Step 05

Get Your Search On

How to execute your post-military job search

This is the step where many folks leaving the military get stuck. Either they’re overwhelmed by all the possibilities out there and succumb to analysis paralysis - or they dive right in and just apply to thousands of jobs, never hearing back from one.

To avoid both fates, we’ll walk you through how to run a laser-focused, effective search, step-by-step:

  1. Head over to Indeed, the most comprehensive aggregator of job listings. And start with a simple search for your desired job title (e.g., Data Analyst) in your desired location (or leave that field blank if you’re open to moving anywhere).
Indeed search
  1. Read through the first page of listings. If at least ⅓ of these feel like jobs you’d consider, you’re in great shape and can go to the next step. But if you see too many jobs that just aren’t right for you, try refining your search:
  2. Let’s say that you realize that you’re only interested in roles at startups - not giant companies. Try adding the word “startup” to your search (e.g., Data Analyst startup) and see if you get a better ratio of signal-to-noise.
  3. Or maybe you discover that a lot of the roles are in the actuarial space and you’re just not excited about that. Go ahead and add “-actuarial” to your search (e.g.,Data Analyst -actuarial) to remove those listings.
  4. Once you feel like your search is returning a fair share of career gold, it’s time to automate. Rather than stressing out by checking job boards every day, let technology do the heavy lifting for you by setting a Job Alert in the right-hand column. Now, each day, you’ll get all the freshest jobs delivered straight to your inbox without lifting a finger.
Job Alert column
  1. When a job comes in that strikes your fancy, be sure to hop on it right away. You’re likely to get more attention from a recruiter on the first day (when your application is like the shiny new present under the tree) than on the 21st (when he’s buried under 500 applications and has given up all hope)! Ideally, you should aim to apply for a job within 2 weeks of posting.
  2. If the application gives you a chance to write a cover letter, go for it - you don’t want to kick yourself later if you left a card on the table with your dream job on the line. But don’t spend too much time since many times cover letters are never read. Here’s a template you can use to show that you’re interested in and qualified for this specific job (catnip to recruiters and hiring managers alike!):

Dear Sir or Madam,

I'm thrilled by the opportunity to apply for this role for two reasons:

1) I'm obsessed with data. From analyzing reams of field data as an intelligence officer to teaching myself SQL and Python on the side out of pure passion, I love nothing more than discovering needles of insight in giant haystacks of data.

2) And I'm deeply passionate about your mission. Empowering others to provide for their families is something that’s motivated me throughout my life - from supporting communities around the world through the military to volunteering with Habitat for Humanity back at home. And by democratizing access to housing data, Zillow is making it possible for millions of people to find the perfect place to build and raise their own families.

Thus, between being energized by the day-to-day work and the overall mission, I can't imagine a better opportunity to apply my data skills in the name of something truly meaningful!

Thanks for your consideration, YOUR NAME

  1. Now here’s the most important part​ - no matter how great your resume and cover letter are, your chances of getting the interview based on them alone are small. Especially if you’re changing careers and competing against candidates with lots of experience, it’s going to be tough to win over the risk-averse recruiter. So while you should always apply for jobs to give yourself a shot, you should never assume that’s enough. Instead, you should also immediately try to find someone on the inside who can give you that edge you need to compete with the experienced folks. Because as you’ll recall from the Bonnie and Clyde example, having someone advocate for you directly to the recruiter or hiring manager can make all the difference. Here’s how you do just that, using the advanced search filters on LinkedIn:
LinkedIn Filter
LinkedIn Filter Search

Subject: Fellow Navy vet interested in Zillow


I’m a (soon-to-be) Navy veteran and, as such, I was thrilled to come across your profile on LinkedIn. That’s because I’ve been excited about landing a Data Analyst role at Zillow and was glad to come across a fellow vet there. If you’d be open to sharing your story and your advice, is there any chance you’d be available for a 15-minute conversation later this week or next?

Thanks for considering! -YOUR NAME

Again, during your conversation, they’ll often offer to help based on your shared bond and passion for the role.

Interview Like a Champ

How to answer any post-military job interview question