Job Search Tips – From Resumes To Offer Negotiation, With Kolby Goodman
When out on a job search, you must know how to effectively catch employers’ attention and entice them to hire you. This is not just about having the right level of self-confidence, but also the right strategy to position yourself as the best one among the rest. J.R. Lowry sits down with Kolby Goodman, Founder of The Job Huntr, to share his most important job search tips. He talks about building a strong personal branding, writing a resume for both human and AI consumption, and making interviews more about relationship building. Kolby also explains the importance of prioritizing self-health to grow your career and the positive side of losing your job.
Check out the full series of “Career Sessions, Career Lessons” podcasts here or visit pathwise.io/podcast/. A full written transcript of this episode is also available at https://pathwise.io/podcasts/kolby-goodman.
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Job Search Tips – From Resumes To Offer Negotiation, With Kolby Goodman
Founder of The Job Huntr
This show is brought to you by PathWise.io. PathWise is dedicated to helping you live the career you deserve by providing coaching content courses and community. Basic membership is free, so visit PathWise and join today. My guest is Kolby Goodman. He is the founder of The Job Huntr, and he has been coaching professionals on how to grow and succeed in their job search and careers for over a decade. His clients have landed amazing jobs at some of the nation’s most exciting companies, including Apple, Google, Amazon, Tesla, Salesforce, Qualcomm, and Intuit among others.
Kolby has been featured on CBS News, LinkedIn, The Huffington Post, and LA Weekly. He has also partnered with organizations such as Panasonic, Marriot Hotels, Thermo Fisher Scientific, the American Diabetes Association, and the Society for Human Resource Managers, as well as several universities and schools, national professional organizations, and nonprofits to provide tailored workshops on career ownership and effective leadership. Before branching out on his own, Kolby held IT-related roles with Piksel and First Allied Securities. He graduated from San Diego State with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics. Kolby, welcome. It’s great to have you on the show.
I appreciate you having me on.
Let’s talk a little bit about your business. You provide a mix of coaching, which I know is a big focus for you in helping job hunters. What are some of the most important things that you tell people when they’re looking for a job?
In the beginning, it’s a shift in your identity. A lot of people go into this thing going, “I’m a job seeker. I’m looking for an opportunity where I can check enough for the boxes or I can do the job well and I can be the most experienced person in the stacks that my next employer hires me.” The major shift my clients make from the outset is you’re no longer a job seeker. You have to be an expert problem solver. Those are always in demand. Those will always garner the most attention, the most interest from the decision-makers, and ultimately the highest salaries.
Helping them translate their communication, their mindset, and their strategy and approach from trying to fill a gap in somebody’s org chart into filling in and saying, “Here are the problems I solved. Here’s how I solve them. Here’s how I’ve been able to help produce employers with those same problems. Let’s understand more through conversation how I can have the most impact and bring them the most value as your next new hire.”
Is getting them to make that mindset shift difficult?
Absolutely. We’ve been programmed forever that we need to check the boxes and we need to be the most qualified candidate. It’s a frustration on their part. They lack perspective about their skillsets and their abilities because they think it’s not special anymore. What I call that is the plight of the expert when you’ve pushed through the hard stages of learning and growing, and when you are more adept at the skill or the expertise versus a large majority of the population. It’s easy now. It’s habitual. It’s obvious. It’s automatic. It’s helping my clients take a step back and say, “What am I good at? Why am I good at that? How are other people and other processes benefiting from that expertise?”
You mentioned personal branding before we started to do this. It sounds like that’s a big piece that you weave in in terms of helping them position themselves and how they think about themselves.
It has to be. Every part of this process is a radical exercise and clear communication. That’s where the pain point is. You submit enough applications, you get enough rejections, and you start to believe the hype. What I get to remind them is what’s being rejected isn’t you as a person or a professional but it’s the way that you’re communicating about that person and professional. The personal branding element comes in because that’s ultimately our first line of offense.
In this day and age, applicant tracking systems, AI, HRIS, and all the parties involved have to understand and appreciate what you can do. Now the barrier to entry to applying for jobs, the number of people actively looking for new work is as high as it has ever been. Aligning all that personal branding into not simply what you can do but also the problems you can solve helps you stand out from the rest of your competition.
When people come to you, have they typically already been in the job search for a while and they’re not having success, or do they come to you right at the beginning?
I get a nice mix of both. People who come out of a job, whether it’s an unexpected layoff, an escape, or somebody who has been on it for a while. It’s people who are coming to me and saying, “I need help.” What they’ve done isn’t working or they’re starting from square one. They don’t know what to do and they want to shortcut themselves with an expert to avoid making mistakes, to streamline their process, and to ultimately save time, energy, and pain in the process.
