Episode 089: Partnering with Tech Recruiters | CloudSkills.fm

In this episode I catch up with Erica Woods and Ryan Sedwitz with Apex Systems. Learn how agency recruiters can help you showcase your abilities, how to build up your personal brand, refine your resume, setup your LinkedIn profile, and more.

Erica Woods is the Director of Contractor Programs and Philanthropy at Apex Systems. Her focus is on overseeing programs, teams, communication channels, and other resources that support and add value to their IT Contractor Community of 16,000+.

Ryan has been with Apex Systems for 14 years, during this time he has developed strong relationships with both Enterprise clients and the software engineering community at large. Over his career Ryan has placed over 2,000 Software Engineers with Fortune 1000 clients and start-ups. As a result he is considered a subject matter expert in technical staffing, with a focus on placing highly technical professionals and building well rounded agile development teams for fast-paced IT clients; with a focus on Software Engineering and Technical Leadership hiring across skill-sets such as Mobile, Cloud Engineering, Functional Programming, Full Stack Development, SDET, Devops, and Platform Engineering. Ryan has consistently been a top performing recruiter, who was named a National Recruiter of the Year in 2010, 2014, 2015 and 2017, and a Regional Recruiter of the Year for 12 years in a row 2008-Present.

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Full Transcript:

Mike Pfeiffer:
All right, so Ryan and Erica, I’m super excited to have you guys with me because I just love the work you guys are doing. I know that we’ve talked a lot in the past and I wanted to get some of those valuable tidbits of information out into the rest of the world. So thanks so much for being on the show.

Ryan Sedwitz:
Yeah. Thanks for having us. We’re excited to be here.

Mike Pfeiffer:
So yeah, it’s a big time for people retooling their resumes and trying to clean up their LinkedIn profile and there’s people that are struggling cause they got laid off there’s people that are coming in from school, going into the IT industry. It’s really kind of chaotic right now. Are you guys kind of dealing with the fallout of COVID-19 right now and trying to help people get situated with that?

Ryan Sedwitz:
Yeah, I’d say there’s two ways of looking at it right now. You have individuals that have held a longterm career up to this point and does prenup pretty solid projects and worked for some good brands that unfortunately have been impacted. Some of those individuals have been at companies are really long time and they’re kind of getting back into the mode of interviewing and meeting those client’s expectations of what the clients are seeking today. Because that that landscape shifts every couple of years in terms of how people go to market and interview the talent that they need for the teams. And then the second thing is a very cumbersome thing for anyone to do right out of college is just jumping right into this type of process and not knowing what to expect. So I’ve seen both sides of it and I think there’s a different playbook for each individual. And so for me in the recruiter chair, it’s really understanding like what they know today and then what we can help build for them to land that next opportunity or scale them for tomorrow.

Erica Woods:
Yeah, 100%. And then the one thing I’d add to that too, is things that I’ve worked in the past, like going to meet ups and going physically to code camps where we would have sponsor tables there. And it was such an amazing networking aspect for so many reasons, but definitely on the job front, that stuff has shifted. And one of the things I am grateful for is that the meetup community adjusted to that very quickly. Within two weeks had Zoom links out there for every event. It took maybe two or three months, at least in the community I’m in for folks to start holding virtual career fairs and job search fixers. But that stuff now exists, it just looks different.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Right. Yeah, there’s so many things we could take this the direction on for this conversation. But I guess kind of the one thing I’d like to start with, and I love what Ryan said about you really got to think about your background, your circumstances, your variables, because I think we all hear those same questions a lot where it’s like, “Well, what do I got to do?” And going back to that point, it’s like, “Well, it kind of depends on where you’re coming from.” So the folks that are listening maybe right now that have been displaced because of all the chaos this year, what are some of the first things we can start to do to get back in the game, do you think?

Ryan Sedwitz:
So I’d say when you’re getting back in the game or just starting in the game right out of your CS program, for example. It’s kind of really branding yourself in terms of what your philosophies are, what your skills are that you have today that are rock solid for you. And then looking at some of the areas that may not be as rock solid and trying to upskill on those as you’re going through this process.

