HomeAsian AmericansBreaking Bamboo: Dos and don'ts for job applicants

Breaking Bamboo: Dos and don’ts for job applicants

By Dave Liu, AsAmNews Staff Writer

(note from the editor: Breaking Bamboo is a twice monthly segment on AsAmNews. You can send your questions and remain anonymous to info at asamnews dot com.)

1. Often job listings advise applicants against calling with the stern warning: No phone calls please. How seriously should I take that? Should I call anyway or are there better ways to get the employer’s attention.

The first question I would ask myself is why does the job listing ask for applicants but also warns against phone calls? Perhaps they feel they might be inundated with calls from unqualified applicants? Or worse, spammers? Regardless, hiring the right candidate is so critical that I know that if I got a call from the perfect candidate, despite telling them not to, I would not be disappointed. In fact, I would be thankful that I didn’t have to wade through hundreds of emails to find the right person. So the trick is to make sure that you are really the best qualified candidate and exhaust all other alternatives before calling. Think of it as truly your last resort.

I believe that the person who stands out the most gets noticed. However, I am also respectful of a future employer’s wishes. So what I would do is prepare the best email correspondence possible and try that first. If it fails, I would not stop at that. If I truly believe I’m the best candidate, I would use other media to get them to notice me. I might make a short TikTok or YouTube video and attach it to my email. I might even consider physical correspondence and send a handwritten letter. All in the quest to stand out. If none of that works, I might even message them on Facebook, iMessage, LinkedIn, Telegram, or whatever platform of choice they use. 

If I still believe it’s my dream job, I’m a perfect fit, and I haven’t heard after a few days or weeks, I wouldn’t give up. I’d break glass and call the candidate. Expect to leave a voicemail. At that point, I’d make sure I’ve rehearsed the best voicemail ever illustrating why I’m perfect for the job. I’d record it like a riveting episode of a minute podcast. Overall, think about all the ways we communicate as human beings and even though phone calls may be off the table, there are still a lot of other media that are fair game.

2. Do you recommend the spray technique or targeted technique? In other words, should I apply for every job that I might be qualified for or should I target those jobs in which I may have an “in” such as a good referral or someone close to me already working for that employer?

I liken job hunting to dating. If you are just looking for a paycheck, and the perfect match doesn’t matter, then the spray technique is probably your inclination. Why target if all you want is a steady job? However, you should always be mindful of your most precious asset: time. You could spend endless hours and days targeting jobs for which either you are not qualified or you lack the real enthusiasm to chase.

However, if you are looking for more than a job and perhaps a career, I believe that the best way to maximize your economic potential is to find as close a perfect match as possible. This means you really need to go with the targeted technique. Obviously, we all got to eat so at some point if you continue to strike out, then by all means broaden your search and look farther afield. But bear in mind that employees are also looking for the perfect candidate. Nothing tells them you may not be the perfect match if they ask you what else you are looking at and you mention or hint at a job that demonstrates you aren’t that interested in their job.

As I’ll cover in more detail in the next question, the “in” or good referral is always a huge plus and increases your chance of getting the job substantially. It leverages affinity bias, or our inclination to like and hire people like ourselves. However, think of it as a tactic and not a targeting technique. Don’t settle just because it’s the easier path.

3. How effective do you find cold calling for a job? How effective are informational interviews in getting a job?

I use cold calling as a last resort. You may recall that in prior posts I was very negative on the interview process. Just because we hire someone from an interview does not mean they can actually do the job. All it means is that they are good at interviewing. So I, and many other employers, heavily rely on references to ascertain if a candidate can really do the job. Even more valuable are back channel references. These are the ones that the candidate doesn’t serve up themselves and can provide the unvarnished truth. With this in mind, the most valuable source of due diligence for a hiring manager are mutual references. People that the hiring manager and you have in common. Ideally, they are people that view you favorably and are well respected by the hiring manager. If at all possible, try to get these individuals to help introduce you into a job opportunity. Even if you have a way to highlight your candidacy for a job on your own, I would still scour your network to find someone who can introduce you into the situation and vouch for you.

Informational interviews are very effective. The job interview really starts the moment the hiring manager first meets you and continues even after you get the job. Thus the informational interview is when the games begin. Treat it as such. Even if you are just meeting an employee of the employer, and not the direct hiring manager, make sure you are in sales mode and make it clear why you would be a good candidate. But at these informational interviews, be sure to listen. You are on a reconnaissance mission to learn as much as you can about the job and preparing for the next interview. Oh, and at the end of the informational interview, don’t be shy about asking how one can parlay it into a formal interview. Otherwise it might just end up being an enjoyable cup of coffee or tea.

Check out these previous Breaking Bamboos:

Breaking Bamboo: Be the one and only job applicant

Breaking Bamboo: Women leaders and negotiating a raise

Breaking Bamboo: Being Asian American and Fitting In

Breaking Bamboo: Overcoming the Model Minority Myth

Breaking Bamboo: Digging yourself out of the doghouse

Breaking Bamboo: From office romances to job search tips

Breaking Bamboo: Secrets to overcommunicating

Breaking Bamboo: How to get that next promotion

Breaking Bamboo: Career advice from an Asian American Executive

About the Author: Dave is a seasoned executive and entrepreneur.  Prior to founding several companies in entertainment, investments, and technology, he worked on Wall Street for almost 25 years. He started his career by joining a fledgling investment bank, Jefferies when it had less than 200 employees.  Today, Jefferies is a multi-billion dollar diversified public company (NYSE:JEF).  It was there that he rose from the entry level position of Analyst to Group Head of Internet and Digital Media and was one of the youngest Managing Directors in firm history.  As one of the only managing directors of color in the firm, he successfully broke through the bamboo ceiling by not only working hard but also understanding how to play the corporate game.  He has had hundreds of bankers work for him during his career and served as a mentor to many who have gone on to some of the best business schools and companies in America.  He is eager to share his knowledge with Asian Americans seeking to realize their full potential and achieve their career goals.

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