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In this episode of In-Ear Insights, listen as cofounders Katie Robbert and Christopher Penn discuss all things employment for jobseekers, such as:

  • What jobseekers should be doing in interviews
  • Tactical tips for LinkedIn profiles
  • Is Comic Sans ever appropriate?
  • What hiring managers really want
  • How to demonstrate skills without breaking NDAs
  • How many jobs to apply for every week if you’re unemployed

Tune in now, and be sure to subscribe to the podcast.

Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for watching the video.

Christopher Penn
Alright, so what’s our question today?

jobs and things and the variations because obviously we’re looking at our data, what do we got? Well, so

Katie Robbert
there was different things around data science jobs, data analyst jobs, business analyst jobs. So I think the question is, you know, if you are looking for a job in this market today, where do you even start? Like, what are the top three things that you as a job searcher should know? Well,

Christopher Penn
let me throw it back to you for a second because, you know, obviously,

we started a company, but we also know lots of people who are looking for work and have been counseling various people about what what to look for. When you talk to somebody I know you have relatives who are who are currently in the job market, when you talk to somebody about looking for work and find out what are you telling them today?

Katie Robbert
I guess it’s not so much what am I telling them, but I’m asking them questions for them to come to their own answers is, you know, what do you want to do? And so I don’t think it’s as simple anymore as just saying, I want to be a business analyst or I want to be a data analyst, because I almost feel like we’ve got to a place where job titles are completely meaningless, because there’s so many different variations of a data analyst or a data scientist or a business analyst that you really have to start to hone in on what is it that you actually want to do craft the position from there and then try to find the best match,

Christopher Penn
but

how do you then get around all the enterprise HR systems that are just, you know, fishing for keywords,

Katie Robbert
that’s when you have to do the super annoying thing of having 20 different versions of your resume that match the specific job that you are going after looking for a job is a full time job in and of itself, it’s a lot of hard work and it’s a lot of, you know, not hearing anything back or rejections, you’re basically pitching yourself and your personal brand saying, I stand out from the hundreds of other people who have applied for this single position. And so I guess, you know, the question I would pose to you is, how do you stand out

Christopher Penn
so standing out is I know people dislike this term so much but too bad

is your personal brand right? I think what the best definitions I’ve heard of a personal brand was by a comedian actually z. Frank who said on his show, aptly named the show that way, way back in the day, so that a purse a brand is the emotional aftertaste from a series of experiences. So when you like you don’t the example you gave us, there’s a big difference. Brand wise, emotion wise, between when you say grandma’s cookies, right, brings up a certain feeling, unless your grandma was like a hair, I’m an addict. And then and then old people’s cookies, right? It’s a very big difference between those two, the emotions, those contracts. So when you talk about somebody who says, I’m a business analyst, what emotions does that bring up? And that’s something that people have to think about is like, Am I saying words that create the emotions that people need to feel in order to say, Yeah, I want to talk to this person, this person inspired a feeling in me. So, you know, to your point, if 8 million people all have the same job title analyst, well, great than analyst is going to conjure up boredom, it’s going to conjure up a commodity and necessity that you don’t really want you at the lowest cost commodity, you know, you want the cheapest part that you can get away with. And not someone goes, Oh, I want that. I mean, that’s why so many people have changed their titles from like, you know, bi and business analytics and stuff to data scientist because data centers like, Ooh, that sounds interesting staying as opposed to business, you know, bi manager like, oh, more that crap that we’ve been bantering of the buzzwords when you you know, you used to, you’ve managed many, many larger teams, and I have when you are on the hiring manager side, what is it people do in interviews, the stuff that stands out to you?

Katie Robbert
Well, when I worked more closely with the technologists and the analysts, and the engineers, we would give them problems to solve right there. And then, you know, because we wanted to see their problem solving skills we wanted to see, we wanted to test their knowledge. So sometimes, like when we were interviewing database architects, we would literally have a piece of paper with a couple of like boxes on it. And we would describe a scenario of, of a database that we were trying to construct and watch them start to, like, draw out the way that they would construct it now, we weren’t looking for the right answer. We were looking for that critical thinking. And, you know, in the event of a business analyst, that’s a person who should be asking more questions than giving information. So what always stood out to me was in the event of a business analyst, someone who asked more questions than answered them, for example. So a business analyst by nature needs to be curious, a business analyst needs to keep digging deeper. And so if I said to someone, okay, so I have this problem, it goes ABC D, this is exactly what I want, I wouldn’t expect them to be like, Okay, that makes sense. I would expect them to start asking me more questions. And really sort of interrogating me as the interviewer because they are treating it like they are the business analyst already. And so that to me, is something that always stood out with someone who stayed true to what

the personality was needed for that particular role. So even a data analyst they need to be curious need to ask questions versus just giving like Well, here’s the answer Well, no, don’t tell me the answer ask more questions

