EP 1919 Mac Prichard and I look at job boards and their effectiveness and what you can be doing instead of spending 90% of your time on them.

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Jeff Altman: So, my guest today is Mac Pritchard. He's the founder of Mac’s list, a job orb and career hub in the pacific northwest. Its mission is to make hiring more human. He also hosts the weekly career advice podcast, ‘Find your dream job’ which I think is terrific, if you're not listening to it, it's a great show to bring into your arsenal. Mac, welcome on board, great to have you and it's been a long time. Mac Prichard: It has been a while. Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to be on your show Jeff.
Jeff Altman: Thank you. So, I just want to make sure everyone gets this right. We're going to talk about, well, you're a guy who owns job board and we're going to talk today about not using job boards. How does this all work in your thinking? Mac Prichard: It works like this, I will be the first to tell you, I’m proud of the value our job board in the pacific northwest offers employers and job seekers but I’ll also be the first to tell you that you should not spend 100 % of your time looking at job boards like mine. You need to think about your goals, the employers you want to target and book and improve your job-hunting skills. And above all need to step away from the computer and go out and start talking to people because most jobs, Jeff as you know, get filled by word of mouth by referrals.
Jeff Altman: And when you say, get away from the computer, I think as we're recording this, we're in the middle of COVID and pandemic and all this other sort of stuff and that's where people are these days, at their computer. But I think I know what you mean in that, you're saying, don't spend all your time on job boards, spend all your time or most of your time talking to people in one form or another, right? Mac Prichard: Yes, let me share some numbers with you, there are estimates out there that as many as 40 to 80 % of jobs get filled through referrals, through word of mouth, but when I ask people who visit my site and I’m grateful that they come, how they're spending their time, many people because they just don't know any better and don't know what else to do, spend up to a hundred percent of their time looking at job boards like mine. So, think about those two figures if 40 to 80 % of all positions are being filled through word of mouth and you're spending 100 of your time Jeff looking at job boards, you're missing out on so many great opportunities out there. So, this is, in the end about how you spend your time and not putting all your eggs in one basket.
Jeff Altman: It's funny, I talk to people and I’ll say when you work with job boards basically what you're doing is being part of a pond with lots of fish in one hook, and unfortunately you're better off being in a different area, where there aren't as many fish and someone who could steer you to the hook and even go so far as to put you on the hook rather than have you compete with all the other fish. Mac Prichard: Yeah, job boards are an important tool in any job search. You've got to pay attention to them, and you've got to spend time looking at them because so many employers do post positions there, but not all employers do. So, you want to make sure you're looking not only at the publicly posted positions but at the so-called hidden jobs, again the ones that get filled by referrals.
Jeff Altman: And it's so funny, you know people say, ‘so where do I find the hidden market’. As though there's a place where they all hang out together, right. And the reality is, the hidden market is just very simply firms that don't advertise to fill positions because the cost may be too expensive, both in terms of overt cost for the price of the ad but the covert cost for all the resumes that you got to look through, they're just a waste of time and all the spam that you receive and all the interviewing that you do of people, who just inappropriate when someone could just again walk the right person in the door. Mac Prichard: Agree Jeff, and I would also say to your listeners, if they reflect on it particularly if they're mid-career or farther along in their work history, the probably the best jobs they've had have come through referrals and they've come through suggestions from a classmate, a co-worker, somebody who said, ‘hey so-and-so's hiring you should reach out to her and I’d be happy to make an introduction or pass along your resume’ and I say that because it's important to understand how hiring works. Managers want to reduce risk. They want to manage costs and I think for job seekers our challenge when we're out there looking for positions is to understand that system, so that we can make the system work for us.
Jeff Altman: Agreed. Now, I think the people who have the most difficulty with the strategy that we're going to talk about, is those who are less experienced because their networks really aren't well established, you know. Yeah, I have a year and a half two years of experience, I went to such and such school, I’ve already spoken to everyone plus my parents, and what do they do? Mac Prichard: Well, I think it begins by recognizing that job hunting is like any other skill. It's something that takes time and practice to learn but you can be good at it with study and practice. And the second thing I push back a bit Jeff I think even if you're in high school or college or you're a recent graduate, everybody's got a network, everybody's got relationships and connections, that they can leverage during a job hunt. Their challenge is to do it in a strategic thoughtful and effective way and to do that they do have to invest time in learning how to practice those skills but it can be done no matter what your age or whatever point you are in your career.