Do you encourage them to take time for reflection or to resist the temptation to just dive right into mailing out resumes and hoping for the best?
Yes. With a lot more turnover happening, there’s a lot of panic happening. I encourage my clients to slow down and think. I am here to help them get not just the next job but the right job. It’s those who look for an escape that continually goes from one thing to the next without a lot of thought, a lot of purposes, or a lot of logic that tend to repeat that painful process. Taking a pause and looking inward to say, “What do I prioritize and where do I want to go? How do I want to impact that organization? What skillsets do I want to leverage? What skillsets do I want to leave behind?”
That short-term thinking combined with the long-term strategy helps more people have more stable careers, be more excited and engaged in what they’re doing on a regular basis, and ultimately, monetarily helps them make more money because their strategy is involved versus looking at the next new and shiny thing, or running away from the bad and the ugly.
One of my colleagues calls this going slow to go fast. This is part of the process.
I love that. I may have to borrow that. It’s important.
It wasn’t mine to give but feel free.
A lot of people have what I call careers by accident. Starting back when you graduated college or came out of the military or what have you. We got our first job. We work, maybe we apply, and there’s no long-term thinking. It starts in the 22 to 32 age range. You want to get out, you want to be a purposeful adult, you want to get a paycheck, and you’re trying to survive your day. All of a sudden, you wake up and you’re a mid-careerist and you’ve been going through the motions. It’s hard, if not impossible, to make a pivot or even a restart.
You can afford to take the time and energy as early as possible, whether that’s today, five years from retirement, or five months from college graduation. Ask yourself, “What is the impact that I’m capable of having?” The more impact you can have, the more problems you can solve, and the more valuable you’ll be. In my opinion, what I’ve seen over the years in doing this amazing work, is the happier you’ll be with your career. That’s the thing that job searching puts on the back burner.
All these employers are putting out job descriptions saying, “We need somebody who can do this responsibility and have this experience.” As humans, we tend to get more energy and more satisfaction from the challenge, solving the right puzzles, and exercising the right problem-solving skills. It’s your job as a purposeful job seeker and expert problem solver to go out there and be very clear about the problems you want to solve and why. You’ll be able to seek those out more effectively and more quickly. You won’t have to kiss as many frogs in your career journey. It’ll be a perpetual motion machine in challenge and excitement. It no longer is a slog to go to work every day, but you’re excited by the challenges presented to you on a regular basis.
As they’re going through that reflection part of the process. Do you have particular assessments or exercises that you use with them?
I don’t prescribe “a ton of assessments.” The one that I go to with people who are completely clueless and just have no idea is the Gallup Strengths Finder 2.0. That is an amazing foundational, relatively inexpensive, and relatively quick assessment that you can see, “What are my top five strengths?” From there, we can start seeing some patterns and connections. It allows my clients to give vocabulary to the things that they feel are opaque in their skillsets and careers. The other thing that I do that admittedly can feel a bit awkward and require a lot of vulnerability is to go around to the people at work, bosses, coworkers, clients, etc, and ask this one straightforward and relatively simple question, “How have I been able to help you?”
I like this question for a couple of reasons. It’s extremely direct and it’s open-ended enough that you allow the person to take forth with it what they will. What you’re trying to do as an expert problem solver and somebody who is looking to sell is not based on what you do but on the outcomes that you create by going to the people around you and giving clarity on what they are taking away from working with you on a regular basis. You can then perpetuate that forward because we get in our hands a lot. There’s an oversimplification of our expertise. There’s a ton of imposter syndrome and there’s a healthy amount of doubt.
By going to other people and getting some feedback, you can provide vocabulary and language to your impact. You’re able to get out of your own head and remind yourself that you’re not a fraud. It’s only a matter of time until somebody catches on. Lastly, you can then communicate and sell your impact better to other people. That’s what we’re trying to do here. We’re not trying to simply do a job and check a box and be a cog in the machine. You can communicate to your next employer, “This is how I’ve made my boss feel. This is the impact I’ve made on my coworkers,” and provide concrete evidence. It goes so much further than simply stating a laundry list of experiences, responsibilities, or skillsets that you then force a decision-maker to jump through a lot of mental hoops and say, “How does that apply to me?”By going to other people and getting some feedback, you can provide vocabulary and language to your impact. You can get out of your own head and remind yourself that you're not a fraud. Click To Tweet
This can be a deflating process. How do you help your clients stay positive and stay confident in themselves?
First and foremost, it is a practice in balance and harmony. I know it’s a cliché that it is a full-time job to look for a full-time job. It absolutely can be if you allow it. What people tend to forget and put on the back burner the quickest as they go through this process is prioritizing self and self-health. You have to be a whole human before you walk in the door or sign into Zoom to be a whole professional. Focus on self.
