Job searching is fundamentally broken...or at least it feels that way

Emotional rant incoming…

Is it just me, or is modern job searching fundamentally broken? Talk to anyone who supposedly knows what they’re doing and they all say the same thing, “Job postings are worthless. You have to network. What you have to do is send out emails to people you’ve never met who will instantly drop everything for a phone call and then magically offer you a position that doesn’t even exist yet.”

I get it. Lots of jobs come from knowing people who know people, and lots of those jobs are filled without even posting them online. I don’t dispute that. But in nearly six months of concerted attempts at targeted networking, aside from a couple of really lovely conversations with colleagues (thanks in particular to @rkuchinsky ), I haven’t had even a single response from anyone at any of the companies I’ve been trying to get in contact with - much less a phone call or an interview. Not from hiring managers. Not from recruiters. Not from designers. Nothing. No one. Silence.

I even had a outplacement specialist tell me I need to like and comment on companies’ LinkedIn posts every day to get their attention. Are you f@$king kidding me?! Now not only do I send them cold-call messages that don’t get responded to but I also need to sycophantically stalk them online, fawning over their every word?

The only tool at my disposal seems to be blindly applying to postings on LinkedIn, Indeed, etc. and waiting four months or so to maybe get back an automated response that says they won’t be moving forward with my application…or more likely just get ghosted by them entirely.

I honestly don’t know what more their is to do. I know whining about it isn’t helpful, but I feel okay venting within our small community. I’ll certainly take any advice if it’s offered, but mostly I just feel like I needed to scream into the ether a bit.

Rant over.

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I feel you Jeff.

I also enjoyed our call and happy to arrange another, any time! Even just to rant!

I have likewise experienced similar apathy and systemic ghosting from corporations and those supposedly responsible for hiring.

The worst are in fact HR/recruiter people that I often feel are not trying to actively get the best people for the job and act as a greeter or door, but instead keep people away and act as a gate or scarecrow.

For example, I recently came across an opportunity that I thought would be a great fit, and reached out to the internal HR person responsible (via LinkedIn) to try to be in touch with the Design Director. I saw company clearly had a need and thought I might be able to help, but the actual job posted wasn’t an exact fit for my experience/location/situation. I got nowhere. The HR person offered a boilerplate reply and couldn’t provide any contact info or follow-up suggestion. The result is the company is still serarching for the position 8 months later and probably has other teams overworked or unsupported.

The countless ghosting on networking messages or even proposals made and requested as a freelancer is a topic for another day.

While I don’t have any concrete suggestions on job searching or the broken process I do feel your pain and agree the situation isn’t good.

That being said, I have had pretty good experiences reaching out and making connections on LinkedIn vs. other platforms. For design professionals, I think there’s far more value there than Instagram, Twitter (X), etc. The LinkedIn processes isn’t what it used to be (you used to have to be connected to message someone or get a referral), and there’s still a lot of ghosting, but adding connections and messaging people seem to be pretty viable. Making content on LI I think also helps if you have a POV and something to say.

Following companies and commenting so the social media intern at the brand can see? No, that seems like terrible advice. Get rid of whomever told you that was a good idea.

Be targeted. Find the right person. Work on chatting to someone and seeing who they might suggest you chat with next and you’ll at least always expand your circle and keep your name out there.

Good luck!

R

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Sorry you’ve been having a sh*tty six months.

My $.02 having just posted and hired a designer: recruiters are overworked and often laboring within an impossible techno-social system. Not even talking about optical character recognition on resumes. More like the recruiting pipeline software. Everything is more complex and less people know how to use it. The turnover of the past year means nobody is in charge. Everything is sped-up and people are ground to dust.

I posted a Sr job in early May, got a pile (well over 100) of really good applications (the name recognition of the parent company probably helped), and had to make some choices about who gets to proceed through the software and hiring pipeline. There’s one hiring manager, and one recruiter. Said recruiter had over 30 open roles, all requiring some processing, screening, quick phone chats, follow-up, and everything in a timely manner. Meanwhile I’m looking at resumes, portfolios, sometimes LinkedIn cross-referencing.

