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Job Searching during COVID: Behind the Scenes with Candidates & Recruiters

Advice, best practices, and optimism from Airtable, InVision, and Zeus

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Written by

Kerry Wang

CEO, Co-Founder

Published

May 19, 2020 12:38 AM

Categories

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Last Thursday we hosted a roundtable with Allison Silber (Product Manager at Zeus Living, Co-founder at Happy to Help), Carly Donovan (Recruiting Manager at Airtable), and Hope Weatherford (Head of Talent Attraction at InVision) to share their personal experiences and behind-the-scenes advice for those on the job hunt right now. If you missed it, you can watch the recording below!

Full transcript here.

Here were our top 10 takeaways. A detailed transcription of highlights are below!

  • Make do with what you have, Carly recently landed her job while doing all her interviews on her phone -- no laptop
  • Companies are seeing up to a 250% increase in applications, it’s more important than ever to stand out
  • How to Stand Out #1: Do your homework, be specific, be genuine when reaching out to recruiters or hiring managers directly
  • How to Stand Out #2: Effective networking is more about rekindling connections and offering support to old friends and past colleagues, less about expecting a job offer after 1 conversation
  • Leverage your alumni network
  • People want to help, LET them help you. You have to initiate and reach out!
  • Get feedback in Slack Channels, FB groups, or peers about the narrative your resume communicates 
  • If you get rejected, ask the recruiter for one piece of feedback you can take with you
  • Pace yourself, schedule breaks
  • Give yourself grace, this is a challenging time, be patient, try to take something good from these challenges

Highlights

📌 [00:07] What have been the biggest changes in hiring for internal talent teams?

Companies are still hiring! Recruiting teams are managing about a 250% increase in applications week over week and ensuring they’re operationally sound to expedite their hiring processes as much as possible.

Companies looking at their talent pools very differently. They’re seeing they can still make great hiring decisions without having to fly someone across the country.

Hope Weatherford: Something that's very different this time from 2008 is companies are still hiring, and social media is playing such a huge difference. People want to help, so let them help you! And what you're also starting to see is that companies are looking at their talent pools very differently. So just because you're not in the Bay area, don't let that weigh you down, because we are starting to see that companies that traditionally only hire in one or four specific locations, they're starting to look at their talent pool a little bit different. And we're seeing people getting reached out from companies that they would have never, A) thought to apply to or B) thought that it was ever in their realm of things that they could do. 

We've seen an influx in the number of applications that we're getting, about a 250% increase week over week. I would say that the level of talent that we're seeing is something that we haven't seen in quite some time from just like that general application pool.

We're seeing people on the market that we don't normally see on the market and it's gotten us to think a little bit differently. We're seeing people getting reached out from companies that they would have never A) thought to apply to or B) thought that it was ever in their realm of things that they could do. - Hope Weatherford

Carly Donovan: We're seeing people on the market that we don't normally see on the market, and it's gotten us to think a little bit differently. We're seeing we can still make great hiring decisions without having to fly someone across the country. What does that mean in the future for the hiring processes? And what does that mean for talent who are in different areas of the country that wouldn't before necessarily get a job in a Bay Area tech company? 

Allison Silber: From a more of a candidate perspective, there's some things that are actually really nice about remote interviewing. You can have a Post-It note or a note on your computer with some of your go to stories or metrics. Oftentimes people get really nervous interviewing, and tend to forget some of the stuff that they've done and how to best communicate that. So there's an opportunity there to put it on your screen, bullet points so that you can flow through some of the conversations a little bit easier and not forget things.

📌 [00:17] What should candidates absolutely not do during this time?

Choose quality over quantity. Do reach out, do ask for help, do apply for jobs, but just be thoughtful about it and be personal and authentic. 

Don’t doubt yourself and lose your confidence.

Allison Silber: I think now more than ever, it's very important to be authentic. I've seen candidates read, word for word, from paper or communicate in a way that's not completely themselves or not authentic. And what it does is it becomes very difficult to understand who this person is and what they can do. I think it's important to reach out to whatever kind of network you have, and to reach out potentially to people that you don't know, but there is a balance of making sure that you are being real and authentic. If you have a friend, have them intro you to the person you need. Just do whatever you can to make more of a personal connection, especially in this time when, frankly, we probably all need more personal connection.

Just do whatever you can to make more of a personal connection, especially in this time when, frankly, we probably all need more personal connection. - Allison Silber

Hope Weatherford: If you find a company you haven't heard of it and find five jobs that look like your dream jobs, take a step back. Think about what you've done, maybe what you aspire to do, and then take a step and read that job description. And I have this rule: if you feel like you hit 85 to 90% of what is in that job description, then go ahead and submit your resume.

I hear a lot of people saying, "Oh, just reach out to your entire network," and you know everybody's probably getting a lot of LinkedIn requests right now. If you do want to reach out about a specific role or a network into a specific company, make sure that your outreach message is one that's personal and has something that sounds like a little bit different like, "Hey, I'd love to buy you a virtual coffee if you can spend 20 minutes talking to me about what it's like to work at Airtable," or wherever that company may lie. And then sometimes, if you do know this person and you haven't connected in time, start the conversation out with, "I'd love just to reconnect and see how you are."