One thing that I challenge my clients to do is to maintain mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health in whatever way they choose, but then also find little challenges in their lives for them to pursue. That could be something like picking up a hobby that you’ve let go dormant. Maybe you played an instrument, you are into board games, or you are an artist. Getting engaged in those positive challenges helps you overcome other challenges in your life.
You cannot allow the acquisition of that job to make you whole. You’re denying happiness. You’re denying fulfillment and you’re ultimately putting your self-worth and your self-esteem in the hands of a party that you have no control over, which just isn’t fair to you. Helping them focus on themselves and progress in themselves trickles over into the confidence and the excitement about going out there, looking for and securing a new opposition.
I’ve had two times in my life when I needed to look for a job and had time to do it. Truth be told, I’d probably handled the second time better than the first time. At the same time, in both cases, I picked up lots of new hobbies. You made time for it. Some of those things have stuck with me. It does matter when you get those opportunities that are, in some cases, forced upon you. You take advantage of them and make the most of that time and do things that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.
It’s also helping them shake this fear of permanency. I’m always going to be unemployed. This is always going to be how it is. Look at what’s in abundance at that moment. When you’re laid off from a job, there’s a scarcity of money but there’s an abundance of your time. What I have learned and we talked about this earlier before we record, I have a nearly two-year-old in the room next door. Nothing will make you more aware of how fast time goes than when you have a tiny, adorable, and crazy calendar living with you. If you can shift your mindset from scarcity to abundance, you’ll see it as freeing. You’ll see it as being able to take control and it’s no longer this burden on you.
A big part of losing your job that I don’t think is talked about enough is how you fill your time. Job gives us a paycheck, responsibilities, and a social tie to other people, but it’s also something we can just block in our calendars that we’re doing from 9:00 to 5:00. Make sure that you’re filling that time productively and purposefully so that you don’t burn out and so that you don’t settle is extremely important. As you said, go slow to go fast. You can slow yourself down and be purposeful with your day so that you can achieve your goals quicker because you’re not scrambling. You’re being very purposeful with your day-to-day.
Let’s get into some of the parts of a job search resumes. I know you do a lot of work with clients on resumes. What makes a good resume?
Is a clear communication of what your expertise is and how that expertise has been applied to create a tangible or intangible positive difference. The way that I will equate that is, in a previous life of mine, I was an IT operations manager. A professional nerd so to speak. I enjoy the nitty gritty. I know how many gigahertz processor is on my computer. I know the exact resolution of my monitor in front of me. I know that I have a 4K webcam pointing myself so you can see me right now. I’m a nerd. I’m in the minority. That’s how a lot of people tend to write their resumes. “Here are all the technical things about what I do,” and they leave it at that.
We forget that we need to engage with an audience. That audience has a very quick amount of time to figure out if you are a maybe versus a no. Also, it needs to be apparent why you are over anybody else. Instead of talking primarily about all the technical, all of the extremely specific skillsets and abilities in a vacuum, if you can apply those so that anybody can appreciate them. For case in point, my mom might not care about the gigahertz processor in her computer. She wants to know that she can have more than four tabs open in Chrome without the whole computer crawling to a halt. She wants to know that there’s enough screen space on her computer that she can bring up her email, a Word document, and QuickBooks, or that the webcam is good enough to see her grandchildren when they FaceTime.
That’s where the disconnect is with a lot of people, “Here’s all the technical things.” Ultimately, what you’re doing is, “This is everything I can do, Mr. and Mrs. Manager. You tell me how I can help you.” As consumers and as human beings, we don’t purchase primarily like that. We make decisions based on what things do for us and how it impacts us. The more that you can communicate in a resume, cover letter, or LinkedIn, what your expertise is, what your feature set is, how people have experienced those benefits, and being very clear on those benefits helps you stand out from the rest of your competition.
You talked about AI and applicant tracking systems earlier. Are you writing your resume for a person or are you writing your resume for a computer?
It has to be both. If you skew your messaging to one audience or the other, they’re both not going to be able to gain appreciation for you. There has to be a middle ground. Luckily nowadays, there are a ton of tools out there. The leader in the pack for me is SkillSynker.com. There’s JobScan.co. There’s a whole ton of them that help you understand how the computer is seeing your resume.
First and foremost, I would start with the human audience in mind and say as you develop your documentation, make sure that you’re making an obvious pairing between your feature skillset, expertise, and experience with your benefits, outcomes, impacts, and improvements. Also, making sure that anybody can understand it. Do a thought exercise, cover up the name and all the personally identifiable information on your resume, and say, “Do I understand what this person’s value add and impact is and why would I hire them?” If you can’t say yes to either of those questions, then more time needs to be invested in helping you surface and become exactly clear about your expertise and your benefits so somebody else can as well.
