ever worked with. Aim to deliver one single message.
Before you go, here is something to drive home: Start looking into your LinkedIn profile and Resumé, and ask what message it conveys and what you would hire yourself for. This is the action item for you before reading the following week's edition.
Lastly, if you are one of my people that like to help others for the sake of good, and you know other engineers in need of a job, take two minutes and share it with friends and people that can benefit from it.
I would also love to read your comments about what are the best insights it sparked for you. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing. I will see you in the next edition!
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