The Secret Benefit of Applying to General Applicant Pools

3 min. read

Let’s say you come across a company you’d love to work for. They don’t have any jobs open for the type of role you’re looking for, but they do have a general application where you can submit your resume to be considered for future roles. Why not? You go for it.

And now you wait. Maybe a few weeks, maybe a few months, maybe forever. It can be a tricky sort of limbo to find yourself in as an applicant.

Whether you’ve applied to a general application before or are currently thinking about doing so, it can be helpful to know what’s happening behind the scenes on the employer’s side — and what you can expect.

We spoke with Jaclyn Jussif, the lead recruiter at edX, on the topic. Here’s what she had to say:

General Applicant Pools

Why Apply to a General Interest Application Pool?

At face value, it may not seem worthwhile to put your resume into a general application pool. Often, it can seem like a void from which your application may never surface.

But that isn’t always true. In fact, it can be a really smart move as a candidate. Jaclyn explains:

“It allows you to express interest in a company, especially if you’re not actively looking, so that your name is in their database.”

This way, when a relevant role does come up, your resume will be surfaced first by the recruiting team. “At edX, we have an application called ‘Any Opening,’ where any candidate who is interested in our company can apply to be considered when we have a relevant opening,” she shares.

A general application helps the company build a pipeline of candidates from which they can pull when a new job opens up. Even huge brands like Zappos use this strategy:

With your resume in a database, Jaclyn says it can be really easy for a recruiter to find you:

“Most modern recruiting software uses keyword matches. So if you have the right keywords for your desired role in your resume and cover letter, you will be considered for the job without having to do much legwork.”

If you’re just starting to think about switching jobs, getting your resume into the general application pool at various companies you’re interested in can help get your foot in the door.

If you’re not sure whether your application will be filed for later use, here are a few signals to be on the lookout for:

  • There is a “General Interest” or “Any Openings” category on the company’s website where you can submit an application.
  • If a particular job description uses language like, “We hire many candidates who fit this profile every year.”
  • If the role is very nonspecific (e.g. lacking a clear description of responsibilities, seniority, team, etc) or has a number in it (e.g. Analyst III). 

Understanding Where Your Application Goes

One of the first things candidates wonder when they submit a general application is whether it’s going into a black hole or is actually being read. In most cases, your application will go into the company’s application tracking system (ATS), and a recruiter will be alerted.

From here, there are three likely scenarios:

  1. Red Light: There isn’t a fit right now, so you’ll receive an email from the company (either automated or directly from a recruiter, depending on the volume of applications they receive) letting you know that there isn’t currently a fit, but they will save your application for future openings.
  2. Green Light: The company does have a role that’s a fit (perhaps they just haven’t posted it yet) and will reach out to schedule a phone interview.
  3. Yellow Light: Your background is so relevant and interesting that they will want to hop on the phone to discuss a potential fit with you.

At edX, Jaclyn explains that they have a monthly rotation where a different person looks at resumes that come in each month, and when there is a match for a current or upcoming role, they’ll send each team the appropriate resumes to review.

This is a common approach for smaller organizations, but if you’re applying to a larger organization that receives a high volume of applications, the recruiting team will conduct keyword matches against resumes in the database and send a list of resumes to various teams when they’re hiring. 

What To Expect Once You Apply

The process for a general interest application is naturally a bit slower than for an active position. However, you should at the least obtain confirmation from the company that your resume was received. “At edX, if it’s clear there isn’t a match for the candidate at the company now or in the future, we will let them know sooner rather than later so they can move on with their search,” says Jaclyn. “But if there is a match, we will get in touch right away.” She continues, “I’ll let them know I saw their resume come in and tell them about the roles we have, whether currently or in the near future.”

If an employer doesn't contact you after you submit your general application, you should be prepared to follow up — but without as much urgency and frequency as you would for an active position.

“It’s a nice gesture to follow up with a company’s recruiter(s) on LinkedIn letting them know that you applied because it shows interest,” says Jaclyn. “I like it when people reach out to me directly. It shows they did their research.” However, if you’re going to apply to a general interest category, it’s important to set your own expectations around the fact that you probably won’t hear back right away (or possibly ever) about an opening.

“Plan your search around positions that are more active if you’re actively looking,” advises Jaclyn. Getting your application into the ring can be a great strategy if you’re just starting off your job search. But if you’re looking to land a job in the next month or two, don’t pin your hopes on general interest applications panning out. 