From there, plug that into one of those online tools so that the language that the computer is told to look for is there. Finding synonyms and finding exact language. It can be a streamlined copy and paste moving things around on your resume. Understand that the more that you apply and the more you use these tools, the easier they will become to use. Don’t be mad at yourself if your first application takes a heck of a long time. You have to rip that bandaid off so that you can do more and become more streamlined and more direct so that you can apply for more jobs and get more opportunities.
Do you have a prescribed format that you like to recommend to people or it depends on the situation?
I know a lot of people tend to want to make their resumes look good, like formatting, fonts, and colors. The problem with that approach is you can’t put lipstick on a pig. If the content of your resume is not clear with that value-added impact, it doesn’t matter what the resume looks like. The content has to sell you. I ultimately recommend making it as simplistic and as direct as possible so that it plays nice with those applicant tracking systems, those AI systems, because it’s not a human, it’s a computer. It’s not going to take the time to try to logic and parse its way out of a complex resume format.
Also, an overly stylized and complicated resume can be a sign and a red flag to an employer that somebody doesn’t know what their value is. They’re trying to make up for a lack of expertise and impact with beautification and prettiness. With that all said, the only exception I would say is that if you are in the graphic arts. If your resume can be an example or a part of your portfolio, then yes. If you’re an accountant, a software developer, or in sales, you don’t need an over-stylized and overly complicated resume format.
Do you counsel people on how far back they should go with their work experience or when they should stop listing what year they graduated from school?
I’d say about five years. After that, what somebody is going to be hiring you on is not that you can check a box and you have a degree but potentially leverage that expertise and that education to contribute even more on the job. You have proven that not only can you hold down a job for a good amount of time but you also are committed to something for four-plus years and get a degree. That’s my response to the graduation date.
As far as how back you should go, for better or for worse, employers are a “what have you done for me lately” crowd. I recommend going back about 10 to 15 years for those mid and late-careerists. Mainly anything before that, you’re going to have a heck of a hard time proving viability and applicability for the modern day. Also, you then start to jeopardize age discrimination, which we want to try to avoid at all costs.
I’m sure there are exceptions. My first work experience was in the military. Being able to showcase that helps because veterans are a protected class. That certainly plays into your attractiveness as a candidate, but that was 30 years ago for me. There probably are some exceptions in terms of the 10 or 15 years back.
That’s the beauty and the curse of resumes. It is that because we all come to the table with so many different experiences, life paths, values, impacts, and skills, it is on a case-by-case basis. There are some best practices. As you come to those individual questions of yourself, as you write your resume, you have to ask yourself, “Is dedicating real estate to this experience on my resume going to help or hurt my value-add?”
You talk about real estate. To me, two pages are the max. Front and back, one piece of paper. I know particularly in academic circles, you have a CV that can go on for pages. Particularly with all of the research that somebody might have published but outside of academic circles, I find that when somebody has a resume that’s that long, it makes me wonder whether they can boil things down.
There’s a fear of lack of brevity. You’re not respecting the reader’s time and you’re not clear in what your pitch is. I would agree that two pages is a max. If you have 5 to 7 years of experience, you should be absolutely under one page. You want to make sure that you’re maximizing the impact of every square inch of your resume so that it sells you appropriately and resonates with your audience.
LinkedIn is a complement to a resume. How should your LinkedIn profile be similar and how should it be different from what you put into your resume?
LinkedIn is one of the largest, not only job boards but recruiting communities in the world. It’s being used as its own internal applicant tracking system by countless large and small recruiters, third-party internal, and everywhere in between. There should be a lot of overlap between your resume and your LinkedIn profile because it’s being scanned by AI robots and scrapers. It’s helping you. It’s being put into a database to understand what is your relevance to these jobs.
In the body of your resume, all the experience should be relatively the same. You should maximize things like skillsets and endorsements, and things that aren’t going to be on your resume that should be on your LinkedIn profile, like a professional headshot. With all the AI tools out there, you can get one built by a computer with these little computers in our pockets that have great cameras on them, our smartphones. As long as you’re in a well-lit area, you’re dressed well, and you’re having somebody else take the photo, that’s a great starter headshot.
Making sure that you’re maximizing the number and the quality of your connections is another big thing with LinkedIn. A lot of the job search and a lot of success in the job search is a game of the six degrees of separation. Who do you know? Who do they know? Whom do they know? What’s great about LinkedIn is it gives you a visual representation of not only your network but your network’s network. That’s where the real magic happens. Make sure that you’re adding people on LinkedIn, people that you know, and people that can vouch for you, and will do a favor for you. Even if it’s just a simple introduction to somebody else.