Ryan Sedwitz:
A lot of the times, when we get job descriptions from clients, they can be vague, they can be very descriptive and it’s hard to kind of sort through that madness. Really focusing on what you are good at right now and implementing through exercise. Brushing up on some of the verbal concepts in terms of the technology languages or frameworks, practicing your coding system design. These are things that you just have to go through the mental gym of doing where you’re getting back into that market and just getting comfortability with it.

Ryan Sedwitz:
And a lot of the times, the other parts of that job description, you may or may not fit, will fall into place when you have a story to tell and a brand behind what you’ve done. So to summarize, I’d say capturing things on your resume in a concise manner. What business problems was I solving? What was the technology I was using to solve those problems and what was my role? What I don’t see a lot of is what was the impact and the result of what I did?

Ryan Sedwitz:
Software engineers, cloud engineers, anyone from IT is building something for consumption by somebody else. And individuals that can display that on a resume usually kind of go up to the top of the pile, because they’re thinking holistically about who they’re serving. And that gets noticed by hiring authorities a lot at the time and tells that story.

Ryan Sedwitz:
So working on that brand and working in that mindset of knowing you got to hit the mental gym, get your credentials together and know how to apply it effectively. Again, it’s a cumbersome process. It looks daunting, but always partnering with the right people to help you through that as is going to lead you to success in the end.

Mike Pfeiffer:
It’s hard to sometimes brand yourself or sell yourself, put your best foot forward, kind of feels like you’re bragging. And also one of the things that’s tough too, is really reflecting back and remembering, “Oh, I did add value.” Right? So sometimes, you got to spend some extra time, right Erica? Kind of dig back into your past and like really focus on what is it you did, and then find a way to get that information out, whether it’s LinkedIn description or resume, right?

Erica Woods:
Yeah, 100%. One of the articles we wrote recently was around eight actions to take for your annual career audit. Because one of the biggest challenges we see with people coming into the market is they’ve been in that job for 10, 15, 20 years, and now unexpectedly they’re hitting the job market and things have changed so drastically. And it’s so hard for them to identify that value proposition that Ryan spoke of which it needs to be something that you understand, that you communicate in your resume, communicate on LinkedIn, practice, practice, practice to answer in that tell me about yourself, interview question.

Erica Woods:
But one of the things we highly recommend is once a quarter, twice a year, once a year, at least minimum, once a year, really reflect on maybe around that performance management review time, what did I accomplish this year? Tie some metrics into it. And if you have any questions, ask your boss, because they have a unique perspective on how did what you do benefit our team, our group, the client, or the company as a whole. If that’s not part of your cadence, start thinking in that way

Mike Pfeiffer:
You feel like people get stuck sometimes because they’re looking at a job requirements and they feel like they can’t match up, so they don’t even maybe spend the time to do that extra work?

Ryan Sedwitz:
Yeah. I see that so much, especially like Erica mentioned, with people have been at the same role or at the same company for such a long time. But doing some checks and balances, like she said, once a quarter documenting what you’ve done, what the impact was, what you used to accomplish that will really, really, really help you kind of continuously have that confidence and have that resume and brand build out like we’re talking about consistently, if something like this happens.

Mike Pfeiffer:
One of the things we were kind of chatting about before we hit record was for me, working with recruiters has been game changer in my career. Probably the two best jobs I’ve ever had were me finding a recruiter for the place that I wanted to work, and then haggling with them a little bit to like, get my resume in front of the hiring manager. But all that took was professional networking. Do you guys recommend that? And for people listening, what are some of the methods you guys would recommend for networking with recruiters? Because to me it feels like that’s a big game changer.

