Cloudflare TV

Recruiting Corner: "So you just got laid off" pt. 2

Presented by Zach Tolley, Lindsey McCormick
Originally aired on 

A three episode series focused externally towards individuals that were recently laid off, providing a how-to style guide to navigating the circumstance like a professional recruiter.

Interview Tactics - Prep, Execution, Volume & Follow-ups

This episode will be focused on navigating the interview process - how to prepare, general soft skill tips/tricks, and anticipating the more difficult questions you may be asked. We'll also talk a bit about interview volume, follow ups, and overall mindset/strategy.


Transcript (Beta)

How's it going, everyone? Thank you for joining Recruiting Corner. I'm your host, Zach.

I'm a recruiter here at Cloudflare. This is our second episode of our So You Just Got Laid Off three-episode segment.

I'm joined here with Lindsey. Lindsey, thanks for being on.

Can you tell us a little bit about what you do here and when you started, where you located, all that stuff?

Yeah, thank you, Zach. As Zach said, I am Lindsey and I am a recruiter.

I have been with Cloudflare for a little over a year now and I support our mid -market sales division out of Austin, Texas.

Awesome. Today we're going to be talking about specifically interviewing. Last week, actually it was two weeks ago, we had our first episode where that was preparation and materials, everything like that.

That video, if you missed it the first time around, you can check it out just on the Cloudflare TV show pages and catch up from the first one.

This one, we'll talk specifically about interviewing tactics, everything like that.

Just to start off, we're really going to mainly touch on the soft skills portion of it.

We'll talk about a personal narrative, which is something that'll help a lot with the soft skills if that's an area you typically struggle.

Just how to prepare for the interviews, the timing involved, the volume to try to keep up with, all those things.

I guess when we start, we'll start on the personal narrative side.

I think that, I know at least for me, I don't know if it's the same for you, Lindsey, but when people ask me questions about my core competencies and the things that I do for a living day in and day out, those questions typically come easy.

Oddly enough, it's the abstract icebreaker questions that I think a lot of people have trouble with.

Personal narrative is just something, I think, the story of how all the things that have led you in life to be prepared for this role that you're applying for.

I guess, what does that mean for you?

Yeah, no, I absolutely agree. I think for me too, it's a lot of the why. Why am I applying to this job?

Why this company? Why this role? Why is it important to me?

Why do I want it? I think it's understanding that, that helps to build that personal narrative.

That can be anything around your education, your background, or even something personal.

Yeah. I think it's like a lot of the times the way to steer that and I guess prepare it, a lot of it comes down to the stage of your career that you're in.

For mid-level, senior level candidates, individuals that have a pretty good amount of work experience and you're solidified within your field and you don't have too many, I guess, or you have plenty of experience to draw from, the personal narrative probably comes a little bit easier.

Especially the entry-level candidates.

I know that recently a lot of the layoffs, offer recensions, things like that, that have been going on.

It's been a tough go for those that are more recently or just now entering the workforce.

Entry-level candidates and personal narratives that they don't have the experience to draw from, what do you think is the best thing for them to do and how they should go about developing one?

Yeah. I have an example that I can share for me. In a past company, I worked for a medical device company that manufactured heart cardiac devices.

I was able to speak to my son having a heart defect in the interview. It just really brought up some really natural conversation.

We were able to connect that way.

It was awesome. I was able to know some of the technology and talk, I guess, I was educated on some of the things within the company without even trying to be.

It was just a personal story that connected me to something with the company.

It may not be that way, of course, for everyone, but that was how I was able to.

Yeah. It's those exact type of things that I think you probably would have gotten that.

I'm sure that you also had the experience in the background to back it up, but I would imagine that even if there are other individuals within that same interview pool that you're competing with, that that's the tiebreaker, that's the built-in, like, okay, we're not going to have to question the interest or the drive or specifically what you brought up, the why Lindsay wants to work here.

I think that's the crux of what to take from it is it doesn't have to be...

It can be just the interest that you've shown, hobbies that you enjoy.

