Beating The Bots - Digital Job Hunting
Remember the show "Undercover Boss"? I've been doing that for years. I'll put myself in one of our client's jobs as a Software Tester, Tech Writer, Taxonomist, QA Manager or Project Manager. This kept me up on technology, business contacts and new friends. But in a way, it wasn't fair. I always had the inside track and the clients got a real deal - my years of experience for the the fair market price of the task.
In the last year, Vettanna has morphed (yet again) from doing projects for clients to doing straight up head hunter style recruiting. When we do projects, the workers are Vettanna employees with full benefits and we have a vested interest in their success and their career growth. We work closely with our clients to put the right team together (both skills & personalities) and we love being a part of our client's extended team. In short, we are the company that cares, in an impersonal, digital age. Vettanna is run by siblings who like each other and were raised in the mid-west. We couldn't be any other type of company!
Our challenge was how to bring our personality into the fast paced world of head-hunting recruiting. To figure out what the job market was like, we had to experience it for real. So, I dove in. I handed off all my duties (except paying the bills). I took myself off benefits and payroll. I had $0 coming in but I had a kick ass resume with over 25 years of high tech experience at all levels. How hard could the job hunt be?
<insert maniacal laughter here>
Here's what I discovered:
Bots Rule: Your resume needs to be EXACTLY targeted to the job you are applying for so you make it past the bots and get in front of a recruiter.
Tech Recruiters Aren't Techies: You've got to know how to use the tech key words in your resume but write in a way that a recruiter (who is not an engineer or techie) will see the obvious connection between the job description and your resume. You must connect the dots.
Resume's Lie-Single Facet: No one wanted to see my 25 years on 3 pages complete with the fact that I'm an author, speaker, video personality and professional musician. Well rounded is confusing. So, I had to "lie" and "dumb myself down" in order to get in the door to begin a meaningful conversation.
Resume's Lie - Be Less: I was told repeatedly that they only wanted the last 10 years on my resume. So, that cuts off some really cool stuff. Suddenly my engineering experience is gone, the satellites I've launched, the astronauts I've trained - all gone. In the last 10 years, I've worn so many hats I don't even have a job title that translates. (I did work the cool stuff into the cover letter though)
Resume's Lie - You Don't: Now, the really confusing part. In order to get yourself past the bots, you've got to dumb down or strip off parts of your resume but before you click submit is the warning that says effectively "Don't Lie. If you lie on your resume, you will be disqualified." Be the part of yourself that gets the interview, then tell them all the extra bonus stuff you bring.
The Multiple Resume Solution: Create several resumes targeting different jobs or highlighting different aspects of yourself. I used Canva and created a really beautiful, one page resume. Each one had a different color banner on the top so I could tell them apart easily.
The LinkedIn Dilemma: But now with 4 resumes and a LinkedIn profile that doesn't sync exactly with any of them - won't I surely be "caught". Nope...because the recruiters (except for Vettanna) aren't using LinkedIn. Whenever I had a resume, I always went to LinkedIn and looked up the recruiter and the company. But when I checked my profile for "who is viewing you" - nope, nada, not one of the recruiters viewed my profile. (Note: If you apply to Vettanna, we do check your LinkedIn and social accounts. We want to know who you are.)
Interviewing Practice: I'm a professional speaker, trainer and singer. I thought "no problem" when I finally made it through the bots and got to talk to a real person. Doh, I should have practiced! My first 2 phone interviews I prattled on and felt really stupid when I hung up. Those wound up being my "practice interviews". Perhaps you'll learn from my hubris and call a friend to role play with you first. I should have!
The Phone Screen & Your Story: That first phone screen will be with a recruiter that (most likely) has no tech experience. They need to know that you match the job description, fit the salary requirements and are available. They will also "sell you" on the company. Your job at this stage is to make sure they check off those boxes and tell them a compelling story that is relevant to the job. This gives them something to tell the hiring manager "Oh yeah, this candidate looks good. Turns out she's coded a project just like this." Your story should make the hiring manager curious enough to chat with you.
The Real Interview: Once you begin the rounds of interviews with the people you will actually be working with, now you can start bringing in the relevant info from your past and your real life. For example, as I said my resume is devoid of "rockstar" references but when I interviewed for trainer positions I could throw in anecdotes about "loving to be in front of an audience" or a life long history of being on stage that directly translates into being an entertaining trainer of technical concepts.
The Salary Slide: I was shocked at the number of job postings that didn't have a salary range. I used Glassdoor's Salary Calculator to research the job title & location to see if the job was within my requirements. But that turned out to be meaningless for many jobs. If they contacted me for an interview I began asking what the salary range was so I wouldn't waste our time. (If you apply at Vettanna, we tell you up front what the salary range is).
The Salary Slam: In this world where there is legislation to get women to have equal pay for equal work - imagine my surprise when a female recruiter told me that my requirement (at the top of the range) was unrealistic and I should be willing to take $20k less. I asked if I could get more stock then and she said they don't disclose that. I said "No thanks, I value my 25 years of tech skills at $x which is supported by the market place." But why...why did I have to defend my salary with another woman? Especially when it was within their stated range. That's just crazy.
The Time Suck: The last time I applied for a job I sent a resume & cover letter via email. OMG, now it's data entry for every single job. Since I saw this exercise as a numbers game, I applied for over 100 jobs. I loved the websites that I could apply via LinkedIn or just upload my resume. I hated the websites that upload your resume and then make you type everything in again anyway.
Your Portfolio: Create a web site, dropbox, Google docs site where the recruiter & hiring manager can view your work. Most people don't. This is how you differentiate yourself. If they don't like it - you aren't the right fit for that job/team/company.
You Are On Your Own: Recruiters don't work for you. They are trying to send managers as many "vetted" resumes as possible in order to get 1 placement. They don't care about you. They don't really care if you are the best fit. Even if you are the best fit they don't know how to present you so your resume is "on top of the pile". They are trying to make a quota. This means that selling yourself and following up is up to you.
They Don't "See You" Any More: When I first started hiring software testers, they didn't teach that skill in college (or Udemy). So, I looked for related skills and an inate curiosity. I found some of the best testers that way. No one does that now. See #1 above. The bots rule the world.
LinkedIn and Your Network: At this point one realizes that online job searching is not very effective. Try hoping onto LinkedIn and also calling your friends, relatives and former colleagues and see if their companies are hiring. This often bypasses the bots and the HR gatekeeper recruiter and gets your resume right to the hiring manager.
Your Pivot Should Be a Pirouette: If you are pivoting to a job that is similar to one that you've had before (ie: trainers going into testing or dev managers going into project management), you'll have a much easier time if you skip the bots and go straight to #17 - your old colleagues who can vouch for your amazing skill set and work ethic.
This was a tremendous experience and if I ever want to do this again, please stop me! The upside is that Vettanna has used my experiences to augment our processes so we work in partnership with both our corporate clients and our job hunter clients.
Corporate Clients: We promise never to spam you with resumes. We strive to find the right skill set with the right behavioral traits that will complement your team. We know you are super busy, so we only send you the best - the people we would hire ourselves.
Job Hunter Clients: We promise to ask what you had to leave off your resume and delve more into your skill set. We will always include salary ranges in our job descriptions.
Wishing you all the best on a speedy job search to land a fulfilling work experience!