How To Stand Out As a General Applicant

Especially if you’re applying to a larger organization that receives many applications, you want to put your best foot forward and make sure you can be easily found in their system. Jaclyn's advice:

“When applying to a general interest pool, you should include a cover letter that explains what you’re interested in working on and why you’re drawn to the company.”

This can be a great way for recruiters to quickly determine if you’re a match now or down the road. You may also want to include a quick summary in your resume. 

Diversify Your Job Application Strategy

While filling out a general application  may not bear fruit immediately, it can benefit you in a number of ways as you shape your career. If you have your eyes set on a few “dream” companies you’d like to work for, proactively getting in front of them is a great way to stay top of mind.

General applications are an easy way for passive and active candidates alike to be considered for all kinds of roles, and the more companies you can get in front of, the better your prospects will be in the long run.

On ReferralMob you can favorite companies you're interested in. You'll receive a notification when they post a new position so you can be first in line for the role. If you're not looking for jobs on ReferralMob, you might miss some of Boston's best opportunities.

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The Interview Trick To Make Your Job Search Less Painful

4 min. read

Being good at interviews is a skill very few of us naturally possess. Most people spend several years at a company before looking for a new gig -- so by the time they hit the job seeking circuit, they're out of practice.

If you're dealing with a layoffcareer transition or extended time off from work, you may have added reason to be anxious about the interview process. 

Unfortunately, you're not given a do-over if you flub your first (or second, or third) in-person screen - and the pressure to perform well under stress can easily undermine your confidence.

What's an unemployed (or, unhappily employed) person to do?

I've been both an interviewee and interviewer many times during my 10+ years as a working professional. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that candidates who can turn an awkward, first date-esque scenario into an enjoyable experience for both parties will have the upper hand.

If you're looking for a way to feel more comfortable during an interview, follow these steps from start to finish. 

PRE-INTERVIEW

1. Do Your Homework

I 👏 can't 👏 emphasize 👏 this 👏 enough.

Check out your employer-to-be's website, social media accounts, and blog. If you can install their app, demo their product or download an eBook for free, do it. Your goal is to understand as much as you can about the company's ecosystem and where it fits so you can explain why you want to work there and what excites you about their mission.

As David Vencis, Associate Director of Startup Institute points out, doing your homework lets you flip the power dynamic during an interview and take an informed position right from the start. His suggestion:

"Show you've thought about the challenges the company faces, and what keeps their prospects up at night."

If you have time, take the research one step further and scope out the staff's LinkedIn profiles, user activity, and social media posts.

All this legwork should arm you with talking points, relevant questions for your interviewer(s), and reasons why you want to work for this company -- not just a company in their space. Specifics will always win the day.

2. Rehearse Stories

Make sure you're able to handle any behavioral questions that pop up during the interview by preparing a set of anecdotes that cover a number of scenarios. For example:

  • A time you successfully recovered from a failure at work
  • A time when you were especially proud of a project you completed
  • A time when you were juggling multiple deadlines and had to prioritize your work

Aside from engaging your interviewer with stories rather than canned talking points, you'll be able to counter the dreaded "So, tell me about yourself" with information that couldn't be found on your resume or LinkedIn profile.

3. Take The Commute For A Test Drive

Bonus points if you map out and walk/drive by the site of your interview a day or two in advance. The last thing you want is a nasty surprise like a hard to locate building or an unexpectedly long transit time.

INTERVIEW

1. Show Up No More Than 10 Minutes Early

If you arrive earlier than that, hang out in a nearby coffee shop. It's likely the hiring manager needs time to prep themselves or their team before you arrive, and you definitely don't want to start your experience off with a flustered interviewer.

Use any extra time to play some psych-out music, take deep breaths, or watch a video that will help you get loose - anything you need to do to relax before heading to your destination.

2. Own The Room

Once you've arrived for your interview, smile warmly, make eye contact, and shake hands with your future teammates. Body language is a huge part of projecting confidence - and even if you don't feel it, others will.

3. Ease Into The Conversation

Remember: You need to be the person your interviewer can envision spending days and weeks sitting next to. Make small talk! Ask about their hobbies, their passions, or any upcoming travel plans. 

This approach will help you steer clear of any interrogation vibes and turn the interview into more of a discussion among peers.