Christopher Penn
the nose you know that that brings up something from about eight, nine years ago. Now, do you remember former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld? questionable comments at a press conference where he was talking about, you know, well, they’re the known knowns. And there’s the known unknowns, and then there’s the unknown unknowns, it was in reference to, you know, something political at the time, I think that’s actually kind of a fun way to think about that, about how you should be thinking about positioning yourself as someone who’s looking for data science job of marketing job, whatever,

if you were to say, if you think about a company’s problems as, as a GPS, right, there’s a destination, and there’s how you get there, if you have, if the company has the how to get there, and the destination, they are known knowns, you know, everything there is, and so they’re going to try and say, okay, we know what we need to do, we know who we need, so we’re gonna get the lowest possible cost, that’s commodity job, right? Because it’s, it’s just getting the thing done, if you know the destination, but you don’t know how to get there, or, you know, the lay of the land, but you don’t know where to go, that’s a higher price commodity, because you don’t really know there’s a piece you’re missing. And kind of going back to that what you’re saying about asking questions, right? A really good analyst to be like, okay, so you know, where you want to go, but you don’t know how to get there. Let me help you fill in the pieces more of a consulting role. And then if you have no idea where you are, you don’t know how to get there. And you’re lost. You’re in a foreign city, someone dropped you off, you know, in the middle of St. Petersburg, and you don’t speak Russian,

you’re totally hosed. And that’s when you need that like that. That really elite

not even a data scientist or something. But someone who’s a strategist that that top shelf I no problem offer. Yeah. Problem Solver. Who can say, Okay, here’s everything you’re going to need. Because you can’t you don’t know what you don’t have no idea which way is up. And so

from a career perspective, you always have to decide who you are, like, Are you are you just the cog that fits in the machine. And there’s a place for that, because some companies will pay for that hundred percent, but they’re not gonna pay a lot for that. Are you a, an unknown solver that can fix either how to get there or where to go? Or are you that rare, you know,

super problem solver, that frankly, is never going to be an open jobs because a company or does even know how to ask for help us only that they’re going to hire somebody like a Deloitte or an Accenture. Right.

Katie Robbert
Well, and I think that, you know, so that’s. So that’s a really good way to sort of think about how do you stand out in the job market is, first of all, figure out what you’re good at? What are your strengths, and I think that that’s something that people tend to gloss over because they’re just trying to be everything to everyone. And so, you know, maybe you’re not a strategic thinker, but that’s okay. You don’t have to be to be valuable, you know, or maybe you’re not the button pusher. That’s okay, too. So what else do you bring to the table. And I think that a lot of job seekers get so hung up on trying to be able to do it all, you know, they want to be the jack of all trades, they want to be that one person who’s valuable to everybody. And that’s just not sustainable. So in your example, you know, which of these buckets do you fit into? You know, are you the person who can do the thing? Are you the person who can figure out how to do the thing? Or are you that person who nobody knows, even knows who to ask for? Because you can do all of it? And to your point, that’s like the 1% Yeah,

Christopher Penn
it’s, it’s kind of like

a professional sports team, right? You’re gonna have a couple of like one or two Mbps and then you’re gonna have the supporting cast, right? It’s very difficult to pull off an ensemble where everybody’s to start. In fact, I forget which Olympics it was. But there was one Olympics where it was the first Olympics were professional basketball players are allowed to be on the US Olympic team. And I recall it being a disaster because everybody wanted to be the star. Yes,

