I’ve been trying to find a job for years. I know I’ve said that. And as the time began to drag on, I began to explore all the options and resources I could find. I re-wrote my resume. I got feedback on it. I got involved with groups and organizations. I built my Linkedin, I locked down my social media, I cleaned up my internet search results, I looked at “career coaches” and I submitted with that dark, murky world of recruiters. How do they work? What do they cost. Do they really subsist off the flesh of newborns? No, those are career coaches. In fact, the entire practice of swaddling a baby was started to protect babies from the devils that prowled the streets feasting on flesh of babies .
The dogs on the other hand, those loyal beasts, they can sniff out a job from a mile away. Just give them a whiff of an old sock, then release the hounds. (That’s not at all how it works, but I just wanted to say that. In fact, they might not even talk to you if you give them an old sock.)
Headhunter. Recruiter. Staffing agency. What’s the difference?What does it cost? How do you find them? How do they find you? How does it all work? I had fewer answers than Los Angeles has virtues. Reaching out to a recruiter required me to beat a bit of pride into suppression. Fortunately for me, my bat was mighty; strengthened by years of stuggle, familiarity with freelance (temp) work and powered by a no-other-choice engine fueled by determination. Although I was seeking a permanent job, I reasoned temp work could be a way to expand my contacts and could lead to a full time job. And if not, at least I’d have some income. I signed up with the Imagination Box, a recruiter that represents creative talent for advertising, marketing and similar creative media jobs. Once in their system, they would email me when they got an opportunities that seemed like a fit.
I never got work from them but I got hope. Since it wasn’t an exclusive relationship, I signed up with another agency and they did send me out on a of couple gigs. Both staffing agencies had an assortment of temp, temp-to-hire and full time positions they were filling. Staffing agencies may not have the best paying jobs, and it’s not a guaranteed, steady income but it is another opportunity. Many have additional resources as well. Mine offered a chance to showcase my portfolio, access e-Books, industry and strategy articles and exposure. They gave me hope. I was getting exposed to more companies than just what I could find on my own. They were on my team. Team Pau was growing.
Staffing agencies are external, 3rd party recruiters and many companies now have their own team of internal recruiters. Internal recruiters work differently. They don’t create a database to pull from, but instead they post jobs for their company and screen candidates the hiring managers. They sift through the hundreds of submissions and schedule 15-30 minute (screener) interviews by phone. I used to loath these people and this process. “Just put me in front of the hiring manager” I’d think, but after I while, I came to welcome this step in the process as time saver for me as well. With today’s online job boards, and the lack of response or ability to follow up from employers, applicants are more likely to play the numbers game, apply for everything and see what bites. The open minded and optimistic applicant can envision themselves in a variety of roles outside their wheelhouse. I confess I applied to some jobs without reading the full description. My willingness to read the descriptions depended on several factors: respect for the company, my interest in the job, and my qualifications for it.
The screener call is for both of you, so take advantage of it and ask questions. That call is your opportunity to learn more about the job and the company. You may not know what questions to ask at first, but after you’ve done a few interviews, you’ll learn what you want, and how to screen for it. Ask what the job pays. They’ll ask you what you want (We’ll cover how to answer questions around your current and expected salary in a future post.) I asked about the salary, benefits, educational and growth opportunities, (especially if it was a job position I wasn’t keen on) company and team size, team structure and so on. You can see what was important to me. And they could too. That was the point. The more I interviewed, the more I learned what I wanted and what I would settle for.
After applying for a couple different positions at one company that I thought I really wanted to work for, I finally got the opportunity to talk to the recruiter. She described the job and it didn’t sound that exciting. Then I described what I do, my skills and background to which she explained that they had similar roles, but didn’t think I was qualified, that they weren’t hiring for those, and wouldn’t likely be. As we continued to talk, I asked what kind of growth opportunities would be available from the open project management position. Turns out, there was possibly some sideways movement but that it was essentially a dead end. It was work I could do, but I would not have been happy there. Learn to love the screener call. There is a wealth of information there for you.
How a company treats it’s candidates is a really good indication of how they treat their employees. One application generated a request for a phone interview asking when I would be available. I responded almost immediately but heard nothing. The next day I tried again. Nothing. 2 days later I tried again and nothing. A week after my last attempt I got another request from them. This time I waited, then responded. Nothing. Then again. Finally I wrote them to withdraw my candidacy. I received an apology email within 30 minutes. And by contrast, I had the great pleasure of going a couple rounds with another company. The interviews were with a panel of 4 and those folks were wonderful! We had a lot of fun getting to know each other, learning about the job and my skills. I got a personal call letting me know I didn’t get the job, but thanking me for my time, telling me what they enjoyed about me and what the candidate they hired possessed that set them apart. Really lovely people. A class act. those companies are out there.
Finally let’s briefly talk headhunters. This post is getting long and I have to work in the morning. A headhunter finds you. I don’t know if they have a huge database, I imagine they do, but they look for people, even outside their database. The first folks I mentioned, they are recruiters/temp agencies/staffing agencies with databases of people they can tap. Some temp agencies are the type that will call you at 8am needing you to sub immediately. I’m not sure if that is a totally antiquated Mad Men secretarial pool kind of thing or just not in my field, but a headhunter will get job and go to find that person.
I got hit up by a recruiter on Linkedin. Linkedin has a feature you can turn on or off that presents you to recruiters as available and interested in new opportunities. If you are looking, be sure to have that on. Long story short folks, I replied to the message and set up a call. “Doug” lets call him, thought I was a great fit for the job and I gave him permission to submit me. From there I got a phone interview with the hiring manager, then I came in for an interview with a panel. It was down to me and 1 other candidate. But then hiring was put on hold because they had to “re -organize.” I, very cynically, took that as being blown off, but 2 months later the recruiter called me back. The re-org was complete and the company wanted to bring me back in. It took another 3 weeks, another interview with a panel then, one more follow up call. It was short and I took that as a good thing but Monday came and went with no response. Wednesday I finally got a call from the recruiter congratulating me.
I GOT THE JOB!!! I got the freaking, job! Jeepers I’m getting teary again just thinking about the whole thing, but folks, I’ve now put in 28 days there and I am happy as a clam. It’s hard, but the people are great, and I like it. 28 days in, and I’m still in shock. It took me 4 1/2 years, lots of tears, struggles, and moving to a town where I know no one but there are better opportunities, over a thousand applications, less than a hundred interviews including screener calls, 5 months in the process, 5 rounds of interviews, nearly going broke and starting a blog before I got a job. But I did it. I apologize for the long gap between posts, but this is why. I’ve been busy working hard at this new job, learning all I can, long hours, and even some work on weekends, because I like it. I want to be good at it. I want to do my best. And I enjoy it.
I was back in LA, working on another commercial, this time with 2 very dear friends, Kelly and Jacquie, when I got the call. I struggled to say it out loud. My voice was a whisper. I was in shock. I was overwhelmed with happiness and relief and my voice cracked as I tried to speak and choke back tears of joy and laughter.
I have so much more to tell you. Interview things. Education, resume and Linkedin things. But I also want to talk to you about rum, and fishing nets, tiki mugs and so on but I’ll continue to prioritize the job hunt because I feel what I’ve learned is valuable and can really help you, so look forward to that. Ask me questions. I’m here to help. As I settle into my new job, I’ll try to get back to a regular publishing schedule and folks. I still have so much more info for you.