Jeff Altman: So, let's start off with the junior people because the seniors have an idea but the juniors, I find really struggle with this idea. So, what does a junior do to start to build his skills and networking and job search to be more effective beyond simply I’m just going to go on mac's job board and see what he's got? Mac Prichard: My number one tip is this Jeff, know what you want, invest time in getting clear about setting your goals and if you're using phrases like I’m open to anything I don't want to rule anything out to me that indicates you haven't done the fundamental work in goal setting and when you do that work you make your job search so much easier and you make it so much easier for other people to help you because when you're specific about what you want you know who to reach out to and what to ask for. Think about the reaction, you're likely to have if you meet somebody who says I’m doing a search, if you hear of anything let me know and how do you act on that but think about your reaction. If someone a new graduate or someone early in their career says I’m looking for an entry-level marketing position, I’m especially interested in digital companies and I’m trying to identify the marketing agencies in our city that are doing new and exciting work do you know of anybody who works in that field that I could talk to or can you give me your insights into who the leaders are. Now, the answer might be no I don’t, but somebody walks away from that conversation they know exactly what you want and where you want to be and where you want to go. So, if later they do hear of something, they're going to think of you.
Jeff Altman: And what you're doing folks is steering them, so that you know anything means nothing to them. The mind just wanders around going, ‘okay do they want to be a fireman’ a barista like, what do they want? By directing them, you're making them think in specific ways so, when they hear of something, they go, who was it, who told me that? Oh yeah, I remember and start reaching out and making the recommendation. Mac Prichard: Agreed Jeff, and the other point I’d make, because I see people not only early in their career but later too struggle with this. Sometimes they have multiple interests and they say to me well, gosh Mac, I’m not sure but usually when I press, there are two or three goals that they're most interested in and it's okay to say to someone I’m interested in entry-level marketing position. I’m also uh interested in exploring opportunities in non-profit fundraising. Now, those are two different areas and as you have conversations of with both employers and through informational interviews with others who know about those two fields you may decide that you're more excited about one than the other and that's a good thing because it helps you again get clear about what you want and also recognize that in the course of a 40-year career, you're probably gonna have five seven different occupations and that's a good thing too, but to get the most out of those positions you got to be clear about what you want.
Jeff Altman: Absolutely, and I’ll just simply say that there's so much that could be done through informational interviewing. When you talk with people about informational interviewing, that is the process of, I’m curious about this, what is it like to work in this field, how do you coach people to prep for an informational interview, as the job hunter, as the explorer in the process? Mac Prichard: Treat it like a business meeting and it's a business meeting that you've called and so, like any appointment professional appointment, you need to have an agenda and you need to have clear outcomes about what you want. This is not about picking somebody's brain or taking folks out for coffee and those are fine things, I’m not belittling those ideas but at the end of one of these conversations Jeff you should have accomplished three things and you can do this in 20 30 minutes max.
1. The first thing is to share your goals and your story.
2. Second is to ask some specific strategic questions about the world that that person knows.
3. And the third is, to get introductions or suggestions about two or three others in the field that you might contact.
So, that when you leave that room Jeff, this person knows who you are, what you want. They've given you some specific insights into challenges or the profession that you're you want to talk about, and they've agreed to share two or three contacts, that is a successful informational interview.