Katie Robbert
yes, that’s well, and there’s a really bad analogy. But you know, it’s the whole Indians and chiefs thing of, you know, not everybody can be a chief, you have to have some Indians are not everybody can be the general you have to have some soldiers. And I think that, you know, you don’t need to go into an interview trying to establish yourself that you are

the general already I think what I tend to look for in a potential hires is someone who goes in who’s has the right personality mentality and is trainable because what I found in my experience is if you have somebody who is already so set in their ways, they’re already their mind established as leader, you can’t train those bad habits. And so I’m always looking for someone who’s a little bit more junior who is trainable that you can sort of hold on to for the long term and sort of help them grow their skills in a way that’s most valuable to your company. And so that sort of goes back to what stands out to a hiring manager. And for me, it’s having enough confidence to ask questions or say, when you don’t know the answer to something versus someone who’s trying to answer all of your questions, even if they know that the answer is wrong. So, you know, let me back up a little bit. I’m not looking for someone who’s, you know, necessarily so Junior that to your point, they don’t even know how to turn on the GPS, right? I think that it’s more you’re looking for someone who says, Okay, I understand what you’re saying, You’re trying to get to Africa. But it sounds like you don’t have a boat, right? Or plane or a plane. So let’s work together to figure out what are your other options, or let’s figure out how to build a boat or build a plane or something like that. So, you know, they’re able to ask those questions are really say, is Africa really where you’re trying to go? Or did you mean you’ve really just wanted to go to Des Moines.

Unknown
Okay.

Christopher Penn
tactically, one of the things I see most wrong, I see two things really wrong with people’s applications. One, I remember when you and I were looking through resumes to get every resume looks identical,

people are not using enough of the tools that they have today. Access to, like, if you have access to a smartphone, you absolutely should have a, you know, a 123 minute video on your personal website, which you should also have today, or your LinkedIn profile, at the very least introducing yourself, okay, this is who I am, this is what I do. You know, what questions can I answer from you. And the second thing is that when we look at people’s resumes, and profiles, everything is all about activity. And nothing is about outcome. Very few people put down, like, Hey, I increase the ROI of our pay per click marketing by 46%. Instead, they put down I managed 44, you know, pay per click campaigns a week, well, that’s great. But that’s not what we’re buying. If we’re buying a solution, we’re buying what you did to

Katie Robbert
write how you helped the company. Yeah, I run into that a lot, as well as there’s no outcome metrics. And that’s actually a lot of the council that I’ve been giving lately is, but what did you do? You know, so when you look over your profile is riddled with words like manage supervised, coordinated, nobody cares about that. Take that out, because you’re going to have 8000 people who have done who, who say they have coordinated these things. But really, they put a bunch of Excel charts together. And that in their mind is the way that they coordinated something, tell me what you did. Tell me the outcome. Tell me the metrics. Tell me why you’re going to not waste my money. If I give you $5,000 to work with what can you do with that? Yeah,

Christopher Penn
I remember there was one person I remember we talked to on the phone a few months ago, who was it took a little while to get to. But by the end of the interview, it was very clear that person didn’t actually know how to do anything. They they knew the theory only and, and they relied on a team of like, 40 people to essentially do the work for them. Yeah,

Katie Robbert
which is fine. There is and is that person trainable. If you don’t know the thing, just admit it. And I think that that, for me is a huge pet peeve, because I’ll know very quickly if you don’t know what you’re talking about. So trying to pull one over on the person who’s interviewing you is never a good idea. Don’t pretend you know more than you do. Because that’s never going to set that’s never going to put you in a good light. And I think the other thing that at least I see, because your point all all the resumes look like the ones that stand out are the ones that forgot to spell check. But more than just forgotten spellcheck forgot to grammar check. And so that to me, is a huge Miss, because those are the you know, it’s that’s not new information. But those are the resumes that get tossed immediately. If you can’t be bothered to not only spellcheck but also make sure that it’s formatted correctly,

you’re not using like pink Comic Sans and like to use on your resume. And it’s not, it’s not gonna be taken seriously. Maybe there’s a job out there that calls for that. But you need to know that in advance. If you’re going for a data analyst job. Using Comic Sans probably is not the best way to present your personal brand.

Christopher Penn
Yeah, although there is a time and place for everything once Exactly. Well, and you know,

Katie Robbert
so perhaps, if you are applying for, you know, a social media coordinator or something like that, and demonstrating your use of emoji is a good thing, you know, so, but again, it’s that demonstrates that you understand the job, you understand what’s required of you, and what your skills need to be. Because if you’re just throwing everything out there all at once, then nobody knows who you are. Yeah,

Christopher Penn
exactly. It would David most used to say that we have 37,000 things on our brochure to prove what we’re not good at anything.