If you don't have a bunch of work experience to draw on, lessons learned and the backbone of your career and your skill set and how it's been developed, well, you can still speak on as to...

I'm not just applying for a job in this instance, I'm applying for this job with this company.

That's the picture, I think, that if you paint it for the decision makers, it makes it a lot easier to hire you.

Absolutely, I agree. Yeah, and mid and senior level candidates, typically, I mean, the discussion generally will probably come pretty easily, but not to cop out of giving something for those individuals as well.

A lot of times people roll through strictly the accomplishments, you know, all the good things that they've done, like a highlight reel description.

I personally always felt like those are the things you put on the resume and then in the discussions you talk about the failures and lessons learned.

I guess building a personal narrative, it doesn't have to be too much different based on career stage, but mid and senior level candidates, it's probably if you go about...

you're probably well polished and know what you're going to say.

Try to put something in that's maybe unexpected, but equally aligning with the conversation topics.

Agreed. I think it's just building a connection with your interviewer and, you know, just finding kind of common ground and going in genuine, so.

Yeah, genuine, I think, is the key point there, too. It's like the personal narrative, really, what it solves for you is all of the awkward soft skill questions that, you know, when people just kind of give you the blank stare and say, you know, tell me about yourself.

And that's like, you know, the sitcom style joke that the question nobody likes to receive.

And probably for good reason.

Like, it's still one that, you know, would trip up a lot of people. But the personal narrative is kind of like, it's where you base all of those other answers.

So if it's a question you didn't anticipate and it doesn't have an easy, you know, like kind of black and white, like this is the correct answer or, you know, an exact example of what's being asked for, being able to kind of have that built in personal story, it'll provide you, I think, with a lot of kind of fill in the blanks to tell me about yourself.

You know, my instance, I was pretty terrible at every technical hands on type of function that I tried to serve.

I tried just about all of them.

And the joke I always make is people, you can probably imagine how good I was at the technical hands on work seeing as I'm a recruiter now, right?

Probably not the greatest, but, you know, having tried a lot of these things and, you know, faced the difficulties that I think a lot of the candidates that we talked to, I mainly work with engineering and infrastructure.

So I'm talking to a lot of people that are significantly better at the things that I tried to do than I ever was.

But I understand like where they've been and the difficulties that come with, you know, a lot of these positions and getting there.

And that's generally my personal narrative always is taking the lens of like, I've been one of these candidates before.

You know, I've experienced, I've had good candidate experiences, I've had terrible ones, everything in between.

So, and it just kind of helps you fill in the blank for all these other aspects.

So yeah, from personal narrative, let's talk about, you know, I guess some of the other preparation tactics that people can take into effect before you ever get into the interview room.

One of the ones that, you know, I know that I've always been, or I've utilized a good bit in the past was getting someone that is involved professionally in hiring to honestly, like, try to crush me with negative feedback that they would pull from the resume.

Try to poke all the holes. And then that way I can sit down and anticipate if I get a tough interviewer or someone that, or, you know, a question set or anything that makes things really difficult, there's at least a decent chance if it was blatantly obvious, you know, maybe it's a lack of experience in certain areas or being really junior candidate or a work gap or anything like that.

You kind of have conformed those answers ahead of times, but what else do you think is important as far as like just preparing for the interviews before you get in there?

Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, a big one that sounds obvious, but it may not be, is absolutely doing your homework on the company and the role that you are applying for, interviewing for.

You know, I also am one that goes on LinkedIn and I like to see, hey, who's interviewing me?

What does their career path look like? Where have they been? Do we have anything in common?

You know, do, you know, things like that. So doing your homework, I think is huge.

I don't, that doesn't mean you have to be an expert, but I think knowing, you know, the mission statements and the vision and, you know, the products and services of a company just kind of on a basic level are incredibly important.

You know, and then of course, just making sure that you are prepared, again, with your resume, with notes, that you're on time, you know, all those things that seem so simple, but they make a difference.

If you're interviewing virtually, make sure you, you know, any technical issues might be, you know, taken care of ahead of time, you know, things like that.