Jeff Altman: Agreed. Now, I’m curious. When you're, when they're in the process of asking questions about what it's like in the field, how in depth should they go, what sort of things might they probe in order to make their own decision? About, is this field right for me? Mac Prichard: I encourage people to look at the challenges that they face in their job search and think about the objections that you're carrying around in your head and we all do this during a job hunt. You think I’ll never get a job because, fill in the blank, I’m too old, I’m too young, I don't have any contacts, I don't know anyone at this company, I’m trying to switch sectors, I don't have a college degree, whatever the list write it down pick out your top five or ten but and then turn them into questions that you can ask people in these conversations. So, for example, if you're looking for a professional position you haven't finished college, find people who have the job that you want, who don't have a BA and ask them what challenges they face during a search because they didn't have a degree, how did they address those challenges what was persuasive to employers that in the end led to a job offer and a position. And you can do that with any of these objections, if you're thinking about switching careers for example and you think you need a degree in that field, find somebody who made the switch without that degree and ask her how she did it and what the challenges she had to overcome to get that offer. And again, these are probably four or five questions but it'll give
you great insights into how you need to position yourself and understanding in what the concerns of the employers are.
Jeff Altman: Fabulous, and I want to make sure we now segue into more experienced people. So, in doing that exploration, let's say I’m the senior director or VP I want to position myself for the c-suite and you're now doing informational interviews and your background you judge is not being pristine, whatever that means to you and thus as you're having the conversations you're asking much the same question are you targeting people who like you don't have the ideal background or are you just speaking in general terms with people who have made that transition into the c-suite and said you know I perceive this problem in my background, would you see that as being the case? Mac Prichard: I think we do both. I think if there are challenges in your background, that you're concerned about find people that have overcome those challenges, so you can learn from their experience and adapt their approaches and ideas accordingly, but I also think informational interviews are not only about addressing concerns employers might have about your background and skills but they're also about identifying the companies that are growing, that are hiring. They're about finding the employers who are doing exciting things, and this is where you're getting into the hidden job market whatever stage in your career you are because again if most positions or if only many positions are filled through word of mouth. These informational interviews are a great way to find out about those upcoming opportunities and we can talk about the kind of conversation questions you might ask to do that if you like.
Jeff Altman: I love that. So, what kind of questions might you ask? Mac Prichard: I think avoid the question, I think you start by finding out who's growing, who might be adding staff, who's doing interesting work, who just got a new contract and I think it's also okay Jeff in that context to say, do you know of anybody who might be hiring? But I wouldn't lead with that to me. I think you're better served as a job seeker by identifying who the again knowing what you want who are the leaders and the growing employers who offer those opportunities.
Jeff Altman: Now, I’m a north easterner by history and in the northeast the idea of networking, they're afraid of being seen as one of those people, you know I’m a mooch, you only hear from me, when I need something from you and thus they're afraid to do it because there's a connotation in their mind associated with it. So, when you're talking about asking who do you know who which is one of my favourite questions for networking, they feel uncomfortable at times and what do you tell those people to encourage them to do it even though they're uncomfortable. Mac Prichard: Two things.
1. First recognize that most of us want to help others really 99% of human beings want to be of help to others and when people say, ‘no or they don't take meetings my experience has been that it's often because the request is so open-ended the person receiving. It doesn't know what's involved and either ignores it or says no because they're afraid it's going to be a lot of work or they're not sure how they can help so the more specific you can be in your request for help the more likely people are to say yes and the and people feel good when they help others. So, you're not being a mooch, if you're specific about what you want and you lay out a path, that makes it easy for not only for someone to say yes to a meeting but to help you.
2. The second point Jeff I’d make is networking is not about only about asking for help it's also about being of service to others and you'll you need to make time in your own career for these meetings whatever stage of your career you're in and you not only take informational interviews but look for ways to give back in your profession and your community, this could take the form of volunteer work with a professional chapter or other volunteer work that you do in the community, so it's not networking it's not just about asking it's also about giving.
Jeff Altman: I agree wholeheartedly, I know in my career I’ve spent time with individuals, even when I was doing head hunting to talk with them about what they might do even though I would never earn a fee from them and I knew it going into the conversation but folks need help and they don't know what they're doing and they just need a guide somewhere along the line who can direct them so and. Mac Prichard: You can learn how to do this, and I would love to share a story on our podcast we talk to people who found a job they love and they talk about their journey there was a guest recently who moved to Portland Oregon from Washington dc and she had a high-powered Washington dc resume she worked as a deputy communications director for chuck Schumer. So, she knew everybody on capitol hill, but she was also a trailing spouse, her partner had gotten a position I think at Nike. So, her challenge was she had to create a network all 2300 miles away in a new city, where she didn't know anyone and she did that through informational interviews by and she knew specifically what she wanted and that helped her figure out who to approach and the reason I want to tell this story is twofold.
One is as somebody who's going to be in this place for a long time what she did in the course of six months was create a network she talked to more than 100 people but she will keep running across those people again and again in the course of her career.
The other reason I want to tell the story is I asked her how many jobs did you apply for and she said well I think seven and I said how many interviews did you get six and how many offers, well, a couple so most people when I talk about networking, they think a hundred meetings oh my gosh, that's so much time and but I would challenge people to reflect on this. Well, I meet people all the time who've told me they they've applied for 100 jobs and if they're doing it right, they really should be spending about two or three hours on each application
customizing the resume and the cover letter doing research. This lady spent about two or three hours probably preparing and following up and taking these meetings but at the end of the day she got more she got more interviews I think than most people would by firing off applications to positions on job boards and she also looked at job boards but she also got a network that's going to serve her throughout her career in her new state and she'll be able to be of service to that network as well.
Jeff Altman: It's so funny, you mentioned these things because my belief is you never apply for a job through an applicant tracking system, it's called the black hole for a reason. So, Mac Prichard: Sometimes you do have to apply I mean.
Jeff Altman: I’m sorry, I forgot, I forgot, I forgot. (Laughs) Mac Prichard: Well, I mean it's as you know, and I think everybody watching knows, sometimes there is a formal job application process but that doesn't mean that referrals don't still matter. There's a back door and a front door and you can get a job through the front door, but you increase the likelihood that you're going to get both an interview and perhaps an offer by using both doors.
Jeff Altman: Right and every once in a while, there's a side door as well, but that's a different conversation (Chuckles) I’m not going to talk about the side door today. Mac Prichard: I want to know the difference between the back door and the side door, Jeff.
Jeff Altman: It's the one where you break the rules. Mac Prichard: This is the side door.
Jeff Altman: The side door is where you break the rules. So, the back door is the one where you're using your connection but the side door like breaking into a nightclub during the height of you know a period of time is figuring out, how you break the rules to get in but doesn't I think I’ve done a video about that previously, we'll talk about it another time. The idea very simply is, your goal is to get the interview and with getting the interview you know it's about ultimately getting hired and the investment of time in the network as long as you continue to support your network between jobs and don't turn this into a transactional process, we'll serve you and I’m going to go back to being a north easterner where everything is about now and there's not a lot of texture the people who provide texture in the relationships are different, but the goal is to be of service to one another throughout your careers.
Mac Prichard: It is and people who do that and practice that regularly I think have the most rewarding professional lives.
Jeff Altman: Great. So, we're talking so far about not always using job boards because statistically it just doesn't make sense. Number two is building a network and using that as your gateway to opportunities within that using informational interviews as an approach to clarify any misconceptions you have about the role, your career, the market in the area that you that you're in things along those lines. Mac Prichard: And the hidden jobs the positions that don't end up on boards like mine.
Jeff Altman: Right. So, what else can people be doing to find work once they're not using job boards? Mac Prichard: Get good at job hunting as a skill and that means don't wing it whether you're preparing a cover letter, updating your resume, getting ready for an interview, doing follow-ups after conversations with an employer. It's a skill and you need to study it and practice it and you don't need an advanced degree in this, but you can't take these steps for granted because you're competing Jeff against people who are studying and practicing and if you do it as well you're going to have a much greater likelihood of getting the job you want and the interviews you want.
Jeff Altman: I know when I was on your show a few years ago, I spoke about how to effectively interview and one of the things I spoke about is most people go to interviews and they wing it and every great athlete I know practices, every great entertainer rehearses and job hunters go on interviews and the first time the words ever come out of their mouth or at the interview and they wonder why they don't get the job. Mac Prichard: And I think, it's because people are nervous. They just don't know any better, they haven't done a lot of interviewing, you know you've talked about older workers, there are many people uh who they have been working in one place for 10 or 15 years. So, they and one or two of their jobs have come through word of mouth then they just haven't had the opportunity to study and practice these skills.
Jeff Altman: It's unfortunate and there are opportunities to practice. The idea is to get a coach, I’m going to highlight my face here for a second to help prepare you for interviews you can do mock interviews with your coach, you can do mock interviews with other people who can really guide you. Most coaches myself included aren't going to help you be better at what you do, that skill is with you have to know how to do what you claim to know but we help with all the packaging related to the job search, so that this way you perform at a high level
and people will respond well to you, especially by comparison to the people who are winning it. Mac Prichard: Agreed, I’m a big fan of coaches and I do meet job seekers who are on a tight budget and they say I can't afford that. Well, if you went to college the odds are good that your career centre at your alma mater might will have some services that can help. You can also check in with the local office of your state employment department and there are so many resources online, that you can through self-study and practice learn, but however you do it, whether it's working with a professional like you or taking advantage of these other resources you got to put in that time because your competitors are doing that.
Jeff Altman: And if they aren't, you're just like everyone else. There's nothing to distinguish you from the others. So, how does someone get around to choosing you, except you got dumb walk going for you, and that's not good odds? Mac Prichard: No, you have to make your own luck and you do that by being again, clear about what you want and then investing the time to understand the employer's needs and investing time in practicing these skills, that we've talked about.
Jeff Altman: So, Mac there's so much we can cover because you and I are veteran people. We know the job hunting drill and I want to make sure that there, I don't miss on any points that you've wanted to cover for today's show, what haven't I asked you about yet, that you think would be useful for people to hear about? Mac Prichard: Number one tip is this Jeff, don't wait to be picked, I find, when I talk to job seekers with through a series of questions usually, if they say I don't know what I want to do, eventually it comes to the surface and that's good. So, most people know what their goals are and they know where they want to work and if they don't with some work they can figure that out but once you know that don't be the person who checks the website of that company every day. You should check the website, you should look at job boards but if you know the place, where you want to work start building relationships with people inside that organization. Now, don't wait for a posting to pop up because again, your competitors are networking inside that organization and many positions may never end up on the website, they might get filled through referrals alone. So, don't wait to be picked.
Jeff Altman: Yes, in following someone, how would you suggest, they learn about that organization, do their research about it? What sort of things might they do in anticipation of trying to get in the door somewhere? Mac Prichard: A couple of ideas come to mind.
1. One is, you can do informational interviews with people inside the organization. If you don't know anyone there two great sources for leads are LinkedIn, look at your
LinkedIn contacts and if you don't have a first-degree connection, the odds are good, that you probably have a second-degree connection. If you've only got 50 100 LinkedIn connections, then you need to spend some time building out your network and adding the classmates the former co-workers’, supervisors’ people you know in the community. And in time you will see those second-degree connections.
2. A second good source of leads for people inside an organization where you want to work is your alumni database, whether it's university or college and gosh Jeff, some high schools have alumni databases now, but if it's a large employer, the odds are good that probably a fellow graduate is inside that organization and I’ve never met anybody, who won't make time to talk to a fellow grad.
3. And the third thing to keep in mind is, if you know you want to work inside an organization start telling people that. There's a lady out here who in Portland there's a global non-profit called Mercy Core and her dream was to work there and she didn't know anyone but she kept telling people and she did that for a number of months and she said I’m trying to identify someone I could talk to inside Mercy core, and do you know anyone there. And finally, like her neighbour’s cousin that she met at a barbecue said, ‘well I know the accountant’ and she said, ‘great would you introduce me’. And so, this lady had informational interview with one of the accountants at Mercy core, who introduced her, her interest was in fundraising to someone in the fundraising department and that started the series of conversations that eventually led to an offer and a job. But it happened, because this lady kept telling people where she wanted to go.
Jeff Altman: It's so funny, you mentioned that story. For years I belong to a business networking group, called BNI and BNI works on the premise of people giving generously and as a result of that they'll receive more. And each meeting people have an opportunity to present a 60-second presentation about themselves and often they'll say, I’d like to meet someone who is responsible for such and such function and such and such organization and they just want to put it into the ether with the hope, that someone knows someone who. And so, often people are surprised by the plumber who knows someone at (Chuckles) fill in the blank and they were able to provide an introduction. So, no disrespect to plumbers, but some of the you know connections seem far afield, but they exist and unless people know that's what you're looking for it just doesn't happen. Mac Prichard: Yeah, you never know who's somebody's neighbour or somebody they know through a community group or a faith organization might be. It's just, these coincidences happen all the time and there are ways that you can make them happen to your benefit by, again, by being clear about what you want and telling others.
Jeff Altman: My favourite networking story is the one about the man in New Jersey who's on the phone talking to his recruiter and as cleaning person walks by and listens to the conversation when he gets off the phone, she says can I have a copy of your resume and like
most self-respecting guys, (Both laughs) he goes yeah sure, sure, sure. And this happens for two more visits, until eventually his wife comes over with him and said would you give her the resume, she's bothering me about it. And what he didn't know is that her husband was the president of a northern New Jersey bank and that she was doing this to maintain humility. You never know where the connection comes from, unless it's important that people know what you're looking for, for you to get clear about it first and then just keep talking to folks just keep talking. Mac Prichard: And treat everybody the same. I worked in electoral politics for many years. There was a fellow who worked in the capital building, who's said, ‘you meet on this the same people on the way down as you do on the way up’ and it's true whatever your profession is.
Jeff Altman: Reminds me of a curb your enthusiasm episode, where Larry David has this important meeting and of course he starts yelling at someone in the next car who cuts him off who ends up being the person he's supposed to have the meeting with. Mac Prichard: Right, yeah.
Jeff Altman: Mac, this has been fun. I’m sorry it took so long for this to happen. How can people find out more about you, the work that you do, all this stuff that you offer? Mac Prichard: Well, visit our website macslist.org and we do have a job board and again we're very proud of the value it offers, but we also publish articles about job hunting as a skill as well as how higher employers can get better at hiring. So, you'll find actually hundreds of articles there on both topics, Jeff, as well as free guides and our weekly podcast every week I talk to a different career expert like you uh we publish every Wednesday and we talk about the nuts and bolts of job hunting. We get pretty granular about it, but our listeners tell us they love it because it helps them get better at it as a skill and we've done it now for almost five years we're we haven't been on the air as long as you but we're out there plugging away.
Jeff Altman: And I’m sorry. Mac Prichard: Oh, and I would say Jeff also the podcast is called, ‘find your dream job’ and you can find that again on our website or uh wherever you get your podcast and finally I encourage people to connect with me on LinkedIn, and if you do reach out, I’d love to connect with you, just be sure to mention that you heard me on Jeff’s show.
Jeff Altman: Thank you Mac, and folks we'll be back soon, with more. I’m Jeff Altman, the big game hunter and I just want to simply say I too have a lot of great information on my site if you go to the biggamehunter.us and visit the blog, you'll find thousands of posts on a variety of different subjects related to job search hiring more effectively managing leading and
dealing with different aspects of the workplace. Also connect with me on LinkedIn, at linkedin.com/In/thebiggamehunter. Mac, what's your link on LinkedIn? Mac Prichard: It's, inkedin.com/macprichard, all one-word m-a-c. Yeah, I say P-R-I-C-H-A-R-D, no T and Prichard.
Jeff Altman: Just making sure they all knew. Connect with us, we will boost your networking capabilities by a lot, trust me neither of us has a small network. Last thing I just want to mention, if you're interested in one-on-one coaching at the site, you can schedule time for a free discovery call or schedule time for coaching. I would love to help you and streamline this process for you. Hope you have a great day and be great. Take care.

ABOUT JEFF ALTMAN, THE BIG GAME HUNTER

JeffAltman, The Big Game Hunter
JeffAltman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1900 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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