The job market for software engineers in 2023 will be one to remember. Not only are we witnessing a record number of large software companies like Google and Facebook laying off tens of percentages of their staff, but we are also witnessing a drying up of access to monetary resources, leading startups to experience slow growth or downsize.
That is exactly what happened to me. On March 1st, 2023, my employer, IndigoAg, made the decision to downsize a significant portion of their staff to better align themselves with the financial future they envision. This was not the first time I had gone through a layoff. When I was working at TrackMaven, we faced a similar poor financial outlook and had to let go of many of my friends and coworkers. Even before entering the world of software engineering, the company I worked for, Aetna, regularly underwent bouts of layoffs. However, this was the first time I found myself on the receiving end of a layoff.
Being let go on the first day of March unexpectedly brought me some surprising benefits. Firstly, I had insurance coverage for the entire month. In the United States, our insurance is typically tied to our jobs, and alternatives can be prohibitively expensive. Additionally, IndigoAg provided me with a month of severance pay, along with the promised 2022 year-end bonus. All things considered, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but it certainly wasn’t great either.
To add to the difficulty I was about to face, I had a scheduled vacation during the second week of March. This turned out to be my biggest mistake throughout this entire journey of finding employment. I chose to take the first two weeks of my unemployment as a break to relax.
Admittedly, I regret making that decision. In this competitive job market, you need to hit the ground running with full force. Throughout March, more and more people were being laid off from their companies, thereby adding to the pool of available candidates. In hindsight, taking that two-week break probably prolonged my unemployment significantly!
My job search started like any normal job search I had done before. I went on LinkedIn and began looking for openings that appeared to be a good fit for my skills. This continued for quite a while, and it wasn’t until about two weeks into my search that I sought external help. In those two weeks, I applied to approximately 50 jobs, but received very little interest from the companies I applied to. I am amazed at how few of my applications gained traction when cold applying. This is a testament to how challenging the current market truly is. I still have about 40 outstanding applications where I haven’t heard anything from the employers.
After sharing my situation on LinkedIn, a few recruiters reached out to offer their assistance with my search. At that point, I was getting worried about finding a job in a timely manner, so I accepted their help. I worked with three recruiters. I don’t blame them because the market was just as difficult for them as it was for me. However, I felt that the effort I put into working with these recruiters wasn’t worth my time.
It’s important to note that I had great internal recruiters throughout my job search process. The recruiters I’m referring to here were external recruiters who were contracted to help with the hiring process.
Some of my worst interviews came through these recruiters. I felt like a sacrificial lamb in a few of these interviews where my skills and experience didn’t match what they were looking for. It’s tough to go through an interview knowing right away that you’re not a fit. It’s defeating. It’s demoralizing. It’s not what you need when the job market is so tight.
Perhaps it would be worthwhile to reconnect with a recruiter or two when the job market is less challenging. Maybe there’s an opportunity to establish clear requirements and have a knowledge-sharing discussion about what I’m looking for. But during those three months of job searching, it didn’t work out for me.
LinkedIn Easy Apply
In addition to cold-applying to numerous jobs, I noticed the “LinkedIn Easy Apply” option available for some positions. It’s a tool that allows you to connect your LinkedIn profile, upload a resume, and quickly apply for certain jobs. After dealing with filling out Workday applications where I had to upload a resume and then re-enter all the information manually (after creating a username and password, of course), the LinkedIn Easy Apply option seemed like a major advantage.
Unfortunately, in my experience, I didn’t have any better luck with LinkedIn Easy Apply compared to cold applying directly to companies. I used the “easy apply” feature for 13 companies and only received responses from 2. Looking at my statistics, that was actually better than my success rate with cold applying. In the end, the entire process seemed unhelpful to me.
My first experience with Hired was when I was working at TrackMaven and we needed to hire quickly. Hired is interesting because it’s a sort of reverse interviewing process. I filled out my profile and waited for companies to approach me! If only it were that easy. Out of the approximately 160 applications that went into finding a job, only 3 companies reached out to me on Hired.
Fortunately, the company I currently work for, PDL, was one of them! For me, Hired has had a 100% success rate, but your experience may vary. I believe Hired is still worth completing when searching for a job. It’s a very passive approach. Just remember to check your profile frequently because I was a bit confused by a few user interface decisions. I missed my first job interview request and a question posted on my profile because of them.
Throughout my job search, I used various websites and tools. Unfortunately, I didn’t do a good job of keeping track of where I found the job opportunities I applied to. Therefore, I don’t have a clear understanding of how helpful these tools were, but I still wanted to mention them!
Otta was amazing for job curation. I really wish I had kept better track of where my leads for cold applications came from. The majority of them likely came from Otta, second only to LinkedIn. Besides Hired, Otta is the second tool I would recommend to people searching for jobs.
Jobot has a tagline: “Your Jobot AI-powered job search starts here.” I was excited to try this one. However, they had a vague “waitlist” feature for applications, which I believe meant you were politely rejected. I applied to a few jobs through Jobot but received zero traction. It’s a super interesting tool that simply didn’t work out for me.
Wellfound was quite interesting. Much like Hired, they require you to fill out a profile and have people reach out to you. However, I felt that I had no real progress with Wellfound, even after being a “featured top candidate” for almost the entire duration of my unemployment. They do have an extensive list of available jobs though, and I did find some of my cold apply options there as well.
My network was truly great during my time of need. I consider myself lucky to have such an amazing collection of people who looked out for me. I was able to secure several internal referrals, and multiple individuals reached out to chat about their company and its culture. Some even went the extra mile by cold applying for me and asking their own network to connect with me. I am truly blessed in that sense.
Even though the road to a new job might seem impossible in this market, do not give up. Use the tools at your disposal, hopefully you have picked up a new one or two from this post. I applied to over 150 jobs. I was definitely working harder these past three months than I ever thought I would have to. But persistence and luck paid off for me. It will pay off for you too.
As stated above, I really recommend signing up for Hired and Wellfound immediately to get the passive opportunities covered. Then use your network, have ChatGPT write awesome cover letters, and apply like crazy. Good luck!
Below is a chart of how my journey went. I think it really shows the struggle this job market is right now. I am still getting some rejections trickling in, so the “Never Heard Anything” category could be slightly off.
My Journey Visually
A thing I realized through this lengthy interview process is that the current system is so broken! Companies feel like they are taking advantage of your time and are actively trying to reduce your ability to interview at many places at once. For three weeks in a row, during the heat of interviewing, I only had about an hour a day to myself. (Between the hours of 9am and 6pm.)
Also, it really makes me sad that I abandoned my hiring application side-project. I might just need to work on it again and help the overall process. I know everyone thinks they can fix the hiring process. But until someone really tries, we will all be stuck with these inane practices.
If you found this post helpful, please share it. I think it is important for people to realize they are not alone in their feelings about this job market.