Use A/B testing to optimize your job search

A/B testing is nothing new – online marketers have been using this scientific method for years to track the effectiveness of digital campaigns and advertisements. What may be new however, is applying it to our job search in order to find the most effective resume and cover letter combo that gets employers’ attention. This blog post will show how you can optimize your job search using A/B testing in conjunction with an online portfolio, resume or website.

For our purposes, A/B testing is simply an online two-sample hypothesis test where we take two versions of similar content and track which version gets the most views, clicks, or visits. We’ve already covered how to use UTM trackers to gauge employer interest in your resume, so lets take things one step further and use that data to create an organized and optimized job search technique. The best way to explain this is to use an example, so here goes…

I’m looking for a job in the communications industry, and I’ve found four positions that I’m really excited about. The positions all have different job titles, but the responsibilities and qualifications are very similar. I’ve done my research and have only targeted companies that are looking for entry-level or recent graduate candidates (or have a history of hiring them), found jobs that are in-line with my experience and skills, and positions that are in the same industry or sector with similar responsibilities and roles*. For the science and engineering types following along, what we’re doing is establishing a control for our experiment: a set of unchanging base-line conditions to which we will apply the test.

Now for the testing, where we create two different versions of our applications for the group of jobs we’re interested in. Ideally, since all of the positions are similar, for four positions we should be able to create two versions of our resume and cover letter, since the responsibilities and skills required by all four jobs are similar. Context and common sense is key here – each application should still be tailored and tweaked to the position you are applying for. Rather, we’re taking a broader approach and creating different themes, formatting or tones and seeing which one resonates more with employers. So if I was unsure whether its better to go with a more creative, highly formatted resume or a pared-back basic one, I’d create two versions of the URL links to my portfolio/website/resume with Google’s URL builder with unique Campaign Content identifiers, like so:

1. Fancy formatted resume application links: (emphasis added)

2. Basic formatted resume application links: (emphasis added)

ab testing graphic map

A/B testing for job postings in action

Because the UTM trackers we’ve embedded in our applications will tell us exactly which links are being clicked, we can analyze which versions (or even portions) of our applications are the most popular, or enticing enough for hiring managers to click on. Using the example above, we would see if the links in the fancy resume got more clicks than the basic version to determine which formatting style is the most effective for your job hunt.

Examples of how A/B testing can help you optimize your job search include:

  • deciding between two or more different resume formats or layouts
  • getting the right tone (formal/casual) for your cover letters and applications
  • deciding which skills or projects to highlight in your resume
  • deciding which projects to highlight on your portfolio

The possibilities are endless, but it’s important to note that A/B testing will only be accurate if you maintain a strong control and use a sample size (ie. # of job postings) of four or more. This means that the jobs you are applying for MUST be similar in terms of responsibilities, qualifications and experience.

In real life, A/B testing in online marketing is a continuous process of tweaking and adjustments, with marketers constantly testing and improving versions of ads, campaigns and digital media in order to create content that will be widely seen and shared. Using the same approach in your job hunt will give you valuable feedback as to what’s working in your search and what’s not, allowing you to tweak your applications until you find the sweet spot. Employers who are checking out your work online are probably interested enough to call you in for in interview!

How would you use A/B testing to improve your job search?

* Real life job titles I have used for this experiment include Communications Coordinator, Community Manager, Insights Analyst, Marketing Analyst and Digital Marketing Specialist, all for small to medium sized companies looking for someone with less than 5 years of experience.

Creating a brand guide for your blog: making a logo in Adobe Illustrator

This post will showcase a quick design process for creating a simple brand guide and logo for your website or blog project. Creating a logo (or mark) is one of the best things you can do to make your blog stand out from the crowd, as well as being a great opportunity to learn or improve on your graphic design skills.

For those who think that they can’t draw or find Illustrator too complicated to use, keep reading! A month ago I’d never used Illustrator in my life, hadn’t drawn seriously since middle school, and generally felt that graphic design was an area best left to people with fancy art degrees or exotic drug habits*. Everything I’ve learned since then was thanks to Team Treehouse’s excellent tutorials; if you’re not familiar with Treehouse, it’s an e-learning service with a low monthly fee that has in-depth tutorials on everything from web and graphic design to app development and business courses. I’ll talk more about them later, but for now all you need to know is that they have a free two-week trial period which is more than enough time to complete the Illustrator basics course and get started on your own logo project.

Since this blog is in need of a shiny new logo, and my portfolio needs updating, lets kill two birds with one stone and create a brand guide for the Job Hacking blog.

