Play the field or focus?

Why to focus your job search


When you’re eager to land your dream job – or join your short-list of favorites – it can be tempting to cast a wide net in your application process. But a scattershot approach – sending resumes to a wide swath of companies or applying to multiple roles at one – can backfire. Better to zone in on the jobs and companies at the top of your list – like a laser beam.

With a few tips from Devices and Studios Recruiter Sean Phillips, here’s how to make traction with the companies and gigs you’ll truly love:

1. Apply only for jobs you are qualified for.

Kicking off a job search is a soul-searching moment. Self-assess your qualifications, and when you read job descriptions, be honest with yourself. “Be careful about volume,” Sean says. Think about fit, and quality over quantity. Use discernment: Choose a few roles that truly match your background, experience and interests. Then go for it.

2. Establish a direct connection.

“Most companies have an employee referral program,” Sean says. “If a candidate has somebody they know who works at the company, that’s always the best way.” He says there are different levels of referrals—best of all is if you have worked together in a similar capacity. “There are lesser degrees of familiarity, where an employee might say to a hiring manager: ‘Hey, I met a developer who might be a good person to consider.’” Sean says, “We still value that. It’s incredible. But if you have somebody who you have worked with, gone to school with, or who you’ve managed to create a personal relationship with, and can vouch for you, that’s the best.”

3. Get a foot in the door.

If you want to target your dream company but lack a personal connection with an employee, you may consider being flexible about your short-term goals. “Maybe you would apply for positions you are overqualified for,” Sean says, “knowing that long-term, you may not stay in the position.” Once you’re inside your dream company, and have committed time to that team and made impact, you’ll have the ability to create new opportunities.

4. Find your tribe.

Consider attending conferences or events where people who work at your top-choice companies may be. Tech conference forums, marketing and sales forums, and other events are great ways to mingle and learn more about the industry. In entertainment and games: E3, GDC, CES, and SXSW. In design, one of the bigger ones is IXDA. “One of the challenges,” Sean acknowledges, is “not everybody has the time or money to travel to events like this.” An easy option: Go local. Find user groups with meet-ups in your area. For software development, there are C++ user groups, .net, mobile, and hardware groups that offer free membership and attendance. Sean says, “People can go and be instantly surrounded by people working in the industry — which is ultimately what they want to become.”

5. Show your stuff.

Adding to his last point, Sean says interest groups frequently have side projects members are working on. “For instance, if a person attends a C++ user group, members of the group who are developers from Microsoft or other tech companies may be working on a side project. They may be amped up, and geeked out because that’s what they love to do.” Sean’s advice to candidates: Be a part of it. “Then you could be collaborating with engineers from top companies you would like to work with—and you never know where that would lead.”

Furthermore, “Getting involved in a project speaks well for the candidate. It shows a lot of motivation and drive.”

Summing up, Sean says, this kind of voluntary project work achieves three key elements:

  • Getting to know people in the industry
  • Trying to crack the company
  • “Showing the initiative to learn, better themselves, and advance their knowledge in areas they are passionate about. As recruiters and hiring managers, we love to see this.”

A final tip: In any interview situation, such as a phone interview, as the conversation winds down it’s great to ask one key question: “Is there anything else I haven’t asked or you would like to know about me?” Sean says, “This shows you respect the manager’s time and are self-reflective.”

If you’re on the quest for your own dream job, apply your laser beam to the global gigs at Microsoft Careers.


Related Information

Is graduation coming up? On, Microsoft University Recruiter Anthony Rotoli offers five tips for college seniors on how to get hired by a top company.

In our story featuring a list of 12 of the Best Jobs at Microsoft, Sean gives the scoop on cool jobs in Devices and Studios. Also, in 6 of the Coolest Jobs at Microsoft, you’ll meet people who are pursuing their passions.

Read about Carl Ledbetter, Principal Creative Director, Devices and Studios Hardware Industrial Design Lab, a hiring manager in Sean’s orbit.

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One Comment

  1. Cristiano
    Posted 04/18/14 at 3:52 AM | Permalink

    I really can’t share that it’s necessary to have a “direct connection” to be hired. Everyone should be selected for skills and competences.

    Recruiters suggest to write a short CV of max 2 pages (Twitter) and the official MS website states “make a good first impression”.

    Summarizing everything above, it seems to be more important what a candidate looks like instead of what a candidate really.

    This is my feeling.

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