Welcome to the kick-off to our ongoing interview series. This is part of an ongoing series where we sit down with actual talent acquisition professionals to gain insight and advice. Enough build up — on to our interview with Amber Feldkamp from The Orgaculturist blog. She’s a Talent Acquisition Manager who holds her Masters in Industrial & Organizational Psychology.
NTF: Thank you for sitting down with us today. Our focus thus far has been on college students and recent graduates. However, I truly feel every professional can benefit from learning how to properly job search & interview. The only time I tend to see recruiters share experiences on LinkedIn about their role it is often as a “humble brag” about how they hired someone that wasn’t a perfect fit for the job, or to pat themselves on the back for how great of a recruiter they are. Nothing against that strategy, but hopefully we can be a little bit more honest.
So, tell us a little bit about your career and what led you to recruiting?
AF: I always thought I was going to grow up to be a lawyer actually. When I was 17 though, I started working as a lifeguard at a waterpark. Shortly after starting, I was asked to join the training team to train other lifeguards — which I was so surprised by because I was so shy and didn’t really think my skills warranted a training position! But by 19, I was promoted to the Training Manager where I focused on training and development, leadership development, and culture cultivation. I absolutely loved it. I did that for about 6 more years, then did a short stint in sales (which I would recommend that EVERYONE tries sales out), then back to recruitment and have been there ever since.
NTF: I agree, I think everyone should spend some time in sales. I once sold door to door in the San Antonio heat and cannot say enough good things that came out of that experience! So tell us about your blog, how it started and really what it means to be an “Orgaculturist”?
AF: Yes, so my blog really comes from a place of just wanting to share my ideas and help others lead better, more fulfilled lives. I don’t pretend to have all of the answers, but I’ve been told I take a unique and creative approach to leadership and the workspace and have been encouraged to share my approach…so what better way in 2018 than a blog! You can read more about what it means to be an Orgaculturist on my blog, but essentially when we spend 1/3 of our lives at work. I think it’s imperative to love what we do and where we do it. I want to support organizations and companies to build better cultures, leaders, and employees.
NTF: And that is why recruiting can be so valuable to bring in the best cultural fits! However, we have seen a trend of the term “recruiter” being used in a negative light (almost like a “used car salesman” mentality). Why do you think that is?
AF: I think the main reason that the term recruiter is used in a negative light is because frankly, there are just some terrible recruiting practices out there. When you’re playing a game with someone’s livelihood and you’re the thing standing between them and eating tomorrow, the worst thing you can do is treat them like a transaction…and I think that is what happens a lot in this field. Some recruiters just don’t build relationships, they treat the candidate as a product, not a person. Now, this lack of human touch could be from lack of training, poor leadership, or even from unattainable company goals….meaning it may not always be the recruiters fault.
NTF: Exactly, I 100% agree. So let’s move to some customer questions. One of the biggest concerns from our customers is simply where to start the job searching process. What advice can you give people on simply starting the search?
AF: First and foremost, understand that the job search is a job in itself…mentally and physically prepare yourself for that. Once you’ve done that, you need to create your strategy. I would think about the following questions:
What kind of job do you want in what kind of industry?
What is the timeframe you are wanting to transition in?
What kind of culture do you want your next organization to have?
What is the size of the organization?
Once you kind of have your game plan, then build your resume. Keep in mind that you should be tailoring your resume to the jobs your applying for, so make sure it can be flexible. Next, promote your personal brand and NETWORK. LinkedIn is a great way to connect with other professionals, but you can also go to networking events, job fairs, etc. People hire people they know, or people that they know-know. So the more you can get yourself out there and the less you rely on applications, the better!
NTF: Agreed, applications are just one part of the process! From our college visits, a large portion of students do not see the value of LinkedIn (they typically either have no LinkedIn profile or what they have is limited- no experience listed, no picture, no engagement). What would you say to current college students about the value of LinkedIn, and how you use it in your recruiting efforts?
AF: This is a FREE personal branding site for you…use it, nurture it. I actually was forced to create my LinkedIn when I became a manager at the waterpark. At the time, I thought it was so dumb! But now, I’ve been able to connect with so many professionals and have been able to grow my personal brand. I also know a lot of recruiters that use LinkedIn as a way to recruit for their openings. If you’re targeting a specific company, connect with people at that company. The number one thing though…ask not what they can do for you…but express what you can do for them!
NTF: Speaking of, when you became a manager, did you or do you look up everyone you interview on different social media platforms (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)? If so, have you ever found yourself in a situation where you see/find something that causes you to have red flags in hiring?