Following the design process outlined in Treehouse’s Adobe Illustrator basics course, lets start with a mind-mapping exercise. This is a trendy way of saying “write down key words related to your project and extrapolate on each term.” So, I wrote down key terms that I was interested in, such as “social media”, “web design”, “communications” and so forth. Once I had three to four main words, I’d go back and start branching out from each one, until I had a page full of connecting words and themes. This is great for overcoming the “I have no idea where to even start,” stage and getting visual inspiration for the next step; sketching logos.

Brand guide sketches

Step 1: Sketching your ideas

Now for the fun bit; start drawing pictures and shapes that build on the themes you identified from the mind-map. In my case, I was focusing on the themes of this blog: data, analytics, conversations/storytelling, success, and technology/code. As you can see, this eventually turned into something kind of cool and unique. Once I’d decided on what I wanted the logo to look like, it was time to fire up Illustrator and create a digital version.

Early draft of Job Hacking logo

An early draft of the logo

I decided early on to use a monochrome orange palette: monochrome for it’s simplicity and because it was the preferred palette of most larger brands, and orange due to the strong association with established data analytics tools like Google Analytics. With the basic shape and design in place, it was time to play around with fonts, colours and refining the mark design.

Shortlist of Job Hacking logos

This took longer than all the previous steps combined.

Then I spent hours fussing over small details and driving my girlfriend crazy by asking her what she thought of each iteration. I wanted the mark to be tied visually to the text to convey the idea that technology and data can be used to tell a story with the right analysis. The final data point outside the icon with the arrow pointing up implies that success can only be achieved by thinking outside the box (yes, very deep), while the stylized H bonds the icon and text both graphically and symbolically. In the end, this is what I created:

Job HAcking official brand guide

The completed brand guide and logo for the blog

With the mark and text finalized, it didn’t take too long to create a few different sized iterations for favicons, black and white alternates and a colour guide (useful for choosing accent colours on web design projects). Export the artboard as a high quality PNG and we’re done!

To be clear, I am not a professional graphic designer and there are doubtless many improvements that could be made, but hopefully this will inspire you to try creating your own logo or start learning some Illustrator skills if you’ve never tried it before. And if there are any pros looking at this who have suggestions or advice, I’m all ears!

Ironically, I can’t use the logo or brand guide on the blog right now, since being unemployed at the moment makes it difficult to justify paying for the WordPress upgrade to access the CSS and customization options 😛 I’ve added it to the About page and my Portfolio. Hopefully I can feature it better on this blog sooner rather later. For now, I’ll patiently await a call from Jony Ive, congratulating me on my stellar work along with a job offer that will let me buy all the WordPress upgrades, as well as the fancy red car and vacation house in the Bahamas…

*I’m joking of course. I’m in awe of incredibly creative people and their design process, even more-so the ones who can earn a living from their talents. Besides, real graphic designers never earn enough money to afford exotic drugs…

How to track employer interest in your job applications

Does sending out endless resumes to employers sometimes feel like dropping small pennies into a vast abyss?

You spend weeks sending out dozens of carefully tailored applications, and never hear anything back. Ever wonder if they’re even getting read?

Here’s a neat and simple trick I’ve started using in order to see if intrepid HR managers are actually checking out the applications I’m sending them. We can use Google Analytics and UTM codes to rig our resumes to create a digital breadcrumb trail that lets you see if employers are clicking links in your applications.

This technique assumes that you have some kind of website or online portfolio set up with Google Analytics, and are comfortable with basic HTML coding and updates. Here’s how it’s done:

Step 1.

In the body of your cover letter include a link to your online portfolio or website. I like to put the link toward the end of the cover letter after a bullet list of key assets I feel I’d provide, like so;

Key assets I’d bring to your company include:

  • Amazing asset
  • Even more amazing asset
  • Skill that highlights why I am perfect for this job

To view examples of my work mentioned above, please visit my online portfolio <insert hyperlink>.

Step 2.

Now, in the hyperlink include a UTM tracker pasted directly at the end of the URL you’re linking to. For example, if your website is, adding the UTM tracker will make it look something like:

The code from the UTM generator is generated by Google’s URL builder tool, which is free and easy to use. Just fill in the campaign info boxes with the requested information, hit “Submit”, and the code is generated for you!

Example of using Google's URL builder

Step 2: How to fill out the URL builder fields

Step 3.

You are ready to track visits to your website from people who click on that link. The results will show up on your Google Analytics account under the Acquisition > Campaigns tab, making it easy to see exactly who is clicking your links and what content they view on your websites.