Ryan Sedwitz:
Yeah. I’d say, for me personally, when you’re networking with recruiters, it’s a good idea to try to stick to somebody who’s been at one company or some nicer brands for a longer period of time that really understands the marketplace and the skill set. I guess the better ability you have to like speak to somebody one-on-one that understands you and can give you some proper guidance on the market and what to expect, that’s somebody you want to work with. And it’s hard to do just simply by going out to LinkedIn and just contacting people at blind, but spending the time and looking at individuals like myself, and a lot of other recruiters at our company, for example, that take the time to show what their credentials are and how we can help them succeed their goals in finding a new opportunity.

Ryan Sedwitz:
I think that’s very important for the potential candidate or interviewer. We share a lot of knowledge and we have a lot of information in terms of what the client’s expectations are, how their mindset should be through these interviews, what types of things they need to prep on. So, building those partnerships, I think, and not negating them as we talked about before we hit record as well. And just having conversations and knowing who you want to work with. I always kind of refer to it as you’re almost like a real estate agent. You want somebody that’s reputable that knows the marketplace. That’s going to get you that best home for the best value and like understands you. I always put myself out there to be that individual and the-

Ryan Sedwitz:
I always put myself out there to be that individual, and the reciprocation comes back, and we usually land on success longterm.

Erica Woods:
Yeah.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Okay.

Erica Woods:
Four strategies I encourage people to checkout for actually identifying the Ryans of the world is, one, odds are you’re involved in a local tech community. Simply look at the sponsors, right? Probably, what, 75% of organizations, or at least 50, if they’re staffing firms and we’re sponsoring that meet up, because we get those types of positions. So look at that, and then ask the meet up organizer, “Hey, who can you connect me with from a staffing recruiting perspective?” On that same consultation note, ask your manager, your current or your last manager, they probably have recruiters and account managers beating down their door, right? So go that recommendation route. And then, also think through who in my network has gotten a new job in the last year, and just ping them for advice on recruiters and other things, as well.

Erica Woods:
And then, last but not least, just like within any industry, there’s an award for staffing. It’s called the Best of Staffing Prize and they breakdown the winners by industries, so you can look at the winning staffing firms in your area for technology, specifically, and target it that way.

Mike Pfeiffer:
That’s actually a really good tip.

Ryan Sedwitz:
I wouldn’t have thought of that.

Erica Woods:
I try.

Mike Pfeiffer:
that’s a good one. Awesome. Let’s switch gears just a little bit here. To me, I’ve always been very open to talking to recruiters. So when I get hit up on LinkedIn, I get tons of stuff on LinkedIn, but I usually will connect with just about everybody, just because it’s all about networking, right? But obviously some people get upset when they get a blind DM, or a message, “Do you want to apply for this job,” but it’s not even a match because it feels like they didn’t look at your description that kind of stuff. So, on the practitioner side, that can be annoying, right? So that starts to create some bad blood, if you will, between technologists and recruiters, but I’ve always tried to just be understanding. These folks are trying to find me a job. Everybody’s trying to help each other out here.

Mike Pfeiffer:
So I guess where I’m going with this is what can we do in the industry to create more unity, so we’re not like us versus them? Because, at the end of the day, my belief, if we’re all teaming up together… Having more recruiters on your LinkedIn connections is a better proposition for you going forward, because they might help you get a job later. You guys see that as a problem with some recruiters just blasting out non-personalized messages? Is that an issue or is that just a limitation of what you guys are getting from employers? I’d love to hear your thoughts around this. I know I’m shooting from all over.

Ryan Sedwitz:
Yeah. I think both items of what you just said, it’s a limitation sometimes from what we get from employers, but it’s also rookie mistakes, right? I’d say in terms of unifying the population, when I was first starting out trying to get my bearings in how this all worked, and what my go-to-market strategy is with communicating with people, and what they’re looking for, and what the clients are looking for. I would ask for feedback. If I send a LinkedIn message, it was totally off cusp and not relevant, at all, “Hey, why was my message delivered to you in a way that made you response the way that you did? What would have been something more relevant?” And people are very prone to giving you that feedback, especially engineers. You guys give each other feedback all the time to drive the best product, right?

