Earlier this Fall, I was invited to speak at Tulane University’s student-employee orientation about my career path and college experiences. While reflecting on my journey as a student-athlete at Tulane University, I thought about what were some of my most impactful experiences during my college years.
The first thought that came to mind was my connection with Dr. April Brayfield, who was a sociology professor at Tulane for over twenty years. She helped me discover my professional passions and was the reason why I chose to major in sociology. Towards the end of my college tenure Dr. Brayfield passed away, and her departure from this earth made me realize that relationship building is college's most significant area of opportunity.
During my speech with the Tulane students and staff, I spoke of my connection with Dr. Brayfield to bring an awareness of how powerful connections in college can be. If it wasn’t for her, I might not have found my true calling, which is to become an author and provide value to society. One of my biggest efforts to provide value to society is through my business, Williams Commerce. In another attempt to utilize my business to advance the careers of others, I reached out to college connection and friend, Elliott Workman.
Since graduating from Tulane University in 2013 with a Bachelors Degree in Marketing, Mr. Workman has held leadership positions in the recruiting realm for several Fortune 500 companies and is a highly respected professional. After speaking at our Alma-Mata, it became an imperative task to catch up with him. The importance of our dialogue was not only to provide readers with a resource to empower them economically, but also to show the power of building connections and friendships in educational and professional settings.
Ross: Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to provide readers with information that will help advance their careers.
Elliott: My pleasure! I appreciate the opportunity.
Ross: You've had the amazing opportunity to work in different cities such as New York, New Orleans, and Austin. What were the most significant differences with recruiting candidates in those different markets?
Elliott: NYC and Austin are two of the biggest tech cities in the country. Therefore, the markets are boasting with tens of thousands of qualified candidates for any given position. You'd think this would be helpful for recruiters, but the truth is these areas are also saturated with both internal recruiting teams and external staffing agencies. At any given time, the typical candidate I was pursuing was also in talks with nearly ten companies. These locations are candidate-driven markets, and they know it. It's allowed them to command better salaries and benefits along the way—if you want the best, you have to think logically, strategically, and efficiently to close them before another organization beats you to it.
Ross: Were the resumes you came across in different markets universal, or were some things different?
Elliott: The biggest differences were in length of resumes. Those who came from more of a corporate background presented resumes that were anywhere from 3-7 pages. Whereas candidates with a start-up background would keep things to 1 page, highlighting only 2-3 responsibilities/accomplishments per job. As a recruiter, it's a red flag when a resume is more than two pages. It shows me that the candidate isn't very efficient. It also makes them look desperate like they're trying to prove to me that they are the best choice by listing 20 bullet points under each job.
Ross: What are some common mistakes that you see on resumes?
Elliott: You would not BELIEVE the number of grammatical errors on a resume. If you don't take the time to double-check your work, that’s an immediate red flag. I don't care how talented/experienced the person may be, I won't move forward if there's a grammatical error.
Ross: What are some of your other biggest pet-peeves with resumes?
Elliott: Unless you've been with a specific company or in a particular role for 5+ years, you should limit your bullet points to only necessary, relevant info. More does not equal better in this case. In fact, I'd say the opposite is true.
If you’re doing a cover letter and want to specify the company/role for which you’re applying, PAY ATTENTION before you accidentally send it to the wrong company. I can’t tell you how many candidates have attached a cover letter that referenced a different role with another company. Immediate disqualification.
Ross: What are some of the biggest things you look for on resumes?
Elliott: Long tenures, upwards growth, short and to the point. Job hopping isn't always a red flag. Some people have particular circumstances that explain short stays with multiple companies. If this is you, hire Williams Commerce to make sure the resume is at least attractive. Some folks will write short stories. I like bullet points that are predominantly 1-2 lines max EACH. If you're taking 3+ lines to list an accomplishment, it shows me you aren't efficient and/or you're desperate and therefore trying to make it seem like you saved the world when in actuality, you just managed something. Short/sweet goes a long way with recruiters. Seeing someone stay in a current job for multiple years with no job/title change is concerning. Typically, unless you’re part of a very small start-up, you will be promoted if you're with a company for more than 3+ years.
Ross: Outstanding answer! What’s the furthest someone should date back on their job history?
Elliott: As long as the jobs are relevant to their current career path, they can go as far back as they'd like. I would recommend limiting the number of bullet points to 2-3 per role after your resume has reached 1.5 pages in length. A resume should never be more than two pages.
Let's say you have been in the real world for 20 years, the first ten as a technician, the last ten as a software engineer. You're applying for a software engineer role—you can list the company name, job title, and dates of tenure for the ten years as a mechanic, but don't include anything else, as it's not relevant to the role for which you're applying.
