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What’s the best method for organizing and tracking your job search? Well, of course, it’s whatever works best for you! For some job seekers, having a highly visual method that helps them process and prioritize information is useful. Introducing: the Kanban board.
What is Kanban?
Fadeke Adegbuyi, a writer and marketer for Todoist, which offers a Kanban board app, defines Kanban as “a visual productivity workflow that provides an overview of project tasks, from start to finish, so nothing gets lost in the shuffle.” Based on the idea that we process visual information much more quickly than we do text, Kanban involves a “board” with columns and “cards” that get moved around to show work progress and completion. A Kanban board can be as simple as drawing column lines in a notebook or creating a physical board and affixing sticky notes; however, many software apps are available, some at little or no cost, for Kanban board creation.
On most Kanban boards used outside of job search, a card is the equivalent of a “task.” To apply that concept to job search, we can think of the task as “met with target contact.” Typical column headings for a job search might be, left to right, Target Contacts, Outreach Made, Meeting Date Confirmed, Follow Up. Cards move from left to right as aspects of pursuing each opening are completed.
Why Kanban for job search?
You could certainly use other types of tools to track and organize your job search, such as a simple spreadsheet, to-do list, or planner. Kanban, however, may be a better choice for visual learners, those for whom to-do lists don’t work, those who get overwhelmed by tracking information, and those who seek to control the complexity of a job search. Blogger Johanna Rothman notes that visualizing the workflow of your search frees up your mind to focus on what you need to do right now.
Kanban-board software apps enable useful features, such as the ability to attach to an opening’s card a copy of the resume and cover letter you used to apply to that job, as well as copies of any emails associated with the opening. The card itself can contain copious information about each opening. You can add due dates and reminders to cards, as well as attach visuals.
A Kanban board can also be used for aspects of job search that go beyond tracking and organizing; for example, curating accomplishment stories you can use to respond to interview questions.
First, decide whether you want a physical board you can actually touch or a virtual version using software. If you go the software route, you will likely have at least a dozen apps to choose from; ProofHub lists 16. Those mentioned most often by users are Trello (example of Trello Kanban job-search template), Notion, Huntr (created specifically for job search), JIRA, and Clinchpad, all of which offer a free subscription level for personal use (some advanced features may not be available in free versions).
Next, decide how you want to set up your board. Here are some sample sets of column headings created by actual users to consider:
- Potential Jobs (haven’t applied yet)
- Phone Interview
- In-Person Interview
- Initial Inquiry
- In Recruitment
- First Interview
- Second Interview
- Awaiting Decision
- Newly Applied
- Phone screen done
- Interview done
- Offer letter received
In project management, the far-left column on the board is often called “Backlog,” the tasks that haven’t been started yet. In the first example above, the analogous column, “Potential jobs” represents jobs you haven’t yet applied for.
Start adding cards for jobs you’re applying for and decide what employer information you want to collect on each card. “Rodney N.,” a blogger who uses Jira for his Kanban board recommends this comprehensive list of card information:
- Job location
- Job URL: (Other users suggest either copying and pasting the job description or making a screenshot of it since postings are often taken down after applications start coming in.)
- Job ID, if applicable
- Contact phone
- Contact email
- Date of last contact
If you are visually oriented enough to be considering a Kanban board, you will likely appreciate this video from Doug Vanderweide that shows how to set up a board using Clinchpad.
If you’re looking for a way to optimize your job-search organization, you have nothing to lose by trying a Kanban board – and you just may find its visual aspect to be the system that works best for you.