4. Show Genuine Interest

Be curious:

  • Ask questions about the product, the people who use it, and the company's long-term goals. What would make you -- and the company -- successful?
  • Get a sense of how the company positions itself against competitors
  • Find out who had the position before you, and any lessons learned
  • Inquire how this role would complement the roles of other team members

Remember to take note of any answers that you may want to follow up on later, and ask for each interviewer's business card so you can thank them for this opportunity later on.

*Intermission: Ask to go to the bathroom*

This may sound silly, but if you're meeting with multiple people over several hours (a common practice in the startup industry), excuse yourself halfway through and take a quick break. You can use the time to gather your thoughts and prepare for the next few rounds.

5. Display Your Expertise

Some employers care more about the way you think than how much experience you have with a given task or tool. Each question your interviewer asks is a chance to explain how you tackle workplace challenges, and therefore help them predict how you will approach different facets of the job.

It's also a chance to:

  • Offer any ideas you may have for how the company can improve its services
  • Share any observations on your past projects in terms of what worked, what didn't work, and lessons you learned
  • Cite data on how your work at other companies led to measurable results (in terms of numbers of numbers, positive feedback from leadership/customers, etc)

Bonus points if you're able to segue a story about your past performance into what you'll do for this company if you're hired.

POST-INTERVIEW

Does this advice sound familiar?

Smile warmly, make eye contact, and shake hands with your future teammates.

As soon as you get home, follow up with a thank you note that contains details on what you learned about the company, and confirms your continued interest in the role. You can send a group thank you note, but individual emails are the best method because they're more personal and targeted.

If you weren't able to get a business card during the interview, take a look at the email of the recruiter or hiring manager who first contacted you; odds are you can figure out whether the company's email addresses are firstname@company.com or firstinitiallastname@company.com and take an educated guess on where to send followup messages to your interviewers from there. 

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These Red Flags Indicate It's Time To Find A New Job

7 min. read

You’ve heard the advice that you need to stick it out at a job for at least a year so your resume doesn’t raise any flags with future employers. But what if the role you’re in simply isn’t the right fit?

The average person today changes jobs twelve times throughout their career, and spends less than five years at each company. Common reasons for changing jobs include higher pay, geographic relocation, and career advancement. While the time people spend at any given company is getting shorter and shorter, you still want to be strategic about how long you stay with each employer and how you time when you leave a company.

In this post, we’ll walk you through five important considerations to take into account as you decide if your current job is still the right fit. We’ll also help you figure out what you should do next.

1. Are You Inspired By Your Manager?

Study after study reports the single biggest reason employees are unhappy and leave their jobs is because they don’t like their bosses. “People leave managers, not companies,” says an Inc.com post.

Naturally, if you don’t feel inspired, respected, and valued by your manager, it will be difficult to stick it out for long.

As an employee, you may not have a lot of leverage to ask for a new manager or speak up about poor management practices. Companies invest a lot in their management teams and want to believe they’ve hired the right people, so it can be difficult to advocate for yourself.

That said, before you consider quitting because of your boss, here are a few things you can try:

  • Request regular one-on-one meetings where you and your manager can get to know each other and better understand each other’s working styles and objectives.
  • Ensure your goals are aligned so that you can see eye-to-eye as much as possible.
  • Ask for feedback early and often from your manager to ensure their expectations are reasonable and you can meet them.
  • Approach HR, a trusted colleague or another manager about the situation if you feel it’s appropriate to get their private input and advice.
  • Investigate whether it’s possible to switch to another team within the company so you can work under a new manager.

If you’ve exhausted these options, or simply feel like you can’t do your best working under this manager, it may be a good time to move to greener pastures. You want to feel empowered, supported, and valued in your job, and if your manager can’t offer that to you, and there is no recourse internally, your best bet may be to find a company with a track record for excellent management.

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2. Is The Role Still Interesting?

Employee engagement is a huge issue in the workforce today — and since you’re reading this post, perhaps you’re not feeling so engaged yourself? A recent Gallup Poll found that only 32 percent of the U.S. workforce feels engaged and interested in their work. Another 51 percent are not engaged, and the remaining 17 percent are completely disengaged.

Here are a few signals that indicate you’re no longer engaged and interested in your work:

  • The product no longer excites you
  • You no longer enjoy the projects you do
  • You can’t wait until the clock strikes 5
  • You dread Monday mornings
  • You’ve lost the appeal of working for the company you once were excited to join

There are several things you can do to try to salvage the situation, including:

  • Talking to your manager about working on projects that better align with your interests and skills
  • Finding other ways to engage with the company, such as by planning team outings or office activities
  • Taking on a side project that can fulfill your interests and passions(Bonus: this can actually make you a better employee!)

