Shannon Brown: There's a human side of recruiting, and here's how to get onto it!

Shannon Brown: There's a human side of recruiting, and here's how to get onto it!

Meet Shannon Brown πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ! Shannon is an experienced tech recruiter in a company known for diversity. In this interview, she will teach you how to get your foot in the door even if you're coming from an unconventional background. A good recruiter should know how to recognize an overlap between your skills and job requirements, but there are also things you can do to make your application stand out.

In this episode, we're talking about the dreaded ATS, the importance of storytelling, and cover letters (which might not be as crucial as you'd think... unless they're required)! You will learn how recruiters operate and what they're looking for, and why both recruiters and job applicants should be in it for the long game. You'll also find out when is the right time to apply for a job and how to troubleshoot an unsuccessful application. Plus: photos on CVs, font preferences, free resume reviews, and tough coffees.

⏰ Timestamps

  • Shannon's work as a technical recruiter (01:02)
  • The importance of domain knowledge (03:57)
  • What recruiters do, what they should do, and why some of them have a bad reputation (05:54)
  • Why both recruiters and job-seekers should focus more on building relationships (10:21)
  • How to contact a recruiter, and what's the ideal first message (12:31)
  • Should you be afraid of an ATS (application tracking system)? (14:39)
  • When is the best time to apply for a job? (16:29)
  • What is a well-optimized resume? (19:01)
  • Are cover letters necessary? (22:48)
  • Cover letters as a tool to provide additional information (24:50)
  • Storytelling on your resume (28:34)
  • How to know when not to use job-hunting advice from influencers (30:00)
  • Setting career goals helps you write a better job application (31:17)
  • How to get free feedback on your resume (32:46)
  • Quick-fire questions: fonts and photos on a resume, practicing self-care during a job search, debugging your job application
  • What is the most important thing to do when looking for a job? (38:21)

πŸ”— Connect with Shannon

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πŸ’¬ Transcript

Shannon Brown (00:00):
Generally, if you've applied to a job, it all goes into our infamous ATS system.

Alex Booker (00:07):
Dun, dun, dun.

Shannon Brown (00:07):
It's literally just a fancy spreadsheet.

Alex Booker (00:10):
Hello and welcome to the Scrimba podcast. On this weekly show, I speak of successful devs about bear advice on learning to code and getting your first junior dev job. I'm Alex, and today I'm joined by the highly experienced and helpful, Shannon Brown. Shannon is an experienced tech recruiter, which means every day she's reading and reviewing resumes, as well as specifically seeking out new developers that could be a good fit for the roles she's trying to hire for.

Shannon Brown (00:37):
One of my greatest joys is finding a junior candidate or somebody that's pivoting into tech and offering them support.

Alex Booker (00:46):
This was a very insightful and honest, transparent, candid conversation about how recruiters operate, what they look for and how you can maximize your chance of finding a job in tech. You are listening to the Scrimba podcast. Let's get into it.

Shannon Brown (01:02):
I am a recruiter for a small consulting firm off of the east coast. We specialize in finding technologists for projects that we take on, that are in the financial domain. We have grown a lot in the last two years. We've almost doubled our numbers. And with that, we've been able to partner with another firm, which has brought us a lot of new opportunities and tools, but we've also been able to open a second location further south in Florida.

Shannon Brown (01:33):
One of our specialties is hiring people that have experience, prior experience in finance and have knowledge of the regulations that are required within that industry. But also, we have a very close relationship with our clients. So when we take on a project, we work very closely with them, which is pretty unique for a consulting firm, to have an entire team working with the client, rather than for the client or completely separate. So we have physical locations where we have our clients.

Shannon Brown (02:05):
Moving to remote has been a little bit of a challenge for us, but now that things are reopening, we're coming back to that. So for me as a recruiter, finding that talent that either has that previous finance experience or something related is really my focus and finding these candidates that are willing to work with a smaller organization, but work for clients and projects that are for very famous financial institutes.

Shannon Brown (02:30):
My day to day is pretty cut and dry, really. I work very closely with our hiring managers. We have about five managers at all of our different sites that I work closely with. My specialty is marketing our job openings and finding new sources of candidates. One of the things that our founder is very proud of is hiring from non-traditional backgrounds. So we hire a lot of veterans. We hire a lot of graduates, right out of boot camp. People that are self taught and finding those candidates can be more challenging, but that's really our focus.

Shannon Brown (03:03):
And from that, we've been able to form a workforce that's very diverse and has very diverse background, and that makes us a powerful force in the industry. So even though we're small, we're pretty well known along the east coast.

Alex Booker (03:16):
You hire technical candidates who have previous experience in finance, essentially.