Where your Bluetooth is paired on the headphones, those kind of things.

Yeah, that you're in a good spot to interview.

You know, those things matter and they also take up time if something goes wrong.

And so it's, you want to be able to utilize every bit of time that you have with an interviewer.

So you want it to be productive. Yeah, you bring up a good point too, which is like the, I know personally when I'm interviewing and people have the, you know, the fumble around for the first five minutes or so.

It doesn't, it certainly, I don't like, we've all been there, so I'm not going to harshly judge somebody, but it may be five extra minutes that axes out one question that would have been asked and really put that person in a much better light.

And so I know a lot of these things that we're talking about now, it's not like groundbreaking stuff and it seems common sense.

But a lot of the times it's, don't assume that all of these things are going to go right.

Assume they're going to go wrong and, and that way you're covered and, and it doesn't bleed into like a stressful situation.

Absolutely, you'll feel more confident, you know, if you feel prepared.

Yeah. And I think one of the, yeah. And one of the things that we were talking about before, like when me and Lindsay were preparing was, was kind of like the, the mindset of going into interviews.

And so I think that at least for me personally, the, what, when I started entering the workforce, like fresh out of school, it was always like a very, most interview environments were like extremely formal.

And it just kind of felt like, you know, everyone was doing exactly what was expected and saying exactly what was expected.

And, and especially on the candidate side, just like trying to guess what was, what, what the other person wanted to hear.

And it just can, can make for, you know, a lot of those more, I guess, awkward encounters.

And so one of the things that I know I always try to do is, is especially in the more high pressure scenarios, like we all feel that pressure and, you know, is, is speaking as if, if it's the first time you've met somebody, try to speak to them as if it's the second time.

And, you know, just basically kind of lowering the formality, just to touch and replacing it with a little bit of just kind of a default friendly nature.

You know, interviewer, people that get interviewed, I think it's human nature to be pretty nervous about it.

And those nerves affect some of us, you know, pretty significantly. But interviewers, you know, they, they sometimes feel uncomfortable too.

So kind of starting out that way is, is it's not going to hurt you.

I think you had brought up a good point.

We were talking about it before, you know, and not just the way you speak to people, but kind of the confidence conveyed and how you build that.

Absolutely. You know, and honestly, as someone who interviews all the time, if a candidate has, comes to me or is a, sorry, you know, friendly and easy to talk to, it makes me less nervous.

And so I know that sometimes, you know, their demeanor has helped me to get more comfortable and confident, even as an interviewer, because, you know, they've, again, they've come in prepared and they've, they have a personal narrative and the, you know, they may have an icebreaker that, you know, was, was great.

And it just changes the whole interview. And it just becomes, you know, a much more kind of flowing conversation and versus more sterile.

That's a good word for it. Yeah. Do you, do you ever have candidates? Like, you know, I've had, I've had a couple of candidates that they kind of just like come out of the gate and just tell me straight up that, you know, I get really nervous about interviews.

And so I know we talked a little bit about that before, but have you had that happen with you before?

Cause for me, I view it as a pot, like, I think it's actually a good, if you're, you know, the, I guess maybe the 5, 10, 25% of people that like, you're watching this and you know, it's easy for everyone else to talk about, but I am just affected.

Like I have a big time mental block or anxiety about interviewing.

It's, it's almost, I don't view it as a knock for, for people to mention that it kind of helps me understand where they're coming from a little better and maybe make the process easier.

I completely agree. I don't recommend it to be something that they kind of harp on right throughout, but just, Hey, I'm a little bit nervous.

I just want to preface with that. So, you know, please forgive me if, and you know what it does, it makes it, it eases the maybe, like you said, awkwardness, but I think most interviews will take that into consideration and knowing that absolutely will, okay.

You know what? They fumbled a little bit there, but I understand why.

And so I think it's perfectly appropriate to say, Hey, I'm a bit nervous.

Yeah. It's like, you just basically let people know that there's a good likelihood that if, if I stumble in my answers or if I, um, you know, if, if it seems like I'm taking a long time to think of what I'm going to say, it's not necessarily, it's not because I don't know the material.

