Stand Up and Stand Out – 3 Job Hunting Tips


Jobscan CEO JAMES HU says “Applicant Tracking Systems were created for companies and hiring managers, and that is evident in the usability for applicants: 76% of job applicants apply primarily through online portals Only 5% of online applicants rate the process as simple 70% of submitted resumes are never seen by human eyes due to ATS basic resume keyword-matching technology.”

According to other sources (like this one the odds are even greater!)  ” Google, the firm with a No. 1 employer brand, gets well over 1 million applicants per year, which means that even during its robust hiring periods when it hires 4,000 people a year, your odds of getting hired are an amazingly low 4/10 of 1 percent.”

When I started looking for my next role, I thought a lot about the numbers and how that really had an impact on me.  Based on the numbers, I had a better chance of getting into Harvard University vs getting a job through an ATS.     I decided that the “math” of finding a job should be ignored.  I am here to tell you that you should also ignore the math if you are looking for your next role.

Here are a few things that you can and should do to get the job you want.   In this post, I am writing for people that are looking for a role in a private or public company generally beyond a Startup.   Startup companies are much more complicated and require a more complex discussion.

Get Busy Learning

Go to your local library and sign up for a library card.  If you went to college, you can also use many of their services as an alumnus.   Getting access to corporate databases that pull content from D&B or Hoovers will give you a profile of public and privately held companies.

Here is a sample report.  I have an account at my local library that allows me to use a service called


I look at details of the company including the history and the financial details.   While we can’t predict the future from corporate history, we can learn a lot about how corporate leaders have shaped or changed the direction of a company.   For example,   looking at the business segment breakdown at Microsoft, it isn’t that hard to see where they are choosing to invest vs reduce.


If you are interested in working for a company, it is important (even critical) to your success to learn about the history and understand where the leadership wants to take the company.  Most large companies today want to reduce the costs associated with operations.  The way that companies define operations will vary from company to company.   Glossing over the numbers without reading the “triggers” or news feeds will only tell part of the story.

Additionally, companies may divest or reduce in one area that is “operational” and take the savings and invest in another area that is also “operational.”    For example,   many companies are investing in cloud technologies and “Digital” capabilities.    They may reduce 1,000 people that supported or managed on-premise service offerings.   The news will say “company x lays off 1,000 people.”  The financial reports may also may show a reduction in staffing and employee cost.   My question (if I am interested in this company) is concerning where the money is going.   What are they doing with that money and what does it mean for their business?     In this case, they may be creating a new capability or service around cloud offerings.  They also may hire another company as a managed service.

This would be interesting to know depending on what I want to do for the company.   It may mean that if I joined the company, I would be working with consultants and contractors.  It may mean that I would have to hire a whole new workforce.  Regardless, it means that whatever they did with their current platform, product and offering will change or is in the process of changing.    This is important because it may change my feelings about the company.

As I was thinking about this post,  I pulled almost 9,000 “triggers” or news items about Microsoft.   A glance at the news and the financials tells a story of Microsoft seeking to resolve issues with competition in gaming,  cloud services,  artificial intelligence, automation, hardware, security and IoT just as a start.  If I want to work for Microsoft, the first thing I want to know is where they are making money and where they are losing it.  I also want to know where they are making investments vs costs.

Average time – +/- 10 hours 

I find with all the data available including running reports and reading through news triggers, it takes an average of 10 hours per company.   If I find things that disturb me or anything from a corporate perspective that immediately doesn’t align with my values,  I will move on quickly to the next company.

Get Busy Connecting

A few years ago as I was getting started in a new role, I felt a lot of pressure from peers that hadn’t known me at all.  Some of them were less than nice in the beginning.   I was a bit shocked and trying to figure out how to manage these new relationships.  I was lucky to have some mentors and a leadership coach.  His advice was “Be yourself, don’t become what they may believe you are.”    I took his advice and never allowed my emotions to get in the way of my mission.   For whatever reason, people were under pressure of their own and it really had nothing to do with me.  Once folks realized that I could be an asset vs a threat, things changed.   Now years later, when I found myself starting my research and making connections, some of these people came out to help me.    My connections and relationships today have proven to be directly connected with how I chose to behave historically.   I consider myself very blessed and lucky.   At the same time, I recognize that we get out what we put in.