Ryan Sedwitz:
So when I was starting out, I mean, I treated things from that perspective to get that feedback and know how to realign myself to be more targeted, and have better passive outreach like that. To the second point of your question, I think if you’re getting messages as an engineer, they’re totally off cusp, people aren’t taking the time to understand why. You’re probably working with the wrong recruiter in my opinion. It’s the ones that care about why it’s a no, and what you maybe looking for in the future, and building that network like we’ve been talking about. On our side, we pipeline that type of talent, put it on the benchmark for another time, we have the connection, and we move forward.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Sure.

Erica Woods:
To add to that too, you have to understand, and I think there’s a major disconnect in what candidates’ expectations are, and understanding of what recruiters do all day. So I think it’s helpful to understand that when someone reaches out to you, one, just have the mentality, like the Golden Rule. If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all, just ignore it. Patience, kindness, understanding, it’s been the theme of what people are preaching the last couple months, but prospect the recruiter. Take an extra minute before you respond, scope out their profile. They have a specific discipline that they recruit on. Does it look like someone who could help you? And then, follow that help us, help you approach.

Erica Woods:
And instead of just responding with maybe some not so nice comments, which, I don’t know about you, Ryan, but when my six years of recruiting, I got a lot of. And it wasn’t ever intentional, so always assume positive intent, but just explain back, “Hey, while this isn’t in what I’m looking for now, here are the three bullet points about what I’m currently pursuing.” And again, communicate back what you’re looking for. Do you have anything that aligns?

Ryan Sedwitz:
Right.

Mike Pfeiffer:
That’s great advice to basically pass the ball back and be like, “Yeah, that’s not what I’m looking for, but what do you got in these pillars?” That’s really good advice. I think the only time that I really ever do a blanket, just not answer, not accept is when it’s completely unsolicited and they didn’t look at my profile, and they’re like, “Hey, we got a help desk position open.” I’m like, “Yeah, but I’ve been doing this since '98, so you didn’t take two minutes to look at my profile.” But other than that, if somebody hits me up and if they’re in the realm of possibility, I will accept. I think that’s a good practice. I think just going back to the conversation creating more community, having more contacts, is the way to go.

Mike Pfeiffer:
So I love those tips there. Erica, I know that you’re a pro when it comes to helping people with their resumes. What’s the number one mistake that you see on resumes?

Erica Woods:
Oh, gosh. There’s a lot.

Mike Pfeiffer:
If you can narrow it down to one, or maybe like your top five, or something like that.

Erica Woods:
I think the number one is that you’re not looking at the job description, treating the responsibilities, the requirements, the preferred qualifications, like a checklist, to then QA and compare against your own resume to make sure, not only that the stuff you’ve done is relevant is represented on your resume, but it’s on that first page. That it is immediately visible, because the average job posting gets hundreds of applications. Ryan, I don’t even want to know how many resumes you look at on a daily basis, but rule of thumb is you have six seconds as an engagement strategy. You need to capture the attention of recruiters within six seconds. So just the placement of the information, and to Ryan’s earlier point, making sure the value that you provided, as well as the very specific technologies you’ve used. Don’t just hide those in a technical skills summary at the end. Those have to be, not only in that technical skills summary, but embedded without your job responsibilities. So I guess that’s my top two.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Nice, okay. That’s a really good tip. Awesome. Let’s see, cover letters go into that same conversation. Do they matter? Do I need to write a cover letter, or what’s the deal with that?

Ryan Sedwitz:
I’d say working with an agency recruiter, we’re the cover letter. We’ve had the discussion with the candidate. We know what their philosophies are. We know their strengths. We know their weaknesses. We can play that into the client in terms of what their expectations are. For me, I treat myself as the cover letter to the client in that regard. However, I think cover letters can be good in the sense of the individual taking the time to really conceptualize why they’re a good fit for the opportunity, and sometimes that gives us a little bit more ammo to progress things forward with a hiring authority that maybe borderline, right?