Shannon Brown (03:22):
That's our main focus. If we are able to find somebody that has that experience, it definitely makes it easier to bring them onto the team and get them started. But we're able to also take candidates from other backgrounds that are also heavily regulated. So insurance, healthcare, they all have a similar work style, that it has a nice crossover. Sometimes also education because depending on what level of education they're working at, they have that experience, making sure that whatever they're creating is also meeting those regulatory requirements.

Alex Booker (03:57):
And a lot of the candidates you work with, were they always developers or are you also sometimes looking for people who have experience in those industries and are maybe newer to technology? I think that's really interesting because when you're a new developer, you feel like you're starting from the beginning sometimes, but oftentimes people are surprised at how much of their, and I think this is what you're describing, their domain knowledge and their working style transfers with them to a new technical role.

Shannon Brown (04:24):
Absolutely. And that's the finesse that comes with being a recruiter, being able to find those overlaps of skills, that we call soft skills or domain knowledge, that is able to transfer over to make learning the technical piece easier. Once you have those technical building blocks, essentially you should be able to work in any domain. It's those soft skills and that other experience that you have in your professional life, that makes you a fit for the position.

Shannon Brown (04:55):
So that's where being a recruiter and being, I don't want to say a better recruiter. That's not really the right term, but being a more careful recruiter, really comes in. And that's how we're able to find candidates that maybe are overlooked or might not be able to find that position. That challenge of, oh, this is overwhelming, I don't know how I'm going to get a start. Because we're able to say, look, this is how I see your skills. Let's talk about what you're able to do and what you've done.

Shannon Brown (05:21):
And then our job should be to help sell that to the hiring managers and explain, sure, this person has never worked at a major bank, but they have the developer skills. They've proven that at school or in a previous role. And they also have this other knowledge that they're bringing from being a nurse or being a teacher or being a trader on the stock market. And they're going to be able to handle this role. That's extra work of course, for a recruiter, but it's how you find the people that are going to be most valuable, I think, for your position and for your organization.

Alex Booker (05:54):
I think it's a bit unfair that among developers, recruiters sometimes get a bad rap because there are some recruiters who post job ads about Java, when they meant JavaScript, and almost meme things like that. But you, your discipline, it sounds like, is to really identify the potential in candidates and then help the hiring managers see that potential by connecting the dots. And if not for you, that candidate and likewise, that employer might not be connected.

Alex Booker (06:18):
I think another thing that recruiters do, which is really appreciated in the developer community, is connecting developers with jobs. I think I've seen you post on LinkedIn a few times, sharing opportunities that you're looking to fill.

Shannon Brown (06:33):
Yes. So I think that's a great definition is as a connector. Recruiters tend to come from a variety of backgrounds. You'll see recruiters that are coming from sales or coming from customer service, but very rarely those backgrounds are technical, right? And a big piece of recruiting in a technical space is having knowledge of what you're talking about. So being willing to dig in and really learn that job is important, so that you can talk to the candidates in a way that they'll trust you because you have that technical knowledge, but also so that you can understand those nuances and how their skills might overlap.

Shannon Brown (07:06):
You also asked about sharing different opportunities. And I think that, again, something that's frequently overlooked because we're often met with a performance guideline of how many positions have you filled for the company and it's numbers, numbers, numbers, and that's where the distrust comes from. As a recruiter, if you allow those numbers to take over your focus, sure, you're going to churn and burn through candidates and you lose that connection or that focus on the fact that those candidates are people with lives.

Shannon Brown (07:34):
So it's definitely a balance as far as meeting performance numbers, but what I've found and something that I think there's a really beautiful movement happening on LinkedIn and Twitter and all the social media sites is that if recruiters are working together and sharing each other's jobs and treating the candidate pool in a more healthy, and it's not necessarily natural way, but a more organic way, like this is a pool of candidates that sees all of these different posts.

Shannon Brown (08:01):
And if, as recruiters, we're working together to help share those posts and connect candidates, in the long run it's going to pay us back. Those candidates eventually are going to be looking for another job. They'll remember that you treated them well, or you have a good reputation and they're going to come back to you either for their own opportunities or with friends that need an opportunity. It's a more organic networking technique. That's a long game. I mean, really that's what it is, but also gives a lot more grace, I would say, to candidates and trusting them to make choices for themselves that are the best.

Shannon Brown (08:36):
You lose a little bit of control, which I think is another thing that recruiters get dinged on, which absolutely I know recruiters that have earned that negative connotation. Yeah. But there are those of us out there that are able to be a little more flexible and communal almost, in connecting candidates. So there's a lot of movement towards a more healthy hiring environment, especially on social media. I mean, why not? It doesn't have to be so inauthentic.