It's just this environment and circumstances, one that naturally makes me uncomfortable.

Maybe tell, I'd say, who do you think they should tell that?

Cause I would say, tell us, like tell the recruiter.

A million percent utilize your recruiters. Let us help, you know, prepare you as best as possible.

We are advocate, you know, we, I, that's how I kind of approach is.

We're your advocate and we are also the messenger right between the candidates and the managers and we want to set them up for success.

Yeah. I couldn't agree more. Um, what do you think? Let's talk a little bit about, I think a lot of people, especially if you've been laid off and let's say you're earlier in your career too.

And, and, um, the, the lead, the job leads and the response rates are, are, you know, lower and harder to come by.

Um, but at the same time, I think it's really to people's detriment, especially when we've talked so much about how much, you know, to kind of focus on the preparation aspect to just easy apply for like a million different jobs and, um, and try to take every single interview that you can.

Um, so one of the things I know we had talked about before that I thought would be interesting to touch on is kind of like a, uh, an acceptable volume.

And this, I guess it doesn't have to be a specific, everybody's going to be different, especially in this use case where, you know, we're assuming that the, the, I guess the circumstance is one of a layoff.

And so it's kind of like searching for a job is the full-time job until you get one, but what do you think is, is an acceptable volume or how people should be at least factoring that into kind of their day-to-day operations as they go through all of this?

Yeah, no, I think that's a great question. And, um, I, I think that kind of going back to what we talked to before, um, going into your job search prepared as much as you would go into an interview, that preparation is important and it's going back to kind of your why, um, what am I looking for?

Do you know, I was just laid off.

Do I want to stay in that industry? Do I want to stay in that role?

Um, is there an opportunity to do something different? And so really kind of putting those pieces together and kind of figuring out your why versus kind of this panicked, you know, that we all do, I have done, um, kind of, you know, applying.

I don't know if there's a magic number, but I think, you know, it's when you're talking to recruiters, ask what the process is like, you know, it's good to know, Hey, is this, is this kind of a lengthy interview process?

And, and asking those questions so that again, you can prepare will help you kind of say, Hey, what can I manage?

Um, because definitely relative and not everybody who, even if you're laid off, that does not mean you're not busy.

And it's very hard, you know, to dedicate a hundred percent of your time to a job search.

And so I think doing some preparation can help kind of care if that makes sense.

It does. And I think like for me, I've noticed like in, in the past times that I've interviewed, it's like, um, two to three, if I'm currently working, um, or let's say you're, you know, being the layoff happens as kind of an ease out, or maybe you're watching this because you, you fear that it's on the horizon, but it hasn't been made official yet.

Um, I would say for the, depending on how in-depth the process is, um, you know, two to three concurrent interviews.

And then maybe if you're totally, if this is kind of the sole focus of the, you know, I guess not personal life or professional life portion of your day, maybe three to five, but, um, kind of replacing the, you know, if you, if you have a prioritization list of, of the, the leads that you have in the interviews that you're kind of are ongoing and not always trying to add to those numbers, but just saying, okay, like I'm interviewing with four different companies right now.

I'm in similar stages and it's a lot to handle. Boom. My number one choice, like the, uh, the absolute, you know, hail Mary first place just got back to me.

I'm probably not going to be able to put my best foot forward if I add, and I'm already at capacity.

Um, it's the same deal as, as I think in anybody's, regardless of their profession, like you can't, you get overloaded and you just do a lot of mediocre work at best, as opposed to, um, you know, doing good work in a more selective fashion.

So kind of replacing the, you know, maybe you interviewed with four or five companies and, and one of them, um, you just, you, you feel good enough about what you've kind of gotten the hopper and, and, uh, the leads that you have to where you're not too anxious about, um, you know, kind of crossing one off the list, but replacing once you hit that number, as opposed to trying to stack up so many interviews and kind of like you had mentioned before, I think we've had candidates that sometimes they come on and don't even remember that they applied or what position or don't know anything about the company.

