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I've been in the same job (engineering) at a small company (50 employees) since I left college a few years ago. I have quite a few good reasons for wanting to move to a larger company(let's say 500+ employees). I've applied to numerous jobs that I am qualified for, with a resume tailored to each position, but rarely get as much as a phone screen. This has been going on for almost six months.

My best guess is there are two things possibly causing me trouble. First, I'm trying to relocate to a city an hour away, and my address on my resume and application shows that I am not local to the companies at the moment. The other is the fact I've only ever worked at a small company. Assuming that one of these two issues are my problem, what can be done to combat them?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Jan Doggen, gnat, Jim G., Garrison Neely, IDrinkandIKnowThings Feb 19 '15 at 16:08

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    1) Have you put in your CV/resume that you're willing to relocate? 2) Have you tried accessing recruiting agencies in the area to help you get a foot in the door? 3) Have you let others review your CV/resume that do work for larger companies to give you guidance on changes that you made need to make with your CV/resume to better get through HR's filtering process? – SQLSavant Feb 16 '15 at 5:38
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    The question title is interesting but your particular job search difficulties are off-topic here. That said, the issues you bring up are unlikely to affect your candidacy: the distance is not enough to be an issue and "a few years" in a single job is not yet a pattern. – Lilienthal Feb 16 '15 at 9:09
  • I've seen quite a few larger to large companies explicitly stating on their websites what does it take to make your application suit them (example: careers.microsoft.com/careers/en/us/…). Maybe such companies will be more interested in you, especially since you already tailor your applications. – Pavel Feb 16 '15 at 10:00
  • Apply to Amazon if they have an office there. They only examine ability to do the job and to grow in the company. – Marcin Feb 16 '15 at 11:02
  • There's nothing wrong with your background. This is a generic question about how to apply to large companies (when also attempting to relocate, which is a non-issue). – smci Feb 16 '15 at 12:15
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Large companies — although I'd draw the line at thousands of employees, not 500 — tend to get lots of applicants for their job postings, and also tend have very bureaucratic application processes to filter out those that HR thinks are not worth their while. This makes it very hard to get in through the "front door", especially if your resume doesn't precisely match the buzzwords their recruiters are looking for. Large companies also have the irritating habits of advertising jobs that don't exist, because their recruiters are collecting CVs in case they ever need them; and jobs where outside applicants have no chance of getting it, because the winning candidate has already been identified, but Process(tm) must be followed to make legal & HR happy.

So usually the best way in is thus through the side door: find somebody in your network who works at that company and get them to refer you. This will usually short-circuit the keyword filters and land you at least a phone interview, and they can also often advise which positions are real and which un-posted opportunities might exist.

All that said, while I'm sure you have good reasons to leave your current job, please don't assume they'll go away if you join a larger company. If anything, I'd wager the average large company tends to be more dysfunctional than a small one, simply because they have more margin for error. A bad manager will run a 10-man shop to the ground in a year, a bad manager skilled in deflecting blame in a 10,000-person org can get a couple of promotions before people catch on (or become the CEO if nobody does!).

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    +1 for going in through the side door. Just be really keen and permanently on the alert and doors will open that you didn't expect. – superluminary Feb 16 '15 at 10:26
  • A good answer: the problem isn't moving from a small company to a large one, it's just that large companies tend to be more "obvious" when people are searching for jobs and, as jpatokal suggests, that simply makes it a little trickier to get a foot in the door. There's no intrinsic issue with working for smaller companies previously: your 40 person company is probably a lot like the bigger company's 40 person department, for example. – Jon Story Feb 16 '15 at 10:59
  • My experience is that small companies are far more disfunctional than large ones. There is a reason why most small companies fail. YMMV. – HLGEM Feb 16 '15 at 14:15
  • @HLGEM: Lots of big companies fail all the time, they're just big enough to absorb the failure and move on. It's even expected: in real companies doing R&D, the expectation is that 8 out of 10 ideas fail even before reaching the market. The one idea that does succeed in the market is supposed to pay for all the failures. – MSalters Feb 16 '15 at 15:05
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    Many companies of every size are dysfunctional - large and small companies just tend to have rather different flavours of dysfunction. :-) – Carson63000 Feb 18 '15 at 6:20
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jpatokal's answer raised some really good points, I just wanted to add a couple.

Assuming that one of these two issues are my problem, what can be done to combat them?

So, you think you have two problems - let's address them.

I'm trying to relocate to a city an hour away, and my address on my resume and application shows that I am not local to the companies at the moment.

This one is easy to solve - near your address on your resume, simply put "Willing to relocate", "Looking for work in XYZtown", or similar, and mention this in cover letters/applications. Put it close to your address. The other option, dependent on your industry, is to simply remove your postal address from your CV and just put the city or area. I've done this for a while, since every employer I've spoken to has used my phone or email to contact me - they only look at the address to get an idea of location, so it may as well be the location they like.

I've only ever worked at a small company.

This could kinda suck, if they're looking for bureaucracy. However, many people get experience in small companies and startups that actually will help them, because there are so many more things to get done in a small company. On of the main concerns a large organisation might have about you joining from a small company could be something like, "Will this person be okay following corporate procedures, or are they looking for a pizza-and-fusball-table company?"

