Getting an insight into job hunting

In March this year, the company I worked for closed it's doors and I found myself looking for a job. I hadn't updated my CV in the two and a half years I had been working there and I had no clue how to job hunt.

Job hunting is a full time job and like any job it takes some time to master.

When I started job hunting I created a generic CV and attached it to every post I applied for in software development and test automation. It wasn't until I got some feedback from a HR person at a relatively big company that I realised this wasn't the right approach.

I eventually realised I needed to approach job hunting properly and read What colour is your parachute?, a great book on job hunting and changing career. It had some great advice and I highly recommend it.

So why make an app?

I came to realise that CV creation is a labourous task, not because writing one is hard, but because it's hard to remember what you actually did in your employment, especially if you're constantly learning like in software development.

Another facet I came to realise was that a CV can only help the employer learn so much about you and what you have to offer.

Story telling around the things listed in a CV isn't something I was prepared for and I feel this is actually the key to a good CV, telling a story and distilling the key parts into bullets that an employer can easily consume.

I'd been playing around with the idea of creating an app for helping with job hunting for a while and had started to work on something, but half way through making the basic framework, felt it lacked focus.

This of course was because I was building a tool I wanted and not what others would want.

To help me build a great app for myself and others I decided to create a survey. The survey would help me understand how others job hunt, validate a couple of the ideas I had and give the project the focus it needed.

Getting insight into job hunters

The survey was relatively simple and covered the following questions: 1. Do you currently have a job? 2. When applying for a job what is your main goal? 3. Do you create different CVs for different jobs / industries? 4. What mediums do you use to advertise your skills? 5. How often do you update your CV? 6. How often do you look at job vacancies? 7. What would you say is the hardest aspect of job hunting? 8. What do you do to prepare for an interview? 9. Do you track the success rate of your job hunting efforts? 10. What technology would you say you use? 11. How worried are you of your online presence influencing potential employers view of you? 12. How do you feel about reminders and notifications from apps and services?

I ran the survey for 4 weeks and distributed the link via Twitter and Facebook. I don't have a massive amount of followers on Twitter, so Facebook was the medium I got most of my participants from.

Overall, 14 people filled out the survey. If I had the time I would have gone offline and asked people on the street and at the job centre to fill it out, as this would probably have returned more results.

What ideas did I want to validate

One of the main goals of the app is to make it easy to create custom CVs to including in applications. Questions 3 and 5 of the survey helped to give insight into this idea. From the responses I had, it looked like people only update their CV when they need it, but when they do it's mostly to customise it for an application.

Chart 1

Another of the main ideas of the app I was interested in was taking a data driven approach to CV customisation and giving the user indication of what elements of the CV are more likely to get them an interview, This would then allow them to refine their CV until it was near perfect.

Questions 7 and 9 were aimed at validating this idea. The responses from the survey however, showed that a chunk of people did not see the point in such an activity.

Chart 2

The last idea I set out to validate was one around the management of the job application flow. A CV is only really there so you can get past the HR department and in front of the person(s) who will give you the job.

There are a number of steps between first interview and getting offered the job that tie into what's on your CV and how the stories you have tell them about your experiences, to meet the needs of the employer.

Questions 7 and 8 were included to help validate this idea. The survey responses indicated that people found the interview one of the hardest parts of the job application process and they collected information on the role and the company they applied for.

Answer Score
Finding jobs that meet my needs 8
The interview 7
Dealing with tests/assignments set by potential employer 5
Filling out multi-page application forms 4
Dealing with recruiters 3
Getting and understanding feedback 3
Keeping track of the people I talk to at companies I apply for 3
Keeping my CV up to date 2
Rejection 2
Remembering what I put on my CV in the interview 1
Keeping track of what jobs I've applied for 1

Applying the data from the survey

The data from the survey has helped to focus the development of the project. By building an app that helps with creating a CV targeted at meeting the job specification from the application and then helping the user to prepare for the interview, I can meet the two main goals of those looking for work.

At a later point I can then try and make this process easier via my idea to help them track the success rate of the elements in their CV.

My next steps will be to take the data from the survey and create personas for job hunters who are currently in work and those who are not (I see this impacting the the way the user will use the app) and to create a set of mockups that demonstrate the main features of the app.

I will use this mock up to validate the approach I take to solving the two problems the initial version of the app looks to solve.