Lastly, LinkedIn is a great way for you to build up that expertise and a thought leader in your space, whether it’s through creating original content posts or articles. Simply sharing or commenting on other people’s articles and posts. The more that you can be visible, the more you can be top of mind on the platform, which helps you be more visible to the right people looking to engage and hire experts like yourself.
Very well said. Target companies. I assume you work with your clients on developing a list of target companies. How do we recommend that they go through that process?
Nowadays, especially with the proliferation of work-from-home, it’s about how you want your work to fit in with your lifestyle. The silver lining of COVID work-from-home, shutdown, and lockdowns is that we had to reevaluate our lives as we had such a big disruption. A lot of my clients come to me and say, “I want a job that contributes to my life. I don’t want my work to be robbed from that.” It’s understanding what that looks like. What are the demands of the employers? Do you work from home? Are you a hybrid? Are you fully in the office? How are they supporting their employees? What does the retirement look like? What does PTO look like? Make sure all those things are there first. No matter how great the job is, if it feels like you’re shackled to it against your will, it’s not going to be a long-term viable option.
Once all of those requirements are met, then say, “What does the company do? Why do they do it? How do I want to contribute to the greater mission and vision of the organization?” An ideal company would make everybody from the CEO to the janitor feel like they’re contributing to the greater good. Understand how that company is proactively marketing itself as somebody who wants to proliferate that. Go to the company’s website and see how are they marketing their opportunities to their potential candidates.An ideal company would make everybody, from the CEO to the janitor, feel like they're contributing to the greater good. Click To Tweet
Good companies know that they ultimately have two sets of clients. They have clients that buy their services or goods. They have the people who want to buy their expertise with a job. What does the company stand for? What do the employees have to say about them? What is your long-term viability there? Can you see an upward trajectory? Lastly, as you start to solidify those target companies, go out and get first-person perspectives. Leverage your network and your LinkedIn to six degrees of separation into talking to somebody in that company and maybe even the role to get a firsthand account of what it’s like. From there, leverage that relationship that you’ve built to say, “Can I put you down as a reference? Do you have a referral fee inside? Can I put you down as the person that referred me? If I get the job, you get a nice bonus.”
Humanizing yourself in this process, especially as you look for your target organizations, is going to be key. What I will almost guarantee is your target companies won’t be unique to you. You’re going to have a lot of competition going into those roles because those companies have done a good job of developing a culture that people want to be a part of. The more that you can humanize yourself and maybe either get out from behind the keyboard or interact with other humans as you research and as you engage with these companies is going to give you a clear indication of where you want to go next, and then being able to crack open the door to go in and get an opportunity.
Informational interviews are a part of this process typically when you’re trying to figure out what companies to target. You talked earlier about the cliché of looking for a job as a full-time job. To me, this is a place where you could easily do informational interviews for a full-time job. How do you recommend that people strategically approach this part of the process so they get as much bang for their buck out of it as possible?
The ultimate goal of an informational interview isn’t to get the information, but it’s to start building a genuine relationship. That person can then become a referrer, an introducer, or an opportunity giver. If you’re going into that informational interview and making it all about you, asking for advice and guidance, and all this stuff, it can turn into an unintentional therapy session, which makes the other person maybe a little bit uncomfortable.
Your goal in these conversations is to learn about the other person as much as possible. Engage, look for perspective, look for experience, and get curious about what they do. In that, you’re going to get all your questions answered in a way that doesn’t feel like an interrogation. Having a goal for informational interviews is key. I usually recommend my clients have ten reachouts. Hopefully, out of that, you can schedule one conversation. I also don’t recommend anybody call them informational interviews. That’ll be a great way to get a quick no.
From there, use that as a springboard to continue to engage. End the conversation with, “I appreciate this time today. I don’t want to take any more of your time. Do you mind if we still stay in touch? Is there anybody else you’d recommend I talk to as I go through this part of my journey?” That leapfrogging and springboarding from person to person grows your network and your visibility. Ultimately, it can contribute positively to you landing a job quicker.
Where do search firms fit into this part of the process?
Recruiters and search firms can be an amazing tool for those looking for work to leverage. I’ve had people come to me who have had lackluster experiences with those providers, it is mainly due to a lack of understanding of the relationship. You have to remember that you are not the client. The client is the company that is looking to hire somebody. They’re going through a search firm to act as an intermediary. You as the candidate are the product, which is a role we are not used to serving, honestly.