Ryan Sedwitz:
If I have somebody that’s wishy-washy in the sense of, “I don’t know if I want to necessarily interview this person. It looks like they maybe missing this or this.” Bringing that feedback back to the candidate, they can always craft and say, “Hold on, I may not have this language, but I’ve done this, which is very similar and here’s how I applied it.” That’s just a common example I see of when I’ll actually use a cover letter. I think it’s good to have one in your toolkit ready to deploy, if needed. But when working with an agency recruiter, I’d say that we do most of that lifting for them.

Mike Pfeiffer:
One of the things that I used to do would be to tailor, not only a cover letter, but also my resume for a specific job I was going to apply for. I know that some people do that, some people don’t. They just have one and they shotgun it out to everybody. So first couple of questions around that is, number one, you suggest framing your resume for every position you’re going after. And then, following on that, is it okay for me to just go to the job portion of the website for the company and just submit through there, or do we need to do anything else?

Erica Woods:
Let me take that one, Ryan. So-

Erica Woods:
Oh, let me take that one, Ryan. And the other thing I want to add about cover letters is, if you have the opportunity to create one and submit one on a job board, it’ll actually help potentially rank you higher. So, from an algorithm standpoint, it’s important that where you see an opportunity to create one, it’s a good practice to make sure that your resume actually gets visibility. But, yeah. From this standpoint, that optimization piece is so crucial to do, especially if you are submitting your resume widely, through a job posting to a staffing firm, to a career site online, that’s imperative that you do that. But my number one, one of my top tips for job seekers is actually, if you can, see who you know that works there. Jump back onto LinkedIn, do an advanced search, look through your first degree connections, put in that company name and try to just do that direct referral route.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Yeah. I don’t think in 15 years I’ve ever gotten a job where I didn’t have some kind of connection, where it was just, oh, I submitted my resume on the career site and then I got a call, and all that kind of stuff.

Ryan Sedwitz:
Yeah.

Mike Pfeiffer:
That’s a good tip. One of the things that keeps coming up too, is remote okay until COVID-19 is over? Is it possible to find remote jobs or are we just at the whim of everything that’s going on, or what do you guys think?

Ryan Sedwitz:
I think right now is the opportunity to prove to organizations that they can maintain high velocity and output with people working remotely. So, I think holistically in the marketplace, it’s, is this going to work or is this not going to work? And the individuals you’re building your organization around are the proprietors of, if that is or isn’t going to work.

Mike Pfeiffer:
I wonder- Sorry to cut you off there. But I wonder if there’s some people that can accept that job, and then the company is going to realize, oh, we can do remote and then it just ends up being remote. Should people be open to that idea?

Ryan Sedwitz:
Yeah. Absolutely. I’d say that the feedback I get right now from a lot of people is, I’d say some of the younger demographic, they want to be in the office. They want to be interacting, they want to be taking advantage of some of the small benefits, free lunch, whatever it might be on site. Some of those tech company type of benefits that they’re accustomed to. And then you have other people that really enjoy being at home with their families and are highly productive in getting things done at a high level being remote. So, I truly see with all the big tech companies shifting towards a hundred percent remote model, that other companies of which are traditionally onsite are going to have to adapt some type of flexible model to keep up with the actual talent that they’re seeking, when those options are out in the marketplace.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Yeah. I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to try to wiggle your way into a remote job. I’ve been working remotely since, I guess 2012, and it took some adjusting but I’m loving it. And it’s interesting to hear you say that young people prefer to be in the office. Just proves that I’m becoming an old man, because I just want to stay here at my house and work from home.

Erica Woods:
Me too.

Mike Pfeiffer:
I even used to travel a lot, but man. It’s so nice working from home.

Ryan Sedwitz:
Yeah. And you’ve done very well for yourself working from home.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Totally.

Ryan Sedwitz:
So, you’re a case in point in terms of what companies can expect if people are more comfortable making impact from home.

Erica Woods:
Yeah. I lost count when I was in the recruiting chair at how many managers I heard say, “Oh, I’ll never hire someone remotely, that doesn’t work.” And especially for those purple squirrels or unicorns, or just very senior folks, when we finally submitted someone that aligned and they’re like, “Okay, well we’ll give it a shot,” and then that person was allowed to work from home.