Carly Donovan: Don't sell yourself short. Really think about, “What do you want to do? What are you good at? What is that next step in your career?” Next couple of steps in your career and go for that. But remember you got to where you are for a reason and stand on that foundation.

Really think about, “What do you want to do? What are you good at? What is that next step in your career?” Next couple of steps in your career and go for that.Don't doubt yourself and lose your confidence. - Carly Donovan

📌 [00:23] Things to focus 80% of your time on

Create a schedule that works for you. Give yourself that grace to step away when you need to.

Work your network. You're going to get more out of it by helping other people and bringing other people into your search rather than just putting it all on your own shoulders.

Hope Weatherford: Create a schedule that works for you and think about how you want to spend your time. The earlier in career that you're going to spend most of your time networking and continuing to build on to the skills that you have learned in school or are learning and continuing to do those things. You have to think creatively around how you do that depending on what you're doing.

Networking, continuing education, reading, participating webinars, prepping potentially for mock interviews, virtual mock interviews -- which is a different scenario than what you potentially have been prepped for about all of these in person interviews at schools and interview days and things like that. Really being able to perfect and feel comfortable in a virtual environment is going to be key there. So that's how I would spend my 80% of my time.

Networking, continuing education, reading, participating webinars, prepping potentially for mock interviews, virtual mock interviews -- really being able to perfect and feel comfortable in a virtual environment is going to be key there. - Hope Weatherford

And then I think where I'd spend the 20% of my time is taking care of yourself and giving yourself a break.

Carly Donovan: 80% of my time spent when I was on my job search last month was working my network talking to the people I've worked with or hired in the past just checking in, do they know any companies or people, how can I help them? Do they need connections? It can be exhausting during that time to have to network so much but that really was the best use of my time. A lot of the times, candidates can feel like the whole job search is on their shoulders, "I'm by myself and I need to apply to a hundred jobs a day or a hundred jobs this week." I don't think that's a great use of time. You're going to get more out of it by helping other people and bringing other people into your search rather than just putting it all on your own shoulders.

80% of my time spent when I was on my job search last month was working my network, talking to the people I've worked with in the past just checking in, do they know any companies or people, how can I help them? - Carly Donovan

Allison Silber: Definitely networking and talking to people you know. I've really been proactive about asking, “What exactly are you looking for? What roles are you looking for?” And I'm on LinkedIn, I'm around, and I find roles for somebody and I'll send them over. I see that a friend of mine on LinkedIn has posted something. I'll send it over. Let other people help you. Let other people find those jobs for you, maybe they know of a company. There's a lot of information out there, especially right now, people are posting layoff posts, people are posting job posts.

I've really been proactive about asking, what exactly are you looking for? What roles are you looking for? Let other people help you. Let other people find those jobs for you, maybe they know of a company. - Allison Silber

I've done this in Slack groups where I will post my resume to people that I don't know and my question is: “Who do you think I am based on this experience?” What that has allowed me to do is have a better understanding of how my story is being shown through my resume, and then they'll pick up, based on this, I think X, Y, and Z about you. And that's not necessarily true, but that's maybe how it stands out. And it just really helps you kind of hone in your resume and your LinkedIn so that you can tell a better story about yourself if you're getting that feedback.

📌 [00:31] Personalizing resumes and cover letters

One resume is not going to be one size fits all in most cases. Customize it to the role, and talk about what you accomplished.

Cover letters vary by industry. If you do write one, explain something that isn’t obvious in your resume.

Hope Weatherford: Depending on where you are in your career, really focus on your resume. If you are very early in your career, probably a one page or two page, at best, resume. You don't have to go back to the job that you had in high school unless it's relevant, tying you to something that you are doing, or passionate about today in your job search. Do your homework as you're learning about a company or a specific position. Even if you're looking for a specific type of a role, one resume is not going to be a one size fits all in most cases. Especially if you get a little bit later in your career, you may want to highlight certain areas for certain positions.

Do your homework as you're learning about a company or a specific position. Even if you're looking for a specific type of a role, one resume is not going to be a one size fits all in most cases. - Hope Weatherford

Carly Donovan: I often see a cover letter summarizing someone's background -- that's not helpful because we can summarize your background by looking at your LinkedIn. When I do find cover letters being useful is when you need to explain something that isn't really explained on your resume, perhaps a change in location, you're looking to make a move across country, and that's why you're applying to this job that's across country. 

On your resume, I find it's better to speak to what you specifically did in your role, not what you were responsible for. So, as opposed to copying what was on the job description of the job you held, talk to what you actually accomplished. Your bullets should start with actionable words -- ‘managed’, ‘supervised’, ‘led’, ‘promoted’. If you were promoted, make sure that's evident on your resume.

📌 [00:36] Advice for those thinking about career shift

With so many job applicants that already have direct job experience, a career shift would be difficult right now. Consider playing to your strengths.

If you do have a call with a recruiter about a career shift, make it easy for them to advocate for you to the hiring manager.