How is this helpful? UTM trackers can be used on any link to an online URL, which means you can get creative with campaigns and A/B testing on your job hunt applications.

If you’re sending out many resumes and not getting any interview requests, the tracking data is useful for figuring out if your cover letter or resume is the problem. If you can see that employers are clicking the links you’ve provided to your work, it at least shows that your application is being considered and that your resume is enticing enough for them to want to find out more. If however you’re not getting clicks, it may be time to rethink the wording, content or formatting of your cover letter and resume, and reconsider how to get prospective employers checking out your work and skills.

Perhaps one of the most frustrating aspects of job hunting today is the lack of feedback given to prospective candidates and job seekers. Companies are too busy, or too lazy, to send feedback or reasons for rejecting an applicant. In this type of environment, it’s easy for HR myths and hearsay to circulate as strategies for job seekers, often in the form of conflicting or flat-out bad advice. Using data in your job hunt is way to take back some control over your situation, and get some feedback on how your applications are being received.

To take UTM trackers to the next level, learn how to segment your UTM data with custom reports, and how to integrate A/B testing to perfect your applications and increase your chances of getting an interview.

Obviously this method is far from perfect, so any suggestions on how to improve this would be greatly appreciated. How would you use UTM trackers or data analytics technique to help your job search?

What is Job Hacking?

You won’t find it in the dictionary, which is a relief because I was looking for a catchy title for this blog. The name is derived from the term growth hacking, which Wikipedia helpfully defines as;

“a marketing technique developed by technology startups which uses creativity, analytical thinking, and social metrics to sell products and gain exposure.

First, some back story…

Back in September 2014 I was laid off from my job at an organization in Toronto. After the initial shock had worn off, I quickly set about applying to as many similar positions I could find, only to run into the same problem that everyone else under the age of 35 (and even some who are older) is having: our hyper-competitive job market post-2008.


The traditional job hunt: throwing resumes into the sea

After many dozens of carefully tailored resumes and cover letters disappeared into the void of HR email addresses and Taleo URLs, it quickly became clear that the traditional method of sending applications to job postings wasn’t going to cut it. At the same time, I’d been using my suddenly decongested schedule to jump head first into the deep end of web design, data analytics and marketing techniques like growth hacking.

It’s still an on-going process, but the more I read the more it made sense to use the techniques that many online marketing teams are creating to get their content seen on the internet to… you know, actually find a job.

So with that in mind, lets kick-start this blog project with the first, formalized and semi-official definition of the term “job hacking” (Merriam-Webster, eat your heart out):

Job Hacking


1. a job search technique influenced by the practices of technology startups which uses creativity, analytical thinking, and social metrics to showcase an individual’s talents and gain exposure.

2. a career mindset and methodology for the digital age.


1. the process of creating, sharing or analyzing original content in order to showcase talent or expertise

Age-old advice, wrapped in a nice <div> with some meta tags and tweets with embedded URL trackers for conversion data.

For various reasons, we may be in one of the worst job markets for young people since the Second World War. The well meaning advice from older generations is largely obsolete, as evidenced by high youth unemployment, a sagging economy, and technological advances that have changed our society for better and for worse.

A new economy calls for a new approach to finding a job. I propose that job hacking is the best way to develop your career and showcase yours skills that companies value. I could be wrong, but I’m willing to find out…

Learn the first job hacking trick I used to track employer interest in my job applications.

Introduction: what this blog will teach us

What do you do when you reach 30, realize you hate your job and decide to pursue a career change?

What if said change involves leaving a cushy (but boring) engineering field, and taking a leap into the wild and confusing jungles of digital communications?

Naturally, you start a blog.

Some years ago I realized my interest in civil engineering wasn’t as strong as my high-school self thought it would be. The promise of steady promotions, increasing salaries, and guaranteed work wasn’t enough to shake the nagging feeling that I’d wake up one day in later life realizing that I produced very little that excited me, with only a Porsche, a fancy condo and three weeks of yearly vacation for comfort. The Porsche is an older 911 model, and the vacations are split between exotic destinations paid through a lucrative airmiles card, and a time-share someplace warm.

Um… is it too late to change my mind?


This would have been my car. In my vacation home. In the Bahamas.

Truthfully, it would take a lot more than a year-round tan and a flash car to make me go back. I don’t even likes cars that much. This blog is about how I went from knowing next to nothing about social media, web design, SEO and online marketing to being a digital communications specialist.

Want to know what skills you need to make it? Want to become a growth hacker extraordinaire, a social media guru and marketing whiz? Me too. Lets find out together.

Read on to find out what job hacking is, and how it can help you find your own dream job!