HomeAsian AmericansBreaking Bamboo: Tricks to getting hired for a dream job

Breaking Bamboo: Tricks to getting hired for a dream job

By Dave Liu, AsAmNews Staff Writer

1. I send out lots of emails to prospective employers, but rarely get a response. What am I doing wrong? What are tips to getting a reply beyond the automated response?

Candidate emails are truly binary in the eyes of a hiring manager: emails from qualified candidates who fit the job are gold while those from unqualified candidates are SPAM. As a hiring manager, you spend hours, if not days, sifting through all the coal to find the gold. With this backdrop, you need to catch the hiring manager’s attention and make it clear to them that you are that special candidate. 

Since you have been sending a lot of emails and have gotten few responses, I’d focus on quality over quantity.  Increase the research you are doing on your targets before sending your email. Consider it similar to finding the perfect partner. You wouldn’t send the exact same email to lots of candidates. You’d craft a very special letter convincing them they are the one. Treat each opportunity as unique and make it clear why that job and you are perfect for each other. Here are a few other pointers:

  • Keep it short. Really short. Ideally no longer than one iPhone screen. Don’t make them scroll.
  • Don’t hold back. No need to play coy. Get to the point and make it clear why you’re the best for the job.
  • Reference mutual acquaintances. If you know someone in common who will vouch for you, drop that name now. Affinity is your friend.

Sometimes emails do get lost in the shuffle so don’t be afraid to follow-up. The right frequency of follow-up is highly subjective and is somewhere between wallflower and stalker. Personally, I prefer a weekly cadence but every hiring manager is different. If you’re unsure, try a higher frequency because the worst thing that can happen is you are still in the same position you started: nowhere.

At some point, you have to be honest and admit that perhaps it’s not the email but the job. If it’s a job worth applying for, you must assume that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of candidates vying for that role. In that case, you may not be the best qualified candidate. They may have better qualified people in the queue (or even hired someone) but haven’t bothered to update their job listing. In this case, it’s time to move on and go prospecting elsewhere.

2. I’ve always been persistent when wanting something. What are signs I should move on to the next job prospect?

I’m never one to give up. Much of the success I’ve seen from corporate executives to CEOs is driven by their desire to keep going in the face of rejection. Even when it seems completely futile. But I also believe that it’s important to know when to move on. Your most precious asset in life is time and you don’t want to waste it chasing a dream that will never be fulfilled especially in your younger prime career years. 

We are all subject to major bias and with our jobs it can take the form of the sunk cost fallacy. This is when we continue an action because of our past investments of time, money, or other resources and don’t make a rational choice that will maximize our utility at the present time. For example, because you’ve spent years toiling away at a job, even though you dislike the job you feel a pressure to continue working. Sunk cost fallacies occur when you make decisions that are based on the emotional investments that you have already made. The more time or money you invest in something, the harder it is to let it go.

To try to break this mindset, here are some tactics to try:

  • If no one is answering your emails or you aren’t getting invited to subsequent interviewing rounds, then treat these job opportunities as a blank slate every day. Ask yourself if you would want the job today? If not, move on.
  • Ask loved ones, a mentor, or someone objective to help evaluate the situation for you.
  • Go back to first principles. Why are you the best for this job? Are you just fooling yourself?
  • Take a break. Step away from that opportunity. Try going after other listings and put this one on the back burner.
  • Develop some metrics. Look at the data and if you haven’t received any responses after a dozen non-replies then the data may be telling you that it’s a write off. Stay true to this rule for all of your prospects so you know when to bail.

3. What’s the most creative thing a job applicant has done to successfully get hired by you?

The most creative thing someone did to get hired by me was to leverage a common acquaintance, show me they had the chops to do the job, and make it as riskless as possible for me to hire them.

First, they made sure that someone I respected greatly referred them for the job. I contacted that person and the reference was very strong.

Second, they offered to effectively do the job for a day. They prepared for the job and gave me a presentation as though I was already their boss. Their content was raw and needed refinement but it showed me they really wanted the job, were thoughtful, and gave me a glimpse of what they would be like in the field of play rather than in an interview setting.

Finally, they offered to work for a 90-day trial period after which we could both walk away with no strings attached. Again, they showed they were willing to bet on themselves and provide me with a very low risk option of hiring them.

These tactics aren’t for everyone but this candidate did great and I hired them as a full-time employee.

Check out these previous Breaking Bamboos:

Breaking Bamboo: Dos and don’ts for job applicants

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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