Johannes' blog

My Job Search During The COVID-19 Pandemic

Looking for a job during the COVID-19 pandemic was a challenge. There was a lot of uncertainty about how the whole situation would play out. A lot of people lost their job. And a lot of companies stopped hiring. When I set out to find a job, my goal was relatively straightforward. I wanted to land a job in product management at one of the top tech companies (e.g., Google, Amazon, Facebook, Snapchat, etc.). My motivation to join a big tech company stemmed from the idea that I wanted to learn from great product managers. Moreover, in my past startup experiences, the predominant priority was to survive. Thus, I wanted to finally set foot in a company where I could take responsibility for an established product and work on more impactful issues. Especially, taking over responsibility was a very important job requirement for me. I firmly believe that your personal growth depends on the amount of responsibility you are willing to carry. As with responsibility, you increase the exposure for your work.

It was the first time for me to search for a job proactively, as my former jobs came to me. So I had a rough idea of how to approach the job search. Overall, my job search campaign ran for around five months (April to September 2020). During this period, I sent out roughly 180 applications, I got invited to 20 interviews (11%), and I ultimately got 4 job offers (2%). I had two approaches to apply for jobs. I sent the majority of applications (~150) through LinkedIn, where the offer was way higher, though the quality of the openings varied a lot. Through my friends and friends of friends, I got 31 referrals (17%) in total. Referrals are the most effective way to get a foot in the door. I got 8 out of 20 interviews (40%) through referrals. They were by far more effective than applying to LinkedIn openings. Yet, LinkedIn is a great platform where you are always timely informed when new job offerings are online, anywhere in the world.

Having video call interviews was an experience that was really exciting for me in the beginning. Overall, I can not really complain about virtual interviews, but the virtual half-a-days were a little bit weird. Having back-to-back multiple video calls always felt a little bit overwhelming, but I guess the real-life experience must also be pretty intense. Anyhow, I could tell that the virtual half-a-days lacked the personal component of getting to know the team you are going to work with. But then again, building a relationship and getting to know the people you work with takes time either way.

Landing an interview at a big company was hard. In my opinion, COVID took a toll, even on the companies that were doing great during the pandemic. Among the interviews I had, I spoke with companies like Bolt, Hubspot, and Google. I had referrals for Facebook, Amazon, Booking, where I did not get invited for an interview.

During my interviews and talks with friends, I realized that you would find great PMs not only in big tech companies. And afterall my priority was to find an environment where I can grow. Moreover, I realized that responsibility and impact are a consequence and not a requirement. You get both when you are in an environment that enables you. After all I found a new home at Frontify. A scale-up from St. Gallen Switzerland with around 150 employees. I found Frontify's Technical Product Manager job description through LinkedIn. After sending my application, I started to research and get a better idea of what Frontify is doing. Whereas for other interviews, I was thoroughly prepared, and some interviews failed because I was just overly excited. The less you depend on a job interview (i.e., the less you think this is my only shot at a great job), the more likely you are to act natural and authentic and give the interview your best.

During the talks with Frontify, I became more involved with the problem and understood the company's unique position. Frontify is offering a fully integrated product for companies to build powerful brand experiences. They provide solutions to digitalize the brand management. As of now, Frontify is growing fast has lots of great reference customers, such as Lufthansa, Facebook, Pepsi, and MAN. Although Frontify was not the giant tech company that I was initially looking for, I realized that the job at Frontify would put me in a place where I get a lot of responsibility. Moreover, the product managers working there already laid the groundwork for a great product and company. So I was excited to join this team and learn how they approach product management.