Alex Booker (09:05):
If you are enjoying this episode of these Scrimba podcast, please do us at Scrimba a favor and share this episode with your friends on social media, like on Twitter or in your community, like on Discord for example. Word of mouth is honestly the best way to support this podcast. So a big thank you in advance. If you haven't already, it would also be really appreciated if you left a review of this podcast in either the Apple podcasts app or Spotify. Next week, I'm talking with [Anserb 00:09:33], a successful Scrimba student, who just got their first junior developer job.

Anserb (09:36):
If you are just working for some big company, they actually are going to be making you focus on one specific work, whereas in a startup, you can actually give them ideas. For example, I am working as a front end junior, but I also give ideas about the growth of the company as well. And I'm just active on their Reddit. And I'm just trying to find people who can actually test this product that they are actually building.

Alex Booker (09:58):
That's next week on the Scrimba podcast, so make sure to subscribe as not to miss it. Back to the interview with Shannon. From a developer's perspective, I think you're highlighting to us, how important it is that even if a particular opportunity doesn't work out for whatever reason, normally it's about compatibility, not about being better or worse.

Alex Booker (10:21):
Your recruiter is your advocates and in the future, they may have another opportunity for you or they might come across a role. And if you have an open dialogue with them and you use a few interesting ways to describe it. But to me, it sounds like it's more human orientated. You're actually building relationships and you tell your recruiter, oh, I think this might be why it went wrong. And they might get feedback from the employer.

Alex Booker (10:43):
All of that to say, that you could together be moving towards a role that really suits the candidates. But you have to think about it in terms of investing in the relationship as well, I think.

Shannon Brown (10:54):
Absolutely. And that investment, it takes time. And I think a lot of people, candidates and recruiters, have been burned by one another, right? We get burned by candidates all the time and candidates get ghosted by recruiters. So a lot of it is understanding the type of relationship and just knowing that somebody is going to be there to support you, regardless of what the decision is. I think that comes, especially on the developer side.

Shannon Brown (11:23):
One of my greatest joys is finding a junior candidate or somebody that's pivoting into tech. And by no means, am I an expert whatsoever on career searching, but just offering them support, like, hey, if I find something that's going to work for you, I'm happy to send it to you or I'll repost it because knowing that we have future candidates is very important. And I think that's something that gets forgotten a lot.

Shannon Brown (11:50):
In six years, all of those senior developers are going to start thinking about moving on or retiring or they're going to move to management. And so in that six year period, we're going to need more seniors or more mids to come in. And if we're not really taking care of, we call them freshies, people right out of school or people pivoting, then we're not going to have that workforce that we need.

Shannon Brown (12:11):
And I mean, that's a much larger view of what we're facing. And I think a lot of recruiters think, oh, that's not my responsibility, but it really is. I mean, we have a lot of power in shaping the people that we're going to hire in the next few years. So I'd rather hire someone that has a lot of faith in a recruiter and in the hiring process, than fights me three years later.

Alex Booker (12:31):
You shared these jobs sometimes on social media. And I'm sure that your inboxes, both your email and your social media accounts, including LinkedIn, are always topping up to say the least. How does a developer get your attention in those messages? What are you looking for?

Shannon Brown (12:48):
It's very difficult to answer all of the messages that we get. There's so many ways to contact people, between LinkedIn and Twitter. It's a lot. So I think the number one thing is just to be patient. I try to go back through all my messages and get everyone at least answered or like, hey, sorry, I'll be right with you. It's nearly impossible to get to everybody. The best message, that best initial message is not a hey, hi, how are you because I'm going to be like, great, thanks.

Alex Booker (13:18):
Oh no.

Shannon Brown (13:18):
Why are we doing this?

Alex Booker (13:19):
I don't get it at all.

Shannon Brown (13:21):
The best initial message is like your elevator pitch. We talk about that a lot. What's your elevator pitch, your 30 second about you? But in this particular outreach, giving a clear indicator of what you're looking for, what you need from the recruiter, and why you're reaching out or what makes you the best candidate is really ideal. I used to ask that, hey when you're reaching out to me and you've applied to a job, you're following up, send me a resume.

Shannon Brown (13:49):
But what happens is that then I don't have any context, so people will just send me a resume. I'm like, no, but I don't know what this is for. So yeah, including your name and what you are looking for, the job that you're interested in or what you need from them. And then just a hey, get back to me when you can, is really the best way.

Shannon Brown (14:08):
If I have to scan, read three or four paragraphs, I'm probably not going to do it. But if you're able to say, hey, I applied to this job. Can you check on it for me? Yeah, sure. No problem. Great. Because usually by the time I get to the point of answering messages, I know that I'm going to be bouncing around, doing different things. But if you don't tell me what you need and who you are, it's going to take too much time to get all that information. The reason that we ask that those things are important when you reach out to us initially is generally if you've applied to a job, it all goes into our infamous ATS system.