Allison Silber: It is definitely a hard thing to do especially right now where there's so many applicants -- it's very easy to weed out anyone that doesn't have direct experience. It might be a good time to just focus on your strengths, find a role that you're good at, that you're willing to do for a year and in that time, jump in and sort of take on something new. This can happen pretty quickly, especially with small companies. I personally wouldn't focus on a career shift right this moment, but that might just be me.

It might be a good time to just focus on your strengths, find a role that you're good at, that you're willing to do for a year and in that time, jump in and sort of take on something new. - Allison Silber

Hope Weatherford: Unless it's a dramatic shift into an industry that is willing to train, or in industry that you can easily go and get some level of a certification, or it's an industry with demand for it right now, I think this may be something that's difficult to do right now.

Carly Donovan: If you are at the point where you want to make a shift in your career and you have a call with a recruiter, it's really on you as a candidate to have a really good understanding of what that desired job is. Then be able to connect the dots for the recruiter on where in your background that experience is very relevant, so that you can help that recruiter understand how your experience, although different, is relevant to what they're looking for. Because at the end of the day, that recruiter is now your advocate, and they have to pitch your background to the hiring manager. Make it easy for them. Tell that story of why you are a great fit and how that, how you can help them sell your background to the hiring manager.

Be able to connect the dots for the recruiter on where in your background that experience is very relevant, so that you can help that recruiter understand how your experience, although different, is relevant to what they're looking for. Make it easy for them. - Carly Donovan

📌 [00:39] Advice for those early in their careers

Leverage your network, especially your alumni network, to first get a really deep understanding of the structure of the company and role before asking for an introduction.

Allison Silber: Get very clear about the role, the responsibilities. A lot of times, especially if you've just graduated, you probably don't know a lot about what that role might entail day to day and you might have some strengths from internships that you could speak to, if you knew. Talk to as many people as you can that are doing that role at different companies.That's a time to rely heavily on your network first to get a really deep understanding of what the structure of the company looks like, where that role fits in and then you can get very clear on your story and play to your strengths about why you're a good fit for that role. 

Hope Weatherford: When you think about your network, I think one area that a lot of university or college students don't dig deep into enough is their alumni network. I've seen so many beautiful things happen coming out of an alumni network, and it may be something that takes years for it to happen.

📌 [00:42] Reaching out to recruiters and hiring managers

Make your messages meaningful, easy to read, and not too long.

Recruiters are the ones reviewing your resume, so try reaching out to the hiring manager directly.

LinkedIn groups could be a great way to connect with people in an industry you’re interested in.

Hope Weatherford: Try to do your homework around recruiters that you're reaching out to. Our recruiters [at InVision] are tied to sales or engineering, and they all have that in their LinkedIn -- you don't need to email or LinkedIn every single recruiter. And in larger companies, there's going to be multiple ones. Make it meaningful, easy to read, and not too long.

Allison Silber: Be specific. If you have a question, you want to talk about the company, it's this role, whatever it is, don't make it this generic thing and now I [the recruiter] have to do a lot of work on my end to even understand what it is that we're talking about. Be very specific with your ask and I've seen that lead to higher response rates

Carly Donovan: If you applied to a job online, the recruiter is the one who's going to review your background. You've already got your name in front of their face, maybe skip that outreach to the recruiter and reach out to who you think might be the hiring manager for that role.

Reach out to the Head of Sales or reach out to an Account Executive who's doing that role and ask them, "Do you like your job? I just applied. Would you mind telling me a little bit more about it?" There've been a lot of people I've hired at companies because they prospected into someone who is on that team or that hiring manager with a good prospecting outreach, and then that got to the top of the list.

There've been a lot of people I've hired at companies because they prospected into someone who is on that team or that hiring manager with a good prospecting outreach, and then that got to the top of the list. - Carly Donovan

Hope Weatherford: There's tons of different LinkedIn groups out there as well, there's probably hundreds for every industry. Try to find the ones that have a lot of activity, and you'll see people posting. If they or the challenges they’re trying to solve sound interesting, reach out to them and try to learn more, which could potentially lead to an opportunity. If you know the answer to one of the questions that they have, you should answer it.

📌 [00:48] Some encouragement and wisdom

You got to where you are for a reason. Have grace with yourself and try to stay as resilient as possible.

There’s a lot of good that can come from this, so try to take away some learnings about yourself.

Carly Donovan: You got to where you are for a reason. Keep that confidence up, don't get down, even if you have to fake it on a phone screen.

Allison Silber: Try to take something good away from this. I, for one, am learning a lot about myself that has been forced on me because I'm now seeing how I deal with situations that I don’t really want to be in. And I think there's a lot of good that can come from this, so try to be resilient through it, be persistent.

Hope Weatherford: Resiliency, resiliency, resiliency. The days are long, there's a lot of stuff going on and a lot of things that we have not been able to control. Put it into perspective and have grace with yourself and try to stay as resilient as you possibly can.

The days are long, there's a lot of stuff going on and a lot of things that we have not been able to control. Put it into perspective and have grace with yourself and try to stay as resilient as you possibly can. - Hope Weatherford

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