That's like the worst thing. Um, yeah, absolutely. And then, and then again, that just kind of comes from, I've just kind of applied anything that I can right now, because, you know, I want to get back to work and absolutely understand, but yeah, I think you're right.

So prioritizing, um, absolutely makes a difference.

Yep. And then some of the things I think that we had talked about before that, um, interviewing, like you get better at it, I feel like as you go along for the most part, but a lot of the times, like one of the things that I think people, I guess it's not in the forefront of their mind is kind of tracking, like understanding as with any job or hobby or anything that you're doing, um, understanding where you're good and where you should improve.

And so some of the things it's like, if you think back to the most difficult part of the job search, um, you know, as an individual, it's like, what's the most difficult part of the job search for me?

Um, you know, if you have, let's say if someone has a really hard time landing interviews, um, and their hit rate is super low, uh, you know, maybe they apply to a hundred jobs, they get one interview back.

Um, what conclusion would you draw that they probably need to work on?

Their resume. Yep.

The materials that you're putting out into the world, if you have a really low hit rate, um, you know, it, it probably means that you're not representing yourself as, as best you can at the top end of those processes.

If, uh, if you struggle, you know, let's say you, you get a lot of interview requests back and then you typically have trouble with the second interview request.

Um, I would say maybe try building up that personal narrative and just kind of like understanding the story and directing it, directing a lot of your focus and attention to, uh, to the companies that, that, you know, you want to work for and they fit that narrative to, um, you know, I guess when people hit the, uh, hit the, the, the wall is at the end of the process.

Um, you know, a lot of times I think targeted, you know, maybe it's the follow up tactics.

If you make it a lot of the way through and then, uh, everything kind of fizzles out at the end, what do you think?

Yeah. So, you know, you actually mentioned something earlier when, when we were talking, um, about the, why would in an interview, what would keep you from hiring me?

What, what would be any hesitation?

And I love, and you know, that's actually something that I haven't thought of.

And I think that's a great question. Um, because you mentioned that it's a, if you have an interviewer who is willing to, you know, give you a very transparent, you know, kind of maybe constructive criticism answer, um, it's a way for a second chance to say, Oh, let me address that.

But absolutely. And let's, let's revisit.

And so I love that tactic actually. And I, um, I don't, I hope I never have to use it again.

I would, you know, a long time, but, um, if I did, I'm absolutely going to add that to, to kind of, yeah.

And that comes, I think to where, you know, it's like you evaluate where your struggles tend to take place, but then a lot of the times, you know, me and me and Lindsay were talking about, um, you know, questions you should ask the companies that you're interviewing with, especially when you get to these later stage processes.

Um, and that was, that, that was the, the one that's kind of been that I typically will always ask is, uh, is just right at the very end, just, you know, is there anything from this interview, from my resume, from anything you've looked at in evaluating me as a candidate that would, you know, give you pause or hesitation and moving forward.

And, um, some of the other questions I think to ask are, are like, um, you know, what does success look like in this role?

That was something you had touched on before about, um, just kind of like making sure that you're asking questions that indicate to the hiring manager that you're interested in this position in this company in a long-term deal.

And so that people won't have to be, you know, the entire interview team won't be doing the same song and dance and six to eight months after, uh, they think that they've, you know, crossed it off their to-do list by hiring you.

Right. Yeah. You know, I, I like to break up my questions into categories.

I kind of like to talk, you know, ask questions on the interviewer. Um, you know, I, what do you do here and, and how would this person support you in this role?

And, you know, kind of talk through what they're doing. Then I break it into how can someone be successful into the role?

Um, and kind of talk through what, what are some of the goals?

What are some of the challenges someone will face coming into, to this position?

And I think those open-ended questions are incredibly important, um, in an interview.

It's like you said, it shows, it shows that you're interested in it and that you've, um, done some homework and that you want to really know and continue to do, you know, homework.

And, um, so that's kind of how I approach it.

And so I love when folks, you know, ask me those types of questions and, um, you know, I always tell them, no question is a dumb question, ask away.

That's what I'm here for.