With that perspective, remind yourself that you need to be easy to work with. Your value adds and your impact needs to be clear. You need to be able to follow directions. You need to know that the more communicative, the more active you can be. It is a signal to a good recruiter that they’re going to be able to place you quickly and effectively. Hopefully, they get paid quicker. Come from that perspective of being easy to work with about being the obvious choice. You can open yourself up to a whole slew of jobs that aren’t even posted anywhere because they’re behind the hidden walled garden of these search firms.
People talk a lot about the hidden job market. It could be the ones that they’re working on. It could be the ones that the companies just haven’t posted publicly as well, which comes back to the importance of networking. What are some of the other things that you should do to get the word out there and network as effectively as possible?
The number one thing I see people doing wrong as they go out to network is they feel like they have to go out and make a whole bunch of new connections. They forget that they’ve spent an entire lifetime making these social and emotional deposits in the people around them. When you’re looking for work actively, you’re unemployed, and you’ve suffered a trauma and a separation that is losing your job, that is absolutely okay and a welcome time to start taking some withdrawals out of that social-emotional bank.
Before you go out there and try to network with new people, make sure that you’ve engaged with everybody in your circle. Let them know what you’re looking for and let them know how you’re doing it. Give them your perspective even if they’re in a different industry and doing something different than you. The power of the network that we’ve been talking about all day here is where those hidden gems come up. Maybe you don’t know every single person that your neighbor knows, but he or she might say, “I have my friend Diana and she works in your industry. You guys should connect.”
It’s those serendipitous connections that you need to go out there and get. Unless you’re actively engaging with the people around you and letting them know what your purpose is and what your actions are in this process, they can’t help you. That goes to the other part of this thing too. People do want to help you. I have a very optimistic view of humanity. In fact, other people do want to help, but you have to make them ask for that help obvious, direct, and actionable.
I’ve been doing this for over a decade now. I get emails regularly with the title, “Can you help me find a job?” That’s it. Yes, I can help you find a job. That’s my job, that’s my passion, that’s my purpose, but if you don’t give me anything to work with, you’re going to go to the bottom of my priority pile. It’s going to take a lot of mental energy, sleuthing, and a lot of puzzle-solving to figure out how I can help you.
As a candidate goes out there or as somebody goes out there to engage their network, make the ask obvious. “J.R., good to see you last week at church. I wanted to follow up with my job search. I’ve attached my resume. Here are the last three jobs I applied for. I went to your LinkedIn. I saw you’re connected to these three people at these different companies. Are you close enough with them to maybe give me an introduction over email?” Make the ask obvious. People feel like they’ve been burned in networking and asking for help in their job search. Not because nobody wants to help them, but because the ask isn’t clear enough. It’s not good enough. Enhance your ask and then your help will be enhanced as well.
Let’s talk about interviewing. What are your top interview tips when someone gets to that point in the process?
As I’ve said throughout every step of this process, you have to present yourself as an expert problem solver. It’s almost like a consultant or somebody coming in there as a hired gun to solve a very specific set of problems. The foundation at which I teach interviewing, I’ve termed EPPI. It stands for Empathy, Positioning, Proof, and Impact. Admittedly, this is not how interviewers interview. As you apply this format, it’s going to be a little bit awkward. You’re going to have to break the social expectations of what a job interview is because an interviewer is used to asking very open-ended and very generic questions. The interviewee is caught in the nerves and the anxiety of trying to tell a story that they hope hits the mark.
The first part of EPPI is Empathy. With that, you have to get clarity. You have to relate to what the actual problem is. Next time you get an interview question that is extremely open-ended or vague, your goal is not to simply jump in and answer the what of the question, but to take a beat and reflect back to understand why is the question being asked in the first place. For example, “Can you tell me a little bit about your ability to overcome client objections in a sales process? As a salesperson, I’ve heard everything in the book but I’m curious.” This is where you turn it and you get clarity. “What are some of the trends you’re seeing in objections to your current target set?”
With that question, you’re going to have the interviewer give you clarity on what exact problem they’re looking to solve hopefully, with the person in the next role. By asking good questions and getting some of the answers to the test. You can then provide clarity on your positioning. What expertise, experience, and skillset you can use and have used to solve that exact problem? Present a concrete example or proof of how you’ve solved that exact problem in the past. End it with, “I impact about ideal outcomes that you’ve been able to provide.” You end it with, “I’m just curious, what outcomes, differences, and changes would you like the next person’s role to make in addressing that problem?”