AF: This is a great question…personally I do not look up people on their personal social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook mainly because I like the separation of “church and state”. I think social media creates biased and discriminatory behavior by organizations (whether conscious or unconscious) and they should not be ACTIVELY seeking out their employees or candidates on personal social media platforms (but 70% do).
Keep in mind though, I’m a small portion of people that don’t check candidate’s social media (like I said, 70% of companies do) so I would say lock your social media down and definitely be careful what you put online because other people do care and I know plenty of people who were not hired based on what they put online.
NTF: You mentioned to tailor a resume to the job you want. What makes a resume stand out in your mind?
AF: I actually loathe resumes [laughing]. It’s so unfair that we have to somehow consolidate all of our professional and personal experience into a one-page document. And EVERY single recruiter looks for different things in resumes so there is no “right” way to do a resume. I’m patiently waiting for some very creative tech that allows for a better way!
But until then…I really like colorful resumes that boast some creativity and show more than just your previous job responsibilities. BUT, an organization’s ATS will likely filter these out into a no pile because of formatting so I wouldn’t recommend it. I would say keep your resume clearly formatted, in a PDF, black and white, and simple. If you need two pages, that is okay. But under every job, you should have only 3–5 accomplishments (not job duties). Then, create a cover letter tailored to that job and organization.
NTF: I’d like to jump on board when you find that tech to replace resumes! Are you a fan of personal pictures on a resume?
AF: NO! Don’t do it. I get the idea around it, but it can create so much unconscious or conscious bias, it isn’t worth it.
NTF: That seems to be a theme among recruiters we talk to, no pictures! Our customers often struggle with the “apply and wait” mentality. What is your advice post-application? Do you think it is appropriate to reach out to people at the company where they applied (or, to the recruiter) directly on LinkedIn?
AF: I think, similar to the resume, there really is no right way to do this either. Some recruiters will be extremely receptive to personal messages while others may get annoyed or be so inundated with messages that it doesn’t even make it to them. This is why networking is so essential to the job search. The more connections you can create when you don’t need something, the better it will be when you do need something…like a job.
NTF: Our advice is always to use your network whenever available, thus turning your application into a referral. Tell us how you or your company manages referrals. Do you treat them differently?
AF: Absolutely. Most organizations have employee referral programs, where current employees receive a bonus if they refer someone. In my mind, if you’re referring someone to the job, you’re confident they would be a good fit. People want to work with successful people, so it’s unlikely they would refer someone that would make them look bad or not do the job well. Referrals are more often than not given priority.
NTF: Another major issue we see our customers struggle with is lack of feedback post-interview. What is your advice to candidates after an interview? How can a candidate can sense when an interview went well or if it did not go well?
AF: After the interview, always follow-up with a Thank You. I have always taken it one step further by providing some sort of direct follow up regarding my interview. For example, I once interviewed for a position where they would want me to create an internship program. I had never created an internship program before and I could see that was a little concerning for them. But just because I haven’t done it, doesn’t mean I am unable to do it. So, I created a 30–60–90 day plan of a strategy for creating the internship program and sent it with my follow-up.
I spent no more than an hour on the plan, but I tell you what…it had a HUGE impact. It not only showed my skills, but also showed my dedication, enthusiasm, and pursuance.
NTF: We often encourage our customers to do their research on each company and person they are interviewing with, to form smart questions to ask throughout the interview. We typically try to have them avoid questions that are too general, and that would not set them apart. Have you ever had someone impress you by their questions they asked? If so, what were those questions? Or, could you share your favorite questions that candidates have asked?
AF: Sure! Here are just a few of my favorites:
What has been your biggest success/challenge at this company?
How does the company’s goals align with the mission/values? What initiatives are in place to support those?
I saw that you received your degree in I/O…how does that support you in your position? (I’m just impressed they researched me)
I really enjoy XYZ (creating training programs). While I understand this may not be part of my immediate position, is there a way we can leverage my passion and interests in this or future initiatives?
NTF: What other final advice would you give to those trying to navigate LinkedIn during the job searching/interviewing process?
AF: Bring your connections value. Whether you’re posting content insight about your experiences as a college student, graduate, jobseeker, etc., the more engaging content you have the more “top of mind” you’ll be that way when you do need something, your connections will know who you are.
NTF: Thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with us and share your experiences and advice. I encourage everyone to connect with Amber on LinkedIn and check out her blog.