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Coffee chats

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how recruiters sort through resumes, how to make sure your resume gets seen by an actual person, and other resume tips.

Today, I wanted to talk about something a bit higher level: coffee chats.

This is my most effective technique for figuring out what I want to do next, finding open jobs, and bypassing the broken “submit a resume and hope for a callback” process.

Let’s dig in!

Common questions

As part of your job search, there are some common questions you might need answers to…

  • What do you actually want to do next?
  • Do you want to work at a specific country or in a specific industry?
  • What type of company do you want to work at? A fast-paced start-up? An agency with lots of project variety? A stable but more quiet established business?
  • What specific skills do you need to get the type of job you’re looking for?

Whether you’re asking yourself all of these or just one, coffee chats are your secret weapon for getting answers and hacking the hiring process.

What’s a coffee chat?

One of the easiest and most effective ways to get answers is to identify some jobs you think you might enjoy or companies you think you might want to work at. You can look at job descriptions for them on job boards, or search for companies or industries that sound interesting.

Then, find people who do those jobs or work at those companies. Twitter and LinkedIn are great places for that.

Once you do, send them a short email asking if you can chat for 15 minutes to learn a bit more about what they do.

If they’re near you physically…

Can I learn more about what you do over coffee, my treat?

If not…

Can I chat with you for 15 minutes to learn a bit more about what you do?

In these chats, there’s a few key questions I like to ask…

  1. How did you end up in this role/doing this kind of work?
  2. What does a typical day look like for you?
  3. What kinds of skills or experience does someone need to be successful in this job?
  4. What changes do you see happening in the industry that change how this job is done?

At the end, I like to casually mention that I’m quietly exploring my next role (you don’t overtly say, “I’m looking for a new job. Hiring?”). Then, I ask if there’s anyone else they think might be good for me to chat with.

What’s the point of these chats?

What you’re trying to get at with these is whether or not you’d like that job or work at that company at all, and if you would, what skills you’d need to get hired to do it.

In my article on the resume process, I wrote…

An Applicant Tracking System (or ATS) is a piece of HR software that collects and tracks resumes.

It’s most powerful feature: automatically filtering resumes. Recruiters can provide keywords for each role, and the ATS scans resumes for those keywords and tries to determine how good of a match for the job the person is.

If the ATS doesn’t think you’re a close enough match, your resume never gets seen by a real person.

There’s another layer to this.

Most job openings require a bunch of approvals inside a company, from people in finance to executives. It can take time to get them, sometimes months!

Hiring managers don’t want to wait, so they’ll start informally searching by asking friends, coworkers, and employees if they know anyone before a job is officially approved. By the time a job description shows up on a website or job board, the hiring manager may already have a short list of finalists they’ve interviewed.

Coffee chats help you short circuit this process.

They grow your network, and let people know you’re looking. When opportunities happen, you’re someone they recently met with and can refer for a job that’s not yet posted.

And if you see a posted job somewhere that you are interested in, you can reach out and ask if they can put you in touch with the hiring manager, bypassing the ATS.