Katie Robbert
Yes. Well, and I think that’s, that’s the other thing get to the point, really quickly have an executive summary or that one liner of you know, here’s your tagline, I am really good at, you know, staying under budget, or I am really good at you know, herding cats, like whatever. The thing is, that you are really good at state that up front, don’t bury it somewhere else. I would say flip that around even more. It’s like, when you hire me, you will save X dollars. Exactly. Well, and I think that that’s really good, too, is, you know, even though the resume needs to be about you, if it’s to sender centric, if it’s too I did this, I get this Okay, well, what are you going to do for me as a hiring manager? What are you going to do for me as the company and so that might actually be something that people don’t really think that much about is how does the resume read to the person reading it? Does it make you sound like a narcissist, or does it make you sound like a team player? Yep.

Christopher Penn
I mean, at the end of the day, it’s the same as all b2b marketing at the E as a job seeker, you have to you have to solve a one of four and ideally all for problems, which is how are you going to make me money? Save me money, save me time, aka not make my life harder, or keep me from getting fired? And if you can’t answer that, if what is on your resume, or your LinkedIn profile does not answer those questions. There’s no reason to hire you. Because I don’t need people who make my life harder.

Katie Robbert
That’s right. No, and we’ve had that no, I’m not, you know, that costs more money. And that costs more time. So as a job seeker, basically, the things that you’re looking to do is to stand out. So when you mentioned, Chris, that people aren’t using some of the tools they’ve had, that they have at their disposal, you had mentioned having a personal website or having a video on their LinkedIn profile, is there any other things that they can do that are sort of low hanging fruit that you think people have,

Christopher Penn
everyone has access to a word processor, a spreadsheet and the slide deck, right, because Google Docs is free,

if you have access to the Internet, and you are because you you’re listening to this,

then you have access to those tools. So even if you like, I totally get there’s some people like I don’t want to be on video. And the work I’m applying for it does not anyone that does not apply to his own need for me to be customer facing whatever video may not be the right tool. But audio like this podcast, this is an example of something that you could be a part of, even if you don’t have your own, you know, guest appearing on other people’s shows, there are podcasts for everything. Now there are, you know, people who there are automotive industry manufacturing podcasts. So if you will work on an assembly line supervising robots, guess what, there is a channel and a forum for you. If you have the ability to write and your job is focused on writing, you should have something published out there, right. It doesn’t have to be a 50,000 word novel. It could be a 10 page paper, but it shows Hey, I’m capable of this work output. It’s really hard, especially now with the knowledge economy and with MBAs and intellectual property and stuff for people to be able to share work, they’ve done it previous companies. So if you have your own thing that you’ve written, hey, here’s the thing I made that is for public consumption. If you’re a coder, and you don’t have your own repo and stuff on GitHub, that’s a miss like, yeah, you know, here’s a piece of open source software, even if it’s like, five lines of code that just change help someone change file extensions in that directory. That’s something you should be doing, whatever you do, whatever you work in, there should be something that people can see, oh, that’s what you do. And that’s the quality of the output you get. If you are an accountant, like, Hey, here’s a super easy personal spreadsheet you can use to balance your books, by the way, I’m for hire, you know, so and so forth. Mm hmm.

Katie Robbert
Yeah, no, I mean, that completely makes sense. I think that, you know, people underestimate the value of having a portfolio of your work. I think that people struggle to figure out what that looks like for them. Because typically, when you think portfolio like, well, if I were a graphic designer, that would be really easy to put together because it would just be samples. But you know, I’m a project manager. So how do I put together samples of my work? Well, I would like to see a roadmap, I would like to see a timeline, I would like to see how you balance a budget or how you resource and you have samples of that. And, you know, to your point, Chris, maybe it’s not, you can’t share some previous work that you’ve done. So just mock something up that demonstrates your skill set. And those are really easy things for anyone at any level to be able to put together I would say, the mock up is probably even a better idea than the existing thing. Because, you know, you and I have both been in jobs in the past where we had constraints imposed upon us by the companies that we worked at, like, Hey, you must do it this way. And we’re like, this is the stupidest possible way you can do

Christopher Penn
this thing.