If these options don’t pan out, it’s probably time to move on.

Find The Right Career

3. Are You Still Learning New Skills?

If you’re not learning, you’re not growing as a professional. Learning on the job not only makes you a better employee now, but will set you up to advance your career down the road. So, if you’re no longer learning new skills in your current job, that’s a red flag that you’re not in an environment that will foster your long-term professional growth.

You want to be sure that you’re not only furthering your knowledge in your specialty, but that you’re also learning:

  • Tangential skills
  • Business skills
  • Teamwork skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Communication skills

As Dan Baptiste, vice president of brand partnerships at Skyword, Inc.says in this post, you can seek out new learning opportunities by speaking up about what else you want to do in your role and asking to take on more leadership work. This demonstrates your initiative and hunger to learn, which most organizations will welcome with open arms.

If, on the other hand, you find yourself in a work environment that does not foster growth and new learning opportunities, despite your best efforts to go above and beyond, it may be a frustrating uphill battle. At that point, you should look for an opportunity where growth is encouraged and nurtured so that you know the job you’re in is helping you work towards the next big step in your career — whatever that may be.

4. Do You Enjoy The People You Work With?

Unless you’re a team of one working alone in a closed-door office, you’ll be interacting with many people at your job. If the people you work with are collaborative, friendly, open-minded and genuine people, that can make all the difference.

But if the people you’re surrounded with are uninspiring, negative, or don’t match your work style, that can make your day-to-day very difficult. Not only will it be tough to get your own work done if you’re relying on them, but it can make the very thought of being in the office and sitting in meetings with them rather unappealing.

To thrive in your job, you need to be surrounded with people who challenge you to be better, value your ideas, and help you move your career forward. If you’re feeling like your colleagues are constant roadblocks to your success or dragging down the morale of the company, that’s going to take a toll on your career.

5. Is The Role Challenging Enough?

While you certainly don’t want to be so challenged that you feel you’re unable to keep up, you do need to be challenged in some ways in order to grow. Many startups host quarterly “hackathons” that encourage employees to bring new ideas to the table, but if your company doesn’t offer this opportunity, you can be proactive by taking on one challenging project a month outside your normal tasks to exercise your brain and stay on your toes.

If you’ve found your role has become too routine and easy for you, consider asking management if there is an opportunity to move horizontally or vertically to a role that will offer more growth opportunities. If this is not a possibility, or the company culture encourages mediocrity over envelope-pushing, it may be time to move on.

When vetting potential employers to see if the work would be sufficiently challenging, ask what day-to-day problems and goals the team is faced with and any other extracurriculars (like hackathons) the team does. Their answers to these questions can tell you a lot about how they value challenging their employees to be their best.

Tips For Figuring Out Your Next Move

Sanity Check With Informational Interviews

It’s human nature to think the grass is greener on the other side, but if you don’t look before you leap, you may be unpleasantly surprised at a new gig, too. So, before you find yourself in a role that’s just as unfulfilling as the last, we recommend going on informational interviews. These are informal conversations that you can have with people in your network or beyond that simply help you understand what else is out there.

Whether you want to sit down for coffee with someone at a company you’ve had your eye on just to see what the opportunities are, or want to get the perspective of a trusted colleague about your career, these interviews can be quite useful. Plus, they’re a great way to exercise your interviewing muscle so that when it does come time for formal interviews, you’re already comfortable and prepared.

Coming out of these informational interviews, you’ll either confirm that you should stay put, or that there are more interesting opportunities out there and it’s time to get serious about job-hunting.

Follow The Six Month Rule

You may be wondering how often you should be evaluating whether your job matches these criteria. Six months into a job is a good timeframe to start thinking about this, because it allows you to get into a rhythm and work out some kinks before you come to any hard and fast conclusions. From there, every six months or so, evaluate whether the job is still meeting expectations. If it is meeting the criteria that matter most to you, that’s a great signal that you're in the right place. But if key pieces are missing, it’s time to begin exploring what else is out there.

Leveraging a professional network is a great way to identify new and exciting opportunities for yourself. Using ReferralMob, you get access to new opportunities and employers in Boston, and it’s completely free to join. When you land a role through our platform, you’ll get an exclusive hiring bonus of $500 — so you can get paid to find the perfect job!

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