This time let’s take the perspective of the job applicant searching for a new position (check companies perspective too).

This post describes a good preparation and organization, provides hints for working with agencies and will support your next decision and negotiation when applying for a new job.

Prepare and organize

1. Plan time ahead to take the steps through recruiting. It usually takes 2-3 appointments in a company to get to the final stage. In addition you have to deal with your job search, working with headhunters via phone or direct interviews and prepare for the interviews.
I recommend to take a conscious step and either quit your job or take holiday to search for a new position. This provides you the freedom to focus and some pressure to take the next step.
2. Provide easy access to your data
I suggest providing an easy access to your CV, recommendation letters and qualifications. I used a DropBox shared folder and mailed the link to interested partners (e.g. agencies and companies). This way you minimize your time dealing with the agencies and make live easier for them too.
3. Keep the bigger picture using your application Kanban board
Organized yourself to keep an overview. After some weeks of searching it’s easy to lose control over the many talks and interviews. I used TrelloĀ to organize my applications (see picture).
A short explanation for the columns (LTR):
  • Candidates – are possible positions, that I maybe will apply for (labled with position type and details with more infos about the company and contact references)
  • Applications – Companies I will apply for
  • Waiting for feedback – Companies I applied for and where I did not yet receive a feedback (some companies have a lousy application process and it can take some weeks until receiving a feedback). As soon as you apply you should note the application date and some details like your motivation and e.g. cover letter reference.
  • First talk – a stage for the company that invites for the first talk. Note the date and details like contact person, address and what you need to remember
  • Second talk – next stage (and maybe final one)
  • Final stage – just the final negotiation left and you’re short before having the position
  • Rejected – Positions that are not any longer relevant. I used this column to remember positions I already scanned and did not want to reply for. This way I was able to check whether an agencies suggests the same position again. You can also add your rejections from the company and maybe reasons (I guess I would have added an extra column to check how often this happens).
  • Outdated. Positions that are not longer available (but where you could still apply or stay in touch)

The interviews

4. Check your interview partners details via LinkedIn/Xing and other profiles you can find on the web. This helps you to connect and have bridges for smalltalk.
5. Get to know the company background. What’s their vision, mission, business. Competitors and challenges. How is the webpage? Are there any ratings available (e.g. Kununu)? Do you have friends that can provide some background?
Use your learnings from the interviews with agencies (see below). Be relaxed in the interviews and learn from interview to interview. Consider it a learning opportunity.
6. Get the bigger picture of your next company
Use the 2nd interview where you’re directly in the company to get the bigger picture and support your decision date (see below – decision and negotiation). Inspect the environment, any metrics and visualizations. How are they working with you? Get to know people and ask questions that help you getting the picture. It’s your opportunity to get to know your maybe next employer!
The more direct talks you can get, the more perspectives and input you will receive.

Working with Headhunters and Agencies

As soon as you update your Xing/LinkedIn profile or place your job search info on portals like StepStone, Monster or Experteer the headhunter storm begins. Be aware and prepared to receive a lot of contact requests and short term phone interviews.
Most of my interviews were possible on a short notice. Often done by phone interview lasting 20-30 minutes. (And believe me – some agencies were not at all prepared.)
7. Learn and practice your introduction
In preparation for the interviews I recommend to learn and practice your introduction. Create a short version of your CV and practice talking about it. Check what critical questions may be asked and prepare a proper answer.
8. Use the agencies to gather information
You can use the interviews to gather a lot of information and prepare for the real job interview:
  • Practice your introduction. What works? How long does it take? How do you feel?
  • What critical questions are they asking? Learn from interviews to be relaxed and master these situations. It’s your learning for the real job interviews.
  • What salary range is possible? You can play with numbers and receive a valuable feedback whether your range is accepted or not. Ask actively, what you can expect?
  • What ways to find positions are they using. Once I got some positions linking to job portals I wasn’t aware of.

What you have to consider

9. Be faster on the job search than the agencies and try to find available positions before headhunters find them. Usually you cannot apply for a position for the next 1-2 years if a headhunter introduced your profile in a company before (companies have to sign a contract with agencies!).
Because you get even more attractive for the company if you directly apply! Did you know that a successful recruiting through an agency costs the company between 20-30% of a yearly salary. And they are at risk, because if probation time shows that
Companies open searches often first in LinkedIn/Xing, on their WebPage and in Job Portals. Afterwards they start using agencies. That’s why – it’s your winning strategy to scan these locations first and apply directly and only get the (for whatever reason) invisible positions via the agencies.

Negotiating and deciding for a company

10. Use a data driven decision process
I recommend creating a parameter map to support your decision process. What vectors are important. You can use e.g. diversification (to your previous position), work life balance, learning possibilities, location, agility, experience, teams, compensation, technology stack,…
I used a spider web to visualize a rating for every parameter (1-5) and to compare different job offers. It really helps to support and not only rely on gut feeling.
11. Use a salary range
Start with a salary range and don’t provide a concrete number. You can assume an anchor usually in the middle of your provided range. Some poker and start at the lower boundary. If this happens – you can be sure that more is possible šŸ˜‰
To negotiate I recommend having a secure base. This means, having a job offer. Based on this you can start arguing and raising the bar.
Your position is stronger if you applied directly and not via an agency (as the company can save a lot of money).
12. Have fun and relax
I wish you all the best for your next application! If you can add some recommendations, please do me a favor and add your comments.
Check the perspective of the company in the recruiting process and learn 5 important steps to succeed in the war for talentsĀ and the perspective of a recruiting agency atĀ Hey recruiting agencies – there are 9 points that help to build the bridge between an applicant and the company.



I contributed to a blog post on Luis GoncalvesĀ“Blog. Check out the scrum master interview questions right here here.

Luis Goncalves is an Organisational Transformation Coach and he loves to write about Agile Retrospectives, Scrum, Scrum Master, and Agile in general.

Luis has created Scrum Master Training for the agile community. If you are interested in knowing more or even working with him you can take a look into his page here