But if you mock it up, there’s nothing saying, Okay, this is the best practices with the best practice looks like even if you never got a chance to do that in production. It demonstrates Hey, I know what the best practice is. And if you hire me, this is what you could have, rather than this is the crap that was forced to produce the last company is the last company only wanted left handed widgets? Mm hmm. Well, and, you know,

Katie Robbert
to that point, you know, I think, again, people struggle to figure out well, I’m applying to be a social media manager. So what kind of a portfolio Can I show, mock up a tweet, mock up a Facebook post show that creativity that you want to be able to do on a regular basis show basically put together your dream job in a portfolio package, and there will be something out there for you. Yeah,

Christopher Penn
you’re a lawyer, right up a case study to show like, Hey, here’s, here’s my prospect or, you know, this is where something like a blog actually makes a lot of sense is, you should be able to offer your perspective that has value. So if you’re, say, an accident and injury lawyer, and you see this a new story about how homes are more flammable now than they used to be 50 years ago, guess what, that’s a perspective you can offer that demonstrates Hey, I can think about the situation, I can see a contemporary parallel, and here’s my perspective on how to approach it. And oh, by the way, if you were to hire me into your firm, as a, as a law partner, I would be able to bring in this new line of business that you’re not thinking about, because, you know, homes are more flammable. So I can’t think of any profession were doing something that demonstrate your expertise would ever be a bad thing. I would

Katie Robbert
agree with that. I would agree with that. Um, okay. So the takeaways for people who are job searching is have a LinkedIn profile, that is the absolute minimum thing that you need to do, don’t underestimate the importance of having a digital footprint. In this day and age, you need to establish that you are a real person, and that you have real experience. So LinkedIn is free, if you’re using the free version. So you can establish yourself that way, it’s very easy to create a personal website at this point in time, there’s a lot of free websites, there’s a lot of very inexpensive drag and drop website templates that you can do, you can start a blog, there’s a lot of free ways to do that, that will demonstrate your expertise, put together a portfolio and maybe you can how’s everything in LinkedIn, you know, use the tools that you have at your disposal disposal, and think about the things that you actually want to be doing with your career and focus it around those goals. And, you know, probably the best advice is, don’t forget to tap into your network, you never know where conversation is going to lead

Christopher Penn
actually, the say the the biggest and best devices, going back to what you said at the beginning, which is looking for work as a full time sales job, you’re selling the most important product of all, which is your expertise. Thanks. And if you are not approaching, and as a 40 hour a week, full time job, you are short changing yourself. And, and you are diminishing your earnings. If you are, you know, a good salesperson should be cranking out, you know, pitches, especially if it’s a known product, like a resume or, you know, that that’s once you’ve got the the sales enablement materials you should be doing at probably close to 40 a day, right. And you use software you sites like indeed. com and LinkedIn stuff, but you should be cranking out 40 to 50 job applications per day. And a certain point becomes a numbers game. At a certain point, you’re like, Okay, I’ve cranked out 1000 we used to use back I know, as a technical recruiter, we use the the 10 to one ratio for every 10 the views and forever, you want to interview you want, you need to have 10 applications for every 10 applications, you know, 100, you know, thought process. So every. So if you want 10 shots at 10 different companies, you’re talking probably 1000 to 2000 applications. And that’s the environment that we’re in right now. The economy is good for job seekers, we’re recording this in your mid 2018 that can change literally on a dime. So if you are in the market right now, make the most of the time you got right now and, and crank out you know, be that’s your measure, if you’re not doing 200 applications a week do more well. And, you know,

Katie Robbert
as sort of that final parting thought, you know, 200 applications a week might sound daunting. But if you use all of the different piece of pieces of advice that we’ve been talking about to set up your personal brand, set up your profile, your resume, those types of things, it’s actually not that difficult, because you have all of the organizational work done up front, and then it’s just pulling out the puzzle pieces to match with whatever job it is that you’re looking for. So prepare up front. It’s much much like meal prepping, because then you don’t have to think about your meals for the week. Do all of your cooking on Sunday, break it out into bite sized pieces. And then you can mix and match and have meals throughout the week. It’s the same thing with job hunting, be prepared up front have all of your different pieces, your portfolio, your samples, your website, your you know, references, those types of things, and then mix and match with all of those different open positions and it won’t feel very daunting anymore. It’ll actually become very automated very simple, very efficient when you

Christopher Penn
think about it 200 a week you’re like right sounds like a lot it’s five an hour once you’ve got all those pieces to you can you search for and find five positions you know every hour to apply for on and indeed cop The answer is almost certainly Yes. Unless you do something really, really really niche.

Katie Robbert
Yep. And if you do something really niche or if you’re struggling call us we can help.

Christopher Penn
Alright. As always, please subscribe to the YouTube channel the newsletter and we will talk to you soon.

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