With companies ramping up their teams for the new year and departments getting access to their 2024 budgets, January and February are busy months for hiring. We’re already seeing an uptick in the number of *quality* CS jobs posted on platforms like LinkedIn, and it’s not just more jobs posted. Some of our clients have been getting more traction with their job searches.
December is the perfect month to get interview-ready if you want to land your next job!
Think about it. December is a quiet month for everyone, but while other candidates are leaving their prep for early next year, using the quiet month to refine your skills, strategy, and materials will get you ahead of the game.
We hosted a 3.5-hour-long workshop at the beginning of December to help Customer Success professionals get interview-ready. Yes, you missed it, but in this article, you’ll find the TL; DR–recap and takeaways–to help YOU get ready!
The job market is very competitive right now, so candidates need to go above and beyond to stand out.
A clear job search strategy and plan is crucial before applying.
Resumes are important but not enough - you’ll need supplemental content like a CS profile and presentations to help you get ahead.
Networking and making connections are the keys to getting referrals and inside information.
Preparation and practicing responses using stories and approaches for your interviews will help you seal the deal.
Job Search Strategy
If your approach is apply to EVERY and ANY job, sorry friends but that’s not a strategy.
A lot of us get overwhelmed by job searching because we go directly to a job board like LinkedIn and we scroll and scroll until we find a job “we could maybe do.”
This is time-consuming.
Instead, focus on clarifying what makes sense for you and what you want to do.
List out your current experience, fields you’ve worked in, and tools you’ve used. This is your foundation.
If you were an educator, then Edtech makes sense for you. If you used Schoology in your day-to-day work, then applying for a job at Schoology doesn’t seem so far-fetched. There’s a connection there.
With your foundation in place, next, take some time to think about what you’re interested in or what you’re passionate about.
You like design = Google “top design tech companies”
You’re a mental health advocate = Google “top mental health tech companies”
You’re looking for areas in tech that you have a connection to. It’s much easier to sell yourself when you have a story–a previous experience or passion–related to the company you’re applying to.
And what about the roles you’re interested in?
Customer Success is more than just Customer Success Managers. In Catalyst’s 2021 Compensation Report, they highlighted the different responsibilities across customer-facing roles. Which of these roles aligns with what you’re looking for?
Lastly, keep in mind things like whether or not you want to work at a startup, virtual vs. remote, mid-size company vs. large corporation. This will help you get more granular with your search.
Your ultimate goal is to have a job search criteria!
Be picky and targeted with job search - focus on specific roles, companies, and locations to avoid getting overwhelmed.
Research target companies thoroughly - understand their product, customers, culture, and news.
Track job search progress in a tool like Teal to stay organized.
Align resume and application materials to targeted job search strategy.
If you've never done customer success before or feel that the customer success you've done wasn't really "customer success," I recommend you star here instead.
Resume (and more)
Resumes–we hate them. But we still need to have a really good one if you want to stand out from the crowd.
Luckily, today, there are plenty of tools to help us with this archaic document. We really love this article by Teal covering ChatGPT prompts to use to optimize your resume. And they have CSM resume templates you can use, so you don't have to start from scratch.
Of course, relying on just ChatGPT is a recipe for disaster. After reading hundreds–and even thousands–of resumes, hiring teams quickly pick up on the patterns, and they know when your resume was written by AI.
Hot tip: Use AI to give you the base, but add your own spices–make it YOU.
Now, onto the #1 mistake we see in resumes: The need for more context.
One-liner bullet points fail to sell your accomplishments and your experience. Here’s a structure you can follow to take your points from:
“Created an onboarding playbook for new customers.”
“Stood up an onboarding playbook for new customers by creating best practices, setting up an email nurture campaign, and measuring their adoption, which increased engagement rate by 10%.”
You highlighted more than just what you did. You told us HOW you did it.
When in doubt, follow our resume bullet point structure, which goes a little something like this:
But everyone has a resume…
A resume is like a "dating profile" - necessary but not the full picture.
Focus on skills, experience, and results tailored to CS roles. Tell a story.
Supplement with CS profile, presentations, etc., to share full capabilities.
Review thoroughly for mistakes - use tools like Grammarly. Follow checklist.
People visibly cringe when they hear the word “networking,” and we get it: it feels… Desperate.
But we promise you it doesn’t have to be.
The problem with networking, as we know it, is that we start doing it only when we need something, we're being reactive about it.
Networking is a long game. If you reach out to someone today, don’t expect them to hook you up with a referral tomorrow.
So how do we do it?
Remember that when you’re reaching out, you need to establish a relationship before you ask for favors. An easy way to approach networking is to think about it a bit like dating. You wouldn’t ask someone to get into a relationship with you on the first date, would you?
Get to know them, establish a relationship, and go from there.
Oh, and avoid reaching out to recruiters–everyone is reaching out to them. Instead, reach out to a CSM, hiring manager, or someone in an adjacent role.
Referrals account for a high % of hires - networking is crucial.
Avoid vague outreach - be clear on your purpose and what you seek. Offer value.
Leverage communities, LinkedIn, and events - focus on quality over quantity of connections.
Develop conversational skills and have questions ready.
We’ve covered interview prep in depth here at The Customer Success Project. But there are a few more things we’d like to share with you:
Stories & Approaches
There are stories, and then there are approaches. Stories will help you communicate the experience you’ve accumulated throughout your career and how it aligns with the job you’re interviewing for. While approaches are the strategy you’ll use, the framework you’ll apply, or steps you’ll take to address something–anything–in the role you’re applying to.
You don’t have to have 100% of the experience the job is asking for, but you do need to have clear approaches that make up for any gaps you may have.
Do you have a story/approach for onboarding, relationship building, renewals, upsells, health score management, risk mitigation, quarterly business reviews, etc.?
Of course, you can have a referral lined up, have the perfect experience for the role, and still fumble the bag. So, let's talk about what to avoid.
Our list of the seven sins of interviewing:
Taking negatively about your previous employer
Not having questions for your interviewers
Drawing attention to your lack of experience or potential concerns
Weakness = perfectionist or "I don't have any"
Talking too much about your personal problems
Overly talking about their perks and how it will make your life so much easier
Not being conversational
Thoroughly research company, product, and role - use a prep document to stay organized.
Prepare stories and approaches to common CS interview questions.
Practice aloud to polish delivery - enumerate steps and watch your tone.
Build relationships throughout the interview with small talk and questions.
Okay, let's TL;DR it even more:
Your Interview-ready checklist
Define your job search strategy
Lock down your job search criteria and start searching for jobs on company websites
Save relevant jobs found in Teal’s job tracker (this is your job bank)
Update your resume so it aligns with your new job search strategy
Start networking to build relationships with people who work at the places you want to work at
Take 30 minutes to think about your experience and come up with stories
Figure out what your experience gaps are, learn and create your approaches
Do the prep for the interviews
Don’t forget about small talk and asking questions during your interviews
Avoid the seven sins
Send thoughtful thank you emails (even if you get rejected)
The market is tough, but you’re tougher 💪Good luck! Oh and if you want to stop going around in circles and want to work with me directly, here's how you can do that.