Alex Booker (14:39):
Dun, dun, dun.

Shannon Brown (14:40):
It's literally, it's just a fancy spreadsheet.

Alex Booker (14:43):
Is it true what people say, that these application tracking systems automatically reject candidates based on how well optimized their resumes are?

Shannon Brown (14:52):
No. There are kickback questions that we can ask, that we can include in the application. And that will frequently be like, have you had experience with this? And you'll be like, yes or no. Or do you speak seven languages or there's questions that we can add, that will just kick it out immediately.

Alex Booker (15:08):
Can you work in the USA?

Shannon Brown (15:09):
Yes. As far as an application tracking system, scanning your resume for keywords and then kicking you out, I wish that we had something like that, but we don't. It literally will just dump all the resumes and applications in and then we go through them all. Right. I can search it by keyword, and even that's not very accurate. So we literally will read every application. And just in that initial screening of your resume or whatever questions you answered, we'll make the decision, oh yes, they're a fit. Oh no, they're not a fit. And that's based entirely upon the requirements for the job.

Shannon Brown (15:41):
If you don't meet the basic qualifications for the job, which depending on the organization, can be more or less difficult to find on the job posting, we can't consider you. And in some states there's laws that say the candidate has to meet these basic requirements to move forward. So, no, we don't have any bots that do it for us. Trust me, lots of us wish we did. But the problem with that, then we get into all sorts of other problems.

Shannon Brown (16:05):
No, we read everything ourselves. We keep it all organized. And that's why when you reach out to us and say, hi, we're like, I literally just read 150 resumes. I don't know who you are. So tell me who you are, what job you applied to, and I can go find it in my not very fancy tracking system by searching your name. And then we can have a chat about whatever question you had. So I think that people give us way too much tech credit.

Alex Booker (16:29):
When people are applying to jobs, they sometimes try and time it. Well, maybe let's not apply on a Friday, because that's just before the weekend. And then, oh, maybe let's not apply on Monday because everybody else is thinking like that. And I wonder if people are just overthinking it.

Shannon Brown (16:43):
I would say that the best rule to follow, is you really only want to apply to a job maybe during the first like four or five days that it's open. Generally what we'll do depending on the needs, the urgency of the position is post it online, collect resumes for a certain amount of time and then start going through them. We usually don't close the job until we've hired somebody. So that means if a job has been posted for two or three weeks, you had an older job, we're probably already in the process of interviewing people, so your resume will just sit there.

Shannon Brown (17:13):
And I think that's where a lot of the frustration comes and people say, well, I applied to the job and they never got back to me. Well that's because we were already working the job, but we can't close it until we've hired somebody. Everyone should go back to every applicant and say, hey, thanks for applying. Sometimes it doesn't happen because things are so busy. Again, that's another issue that needs to be addressed. Definitely is not the best candidate experience, and we're lucky enough to be small enough that we can control that.

Alex Booker (17:36):
You are shopping for an apartment, if you're trying to rent an apartment, sometimes you'll see it on the website, but it will have a label that says, let agreed, so you know that it's in the final stages and you probably don't have much chance. I wonder if maybe LinkedIn and Indeed could benefit from such a label.

Shannon Brown (17:53):
I like that idea. That would be fantastic, having different stages so that the candidates could see. That would absolutely be great. And I think this is one of our challenges as recruiters. If you're on Twitter and you're on recruiter Twitter, we're always complaining about our ATS and how it's not ever designed by recruiters. A lot of the functions we need, aren't there. And that would be a fantastic thing to have. Say, hey, we have people in process. It might reopen. If these people don't work out, we might go back and look, but the chances are slim. Yeah. That would be great. I'm going to email LinkedIn when we're done.

Alex Booker (18:26):
Well, this is the perfect entrepreneurship story, where some junior dev frustrated with the ATS experience, applying for jobs, ends up being the same entrepreneur that shifts everything and disrupts the whole industry, builds the best ATS. We'll see what happens.

Alex Booker (18:41):
Let me ask you Shannon, about resumes. Say you are a candidate and you have some amazing skills and you have some experience. How much of an impact does a well optimized resume have on your success? Say, you have the potential to be successful as a candidate, I'm wondering what the percentage split is.

Alex Booker (19:01):
Is it 90%, your skills as a developer that will shine through, no matter how you format your resume and is it 10% formatting and structure and the words you choose and things like that, or could we attribute more weight to the resume? So even if you're an amazing candidate, you really should still have an amazing resume to make sure that your skills come to the surface and can be understood how you'll be a great fit for the role.

