Faculty Recruiting Support CICS

Career Search Strategy

Research, Network, Apply

Many students submit 100+ applications but don’t get many interviews. Instead of over-applying, which involves minimal learning but lots of frustration, we recommend an iterative, focused search strategy.

Research employers that match your preferences

You mean jobs?

No, not jobs although jobs can help you identify employers too (just be careful since the temptation to switch from research mode to apply mode is strong). Focus on employers that match your preferences since lots of positions are not posted or are hard to find. Also, sometimes jobs are posted late after trying to hire from within, in which case it might be too late. By researching employers, you will be ready to apply once they are looking to hire.


We suggest using LinkedInHandshake, our CICS Slack Community, but other sources are fine too. For example, if you want to work in Boston, or Western Mass, or for an employer who accepts CPT/OPT, these Recommended Resources might help. One CICS Careers hack is to use Career Insights from reputable schools in your preferred location to find more employers (e.g., WPI for Central Mass or UW for Seattle).

Use the Job Search Template (UMass ID required to access and copy for yourself) to keep a running list of your favorite employers. Allow your search criteria to evolve by exploring different combinations. Compare Boston startups to large Boston tech companies. Or New York finance employers to Boston healthcare companies. By having specific search criteria but multiple exploratory career paths, you will soon be discovering previously unknown organizations.

The employer's careers webpage is the best place to start since it is designed to help job searchers like you with blogs, social media, news, etc. As you research, if you start to like the employer more, keep exploring. If you feel it’s not a good match, move on. There are lots of other companies out there. All of this research will pay dividends when you are trying to prepare for an interview, and it can be fun (much more fun than the "black hole" of applying and not hearing back).

Network with connections at your favorite employers

What if I don't have a network?

Everyone has a network. Start by exploring your personal network. Perhaps a friend’s parent or distant relative works for that company. Mention employers during conversations to uncover secondary connections (a connection’s connections) or search LinkedIn. Better yet, identify a diverse, well-connected 3-5 person "job search team" and keep them updated on new employer leads.

Next, leverage the UMass network. CICS classmates, faculty and staff have relationships with many organizations that hire tech talent. If you’re lucky, CICS Careers might even have an upcoming event with that IAP Member or career fair where you can make a personal connection. Take advantage of LinkedIn’s highly-searchable Career Insights dashboard -- with 170,000+ alumni it's hard to find an employer that other alumni haven't already found.

I found someone - now what?

View the profile to learn and generate ideas. Often you can immediately click on their profile, especially if you have a shared group. Explore their projects, skills, and even previous employers/jobs, which is a great way to discover related companies and new leads! Another CICS Careers hack is to investigate what people did immediately before getting the job you want since you could take that career path as well. 

As you read, pay attention for fortuitous connections such as a shared student organization, a shared volunteering passion, or a common professor. In addition to a UMass education, these small-world connections could be the start of a mutually-beneficial conversation.

Should I contact them?

Yes, just don't immediately ask for a referral or a job. Try an informational interview by initiating a conversation about their project or company. Ask questions that allow them to offer advice on a challenging decision or recommend a new idea. Even weak connections are often willing to network for a variety of reasons.

Networking can increase your application prospects. Many students skip this step, but just one person can make the difference between an interview or another rejection email. If you are new to networking, ask CICS Careers for some tips during your next appointment.

Apply to the best positions

Step #3, not #1. You might need to wait before a position opens up, but the good news is that since you’ve done your homework, you will be ready to submit your application early. In the meantime, you can iterate by continuing to research and network.

When applying, incorporate research and networking insights into a resume specifically for that opportunity. Regardless of whether or not a cover letter is required, find a way to explain why you want to work there. It doesn't matter where you apply (Handshake, LinkedIn, company website) since all applications go to the hiring team for review. 

In the best case, you will have networked to establish an insider relationship who can help you get selected for an interview. Notify these connections about your application so that they have the opportunity (not the obligation) to provide a referral. Contacts can also provide guidance on if you would be a competitive applicant for that role. Far too many students don't apply to an employer match just because the HR wish list (i.e., job description) includes some skills that you will need to learn. Selectively apply and you just might land that dream interview.

Search Templates

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We believe that this approach provides the fundamentals for successful job searching throughout your career. We've incorporated insights from helping hundreds of alumni and students like you, as well as the best advice from employers like Google and career consultants like Marcelo Barros. Adjust our advice to meet your specific needs and keep sharing tips with us on what works and doesn’t work.