Ryan Sedwitz:
I’d say with everything being remote now, there’s a certain set of interpersonal skills that clients are typically seeking. People that are highly productive and efficient on their own, analytical mindset. These are some of the more softer skills that they’re now seeking out versus just the tech skills.

Mike Pfeiffer:
I should probably highlight that on my resume and my LinkedIn profile then, right?

Ryan Sedwitz:
Yeah.

Erica Woods:
And get a recommendation. Think about who could speak to your ability to work without micromanagement, self-directed or if you’ve done it before, and have that be part of your marketing strategy and solicit recommendations.

Mike Pfeiffer:
That’s a good tip. I’d love to focus on LinkedIn for a second there. So, one of the things I’ve always done traditionally, when asking for recommendation is to give one first. Do you guys have any specific… I mean, because it would be annoying to just get a request for a recommendation from somebody I barely know. I get that every once in a while. Do you guys have any tips for people looking for recommendations on LinkedIn to follow? Anything specific?

Erica Woods:
Yeah. So, I think we’ve done a series of articles purely around recommendations, including one on the 10 types of people you could ask. So, I think first it’s where you are in your career and the types of jobs you’re targeting. Think about who you want to ask and the different groups of people. So, for example, if you’re pursuing a leadership role or a senior role or a management role, who have you trained, who have you mentored, who have you helped? That would make a good recommendation and people don’t really think that way.

Erica Woods:
But to your point, Mike, you want to think through who is recent, who has seen the results of my work recently in the last year? And you don’t to make folks uncomfortable by asking people who haven’t really done that. But that’s also something that should be part of that annual career audit is, who have I helped substantially over the last year? And getting a recommendation real time and just not being afraid to ask, because if you have truly helped somebody, then they’re not going to… Of course, they’re going to want to help you and spend three to five minutes writing you one.

Mike Pfeiffer:
I love that. That’s a good reminder. That was weird. That’s a good tip. And it’s a good reminder that maybe ask people where you’ve added value, and if you haven’t yet, then start doing that. Because, like I said, I get a lot of requests and things like that from people I barely know, and that’s fine as long as the person’s doing some legwork along the way. So, I’m just trying to plant the seed for everybody listening out there. If you’re coming at somebody and you want something, make sure that maybe you’ve contributed something in some other way first, not just hitting up a random stranger, asking for something with nothing in advance. And that’s just my own personal take on it.

Mike Pfeiffer:
But going back to LinkedIn. Another thing you see is people struggling to build out their profile. A lot of times people won’t put an image, obviously that’s an anti-pattern. What are some of the things I could do to dress up my profile? Because again, it goes back to being comfortable promoting yourself and maybe stepping into that a little bit more than you think you need to.

Ryan Sedwitz:
Yeah. I think the profile build out on LinkedIn is extremely important. I don’t think you need your full blown resume established on LinkedIn. A lot of people will house their resume as an option for visibility for anybody looking at the profile. That’s great. That’s totally fine. I think again, getting to the key points of what your role was where you worked and what you accomplished in a couple of bullet points, just shows concise, direct information to the viewer. And the more information you have within LinkedIn, with 30 bullet points under a specific job, it’s way too much information that we don’t want to see. We want to get to the point and know who you are and what your philosophies are really. So, I think, branding yourself in the right manner is important. About me section, something personal about yourself, like what do you enjoy? Who are you as an individual? I think those are some small takeaways that are impactful for the people looking at those profiles.