Shannon Brown (19:22):
That is a really great question. And I think that oftentimes people overthink the structure of a resume or what the resume looks like. Sure, you should make sure your margins are lined up and it's nice and clean and neat. That helps, but the most important part of a resume is the content. And for anybody that's taken a writing class or an English class, you have to think of it as a writer and reader relationship. And this is really the core of resumes.

Shannon Brown (19:50):
And I think people forget this all the time. When you're creating a resume, you have to think what the reader is going to take away. It's really as simple as that. If you don't put explicitly what you can do and what you've done in that resume, I'm not going to know. I have a master's degree in literature, but I cannot take away from that resume. I cannot read into that resume any more than what's on the page. I have no context to do that.

Shannon Brown (20:16):
So you might be perfectly suited for the position, you know that you have the skills, but if you don't demonstrate it on the page, I have no way of knowing it. So to answer your question, absolutely, the most important thing are the words on the page and making sure that all of that information is there for us. And it's a tricky balance. You don't want it to be too wordy.

Shannon Brown (20:39):
When people are talking about keywords, stuff it with keywords. Sure, keywords are great. It might help me find you if I'm doing a search on LinkedIn. I might be able to find you based on those keywords. But if your resume is just keywords, without context of how you've applied those skills, that doesn't help me. If you just put Python, great, what did you do with Python because there's different ways to use Python?

Shannon Brown (21:04):
If you put just a keyword or customer service, that's great, how did you apply it? You have to help the reader, the recruiter and the hiring manager later down the road, understand how you're using those keyword skills in context. So I think that's helpful for someone that's coming in as a junior or someone that doesn't have a lot of experience. Because you get the opportunity to explain through your projects or your studies, how you're a fit for the job. It's a really great opportunity.

Shannon Brown (21:35):
A resume can be very powerful, but it's difficult if you don't have writing experience. And that's where a good resume writer can be helpful, which by the way, you need to vet. So anyway, that's a whole nother problem. Don't just give it to anybody. But keeping in mind, that if we don't see it on the page and it's not explicit, I cannot infer anything from a resume.

Shannon Brown (21:54):
I can guess and say, oh yeah, maybe this person is a good fit. But if I interview you and we're not able to get to that point, then that's it. And a lot of times, if we are doing a very difficult search or we have a lot of different positions, if it's not explicit on the resume, the chances of me calling to talk it out with you are pretty slim.

Alex Booker (22:16):
That's right.

Shannon Brown (22:16):
I just don't have the time to do it.

Alex Booker (22:17):
Your times too valuable.

Shannon Brown (22:18):
And I might be missing out on another candidate that did explicitly say it. So that's why when we say, you'll probably hear this a lot too, make sure your resume is written for the position. And that's exactly what we need. You need to show through your resume, that your experiences and your keyword skills are applicable to the position. Tech is a big field. There's a lot of different things you can do with a lot of the same skill sets. We can't make the assumption that you can do our job, based on what you've done before. You have to show us that you're able to do it.

Alex Booker (22:48):
What's your take on cover letters?

Shannon Brown (22:50):
Cover letters are tricky. I will read a short cover letter. It's nice to read a short cover letter that says, I'm a mid-level front end engineer with React and I see that this position needs React. I've done X, Y, and Z, and I understand what your company does. I think that's a big piece of it. I see that you guys work in finance. I have this experience in finance, or I'd like to have this experience in finance. Thank you. Great, can help explain kind of those missing pieces.

Shannon Brown (23:19):
I think companies that require a cover letter, oh, that's just another knockout question, right? Are you going to take the time to write a cover letter? Whether or not they actually read those letters, especially if they're getting hundreds of them with each application, I'm probably not going to read or they're going to read just the intro, that's it.

Shannon Brown (23:33):
In my experience, I've never made a hiring decision based on a cover letter. I've never been like, oh, this cover letter was terrible, we're not going to hire him. It either helps or it's neutral in my experience. If you really feel like you are having difficulty explaining or showing on your resume, why you're a fit for the position, throw a cover letter at it. Sure, but it doesn't need to be two pages, a paragraph or two is fine.

Shannon Brown (23:56):
I don't think it's going to hurt your chances, but do make sure, if you run into an organization that's asking for a cover letter, that cover letter doesn't have to be super fancy. It's a knockout question. They want to see if you're going to do it, read instructions, something very basic. Like, I'm Shannon, I'm a technical recruiter. I see that you're hiring for a technical recruiter. I have X, Y, Z experience. Thank you for taking the time. That's it. That's all it needs to be.