Let the interviewer tell you what they’re hoping to gain. That does a couple of things. One is it makes it extremely clear what the ideal outcome the employer wants out of the next person. If you go down the road and get the offer, you can count on your salary, “Here’s the actual value that I’m bringing.” This is probably the most Jedi mind trick thing that I coach on, if somebody is looking at you in the eye and they’re telling you the value that they want, they’re equating you with bringing that value.If somebody is looking at you in the eye and telling you the value they want, they're equating you with bringing that value. Click To Tweet
Your EPPI framework has some overlap with the concept of SOAR stories, Situation, Obstacle, Action, and Result. I guess the difference between those two is you are putting empathy into the mix here and also proposing that people turn it around and use whatever they’ve covered with a question, following it with a question so that they can get information back about what the person is looking for.
You’re ultimately coaching the interviewer on how to interview a little bit but politely and gently. As an expert problem solver, you have to get to the core of the problem. More times than not, the questions that you’re asked are so generic and surface-level that nobody is clear. Understandably, the interviewer doesn’t want to spoon-feed you the answers.
The questions that you ask not only give you clarity about how to answer but also give the interviewer an understanding of how you think. If I know how you think and what your logic is and I know what questions you ask, it allows me to build more trust with you even if I know you don’t know the answer. This is the ultimate question mark any good manager is trying to figure out, “How do I trust this person to do the right thing when I’m not around to tell them or when they don’t have a clear idea at the outset of how to do it?”
When you feel like an interviewer is going down a path of asking questions that maybe don’t feel super important to you or on target with what you want to be able to say, how do you work on getting your point across without doing the politician thing of completely not answering the question that was asked?
Going back to understanding the why of the question. There are two phrase hacks that I want to share with your audience. “Help me understand” is a great way to start a question that doesn’t put somebody on the defensive. “Help me understand why improving that metric is important to you and the team.” You get clarity about why the question is being asked in the first place, “I’m curious” is another great way to diffuse an answer.
Even after going through some of that if you’re not extremely clear, you can just simply add, “Can you help me understand the relevance of that question to the job at hand? Why is that a big concern for you?” If they’re unable to articulate it themselves well or they are on a soapbox going nowhere, that is a prime indication that’s probably not the best fit for you. I encourage and coach on this line of questioning in an interview so that you get clarity but it also allows you to establish a collaborative partnership with a manager. If that person does not answer your questions or maybe even worse, doesn’t have an answer to your questions, that is not going to change if and when you get the job. Pushing back and asking for clarity help you elevate the good and help you dismiss the potential nightmare.
When is the right time to put salary expectations on the table or ask some of those other questions that feel uncomfortable relating to your needs and the role?
As early as possible. A good recruiter will breach that subject in an initial screener. Thank goodness, a lot more states here require a salary range in a posting. It’s a little bit more transparent but it’s not 100% yet, but your goal is to get a range. There’s a ton of good phrasing to use when you ask what that is. You should never give a number, first and foremost. You should ask for the range. That way expectations are clear from the outset. Your goal in the conversation is to get yourself to the top of that range as quickly as possible.
The best way to do that is to continue to understand how you can add value so that when they give you the offer letter and they give you that number, you know that offer is not their best offer. You can counter by saying, “Thank you for giving me $100 a year. I appreciate that. Based on what I talked to Bob, Sharon, and Bill they want me to work on Project A, Project B, and Project C. They mentioned that if I can do all this, then I can bring an extra $75,000 worth of value this year. Based on that, based on the risk, and based on the chances, I’d like to ask for $115.”
You’re not relying on what the market will “bear.” No offense to anybody, but your employer doesn’t care what the market bears. They’re paying you what they think you’re worth. It’s your job to make it abundantly clear what you’re worth and why you’re asking for what you’re asking so that they see that they can still get a positive return on investment in you moving forward.
If you get into a process and decide that an opportunity’s just not the right fit for you, what’s the best way to remove yourself from the process without burning bridges?
Own the separation. It’s the old cliché about breaking up with a partner, “It’s not you, it’s me.” You thank them for the opportunity and their time. You say, “To make sure that I don’t waste any more of your time, I’m going to graciously remove myself from the process. I don’t think I could do the best job for you here. This isn’t my expertise or the expectations are something that I don’t feel like I can fulfill right now.” Be honest and be upfront. The goal would be to maintain that relationship.
If you’ve made it past all the applicants and into the interview stage, you’ve beaten out 95% to 99% of the other applicants and somebody has seen your value. Whether or not it’s been a match of value add in value in return, you have to learn more in the interview process. If you feel like it’s time to withdraw, you need to maintain that relationship. It may not be a good match today, but you want to leave the door open so you can see if it’s a good match tomorrow.
Let’s spend the last few minutes on your background. You were doing IT work. You mentioned you were an IT operations nerd before you went down this path. What prompted the shift?
