Finding a Job in the "Current Macroeconomic Conditions"

I posted on LinkedIn a couple weeks ago that I'd accepted another offer. I've had some people ask me various forms of the same question: how?

stack of white paper documentation close up

I'm taking a week off from the design review series to talk about my job search. Honestly, though, it might be two weeks. I'm taking a trip next week and may not finish the cheat sheets in time. If you're waiting for the wrap up of that series, I'm sorry if you have to wait a little longer.

For today, though, I'm talking about my job search. I posted on LinkedIn a couple weeks ago that I'd accepted another offer. Out of standard courtesy, I am waiting to more broadly announce what that job is until I am officially separated from my previous job.

The post has 15k impressions, and I've had some people (both those I know and those I don't) ask me various forms of the same question: how?

I know the world is tough in the so-called "current macroeconomic conditions" that companies have been using to reduce headcount. I have seen an endless parade of people on LinkedIn begging for help intermingled with posts claiming to have the answer to how to land a new job right away.

I cannot claim to have a magic bullet or solution to the problems of job-seekers right now. I do think I can provide some context, though. I hope the readers who are currently looking for a job can find something that will help them. If not, I hope you know that I see your effort and your struggle. It shouldn't be this hard.

Brian, how did you find a new job in just a month? I've been looking for 6/7/8 months!

This is an easy question, though. Just have the exact same background I do, and you'll get a job in a month or two.

Oh, that's not helpful, is it? As I said earlier, I don't have a magic answer for you. I have 20 years of software engineering experience, 17 years of that at Amazon and Salesforce. That gives me two distinct advantages:

  1. I'm applying to the top couple levels of the job ladder.
  2. I have a resume that will attract attention pretty quickly.

These are huge advantages that I cannot coach someone else into. I have an enormous amount of privilege (earned and unearned) that have allowed me to have the career and standing I have. If you're looking for a blueprint to follow, my job search probably isn't it.

On top of all that, I was looking for a job late last year, as well. My job search skills weren't too dusty. I was even able to reach out to contacts from that previous job search. I have never had an easier resume update[1].

Differences in job level

I'm not saying my job search was easy, but applying to very senior positions can be much easier right now than entry- or mid-level positions. There have never been a very large number of applicants for principal/staff/architect/whatever level engineers. Yes, the pool of jobs has shrunk a bit while the candidate pool has grown from layoffs. On the other hand, the numbers are still pretty manageable for the recruiters.

The junior and middle career engineers are the ones who are suffering. Recruiters have to sift through hundreds or thousands of resumes. Candidates are seeing fewer of the name brands in the job search than before, so they're spreading the resumes out against smaller companies. Smaller companies have smaller and/or less-experienced recruiting organizations. It's a vicious cycle.

People on LinkedIn will tell you to customize your resume to the job posting. No level of customization is going to make you stand out from 1000 other resumes. 10? Sure. 50? Maybe. 100+? Probably not.

The Best Bet

Before giving the one real piece of advice, I want to provide some context. My internship, Amazon, and Planet jobs were all external recruiting relationships. I got my Salesforce job through a 3rd-party recruiter. Until this job search, I had never gotten an offer through a referral.

So here it goes: use your network. I hate the sound of it, and I have some pride in being able to land the jobs I've wanted. Now is not the time to be picky about that. A referral can make you stand out in a stack of 1000 resumes better than anything else. Most people from your past jobs are going to be more receptive to a ping than you probably think.

The added bonus of a referral is the inside information on the job and the company you can get. You won't be going in blind.

Differences between late 2022 and mid-2023

As I mentioned earlier, I was looking for a job very recently. The differences between the end of last year and where we are now are huge.

First, I was able to get multiple companies going at once last year. At the end of my job search, I had 3 companies offering me jobs at about the same time. It was great to have a choice.

This year, I couldn't get anything moving in sync like that. It always seemed like one after another. Every time I was rejected or decided to say no for another reason, I could just see my job search stretching out. I have to honestly say that the morning before I accepted the offer, I was not completely on board. My anxiety spiked with thoughts like: "I'm not going to find a job before the end of this garden leave...or Christmas...or ever?" It was brutal.

Another aspect of the job search this time around was the tooling. Smaller companies, especially, are willing to try out new tools and services that supposedly help with recruiting. It's also exposing some dangerous surveillance-type applications that companies are asking candidates to use. When so much of the candidate pool is getting desperate for a job, it's cruel to ask them to surrender their privacy rights in order to get an interview.

Some Iffy Predictions

I also have a few iffy predictions about the coming year or so:

  1. More companies will start to turn on the hiring again. We're already seeing several companies that went through layoffs earlier this year start to list a lot of new roles.
  2. A bunch of smaller companies are going to over-hire, especially in AI and crypto. Those are both bubbles (one early, one late) that are overly-represented in job listings. Over-hiring leads to reduced profitability, especially in smaller organizations.
  3. A lot of people are going to take jobs they don't want. When you've been unemployed for a while, the benefits aren't coming back, and bills start piling up, you're going to take what you can get. I'm not recommending this. I know it's a reality for some people, especially people who are living away from their country of citizenship.
  4. Because of points 2 and 3, the candidate pool is NOT going to shrink soon. People will jump ship from the smaller companies (and lower salaries) and the worst work cultures as hiring ramps back up. Unfortunately, this is a recipe for continued turbulence for recruiters and anyone looking for mid-level roles.
  5. It will get better and people will get jobs.

I tried to end it on a positive note, but I know that's hard to believe. Please keep the hope up. These times tend to hit underrecognized groups hardest. Please help each other and keep going!

  1. Funny story about that: I actually sent out several resumes that were wrong because they still showed Salesforce as my current employer. I noticed relatively quickly, but I was a bit embarassed that I had done something so careless. ↩︎