Shannon Brown (24:19):
So it's really a mixed bag. It's very dependent on the organization and the recruiter. I know recruiters that love cover letters, but I would never not hire someone because they don't have a cover letter or because a cover letter was not great. It's not that big of a deal.

Alex Booker (24:32):
It's funny because in the programming world, we have code comments. And there's a saying, which is that if you have to describe your code, it's like an apology to the ever developer who's reading it. First and foremost, your resume should tell a story, a narrative almost and paint the picture of where you've been, what you've done, and why you're going, where you're going.

Alex Booker (24:50):
If you need a cover letter, maybe your resume, isn't doing a good enough job describing those things or, and I think this is super valid, there is something about your application and you as a candidate, that you can't adequately express on your resume. Maybe you have limited technical experience, but just in your world, Shannon, to use an example, maybe you have a wealth of domain knowledge and you have a huge aptitude for learning. For example, maybe you have a gap in your resume that you feel like you want to explain, but maybe the resume format isn't conducive to explaining it. I think these are things you can talk about on a cover letter.

Shannon Brown (25:25):
Absolutely. I'm glad you brought up gaps too, because that, I think especially with the last few years, has become a big question, but it's also lost a lot of its negative connotation, if you will. There's a lot of conversation happening in the recruiter world. Everyone's going to have a gap now, so maybe we shouldn't stigmatize it quite as much as we have in the past, which is great for a lot of reasons.

Shannon Brown (25:47):
But to return to your original question, I think you're absolutely right. A really well written resume that's targeted to a position, shouldn't need a cover letter unless there's extenuating circumstances like a gap or maybe a career change or something that needs that extra explanation. But I think if you have a solid work history or you're out of school and you're trying to break into the industry, as long as your resume is well written, and it includes all of the relevant information, you shouldn't have to include a cover letter.

Shannon Brown (26:22):
I think they have become so overly weighted, I think in different conversations that there's a lot of anxiety around them. And when really it should be just something that is an extra tool or an extra opportunity to discuss things. Another point too, which we didn't bring up, in academia, you use a cover letter in an application or something, to explain your relationship to the position or to individuals on the team. So that's another opportunity that you would be able to use a cover letter in a more pointed way, in combination with a well written resume. Especially if you have history with someone on the team or someone has referred you, because that is not going to come through on a resume.

Alex Booker (27:04):
Or you love the product.

Shannon Brown (27:06):
Yeah. Or you have deep relationship with the product, whatever your experience or relationship to the company, that would be an extra story that you could tell in a cover letter. But I think forcing yourself to write a cover letter when there's no need for it, is an exercise in futility, if you will.

Alex Booker (27:24):
It's really interesting where this conversation has gone. We've brought up writing and storytelling essentially, a couple of times. As a developer, and this could be true for many other professions, the thing you're good at is developing, right? That's what you're going to hopefully get a job doing and paid to do. But then to position yourself in order to get a job, you have to be able to put yourselves in the shoes of the reader and anticipate what they want to know and put it in the right order.

Alex Booker (27:50):
And I think we know this is a skill gap actually. And I think it's a big reason why people write those messages like, hi, hello. Because in a normal conversation, that's how you start a conversation. But when you're writing to a recruiter or somebody from whom you want something essentially, some of their time, you really need to be explicit with your elevator pitch, why you're messaging, that kind of thing.

Alex Booker (28:10):
You reminded me of some really good advice I got and I think it applies to cold messages. I think it applies to resumes. I think it applies to cover letters as well. And that is that the objective of a sentence is to get the reader to read the next sentence. So you always want to think about how intriguing the point you're making is, and every time, keep going deeper and deeper and deeper, until they know what they want to know, but just don't miss your chance because you didn't think about that stuff.

Shannon Brown (28:34):
You're absolutely right. It is a skill gap. That's one of the things that I feel like recruiters could do a better job of offering assistance with or offering resources because developers aren't writers, maybe some of them are. And I feel like this happens a lot in a lot of the technical fields, and there's those of us that have training in it. Writing and critical reading and critical thought is what I was trained in. So it makes me really good at reading resumes, but it also has given me the experience and the tools to be able to teach people to do it.

Shannon Brown (29:11):
That's one of the things that I feel we miss as recruiters. And a lot of that comes back to timing and metrics that we're held to, is that we don't have that luxury to be able to say, I see this resume or your experience matches. I think you could do this better for next time. And that's that feedback piece, that I try really hard when I have a candidate that we don't hire or something happens and say, hey, here's a little bit of feedback, take it as you will, because it takes five minutes.