Erica Woods:
I love that. Two other things about LinkedIn. To have some fun with it visually. They’ve really upped their game in terms of being able to add even certifications, right? Having that background image, uploading presentations that you’ve done externally, not obviously inside your company. But a lot of the folks that we work, especially Ryan, he works with a ton of senior folks, they’re active in their community, they’re community contributors. So, if you present it at a local meetup, SQL Saturday, Code Camp, whatever, that’s material that you can upload, and not only does it benefit the community and brand yourself, but it’s one of those little extras that’s going to be really impactful and that we’re going to take notice.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Yeah. I think one of the things that’s cool there too, there is an element that you touched on earlier, in the job search engines. There’s algorithms and stuff like filling everything out completely, has you rise up to the top. LinkedIn is very similar to that, so if you’re doing what the platform wants you to do, which is filling out your profile and doing a picture and doing all these new bells and whistles and stuff, that’s going to help you be seen more. And then when it comes to getting an opportunity, that’s a big piece of this. All right. So, here’s another thing I’m curious about. I’m a big fan of Amazon. I talk about them a lot on this show. I used to work there. You guys probably know their interview process, insanely stringent. And they’ve become-

Mike Pfeiffer:
… probably know their interview process, insanely stringent, right? And they’ve become famous for that. And I guess it was a year ago, I saw people are now actually selling, like consulting where you go and train with people for a whole day to prep for the interview. So, I don’t know if the average person really needs to go that far, but for just getting prepared for an interview and going into that, being able to speak to your strengths, but also not get overwhelmed and anxiety ridden because maybe you don’t have every bullet point on a resume. What do you going think about just general tips that have helped your candidates in the past, in these face-to-face interviews?

Ryan Sedwitz:
I’d say again, having some knowledge in terms of what to expect in the interview process, whether its verbal questions, system design, algorithmic problem solving, whether it’s a take home test, whether it’s a paired programming assessment. I think knowing that going in, having an idea of what you’re going into is helpful for you to do. Take a big step back and just break things down into sections and practice and prepare accordingly based on those things.

Ryan Sedwitz:
Again, working with a good recruiter, they’re going to give you a lot of insight in terms of what it’s going to take to have a successful interview and generate an offer. Again, we’re talking about something that’s very daunting for a new grad or somebody that’s been in the same role for a long time, but knowing what the path to success looks like in terms of getting that offer and breaking it down and not trying to be overwhelmed by it and just preparing for it accordingly, those are simple building blocks that you can do to just strategically apply that to company A, company B, company C.

Ryan Sedwitz:
So, I see a lot of the times from my perspective, is people might completely bomb interviews one and two, but now that they’ve gotten their bearings together and they understand the same commonality of questions and topics and repetition that they’re seeing with these type of problem solving, they can apply it to interviews three, four, and five, and then they ended up getting an offer. So, sometimes it takes going through some cycling in order to really get a good grasp on yourself and your confidence with those interview processes from the software engineering standpoint.

Mike Pfeiffer:
I really believe that the advice that anybody that gets an interview at Amazon, their advice is like, read through our leadership principles. We’re going to be looking for that in the interview process, but it’s all universal stuff. Like having just the traits of somebody that’s going to be somebody that’s a decent leader, right? Like somebody that can demonstrate ownership and all these different things, right? But I feel like anybody could follow that and be successful. But it’s just to your point, having the stories locked and loaded, so when you go into the meeting, you can talk about those things in your experience and they can pick up on the fact that, oh, okay, this person does have a bias for action. So, there’ll be decisive when it’s time to go do something, things like that.

Ryan Sedwitz:
Exactly.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Yeah. I love it. What do you think, Erica?

Erica Woods:
Yeah. I mean, one of the things that surprises me and I’ve been in staffing now for 15 years, is you would think that folks, especially ones that have a little more time, if they’re not working, if they’re missing a core technology prior to an interview, they’d prepare more for it and take… There’s so much free training out there right now that there’s no excuse from a cost constraint standpoint, right? And I guess, the first part of that is its okay walking into an interview, if you don’t have everything. Ryan, I know you agree with this, but our clients, they might have that laundry list of here’s what we really want, but that’s not a reality, right? That list is probably more like 50 to 75% of those technologies that they’ve listed.