And I, unless you ask me what position this is or what company it is, like we talked about, the only one don't ask that.

Yeah. Um, so, but no, I, I absolutely appreciate, you know, wanting to learn about the position or learn about the interviewer.

Um, so yeah, I think, I think you touch on a good point too.

And I think it's like, there's a tactic behind the questions you ask. And obviously first and foremost is just making sure it's the right opportunity for you.

And you have a crystal clear understanding of what you're getting into, if you were to accept a job, but from a hiring manager perspective and everything too, the, one of the best things you can leave them with is the fact that, okay, this individual asked me enough questions really about the day to day, not the job description or just like what they've read on LinkedIn pages, but they really want to understand what day-to-day life in this role looks like.

And I can tell that they're factoring that information into their decision process.

Well, if I was a hiring manager and, and, you know, I was left with that impression, it tells me, okay, this person, if I give, make them an offer and they accept it, they're accepting the offer with, with, without a lot of gray areas, obviously you can't know everything until you start a job.

But that was one of my favorite things about interviewing here, um, was the fact that, you know, I got to the end of our process.

I really didn't feel there was like an advertising sheen or that, that I was sold into the position.

I understood the, you know, the, the good, the challenges, everything in between the entire landscape.

And I think that if you convey that and you kind of put the, the people that are doing the evaluating and they know that you don't have to worry about a lack of, of, uh, of awareness from, from, you know, the candidate standpoint that I don't know if they truly understand what the day-to-day is, but, um, it's one of the best things you can leave people with is no doubt.

If I make an offer, they understand what this offer means and they understand what this job function is.

And, um, if they accept it, it means that, you know, that works for them and they're excited to do it.

Um, but yeah, we're, we're coming up on just a couple minutes left.

I think, um, one of the things that, you know, we had kind of talked about a little bit were, um, you know, I guess like the follow-up side, who we follow up with, how often, I know we touched on a little bit before, but do you specifically like, do you, you know, I guess three days goes by and you haven't heard back about next steps versus a week.

Do you have a specific, um, kind of timetable in mind, uh, that tells you how much you should anticipate, you know, hearing those companies get back to you or if maybe, you know, you should replace them on your list like we discussed earlier?

Yeah, no, I think that's a good question.

I think it can trip folks up, you know, sometimes it's, I don't want to do too much and I don't want to do too little.

And so, you know, I think a quick thank you note right after the interview is always a good idea.

And, um, you know, again, utilize your recruiters and I think going to your recruiters, hey, right away, talking to them, giving them your perspective on the process.

And I'm usually kind of a three to five day-er. I think, you know, follow up if you haven't heard back within three to five days, I think it's very appropriate to reach out and see, um, if you can get an update.

Yeah, I would say the same.

Like it's, uh, don't write them off without asking because it could be people, people go out of office, they go on vacation, you know, holiday seasons are coming up.

Like there could be a lot of factors, but, um, it's, you know, just getting back to people, especially those that have interviewed and invested time already, it shouldn't be difficult.

Um, let's see, last thing I wanted to touch on the, uh, across the board, there is one aspect that I think we've painted the picture that I'm, I'm talking from the senior level, you know, senior, most candidates I interview to the really junior ones that is always discussed in the feedback, um, enthusiasm, right?

Uh, so try to make sure you convey a proper amount of enthusiasm.

And if you're not enthusiastic about the job, um, chances are, I think you'd be better served, uh, applying to others that, that do kind of light that, that fire with you.

Agree. I absolutely agree. I think managers, recruiters, interviewers, they, they love that.

They love to know that you want to be there.

So I couldn't agree more. Well, thank you so much, Lindsay. I really appreciate you hopping on with us.

Um, and so really, I guess the, uh, key takeaways are, you know, iron out your process, kind of prepare for the tough questions ahead of time.

Um, you know, soft skills or, or the, uh, the resume poking of holes, anything you can do to kind of shore up and feel comfortable in those circumstances is going to serve you really well.

Thank you everyone. Thank you, Lindsay.

We'll see you again soon.

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