To address this, is there some experience you can use from your small company experience? As well as software engineering, have you smoothed over some processes? Helped run things internally? What have you ended up doing that wasn't "just software development", precisely because you were in a small company? How could this help you according to the job spec you're applying for?

If you've already answered all these questions, I would bear in mind that there could be other reasons. I'm not sure that "no one who works for small companies" is a realistic recruiting ambition in every job you've applied to. Examine your CV and applications closely, see if you can make it to a CV workshop, get some feedback from an impartial party, ask a recruiter in the area you're looking at what their companies prefer to see.

Best of luck in your job search.

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There is no barrier when moving from small to less small companies.

Even with companies with thousands of employees many times they will be on a small team working on a particular project or product. I have worked for companies with over 100,000 employees but the team was less than a dozen. In my current position the company has 20,000 employees with there are only ~20 on the project.

While there is a different level of bureaucracy in larger companies, for most employees it is transparent. The advantage of the larger company is that when your project comes to an end there are more projects to pick from.

I have never looked at the size of employers listed in the resume as an indication of anything. I could see how in some management positions the size of the company could make a difference, but for most positions open to employees only a few year out of school I don't see how it could ever make a difference.

The idea that being an hour away is a problem depends on the regional point of view. In a large metropolitan area it takes more than an hour to go 20 miles, in a rural area the hour drive can cover more than 60 miles. In my city an hour commute is considered no big deal.

They will ask about the commute during the interview, and you should ask about core hours, alternate work schedules and telecommuting; but I would never eliminate somebody pre-interview based on perceived commuting distance.

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Another point - larger companies tend to have more specialised roles than smaller companies. In a small company of 50 people you can often find yourself doing jobs that would be split between 2-3 different people in a larger company.

In some ways this is a strength because it makes you more flexible and versatile. However, it can be hard for hirers in large, bureaucratic companies to understand this. The key is to tailor your CV and covering letter so that you emphasise the parts of your experience that relate to exactly those required in the job role that you are applying for.

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    There's a critical mass problem on skillsets. Below a certain company size, the need for a full time role simply doesn't exist. E.g. 'legal team'. A large company might need a permanent team to do this, because there's enough going on. The corollary though, is that a large company likes to pidgeon hole an employee into a particular niche, where a small company wouldn't. – Sobrique Feb 16 '15 at 12:41
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I had a related feedback at some time in the past with a related issue:

Being in a small company usually involves more interaction with everyone, being able to skip hierarchies and generally an efficiency vs protocol approach. That's for the soft skills. Similarly for the technical skills, it is more about breadth then depth. It seems that in small places a person who "Gets things done" is more appropriate, while in bigger places there is a need that needs a specialist, eg: "person with X years on experience on Y".

I'd suggest to mention that you are aware of this in the cover letter and that you are willing to work on crossing that chasm. This will signal to the HR person that you are aware of the situation. Now they can be thinking based on the number of CVs that they receive that you are testing the waters or something like that.

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I don't know if we can answer this. There may be a tendency for the larger companies in your area to favor recent graduates, those that interned with them and possibly only consider candidates that came from a certain level of university. This has nothing to do with experience at a small company.

Often smaller companies can offer a wider variety of experiences and possibly get involved with projects at a higher level because they don't have the resources to divide up the work in many smaller pieces like their larger competitors. This could be an opportunity to exceed the current experience of those that went to work for a larger company for the same period of time. They're still siting on the sidelines.

Another problem you may be facing is the industry's perception of the quality of your current company. You may want to see if there is anyone who has worked there for a few years and moved on to bigger companies that have more opportunities for growth. Unfortunately, you may be stigmatized due to no fault of your own.

Maybe there is someone back at your university you can talk to about this? They may be encouraging graduates to go directly to the bigger companies for reasons we can't know because we're not in your particular location and job market.

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Given the number of resumes I have looked at, I wonder if the real issue is that your resume needs help. The assumption of this question is that your resume is getting reviewed. As the top answer suggests, verify buzzwords. But more accurately do you have a good resume that passes the initial screen and if not how do you proceed?

Note - Do you have an objective? If so, ditch it and do the steps below. Are you using the STAR method, if not follow the steps below. If your resume is not tuned then you are wasting your time.

I would recommend the following approach 1) Search only for resume review companies and submit your "tailored" resume to the firm for a initial free review. Make the changes and submit to another review company or pay the fee for a full rewrite.

2) Contact a person at the company and 2 similar ones through linkedin and build a professional friendship. Explain to them that you are seeking a mentor and provide your resume. See what tips they offer for moving to a larger company.

3) Leverage your mentors to find the contact info for the HR staff and submit to HR or have the mentor submit the resume (after you have completed step 1) to the company or companies.

  • You can test your resume by applying to several large companies, if you get through the screening process and are granted an interview then it may be safe to assume your resume is up to par. However, I would hazard a guess that your resume needs help. – SWill Feb 17 '15 at 15:51
  • Your resume should at a minimum address all of the required skills listed and hopefully address (show experience) with all of the optional skills listed. Deconstruct the job description and use that to seed your resume. – SWill Feb 17 '15 at 15:52

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