Erica Woods:
So, one, don’t be nervous about that. So, many people have anxiety about that and they’re not taking shots and even applying and they’re walking into the virtual room or in the interview door and they’re nervous and that’s going to derail their performance. So, one, brush that off. It’s okay to not have everything. It’s okay to not know the answer to a question but take that initiative to brush up on it and learn prior to doing the interview.

Ryan Sedwitz:
Some of the feedback to piggyback off of what Erica’s talking about is taking the experience, knowing where you may have been successful or where you were unsuccessful and looking at the things you were on successful at, go home, answer them, figure out how you can do it better the next time. And you’re just, again, building those mental weights back in the interview, Jim.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Yeah, the two things that kill people anytime I’ve ever interviewed, and it depends on the timeframe. Sometimes it’s a lot, sometimes a little bit, but anytime I’ve interviewed people where I’ve seen major issues or anti-patterns, number one is just not being prepared, not looking at the company or really understanding the job. So, doing your homework, like Erica was talking about, going in there and even little things, like knowing nuances about the company. Spend an extra 30 minutes to learn something about the company.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Then the other big one that is a problem is when people go on forever answering the question, right? And so, you’re trying to ask all these questions, but you can only get to the first three or four because the person rambles on forever. So, those are the major ones that I see from my side. Any other major anti-patterns to watch out for in an interview from your guys’ point of view?

Ryan Sedwitz:
I’d say it’s important to be personable. You’re a human being, you’re interviewing with a human being. There’s definitely a way to approach it in the sense that if you don’t know something, what’s something you’ve done that’s similar that can demonstrate the fact that you can learn whatever it is you’re missing there? That’s okay. I mean, that shows confidence, reliability that you’re taking it seriously and you’re a dedicated employee at our…

Mike Pfeiffer:
Yeah, I agree with that. One of the things that I talk about a lot and people listen to the show are probably sick of this story, but one of my very first jobs was only because I was so enthusiastic and optimistic and it was trying stuff on the side, but I wasn’t doing that in my work. But anyway, it got me permission to get put into that role. And so, to your point there, just being a person, but also being somebody that had some passion, was enough to give me a shot, and that goes a long way.

Erica Woods:
Yeah. One of the things, I read lots of nerdy candidate behavior and job seeker studies, but one of the top three reasons qualified candidates miss out is that perceived lack of interest. And that’s not something Ryan or I can help you overcome. If you’re in an interview and you’re not demonstrating interest and excitement, and you don’t know anything about the company or you forgot details that were mentioned in the job description, we can’t help afterwards.

Erica Woods:
So, really understanding why am I excited to work at this company and for this role? And asking folks like Ryan, too, if you don’t have the information that you need in a job description, leaning on us to be like, hey, tell me more about what this manager really expects. Did you actually have a conversation with them? Why do people like working there? But part of your strategy for interview prep has to be amping yourself up.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Totally agree. This has been amazingly valuable. As we’re wrapping up this episode. I know there’s tons of content you guys have put out. I know Erica, you’re always out in various communities doing presentations and stuff. Where should we send people after this episode to consume some of that content you guys have put out?

Erica Woods:
So, there’s two major places. I’ve been writing with a co-worker for MS SQL tips. So, a lot of folks are probably already members. It’s a free online community. So, if you go to mssqltips.com, we’ve written over 75 articles and we do a much deeper dive.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Wow.

Erica Woods:
Oh yeah. And I was never someone that wanted to write. So, literally we have six just on working with recruiters, benefits, how to prospect recruiters. We also have a resume cookbook there. That’s definitely helpful. And then lastly, I mean, APEX systems were the second largest technology staffing provider. One of my core roles with APEX is to build content. So, if you go to the apexsystems.com site, and then you do the job seeker dropdown, we have an entire robust career readiness area with lots of resources that are all free.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Awesome. Definitely cool. Well, we’ll link that up in the show notes for everybody. Everybody listening, go check that out. Ryan and Erica from APEX, thank you guys so much, this was awesome.

Erica Woods:
Thank you.

Ryan Sedwitz:
Thank you for having us.

Erica Woods:
Good luck, everyone.

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