Ross: What are the best ways to stand out on phone interviews?
Elliott: DO YOUR RESEARCH. Find out not only about the person interviewing you, but the company as well. I always ask, “So what do you know about us?” I can tell based on their response how much they truly care about the opportunity. “Ummm, I’m not really sure” is an immediate red flag. Tell me WHY my company is where you want to be. Tell me HOW this role is a perfect fit for you. I want it to be to the point where I literally have to cut you off because you’re so excited about this opportunity that you can’t stop talking about it. Tone is everything.
Ross: What are some things to avoid on phone interviews?
Elliott: You wouldn't believe how many candidates take these scheduled calls in loud public settings. The interview has been set far enough in advance for you to be able to find a quiet, convenient location for a phone call. It's a sign of respect--I'm taking 30 mins of my insanely busy day to help you land an incredible opportunity that will boost your career, have the wherewithal to take the call in a setting where there are no distractions for either of us.
Don’t be repetitive
Don't answer my question with irrelevant info that becomes a 3-minute long tangent.
Don’t bad mouth or talk negatively about any prior role, company, or manager.
When asked about compensation, ALWAYS give a range where you’d be comfortable, and leave it at that. I will reject anyone who is clearly motivated the most by money.
Ross: What are the best ways to stand out during in-person interviews?
Elliott: Do your research to adapt to the environment in which you're interviewing. Is it a start-up? Wear jeans and a button-down. Is it a corporate setting? A suit without the tie perhaps. Are you interviewing with an older generation? Yes sir, no sir. Prior to the on-site interview, ask about the culture to get a sense of how to best succeed during the in-person interview. I'm not saying you shouldn't be yourself. I'm saying that mirroring the culture will never hurt your chances.
Follow up the next morning with a personal email to each of the interviewers. If you can’t obtain their email, use LinkedIn. If they don’t have a LinkedIn, drop off a handwritten note. Even if you don’t get the job this time around, you’ll still be in good standing with everyone. Other doors will be open down the line.
Ross: Which job boards do you utilize the most to search for candidates?
Elliott: LinkedIn is the best resource for FINDING candidates, but not necessarily the best platform for reaching out. Often times, I will look through my company’s ATS (applicant tracking system) to see past applicants. I encourage people to apply to roles that they know they aren’t qualified for. When that company opens up the same job three years later, you might be a fit, and they have your resume and contact info.
Ross: What are the best ways for a candidate to stand out on LinkedIn?
Elliott: Be short and to the point. I don't want to read a novel. I want to see the companies you've worked for, along with 3-5 bullet points highlighting your responsibilities and accomplishments. Also, having a professional photo is an added bonus. I'll never disqualify someone based on looks, but seeing that someone put the time and care into presenting themselves in the best way possible is usually a correlation to a strong work ethic.
Ross: Could you explain to someone who doesn't have a LinkedIn account how important it is to have one in today’s economy?
Elliott: As a recruiter, LinkedIn is our best friend. When we’re passively looking for talent, no other job board in the world is used as heavily. Your LinkedIn should mirror your resume exactly. Consistency is key. Again, short and sweet is best.
Ross: Are there ways to stand out on other job boards?
Elliott: For job boards, no. The best way to stand out is to network as much as you can. Attend events, seminars, conferences, etc. Share your contact info with key people in your industry, or more importantly, the industry you're trying to break into. Employee referrals are one of the most utilized and efficient ways of hiring. I often look to current team members to send me folks they'd recommend for the role. The more you get yourself out there, the better. Nothing negative can come from introducing yourself to someone. You might meet 999 people, none of whom are able to help connect you with your dream opportunity. Who's to say that 1000th person won’t be the bridge to your next career move? That’s how I got to where I am today.
Ross: Being that we went to college together, I can vouch for you being a social butterfly and a great relationship builder. What are some strategies or words of advice you can give someone for building relationships on the job or through general networking?
Elliott: Never be afraid of being rejected or being told no. Baseball is a game of failure. If you fail 70% of the time as a hitter, you're considered great. In my field, same concept. I will be told no FAR more than I will be told yes. You can't be discouraged by rejection/failure. FAIL FORWARD is the best advice I can give. You'll never know if you don't ask/try. I'd rather be rejected 100 times in a row than think to myself, "what would have happened if I had just introduced myself to those 100 people". We've all been in that nervous person's shoes. We get it. We aren't going to be dismissive or mean, but you can't be scared if you come across someone who is. The last piece of advice—never burn a bridge. The business world is smaller than you think. You never know when an "enemy" could become an ally.