Shannon Brown (29:39):
But in reality, when we're busy, we don't have that time. So for anybody facing that challenge, which I think a lot of people are, or they don't even know that they're missing it. If you don't know you're missing that storytelling piece or that messaging, how are you going to know if someone doesn't tell you, right? If you're not trained in it, you don't have any idea.

Alex Booker (30:00):
It's a blind spot, isn't it?

Shannon Brown (30:00):
It really is. And so I think people get very frustrated. I'm not getting calls, I'm not getting interviews or I'm interviewing and I'm not getting the job, I'm interviewing, I'm not getting a job. Those are all signs that something's not right and something needs to be adjusted. When we talk about social media and influencers posting information and a device, and it becomes very confusing and nothing is clear because none of it's specific to individual people's needs.

Shannon Brown (30:27):
And so when you're faced with all of this general information, none of it's helpful and it just becomes very confusing. So I never thought I would ever advocate, oh, find a career coach or find a resume writer. But I think if you can find someone, even if it's just a person on Twitter or Instagram or LinkedIn that you feel like is offering advice, that's making you feel good and helping you, take it or pay somebody, but make sure you're vetting your people.

Shannon Brown (30:52):
And my number one piece of advice for any of this influencer information or personalities on social media is making sure that what they're offering is making you feel empowered. If their information's making you feel bad or you are even more confused, just step away. It's okay. You're not doing anything wrong. It's the way they're presenting their information. And it might be that their information is not what you need and that's okay.

Shannon Brown (31:17):
To circle back, I think that blind spot in writing and storytelling is advanced level resume writings, and it comes with a lot of time and work on your resume. It definitely isn't going to happen the first time that you create a resume and you absolutely cannot tell the right narrative on your resume if you don't have a job in mind.

Shannon Brown (31:39):
You can't just say, I'm going to be a front end developer and make a front end ... I mean, sure, you could have a generalized resume, but it's not going to be nearly as effective as saying, I'm going to be the front end developer at Amazon, working on this particular technology. If you keep that in mind, when you're writing your resume, you're going to be in a much better place because the reader is going to be able to pick up on those things.

Alex Booker (32:01):
People might ask a question like, hey, show me the best resume, but there is no best resume. There's only the most compatible resume. And the way you do that is by, as you say, Shannon, setting a really specific goal and then aligning by that goal. So when you critique your own resume, you keep asking yourself, does this section support my goal? Will it help me stand out as someone for this particular role in question?

Alex Booker (32:23):
I love this distinction between information and action. And there's a really good quote, which goes, "If information was the answer, then we'd all be billionaires with perfect abs." There's no shortage of information out there. The problem is applying it. And so you can read all the advice on LinkedIn, just like you can read all the advice on how to become a billionaire or get wash board abs, if that's your thing, but you really need to practice it, don't you?

Alex Booker (32:46):
And if your full-time thing is development, then getting some help sounds like a brilliant idea. I've often felt like if you can pay somebody to help you with your resume, it can feel like a really expensive thing. But the way I frame it in my head, if I was to make that decision, is that the outcome of that resume review, if you get the right one and you follow your advice, really Shannon, can be a salary what pays for itself essentially. It could totally be worth it. For people who may be aren't in a position to invest in something like that. Is that another way they can look to get some feedback on their resume?

Shannon Brown (33:18):
Absolutely. There are people that are willing to offer advice. One of the things that I've been seeing with developers who are just learning are these coffee chats that they're asked to do to help them with networking. I try to do resume reviews through Twitter. It takes a lot of time to do them in mass, so I haven't done it in a while, but if somebody were to reach out and be like, hey, can you just check out my resume really quick? If I have a few minutes, of course, I'll give you a little bit of feedback.

Shannon Brown (33:47):
If you're looking for more in depth assistance, there are a lot of different resources out there. There's some people on LinkedIn and Twitter and everything, that give really great advice and have their YouTube channels with great targeted information for whoever they're hiring for at the time. But I feel like if you just reach out and ask politely and your patient, people are happy to give you feedback. And don't be afraid to reach out to your coworkers or regular old people in your life and say, can you read this for me and tell me, is it clear? Do you understand?

Shannon Brown (34:21):
Because all of those opinions are going to be helpful in their practice, all those rewrites are going to be helpful to you in understanding what your messaging is. Same goes for interviewing, practice. Practice your elevator pitch. It's okay to ask people who aren't recruiters and aren't professionals for their advice. Because again, you don't know what their skillset is. They might be really great at messaging and can help you.

Shannon Brown (34:44):
Yeah. Reach out to me, if you have questions. If I can't, if I don't have capacity, I'm happy to refer you to other people, but there's all sorts of exciting, more communal type reviews that are occurring all over the internet and just take advantage of it. The worst that's going to happen is someone says like, your resume is terrible and not offer any advice. And then it's like, okay, great. Let's move on to the next person.