I have been doing IT operations management for over a decade. Towards the end of my tenure, I realized that I was working with people I didn’t like on projects that did not give me excitement and making people I’d never met a bunch of money. I realized that’s not the value I want to put into the world. I wasn’t challenged anymore. It didn’t align with who I was. As I did a bunch of introspection and self-discovery, I realized that I had to slow it down.
I slowed it down and I said, “What am I good at? What can I do? What is my value prop?” In doing that evaluation, I realized throughout my time in IT, I was able to gain and earn as much success, admiration, and respect in lieu of not being the most technical person. It was ultimately because I was able to connect with other people to forge relationships, understand the dynamics of teams and people, and advocate for myself and my teams in an effective way that got me as far as I did in the process. I said, “I didn’t know everybody couldn’t do that. If I’m good at self-promotion, ownership, and connection, I want to know why I take that and build a profitable business that allows me the lifestyle that I want, and allows me the impact that I want.” It was this.
It’s a job where I help other people find meaningful work. I help them understand and take ownership of the experts that they are. I help them overcome their own mental and emotional hurdles as they go through this, and empower them about creating a career that they’re excited about. A place that I can attest to being in a place where I was burnt out. I was disengaged. I needed somebody like me at that exact moment.
Beyond helping job seekers, what other coaching work do you do?
I’m working on improving the experience on the other side of the interview process. I’m working with businesses and business owners to optimize their candidate experience. Over the last ten years, I’ve been blessed enough to work with over 4,000 individuals and do keynotes and workshops for over 15,000 individuals. I have heard every horror story and every cringe story in the books when it comes to poor interview experiences. They were ill-prepared, late, and had bad questions and bad follow-ups. It’s all those things that leave a sour taste in every candidate’s mouth. I also have heard things that decision-makers, managers, and companies are doing that subconsciously or unconsciously drive away their best potential new hires.
Working with these companies to optimize what the candidate flow looks like to create a job description that doesn’t look like a laundry list of skills and experiences, but talks more about what the problems you need the next person to solve, establishing an intake that is manageable so you’re not drinking from the fire hose of a thousand applications, then creating an offer process that starts and establishes a partnership with your new employee before they officially become your new employee.
It does go both ways. Sometimes companies forget that. It’s less though. I feel like candidate experience and people are attuned to the fact that it is a two-way street. It feels much more common than it used to where it very much felt like, “I am doing you a favor by even interviewing you.”
Online transparency in social media is a great catalyst for all that. It’s getting a lot better. It’s the best it ever has been in the history of modern society. There are a lot of ways that people are unintentionally pushing away great talent. It ultimately results in everybody being unhappy.There are a lot of ways people are unintentionally pushing away great talent. It ultimately results in everybody being unhappy. Click To Tweet
What’s ahead for you? You’ve been doing this for a decade. What do you want out of the next few years of your career?
It’s a great question. For me, it’s about providing this help to those who haven’t thought about it or think that it’s not possible. Whether it’s those who have had non-linear lives, I would argue we all have those who feel like non-linear life and experience is a detriment versus an asset. Those who may not be able to afford high-quality one-on-one support, and making sure that people are taking advantage of the knowledge out there in the network. I’m looking to expand my practice with some digital courses and products so that people can go about this process at a lesser investment on their own time, and be empowered to not settle for what life throws at them, to be a self-advocate and to own the great things that they do so they can do more of it for the right people.
Those are great words to end on. Thanks for doing this with me. It was good to get to know you a bit and get your thoughts on job search advice, given that you’ve done this for many thousands of people as you mentioned earlier.
It’s been a wild journey. I appreciate having me on. Thank you so much.
Sure thing. Have a good day.
I want to thank Kolby for joining me to talk about all things related to job searches and the broader work he does at Job Huntr. If you’re ready to take control of your career. You can visit PathWise.io. If you’d like more regular insights. You can become a member it’s free. You can also sign up on the website for our newsletter and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. Thanks. Have a great day.
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About Kolby Goodman
Kolby Goodman is the founder of The Job Huntr, and he has been coaching professionals on how to grow and succeed in their job search and careers for over a decade. His clients have landed amazing jobs at the nation’s most exciting companies, including Apple, Google, Amazon, Tesla, Salesforce, Qualcomm, and Intuit among others.
Kolby has been featured on CBS News, LinkedIn, The Huffington Post, and LA Weekly, and he has also partnered with Panasonic, Marriot Hotels, Thermo Fisher Scientific, the American Diabetes Association, the Society for Human Resource Managers, several universities and schools, national professional organizations and nonprofits to provide tailored workshops on career ownership and effective leadership. Prior to branching out on his own, Kolby held IT-related roles with Piksel and First Allied Securities. He graduated from San Diego State with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics.