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Cleared Job Search Tips Recruiter Roundtable

Job Search Tips Recruiter Discussion, February 2 Cleared Job Fair from ClearedJobs.Net on Vimeo.

A conversation with Steve Ahern, Talent Acquisition Manager with Buchanan & Edwards, Wendy Johnson, Recruiter with St. Michael’s, Genelle Osumah, Recruiter with PAE, and Megan Cowman, Recruiting Manager with MGAC. Moderated by Bob Wheeler, ClearedJobs.Net, at the February 2 Cleared Job Fair.

Bob: Maximize your chances. I think it was Wendy we were talking, how many different positions are you recruiting for right now Wendy?  Please be specific – Wendy Johnson?

Wendy: Currently we are recruiting for at least 10 specific funded positions, but we also have become a prime on a contract, we’re recruiting – we’re going to have up to 200 positions and are coming up in chunks of task orders. So we are continually recruiting, and right now it’s going to be up to 21 but again those task orders, there's 10 funded positions that we are looking for.

Bob: Of those 10 or 21 positions depending on how you look at, how many different hiring managers do you report to?

Wendy: We have about three hiring managers but our hiring managers have strong relationships with the actual client. So we go through our hiring managers with Saint Michael’s but they have relationships with the clients. So most of the folks that we bring in, they can talk with the client and 90% of the time those people are hired.

Bob: Genelle how many different positions are you specifically recruiting for right now and how many different hiring managers does that encompass?

Genelle: I have 13 open positions, but each position can have anywhere from 2 to 40 open spots on each job requisition, and I have two hiring managers.

Megan: As of yesterday, I have 17 open positions with a potential of having 30+ coming within the next month. I would say hiring manager-wise, I report to seven or eight.

Megan: Yes.

Bob: When we talk about reporting to hiring managers, that means that she takes those resumes – all recruiters take those resumes to the person who says, “Of these lots of people I’ve talked to that I see on these resumes, bring these five in to talk to me for an interview.”  Steven, as somebody who has spent most of your career as a hiring manager, can you explain a little bit about the relationship between recruiters and hiring managers?

Megan: Yes, please enlighten us.

Steven: Yeah. It’s great, it’s great. There’s no problem whatsoever. There’s no problems with communication. One of the things about coming from being billable, I was on projects. There is a disconnect, there’s tons of disconnect from when you are out on the customers side, government side, wherever you might be, between you and perhaps somebody back there at the headquarters. It mainly has to do with the fact that in operations, everything is a very time sensitive thing. What am I doing today, what am I doing today?  And yet positions still need to be filled immediately.

One of the most difficult challenges, one of the greatest challenges, is the communication between the hiring manager and the recruiters. Exactly what types of skill sets and behavioral traits are going to be the most successful that are more than just what’s on your resume?  Seven years experience of job as a java script developer, seven years experience as an Oracle database Developer is fine. What makes somebody more successful there than somebody else and that’s difficult to communicate. Because there’s not a time, the recruiting team, one of the things I’ve realized after four and a half months there is that there are two pockets of time. Recruiters have the time to focus on specific positions, specific customers, hiring managers, but the hiring managers don’t always have the time to focus on the positions. And so as a candidate, I would say the feedback loop is different for each position, it can be. Does that make sense?

Bob: Yeah, that’s a great example that the feedback loop, he’s talking about sort of if Wendy or Genel or Megan’s got four different hiring managers, for example, just because one loop is working very efficiently, another loop could even be working very inefficiently for multiple reasons. It could be a malicious reason that job seekers like to get in their head sometimes that they just don’t care. More likely it could be just another reason that inefficiencies are happening, because somebody is on vacation, somebody has had a death in the family, those types of things. And the thing we try to remind people too is the hiring manager is the person who runs the shop for lack of a better term. And they are responsible for the output of that shop and the bad part about the hiring thing is that, if they were operating at full capacity, they wouldn’t be hiring.

So at the same time that they are having extra things to do and things to worry about, they are also getting extra jobs as far looking at resumes and things like that. So before we throw it out to the audience for some other questions, any thoughts from anybody here about what job seekers can do to help make that process I mean I understand that the relationship is critical but is there anything the job seekers can do to help make things go a little smoother once process gets going?

Wendy: I have a suggestion, your resume is the first point of contact most of the times the person sees. So when you see a job description that you really, really want, it’s great to have a large, long, eight-page resume, but if you get really specific in what the position is looking for. Use your resume to speak to the position. It makes it so much easier for the recruiter to take it and be attracted to your resume, because you are saying I have these particular skills which matches. The recruiter wants to see that you are the person who fits. Just literally go down and bam, bam, bam, hit the position skills. Say what you can do that fits that position. Just speak to the position. Use your resume to tell your story.

Bob: Genelle, I see you nodding your head.

Genelle: I 200% agree with that. Know the position you are applying for and tailor your resume for that specific position. Because if we have over 100 people applying for that same position, we are looking at key words or a specific requirement that is required for that job that we are looking for. So slimming down your resume if possible and tailoring your resume for that specific position is great for us as recruiters.

Megan: For the resume, I always like to see a quick summary. Like two or three sentences so I would tailor that summary for any job that you’re applying for to be specific. I have project management, IT, XYZ skills. Because as recruiters, we are going through probably 3-400 resumes. So definitely tailoring those first two to three to four sentences so it catches our attention. We have to go through so many resumes that if it doesn’t catch our eye immediately we’re like, “Okay, we got to go.”

Bob: Something I forgot to ask, the audit I was going to do really quick, how many folks here are looking for a position?  They are available for just like in the next 90 days? How many folks here in the military?  Okay, so we’ve got a lot of veterans. How many people here just out of curiosity, this job or like your next job would be your first job since the military?  So what you got here is a lot of senior, talented, smart, productive people who may not be the best job seekers in the world, right?  I think that’s a fair – And I was you a few years ago. So I’m not disparaging you at all but this is why this is such a good thing.

Wendy: I just wanted to add one more thing. Yes, I do recruiting, I’ve done it for 18 years but I also have been a security officer, facility security, for at least nine. The important thing, because this is Cleareded Job Fair, if you are looking for a job that requires a certain clearance, put it up at the top. Know your background investigation date because that will make a difference from you getting the position because your clearance is still active else. If they put on their resume, always know because if you are looking for a cleared job, you definitely need to know your security information because that is key. Again, if we see two resumes or 10 resumes and I see somebody who has the background information first, that’s the one I’m going to go after first and look at their resume. So it’s important to put your clearances, don’t bury them at the bottom of your resume. If you are looking for a cleared job, put your clearance at the top.

Steven: Yeah, I was going to add to what you are saying, there is no shame in not being a good job seeker, right?  That’s not in my opinion something you really want to be experienced in. Seriously, it’s not, it’s not. So if you are then there’s something you’re not doing something right in my opinion. So from that don’t be ashamed of the fact that you could use help, right?  When it comes to resume reviewing, resume tips, how to meet people, how to go out and talk to people. I mean that’s part of this whole experience from both sides, I reach out and gauge in terms of our candidate experience and so do you. And be open to suggestions about how you can improve things. One of the things I would note about resumes is do away with a lot of the jargon. My father’s retired Navy, so I’m familiar with jargon.

Make it readable. If you are going through, you’ve got the clearance on top, you’ve got the keywords in there but also take a moment to explain your experience in a way that someone can understand it. Someone who wasn’t there at that specific billet. That’s great if you list all these technologies or all these things you’ve done, but I may not know what you did. It doesn’t have to be flowing prose, but just a moment to say, "In my capacity as a program manager I supervise X amount of people overseeing this project, we look at this."  Now I know what you did, right?

Bob: A lot of the advice that I hear people talk about too is that when you're going to put together a resume and folks come out of service sometimes feel like the resume needs to tell your whole story and you got 15 or 20 or 25 years of experience. And it really, you've heard them say, “Target it towards a job.”  Sometimes the coolest thing you did in the service, it doesn’t belong in your resume.

It was the thing that you might have been the most proud but if it doesn’t pertain to the job that you're applying for – anybody who has that notion of thinking for themselves, “Well, if I can do it in a combat environment surely I can do it in the same likeness."  That's not always – it doesn’t always translate to things as well, and the other thing to remember is the resume has to speak to them so you want to highlight your commonalities to the job not the things that are different. And the more jargon, the more I did these other things in combat that have nothing to do with your job, all that does is highlight differences between you and the job. At very time that you want to be highlighting why you fit with that job.

Audience: I'm currently stationed in Wisconsin and so a lot of the jobs are on the east coast and it’s where I'd like to come back to. Is there advice like obviously I flew over here for this but I can’t fly all the time. Is there advice on how to reach out because basically I'm doing everything on the internet versus being able to attend conferences everything that you would for someone who is geographically dispersed and is that a potential turn off for you guys, that someone is so far out, versus local?

Genelle: So for a lot of my positions they are located here in Northern Virginia but if I see somebody in California but might have that at the top of resume willing to relocate, then that might make me want to look at their resume. Utilize LinkedIn. Reach out to some of the recruiters letting them know that you are willing and able to relocate for a position. I think it depends on the recruiter and the position that they might look if they are recruiting for one area, they may look in other geographical areas, but if you put that on the top of your resume “willing to relocate” that might help.

Bob: All advice is very unique to the situation, but if they have lots of  options locally saying “I'm in Wisconsin” could be a detriment. If you have very in-demand skill sets, recruiters start to open their net wider. If you are from here and you plan on coming back here, I would – instead of listing your LinkedIn profile that says Wisconsin you might list it that says Tysons Corner in Northern Virginia.

If you have your resume like up on the ClearedJobs.Net data base I would list your zip code as where you want to be -- not where you are. Recruiters will search locally because it makes their job easier. I have also talked to recruiters whose real concern is not that you won’t move, the concern is that you might move here and not like it and have to quit. If you can say, “I am from here, I'm coming back home,” that’s different from the person who says “I’ll go anywhere and do anything.”

Wendy: I was just going to add, we are a veteran-owned company so I recruit a lot of retired military. There are so many transitions centers. What branch are you originally?

Audience: Army.

Wendy: Tap into the transition centers, because we have positions in different areas not just on the east coast. And then another suggestion, don’t put where you are. People have a cell phone number who live here who may have a South Carolina number. Don’t put your street address, just put when you are available and again if they're interested you have to be ready to come up for the interview and everything else if they need you. Just basically look at it as I am prepared to start a job where I want to be.

Megan: I want to add just one more comment and this is coming from an entirely different perspective because obviously all companies are different, but for instance with my company MGAC. If I find a candidate that we think is very high potential that we want to hire, we’ll fly them in, we will do relocation cost. There are always those kinds of options as well. If you can definitely sell yourself to company, the company sells themselves to you. There’s definitely – I would at least when you are talking with your recruiter, inquire about those costs, because usually we don’t want to give away money, but when it’s asked, we’ll probably go talk with our bosses and be like, yeah we can set you up, you know, like $3,000 of relocation fees, or pay for airline, flight and hotel cost if you are coming in to interview. I probably shouldn’t have said that now and I’m going to get myself in trouble.

But always ask, always ask because we – companies they are very interested in you and especially I'll be honest with TS clearances – we need them. They are very kind of hot ticket items. So definitely ask and kind of push that limit and don’t be afraid to be like, “Hey, can you relocate me or can you fly me in?"  Because most companies will say, “Yeah we’ll help you out.”

Bob: Patra do you have a comment in the back there?

Patra: I would also add for all of you who are looking for a job in a place that you don’t currently live. You should be building and getting into the network in that area in your field and making connections because all of these folks and every other person recruiting loves nothing more than an employee referral. So you want to be making connections not only to learn about the field that you are interested in from military or for the federal government but you also want to be making those connections to help you and your target companies to make sure that you want to work there and then to help you get into the right places. All of those things also mean that the company is far more interested in flying you in, when you need to.

Now the other thing is that you may have to set a real target, begun to make those connections, it’s sometimes worthwhile to come here for several days, talk to all your connections about the fact you are going to be in that location you want to be in. They ask you why, and you really would like meet them and if it’s possible you'd like to come in and talk to them, one of their people, because that makes it much easier for everybody knowing that you are going to be here, They can put that face to the person they’ve been emailing or talking to on the phone.

Bob: Patra, by the way is the one that’s doing our resume reviews. She’s been helping us for years, she an HR guru. I'd highly encourage you to take a chance to talk with her, even if you are very happy with your resume just to get some feedback on job seeking tips. She’s terrific.

Audience: Security clearance transfer from military to a civilian.

Wendy: As long as it’s a DOD clearance it takes a literally somebody going in to JPAS. If you came to my company, I would add your information into JPAS and your clearance would be transferred.

Audience: I was asked to update my SF-86 so it looks like they are starting the whole process all over. Although my security transfer just got adjudicated in June of last year.

Wendy: If your clearance is transferring over from DoD to IC, they are only asking you that just to be able to have all your information come over. It really doesn’t take a long time as long as you’re starting a job at the same level of security clearance. If you have to transfer over and – Say go from a Top Secret to a CI Poly, then you've got to go through a process. But other than that, to cross it over is absolutely just adding you into somebody’s JPAS.

Megan: And I will say to you because there is Scattered Castles as well and there might be people that will tell you that they can’t be transferable, but yes they can. It will take a little bit longer, but yes you can be transferred from Scattered Castles to JPAS or vice versa.

Wendy: Right, and with a Top Secret you just have to have want they call a SSBI which is a Single Scope Background Investigation that will cross over to a TS/SCI some DOD to IC.

Megan: Talk to your FSO, they’ll definitely be able to help you out.

Bob: One question over here.

Audience: What advice do you have for somebody who is coming out of the military with maybe some very specific skills that are looking to cross into another industry for example?

Wendy: We again like I said, we hire a lot of folks from the military. My suggestion to you would be if you are going to cross into another career path, try to not go from say, admin to being a CPA. Making it a cross where it's kind of lateral and then work your way into what you really want to do. When you are looking for a position know that if there’s things in there that you can do but you were not doing at your MOS, speak to those items. Speak to anything that you know, okay, I did this with my MOS, but I can do this other job. That's what you want to speak to. That’s what you want to make your resume look like. Yes, I was doing this one at MOS, but I can do this job in civilian world. So you have to translate it over.

Bob: To branch off that question right there I’ll kind of flip it a little bit. You do a lot of stuff with information technology and those types of things. That’s one of those things where a lot of people know that’s a hot field. There’s a lot of folks I know who come out of the service who are getting the certifications and maybe getting degrees, even if they are not doing that job necessarily on a daily basis. So I'll throw it to you, but also after Steven anybody else wants to throw in this thing too. The deal with certifications, how important are they?  What’s the relationship between certifications and experience? 

Steven: First just real quick talk on that gentleman's question, I would say be realistic. Be realistic if you are going to switch paths and experience. Take a minute to think about the traits that made you successful in what you had been doing, and be realistic about where you might be able to apply them. Do you do well in stressful situations?  I think most people in the military probably do, things like that. Be realistic and understand you may have to take a step back if you're truly changing.

There are people who have been doing what you are wanting to get into for quite some time. You may have to swallow a little bit of ego. Step back in order to step forward. If you are good at it you will succeed. But in terms of that question – Certifications are great in a lot of position descriptions. PMP certification, that kind of stuff. But that’s just one level of it. You can have it but then not be able to explain it. It’s more than in my opinion going out and checking a box and getting a bunch of certifications that when you go to a technical interview for instance, you can’t describe how your experience has applied that. And so when I went back to school for Masters, I went to pick something that I was not only interested, but I was going to apply and I have.

And so I think that when you are looking at certifications, eventually you will have to justify it. I have my ODB or whatever it is, Microsoft Databases Administrator okay, where did you use it?  Here it is on the resume, here it is on the description, you have to have it. But I don’t see it anywhere in your resume, like when you were doing this, so it’s both parts of that I would say.

Bob: Yeah, you guys want to chime in on that piece there. What about like PMP – is PMP a good thing for your positions Megan?

Megan: Absolutely.

Bob: I wanted to through to you a little bit because you are looking for construction folks a lot of times and facilities management, so if somebody is an infantry person or they were doing something else in the military but they get their PMP, would that transfer over?  Would that be someone you'd be interested in talking to?

Megan: Absolutely, absolutely and we actually have a lot of veterans at our company and one of the gentleman that is recruiting with me today is a veteran. He can definitely talk with you as well for those veterans how you transfer from veteran status to the civilian world. With being a PMP that’s a big thing for us being Leed certified that’s a really big thing for us as well. I mean really any certification, as long as you used it in the field. We love seeing it. We also recruit for a lot of different other positions as well besides just construction management, we also do furniture procurement, IT infrastructure. Certifications are very important but like you were saying if you haven't used them in the field – I mean we at least need to see that you know how to use a certification,because it can be easy to memorize a lot of jargon and then take a test. So, yes PMPs are very important.

Bob: Take this lesson back to people who are still in active duty too. Don’t wait until the last year that you are in the service to start knocking out these certs, because if all you did was get a bunch of certs in the last year it – you haven’t got a chance to tie in what you’ve been doing. And things for example like PMP or if you are in like IT and you do stuff that CISSP or .NET, whatever the certifications are, just because the Marine Corps or the Army, the Navy or the Air Force didn’t require it, getting that while you are still in can help because then you can tie, I got the cert and I did it with this types of things, and that can really be a plus.

One of the questions that people come up with a lot is, “I applied for a position online but I didn’t hear back.”  Anybody ever had that experience?  Anybody happy with that experience?  Not very many, nobody is raising their hand. So let’s talk about applicant tracking systems, why they exist. Everybody on this side of the room knows that they are probably not happy with it. I think you will be surprised by thoughts on this side of the room. So first of all does OFCCP apply to everybody on this panel.

OFCCP is the bane of these folks’ existence. OFCCP is Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs. If you're a company of 50 people or more, it dictates how you advertise, hire and track hires. If you ever get audited it becomes an even bigger nightmare when they have to turn in all this paper work and documentation. Smaller companies don’t fall under that. So that can be why one company says, "Sure just give me your resume, we’ll talk to you," and the other company says, "I need you to go apply online."  Because if you are OFCCP everything has to go through that funnel, it’s a legal requirement. So does anybody here want to just kind of talk about the struggle with that, and then also what job seekers can do about that to help the process?

Genelle: Well for my positions, first thing is definitely yes apply to a position, attaching your resume to the position in either word or a PDF document. Answering the questions, some of them have mandatory questions making sure that you’re answering that. Being truthful when it comes to your salary requirements is definitely a plus. I know some people may put, "Okay, I'm open to $40k to $60k," but you really want $80k. You might think it will help you but sometimes in the end it will probably be a waste of your time and the recruiter’s time. Not applying to all 2,000 requisitions that we have open. Making sure you know which types of positions that you want and apply just to them and not just to any and every position. The recruiter can look at that to say, "Okay, well this person really doesn’t know what they want to do, they're just applying to all positions."  So that’s the advice I would give.

Wendy: Just to piggyback on. The same way that as a job seeker you don’t want to recruiter calling you simply because you have one word in your resume and they are calling for a totally different position, is the same way as you apply. Please don’t apply across the board, because there’s no way you would probably fit in every single position across the board. Another thing too is like she said the questions, there are knock out questions. Specifically if it says, you have to have a Top Secret clearance. If you know you really don’t have one, stop the application because some people will go all the way through and assume, "Okay, if they see my resume, they'll bring me in."  A lot of companies can't sponsor you clearance. If you even want to contact and go through LinkedIn or something just to say, “Hey I know I could fit in your company, I don’t fit any of your positions," we can work it out, but definitely if you're doing applicant tracking system key words, if the position says something – applicant tracking system is going to pull up your resume if it has so many words that's in the actual job description. Again like I said, make your resume meet the position descriptions.

Bob: The term for that when you just apply for the job is I'm applying in the blind. If you don’t have any kind of connection with the company you just saw, what you saw on their company website, or you saw on ClearedJobs.Net, you’re just applying blind. How would you, the four of you, any of you describe the difference between that and like what should these folks be doing at a Cleared Job Fair. They got a chance to actually talk to somebody right now, maybe they’ve seen a position online or maybe they saw a position in the job seeker handbook. But what can folks like this do to stand out in a Cleared Job Fair and what tips would you have after the Cleared Job Fair for following up?

Genelle: I would say, definitely before a Cleared Job Fair look at the company’s website to see which positions are open. Come to the Cleared Job Fair with the actual job titles, maybe the job ID Number, so that if you can give it to the recruiter or to the manager at the Cleared Job Fair they can actually look up your information. A lot of people say, “The program manager jobs."  Well we have 200 PM positions open, which one?  Do that, definitely follow up with the recruiter, send them an email, send them a soft copy of your resume. Or even leave it open to do you have other positions that might fit my background if not that position. But definitely keep in contact after the Cleared Job Fair.

Megan: We love it when y'all, when job seekers come to us and you already have all your information and you know about the job, then we're like, “Oh thank you."  Because now we don’t have to explain and basically reiterate what we are looking for. So when you come to us and say, “Hey, I am the project manager for xyz and these are my qualifications…jackpot!"  The other thing too is especially with Cleared Job Fairs and you've been going through resumes and I kind of what she just said, follow up with your recruiter. It is not that we don’t care about you or that we don’t want you to be part of our team. We do, but definitely follow up because we are going through and dealing with hundreds of people and so sometimes, I mean we are humans and sometimes it will get lost in the abyss. Or sorry to throw you under the bus, but hiring managers may not follow up with us for two or three weeks.

Steven: It's absolutely true.

Megan: It just kind of gets pushed back into like the back of our minds. We're just waiting for them to reply and then we will remember to follow up with you when they reply so that we have an actual update. So even though you might think it's annoying definitely keep following up with your recruiter. Keep following up with the people that you're interested and you know the companies because like I said we are humans and sometimes things do unfortunately fall through the cracks.

Bob: So like everybody here has either brought a resume with them or they registered online with a more general resume. Now I have walked up to you and I have said, “Hey we are talking about a specific position, right?"  These companies get every one of the resumes in a digital file tomorrow morning. If I wanted to get you a more specific resume now, what would you recommend? Should they send it to you directly?

Wendy: I would say both ways. Usually when I am in a Cleareded Job Fair I will give people key terms to put into the email subject line. I would say apply online, but send it to me directly and say, “In a red suit met at the Cleared Job Fair, we talked about x.” We see so many people. We're one person, but we see so many people. I want to remember the gentleman with the red tie who came up to me who was looking for a job because I'm going to put down, "Gentleman with the red tie. Really want to bring him on board."  Just anything that you can get our attention to lets us know, "Hey out of those 400 people you talked to that day, I was the one that you said you really wanted to interview by tomorrow."  So definitely, I’d like to say, do your homework. When you walk up to the table – I used to have people say with IT position, I say, “Well, what do you do?"  They would say, “Well I do IT.”  Be specific because it’s a broad field. Be specific about what you want to do so you can sell yourself.

Megan: I want to follow up with that really quickly and I kind of said something about this. My biggest pet peeve is when people come up to my company – Because MGAC is not very well known unless you are in my specific industry. So when people walk up to my booth and they say, “So what do you do?"  It's like, “No, wait, what do you do?"  So please do your research. I know it can be a daunting process, but please do your research.

Bob: The Job Seeker Handbook can help you with this too. So every company that's here today has their description. The suggestion here is even if it’s just, "I read your company description in the Job Seeker Handbook. It says you do this, can you tell me more about this aspect of it."  You don’t need to have gone into a deep dive and say that, "I understand you CEO went to Virginia Tech," you don’t need to do that kind of stuff. But just knowing enough to walk up there, to say, "I see that you do this, can you tell more about this type of a thing?"  That can be a pretty easy ice breaker.

Wendy: Of course it will save you from going to every single employer because again there may be some employers who are here who you do absolutely nothing that can help their company, but there are certain other ones that may be of interest. Do your homework. You’ll target exactly where you want to go and then if you have time then you can go to the other employers. It is like going to the grocery store and picking up everything and then deciding at the register, "Okay, well I don’t need this, and I don’t need this.”