Saturday Morning Rounds January 18, 2020 - What's the best way to get a job interview?

Posted by BossB, MD on January 18, 2020
BossB, MD

Saturday Morning Rounds
A weekly round-up of everything that captured our attention over the last 7 days

What we're reading

"A Friend of A Friend" Is No Longer The Best Way to Find A Job

The conventional job-searching wisdom says that "weak ties" - your network's network, a friend of a friend, "I know someone who knows someone" - are the most common path to successfully landing a job.

And we have content about the efficacy of this strategy in multiple places throughout our curriculum, so if something comes up that might require an update or a rethinking of our approach, we definitely pay attention.

This conventional wisdom exists because of a groundbreaking study done in the 1970s showing that 83% of job applicants found out about an open posting through a weak tie.

But a lot has changed about the job market since then.

In the 1970s, simply finding out about a job was half of the battle. Now they're often posted for the whole world to see (though this is not always the case in medicine, especially for the best jobs), and the real challenge is standing out from a sea of great-on-paper applicants.

So the author of this article decided to test whether the theory still holds in today's job climate. To do so, she cataloged the stories of 380 successful job seekers who attended a weekly meeting for white-collar job seekers in the Bay Area. She found that

"Of the 141 people who said they thought networking had helped them, only 17% reported that a weak tie did the trick. Workplace ties, however, proved to be more useful. More than 60% of the storytellers reported that someone they had worked with in the past helped them find their next job."

So what does this mean for you? How can we separate the signal from the noise here? Well, weak ties are still clearly the most powerful approach - the author simply excluded any professional connection from her definition of "weak ties," which to our understanding she is the first to do. Correcting for that, 77% of this sample was aided by a weak tie.

However, there are still some important findings to pay attention to:

  • Networking - Less than half of the author's sample found networking helpful at all, which is surprising. We suspect that the term "networking" - with the imagery it invokes of running around throwing business cards at people while giving "elevator pitches" and chugging either wine or coffee depending on the hour - might have skewed this data a bit. Telling your colleague of 5 years that you're looking for a job, or even asking if they know someone at your target company, hardly feels like "networking" to most of us (even though it is).
  • Trust - What's clear is that in the digital age of seemingly endless applicants for a single job, trust can really set you apart. And trust is developed, more than anywhere, at the workplace where you actually do the thing that you're employed to do. Still, if your neighbor has been golfing for 10 years with the CEO of the hospital where you want to work, that's its own form of trust and we'd be silly not to take advantage of it.

The key thing to understand here is that you want to stand out from the crowd - to go from a name and applicant # to "<your name here> who we just HAVE TO bring in for an interview."

We'll give some thoughts on how to make that happen in our "tip of the week."

Who we're following

Dr. Amy Zeidan, MD (@Amyjwal) is an EM physician who we met and immediately hit it off with at the FemInEM Revive conference last year. We're highlighting her today to congratulate her on her project, "Barriers to Reporting Incidents of Gender and Sexual Harassment in Training and Practice (BRIGHT)" having just won the Research Award from the Academy of Women in Academic Emergency Medicine! She's one of our favorite Tweeps with a really interesting Twitter feed that covers a diverse set of topics - consider giving her a follow!

BBMD tip of the week

So weak ties aren't dead after all, but signaling trust and humanizing yourself as early as possible in the application process are more important than ever. How can you do so? We're glad you asked:

  • DO always try to make first touch with the hiring institution via a "warm connection" ie a human - a direct tie, a weak tie, etc
    • Still try to make a cold connection if a warm one isn't possible - humans > algorithms
  • DO always try to reach out to the hiring decision-maker (CEO, dept chair, senior partner, etc), not a gatekeeper (HR, recruiter, etc)
  • DO ask for an informational interview (coffee, drinks, etc) before pursuing any formal channels
  • DO look for anything you have in common to break the ice, humanize yourself, and therefore make it harder for them to ignore you
  • DON'T apply via a job portal (unless that's your very last resort) - they're literally designed to weed out candidates
    • If you MUST do this, edit your CV and cover letter to include as many terms from the job listing as possible
  • DON'T rely on a recruiter/headhunter to advocate for your candidacy or best interests (their priority is to fill the role as quickly as possible and they're paid by the institution, not you, so they do not serve your agenda in any way)
  • DON'T assume that all the open jobs are posted - not only are the best jobs often unposted (saves money), we've also coached many a client on how to get an institution to CREATE a role for them, and had quite a bit of success w/that strategy

In the end, just remember that this process is all about people. The folks who are hiring are looking for great physicians - they're highly incentivized to get it right and the risk of getting it wrong is probably one of the scariest things in their professional world. You'll be doing them a great service by making the decision easier for them.

Quote we're contemplating

"Know where you want to go and make sure the right people know about it." - Meredith Mahoney


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Have a wonderful weekend, y'all!