As someone fresh (or rather re-entering) in the job application world, I had been sending out 5-10 applications a week (I know, not impressive in terms of quantity) for a couple months. Other than one phone interview that didn’t move past that, I had gotten zero responses. The most frustrating part was not the rejection (or silence) itself, but it was not knowing where I should focus my effort. Should I improve my resume? Should I craft a more engaging cover letter? Should I flesh out that case study in my portfolio??
On the surface, it seemed like this is how it works:
Application materials → Interview
So if my application materials weren’t leading to interviews, how was I supposed to know what to work on?
We can zoom in and see things work more like this:
(Cover letter) → Resume → Portfolio → Interview
I later learned the cover letter could be a real wildcard and could be either completely useless or have great potential, depending on the company and the cover letter. For simplicity, I’ll just package the cover letter and resume under “resume”.
Either way, the resume is to convince the reviewer to take a look at your portfolio (in general), and if that interests them enough, they reach out for an (phone) interview.
Yes, I’m speaking only in generalities, and yes, there are many other important aspects and strategies for landing a job, but for now I’m restricting my focus here to just the traditional application materials.
What if I could somehow track where recruiters dropped off? Imagine 10 recruiters read your resume but none invited you to an interview.
However, imagine this plays out in two different situations…
- For situation A, you know only 1 recruiter visited your portfolio
10 apps sent → X recruiters saw resume → 1 recruiter visited portfolio → 0 interviews
- … versus for situation B, you know 9 recruiters visited your portfolio.
10 apps sent → X recruiters saw resume → 9 recruiters visited portfolio → 0 interviews
Would that help you decide where you want to spend your time?
In situation A, my dropoff appears to be from the resume to the portfolio, so I’d interpret that as a weak resume and focus on improving that. Situation B is the opposite, where most recruiters who see my resume seem enticed to see my portfolio, but none contact me, so I’d interpret that as a weak portfolio and focus on improving that.
Unfortunately, no magical tool will tell us exactly this information, but we can take a few steps in that direction.
It’s not feasible to track how many of the resumes I sent out are actually seen by the recruiter, but I can definitely track how many resumes I send out, and I can get a reasonable estimate on how many visitors my portfolio gets (at least for my own situation, where I don’t get many visitors outside of recruiters).
How I counted my portfolio visitors
I already had Google Analytics installed. I heard it wasn’t the best tool, but it was the tool I had and it was more important that I start tracking analytics in general than try to get things perfect for the time being.
Getting more accurate data
The raw data I was collecting was number of site/page visits (including metadata such as date/time of visit, estimated length of session, etc.). The actual information I wanted was the number of site/page visits specifically from recruiters following up on my job applications. I was far from that, but here are some quick points on how I tried to improve the quality of my data:
- Filter out the noise. This means exclude bots, which likely appear as bounces (~0-1 second visits that don’t click on any links). I filtered out people entering through search results since recruiters likely clicked or typed my portfolio URL directly. I filtered out people I asked to provide feedback on my portfolio (or at least segregated their data from the rest).
- Remove my own traffic from the analytics. This really goes under the previous point, but I gave it its own since this was the biggest noise factor for me. Traffic from myself dwarfed the “real” traffic since I was constantly tweaking and testing the site. Keep in mind a visit from yourself may be from multiple devices and/or locations (thus difficult to pinpoint by just filtering an IP address). I used a WordPress plugin to exclude myself (my portfolio is on WordPress).
- Submit more job applications – the more the better – results in less statistical variation. If you get 0-2 random non-recruiter visits each week but apply to only 2 jobs per week, you have no idea if that 1 visit you got that week is from a recruiter. If you apply to 100 jobs per week, your “error” of 0-2 randos is a much smaller rate compared to your sample size. I would apply to a certain number of jobs that I wasn’t that interested in, just to increase my sample size.
How I used the data
I watched for my weekly visitor count to cross a certain threshold, which told me when I should shift my focus from resume to portfolio. For example, if I felt I’d be content with half of the reviewers deciding to check out my portfolio, I’d send out about 10 apps a week for a couple weeks and watch my visitor count. Once I was getting around 5 “real” visitors each week, I’d say ok, that’s enough for me to stop tweaking my resume and now all my attention goes toward improving my portfolio.
What I should improve on my portfolio is a whole other story – but my analytics helped there, too! And the other thing is, I didn’t even have to start thinking about that until I knew I was getting enough eyes on my portfolio.
Nothing here is sophisticated or earth-shattering. But it was something I implemented that helped me get insights on my users, and most of all, helped me figure out where to invest my attention.
Have questions about any aspect of this? Is there an easier way to get started or a better way to go about this? Leave a comment!