  1. Social –Going on LinkedIn and making connections is great but that is only a small part of what needs to be done in connecting, building and and re-connecting.  Average time on LinkedIn per week (active 3-5 hours).   Passive (10-14 hours).    I actively read, write or seek to make a connection for myself or others for minimum of 3-5 hours.  I pay attention to notifications for the rest of the time.   LinkedIn has proven to be very helpful but I have found that most of my time on LinkedIn is really about helping others.
  2. Coffee and Lunch-   I meet with people given availability as much as possible.  (Average time 3-5 hours per week).   I will get in the car and drive to meet people in a place that is easy for them.   Face to face conversations drive all sorts of collaboration.  I always walk away with something to do and I always learn something.    I found that I also feel better emotionally.
  3. Help Others – As I started to expand my search,  I came to recognize that I can help people along the way.  For example,  I believe in “hunting in packs”  and working together to help each other.  If I am studying a company or doing some research, I can share this information with others that are looking.   In other cases,  people are trying to accomplish their own goals at work.  If I can help them in some way be successful and I can dedicate time towards it, both of us can learn from the process.  In some cases people are looking to learn about technologies I am dealing with or studying. It only helps us all if I share this with them.  In fact, as they learn more about me, they can and have come up with ideas and connections that I couldn’t see or imagine!

Get Busy Breathing

Stress is stressful..   The best advice someone gave me was to “take advantage of this time that you have been given.”   I really didn’t want to do that.  I just wanted to get going and do what I needed to do.   That being said,  I was forced to take a minute and take the bench when it came to work.    A great mentor of mine said “Howie, there are days that you are going to feel as if you are at the bottom of a birdcage.”   I didn’t know if or how I could prepare for those feelings.  There is a lot going on here.  Sometimes,  I felt very alone and I couldn’t figure out what I needed to do to help feeling this way.    For as many people that seek to help, they have their own lives and challenges.  There is only so much anyone can do!   My father likes to say “You know it’s a good day when you get up and your feet touch the floor.”

I think it is important to take time for a daily affirmation.  Positive thinking is one aspect of being healthy.   My good friend Frank says Be Irrationally Optimistic”  I literally have that written on a sticky note on my monitor.

Irrationally Optimistic

I also take time to get out, walk and exercise.

Average Time +/- 5 hours per week 

It has helped me just get away from the books, electronics and other things that distract us from enjoying the moment.  Getting out and finding outlets for being healthy is now something that I believe is absolutely critical during a transition.


Stand Up and Stand Out in Summary

My sister and brother in-law are both Chef’s.   My sister is a Pastry Chef and my brother in-law is a an Executive Chef.   Recently, we got together and discussed the idea of Pinterest relative to the expectations of people.   A client or customer would go to my sister with an image and say “I want this cake exactly.”  Her response is simply “No” and her reasoning is that if she were to reproduce the cake exactly it would be the work, art and design of someone else.  If the client wants “Stacey’s Pastries” they would work with her and it would be her work.   During our discussion, my brother in-law said it is the same thing with his work.   He said, “If you want something someone else produces, it would be best to work with that person.”   That being said, he is happy to do something similar with his own twist.

I think this is true across the board.  I am my own brand and so are you.  If I want to be noticed for what I do and for who I am and for the value in which I bring, I must seek to be the best me that I can be.  This also involves how I make an effort and what I put into my work and the idea of shared value.

If you are looking for a job or transitioning to a new role, consider the idea of making yourself known in the way that you feel comfortable.  Some people like to jump up and down and some people simply stand.  Regardless of your choice,  it is important to make sure that your message and communication is conveyed and it represents to the best of your ability who you are.    After all, we all do add our own twist to things and it would be great for others to know what that looks like!

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