I’m not saying its because recruiters and HM’s are busy, that’s obvious. There are just limited ways to break through the process - one of them happens to be some personal connection or a recommendation. With very few exceptions of all these applicants I really wanted to even send a personal note if they weren’t selected, something with more character than the HR rejection (which I acknowledge in many cases is more than what some candidates get). The personal reply method just doesn’t scale. Nobody has the actual time or emotional capability to write a dozen detailed “no thank you’s” a day. HR departments frown on it too.

Doing the fanboi move commenting on their socials to get attention, nah don’t do that.

I am grateful to not have to be blindly applying. Job hunting fkn sucks. And if we can’t rant and curse on Core77 boards then what’s the point of this place?! Let 'er rip.

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I’m sorry to hear about the tough search. I’ve had to go through it quite a few times myself, and I’ve got a strategy that seems to work relatively well.
Step 1: I do look at postings. Whether they’re on lemanoosh or linkedin or whatever.
Step 2: I don’t apply to those postings. Not formally. You can if you want to, but as you said the hr department has no chance of finding your cv in the pile they’ll recieve. The good news is that the HR dept. doesnt decide what designer gets hired, the Design Director does. So I go on LinkedIn and try to find as many people as I can who work alongside that director. I send them an e-mail with my portfolio and explain why I think I’d be a good fit. Then, they’re the ones who pass it along to their director. (If they like it.) If you’re a design director, which has more pull? An HR rep saying this data point matches your chosen criteria, or, one of your senior designers sending you a portfolio with a subject line that says, “check out these sick sketches!” ?
Step 3: I get fired and start over again…I’ve gotta figure out how to quit doing that last part…

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That’s a good strategy because its highly likely that those same staff designers are also going to be looking around, and seeing an applicant’s book is a quick and easy way for them to judge their own marketability by comparison. They almost can’t not do it.

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I’ve tried cold calling and networking on and off. I did get one gig through a friend. My most recent gig, I applied to, but also Linkedin messaged one of the designers. They told me they put my CV to the side, but called me in after the designer presented my CV. It does really happen, although not often enough.

About two years ago, I saw a position that looked like they copy-pasted the requirements from my CV. I never got a call and no one responded to my linkedin messages on that one. I feel your pain.

Keep at it. Remember, it only takes one yes for everything to fall into place.

What are your feelings on job interviews giving you at home tests? For some reason I just always get the impression they’re trying to get free work out of a designer. I feel like a well designed portfolio that can be spoken to should be enough…

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Never done it, and never assigned it to a candidate. Interviewers need to know what to look for and how to ask questions. In engineer interviews sometimes there will be a quick whiteboard session, but its a real gimme.

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I’ve been on all sides of this equation and I have very strong feelings about it.

  • In ALL cases if work is being requested the work needs to be paid. We are professional designers, and professional design work costs money. If someone is unwilling to pay you for your time it’s probably a good indicator of how they actually value design, regardless of what they may say. I’ve both taken and refused work as a part of the interview process, and the one time I worked unpaid - even after negotiating to change the project scope to something completely unrelated to the company’s business - I still felt icky. Ultimately I rejected a job offer from them mainly because of how I felt design was valued within the company.

  • In most cases, if someone cannot evaluate your skillset from your portfolio they are not savvy enough be an effective design leader…or you’re not properly representing your body of work. I say most because I have experienced one circumstance in particular where the candidate literally didn’t have any work to show because all of their professional work was locked up behind NDAs. We couldn’t in good conscience hire them solely off their resume, and we didn’t see any alternative to requesting an interview project.

Luckily unpaid interview projects seem to be slowly going the same way as unpaid internships - i.e. left in the past. If it’s work worth being done, it’s work worth paying for.

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A project or a test?

I’ve had people ask me to sketch for an hour. One place even had a SolidWorks test. Sometimes I accept, sometimes I refuse. If anyone asked me to do something on a weekend, I would definitely say that I need compensation.

Broader scheme of thing: I agree that designers should be able to evaluate designers based on a portfolio and an interview unless the portfolio is light because of NDAs. However, I’ve read academic studies that show, in general, tests seem to screen candidates better than almost anything else that we do in hiring.

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