Alex Booker (35:06):
What'd you reckon, to wrap things up, how about we do some pretty quick fire questions?

Shannon Brown (35:10):

Alex Booker (35:14):
Do you prefer a serif font a sans font on resumes?

Shannon Brown (35:17):
Times New Roman is my ride or die. And that comes from probably being, working in academia. But look, Calibri is the industry standard, I would say. But if you want to impress me, use Times New Roman.

Alex Booker (35:29):
And what about a picture, would you recommend people put pictures on their resume?

Shannon Brown (35:33):
No. Please don't waste space on your resume with a picture. We have LinkedIn. If I really want to see what you look like, I can find a picture of you. But honestly, I don't care. And again, this opens up so many other issues as far as hiring. But no, do not put a picture on there. Fill it with words, not your face. That's what matters.

Alex Booker (35:50):
How do you achieve your job application goals, while also practicing self-care? What are some of the things you do to practice self-care Shannon?

Shannon Brown (35:59):
What? What is that? No, that's a really great question. I generally will take interviews while I'm out walking, say, hey, I'm, I'm going to be walking while we're doing this interview. Is that okay? And if anybody says, no, then I get grumpy, but that's okay. But really just taking time, take the weekends off. If you're a job searcher, it's okay to take a weekend. Take the weekends for yourself. Looking for a job is a full-time job.

Shannon Brown (36:21):
You'll hear it all over the place, but it's very true and staying focused and just having people in your life that will remind you that you're an amazing person, regardless of your work status or application status is so important. We frequently get mixed up in that. And our identities become just one with our work status and it's just not healthy. So take the weekends and go outside and get some sunshine.

Alex Booker (36:49):
Say you're applying to jobs and you're not getting many responses, to borrow a programming term, how do you debug that? How would you figure out if it's the format, if it's that you're applying to the wrong jobs? How do you go about figuring out why your response rate is low?

Shannon Brown (37:02):
I would start by looking at the dates of the jobs that've been posted, see if you're in that first group. Because as we discussed earlier, if you're not in that first batch of applications, you probably won't get looked at. And then from there, I would really troubleshoot the job requirements versus what you have listed on your resume. If those job requirements aren't clearly stated that you meet those requirements on your resume, you're not going to get a call. So I'd say those two things are the first two big steps to take. Make sure you're applying at the right time and that your resume is meeting the qualifications of the job.

Alex Booker (37:41):
I think that's awesome. Advice. Moving on quite swiftly. What do you prefer, Shannon, tea or coffee?

Shannon Brown (37:46):
Oh, coffee. Sorry tea, coffee.

Alex Booker (37:49):
How do you make your coffee these days?

Shannon Brown (37:50):
I've actually just changed. I used to drink it black because I thought it made me cool and tough, but now I put some oat milk in it. So now I just, not quite as tough.

Alex Booker (38:01):
I like it. Shannon, thank you so much for participating and enjoying these quick fire questions. We appreciate it a lot. We're going to have to wrap up in a minute because we're almost out of time, but I just wanted to invite you to share your final advice for any new developers, trying to work with recruiters and getting their first junior developer job.

Shannon Brown (38:21):
I would say that the most important thing is to have very clear goals for yourself, even if those goals change as you go through the hiring process or through the job application process. Without understanding where you want to go, it's going to be very difficult to find a position. If you are approaching a job search with a very general expectation of where you want to be, you're not going to find a lot of opportunities.

Shannon Brown (38:50):
It's not a recruiter's job to find you a job. Our job is to fill an existing role with the right people. So you have to make yourself the right person for that job and make sure that we understand that you are a fit. So being specific, having very clear goals for yourself, and then just being patient and being very careful about your movements as you apply, will save you a lot of time and a lot of energy down the road. That would be where I would start if I were entering the field.

Alex Booker (39:24):
Tremendous, Shannon. Thank you so much for joining me on the Scrimba podcast.

Shannon Brown (39:28):
Thank you so much for having me. I hope you have a great day.

Alex Booker (39:32):
That's was Shannon Brown, a tech recruiter. Thank you so much for listening. If you've made it this far in the episode, you might want to subscribe for more helpful and uplifting episodes with recently hired juniors and industry experts, like Shannon. As a reminder, I'm speaking with Anserb next week, who is a brand new developer that just got a job.

Alex Booker (39:50):
You can listen to that next week on the Scrimba podcast, so make sure to subscribe for that. You can also tweet at me your host, Alex Booker, and share what lessons you learned from the episode, so I can thank you personally for tuning in. My Twitter handle is in the show notes. See you next week.