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Interviews as a sales pipeline
Instead of products, your'e selling your skills
Look at job interviews as a sales pipeline where instead of products, you're selling your skills. This is the first and foremost thing you have to understand so you correctly approach the whole process. This will help you to visualize the interview process and organize all the applications to numerous companies. Your goal is to close the deal and get the offer you can't resist.
Look at job interviews as a sales pipeline where you're selling your skills.
Note: We use the sales pipeline analogy since the process and tools that we use are very similar to how people in Sales work. You don't have to have experience in Sales, although we recommend learning the basics of sales pipeline management.
An interview pipeline encompasses every stage of your application process: starting from sourcing open roles, going through initial screening, moving to an onsite interview, and finally negotiating the offers and signing the contract.
The pipeline is in a shape of a funnel: wide at the top as job applications enter, then increasingly more narrow as they are disqualified at each stage. You have to accept that you'll reject a few options on your way, and you'll be rejected a few times - but that is fine; that's how the pipeline works. It is also why you have to make the top of the funnel as wide as possible to keep dropouts as a normal part of the process.
You have to accept that you'll reject a few options on your way, and you'll be rejected a few times - but that is fine; that's how the pipeline works.
A funnel suggests the number of applications you're working on steadily drops off as the interview process goes on. This usually means you need many more applications at the top of your funnel than the bottom.
How many companies should I apply to?
In short, it depends... To give some reference points, Vitaliy had 16 companies in a pool and finished with two offers; Yuliana had 32, with 2 offers at the end. The math says that 87% and 94% of the applications didn't reach the offer stage.

The more applications you submit, the more chances you have. However, it's not about absolute numbers but your specific case. Do your research and find all eligible companies that you seriously consider applying for. No matter 20, 50, or only 5 of them. It might be that in your industry, for your specific role, there will be only a limited number of eligible companies.
Track progress with CRM
When you apply to more than a few companies, it is essential to keep track of the progress, contact details, and notes in one place. To address the problem, Sales use Client Relationship Management systems (CRM): to log all their conversations and all the actions taken.

To track application progress, we don't need a full-blown CRM system; something like Trello, Notion, or even a spreadsheet will work.
Again, look at your job interview as you're going to close a Sales deal. The more ambitious your career goals are, the more you have to prepare. It's up to you how quickly your application moves to the next stage.

Keep contact details of key decision-makers: first, the employees you ask for a referral, then the recruiters working with you. Like a proper Sales manager, this would be your function to follow up regularly to keep your application progressing.
Maintain your CRM and follow up to keep moving your applications through the funnel.
Build your unique CRM with unique labels and custom fields so you can easily navigate and prioritize your applications. Make it easy to check application status and what actions you have to take to get it to the next stage.
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Keep stages aligned between companies
Depending on the company, your applications will move between stages at a different pace. Your goal is to keep application stages as aligned as possible. It is much easier to prepare for the interviews when all of them are at the same stage. But most importantly, you'll be in a much better position to negotiate contract terms if your offers arrive at the same time.
Keep stages aligned between companies: easier to prepare, better to negotiate.
Imagine you have one application rapidly progressing to the offer stage. Because you started other applications much later, they're still at early stages. As a result, you end up in a situation when you have to decide whether you accept the offer or not without knowing what other companies will offer—what a shame.

A quick tip: you can ask a recruiter to slow down the process. Moreover, it is absolutely reasonable to mention that you'd like to slow down to get offers from other companies simultaneously. It may sound counterintuitive, but a recruiter is your best friend in the interview process.

We expand this in detail in Where to get help and Salary negotiation articles.

1. Job interviews are just like sales pipelines where you're selling your skills.

2. Your interview pipeline should be wide at the top and narrow down in the later stages. You have to accept that rejections are absolutely fine.

3. Keep your application stages aligned. Get offers from all companies at the same time to build your negotiation leverage.

4. Keep recruiters' contact details, communication log, and action to take in a CRM. Follow up regularly to keep your application progressing.

Action items

1. Schedule a recurring block of time in your calendar for interview preparations.

2. Make a copy of the Application Pipeline [Template] spreadsheet or set up your CRM in Notion or Trello. Adjust parameters to your needs.

In the next chapter, we'll help you define your ideal company and discuss the pros and cons of working for a startup and corporate.