The Power of a Well-Designed Job Search: An interview with Monique Parker, seasoned tech and diversity recruiter for Dropbox.
Posted by Christine Campbell on Thursday, July 16, 2020 at 1:29 PM PDT
At Seattle University’s June 2020 Web Development Meet Up, we were fortunate to get a chance to talk with Monique Parker, a top recruiter at Dropbox. We interviewed her to get some great tips on breaking into tech, how to showcase your work, ace an interview and get a great offer.
How did you become a tech recruiter?
I am currently a recruiting program manager at Dropbox. I live in Texas but I'm originally from Washington State.
I got started in recruiting after college and ended up taking a position with Indeed.com that ultimately brought me to Texas. I moved over to Dropbox to focus on our diversity hiring strategy with women and underrepresented minorities and others with non-traditional profiles. The tech industry is just starting to realize how important it is to go beyond stereotypes when hiring for technical roles. There are a lot of openings right now in the industry for people like me who see a really big need for new process and new opportunities for people with diverse skill sets.
You see a lot of resumes! Tell us what makes for a good tech resume.
I'm pretty liberal when it comes to what I think needs to be on resumes. This may not apply to all recruiters, but generally speaking for the technical industry, it's less about a fancy layout.
As a recruiter, when we get an application, we want to be able to understand very quickly what this person's skill set is, what they've done and where they've worked. If you have a very wordy resume or an overdone resume, a recruiter can get really easily distracted by graphics or visuals, or fluff wording. Generally, recruiters spend less than a minute really looking at your resume. If you're an entry-level candidate or coming from a different industry, the number one tip I have about resumes is to make sure that all of the most relevant information is up top.
What should candidates do if they are coming from another sector?
It doesn’t matter if your last job has nothing to do with the job that you're applying for. Career switchers can build a new personal brand for tech. If you are changing careers, you should have an objective on your resume. Let's say I was a salesperson. “I come from a sales background and I have 10 years of sales experience. Recently I've made a transition into technology where I can utilize X, Y, and Z skill sets. Here’s how I’m bringing that into this [new industry that you're applying to].”
What do you recommend about listing skills—how well does a person need to know a certain skill to list it?
Definitely have a skill section on top that lists any relevant certifications that you have or relevant technologies that you've worked with. But be honest. Only put technologies that you truly do know how to use. Sometimes people will put things that they have barely worked with, and then we'll get into the interview process and they won't be able to speak to that. And it doesn't look great for the candidate if they can't do what they say they can do on their resume.
Do you have any tips for interviewing?
It’s important to take the time in advance to write down what you want to convey to these employers. They're all going to ask you, “Tell me about yourself.” Or “Why do you think you're a good fit for this job?” You want to be able to give them a well-prepared answer to their question so that they can see that you took the time to really think about this. But keep your answer under a minute - time yourself if you need to!
Also, pick three of the most common skills or characteristics employers look for in the job you want and then illustrate how those skills are presented in your everyday work.
Then prior to your on-site interview, go back into the job description and look at what the employer is asking for, and figure out how you've done those things in your prior roles. Know that the work that you've done already, little or big, is valuable to how you present, your skillset, and your portfolio.
Another tip is to talk about what you’ve done, rather than your team. Find a way to break out the work that you alone were responsible for on a team project. The interviewer is interested in you and the things that you were able to produce so talk specifically about how you added value to those projects.
We hear a lot about highlighting projects, but what if they weren’t paying projects?
For people that are just coming into the industry, where this is going to be their first role, there's a lot of value in any unpaid or personal projects that you worked on. So show your projects! If you have a website, make sure that the link is on your resume, on your LinkedIn, and any other type of collateral that you use with employers.
You want to be able to show hiring managers, “You know, I don't have that work experience, but here are the things that I'm capable of and here, click this link and you can see exactly what I've done.”
The good thing about this industry is that it is very creative. You don't have to have degrees to know how to do these things. And so there's a lot of things that you can do on your own that can show your ability for the type of roles that you're trying to get and showcase that you're able to do these specific things.
What advice do you have for entry-level applicants when so many jobs seem to want 3+ years of experience?
There are ways around that! Let's say you only have half that amount, but if you have a lot of really good projects under your belt and I can see that on your resume, or you show me in your portfolio, it'll definitely encourage me to say we can be a little bit more flexible because although you don't have the experience on paper, you’ve done the work, and I can validate.
How should people go about finding open jobs?
First, do a little research on titles. The tech industry uses a lot of titles for similar positions, so you’ll want to be sure you’ve created a search for all the titles that titles vary from company to company.
For example, for web development, some companies like Dropbox call it “front end engineer” instead of “web developer.” So get a good grasp on the different titles that this role could fall under.
You might also want to search for different skills. You’d be surprised at what other roles may come up that you weren't even thinking about, or even companies that aren't directly in tech but are looking for something that you do but call it something different.
How should people apply?
A lot of people go to job boards like LinkedIn and then go to employer sites directly.
Don't stop doing that, but you should know that while 50% of applications come from job boards, less than 1% of candidates who apply for those job boards are offered the position. It is much more effective to apply for jobs directly by researching the hiring manager and sending your application to them.
And it might be surprising, but depending on the source, between 70 and 85% of jobs are not posted online at all. These positions are filled via networking and internal referrals.
Here are some really great job boards -- obviously go to these and take a look at what's out there. (Indeed.com, linkedin.com, glassdoor.com, dice.com, hired.com, interview.io, GitHub jobs.) But then use your network.
What do you wish more job searchers knew about applying to jobs?
Really, the most useful thing that I think many people don’t know about applying to jobs is to reach out directly through LinkedIn to hiring managers and recruiters and people doing the job that you want. Touch base with these people and say, “I’m a new grad, or I'm working on my cert and I'm interested in this company. Would you have 10 or 15 minutes to hop on a call or zoom chat and have an informational conversation about your job, what you do, and how you like your company?” And most people are super open to having that conversation with you.
Recruiters especially want to talk to you. Reach out to them and say “I'm starting to think about applying and would love to connect with you just to chat a little bit more about your company.” Recruiters will respond, and if they aren’t the right person, they’ll connect you, and then you have your automatic in.
Also, when you reach out to people who are doing the job that you want to be doing, a lot of times they'll end up putting you in their company system as a referral. A lot of companies give referral bonuses, even if what the person submits is just a lead. But it's great for you because then you have a leg up -- you’re submitted as a referral automatically; you're going to get some type of response from the recruiting team.
I suggest that if you see a job that you want, go ahead and fill out the application submit it. But then go on LinkedIn and do a little research, find that hiring manager or that engineer or that recruiter, and reach out to them too.
Recruiters and sourcers are always happy to have referrals or a lead come to them so don't be shy. It's not harassment. Recruiters will literally do the same thing as soon as you get into the industry -- we're knocking on your door and sending you 20 messages. So don't be afraid to reach out to those managers -- it shows great initiative.
The advice most people hear is to not ask about compensation. What do you suggest?
Don't be afraid to talk about compensation with recruiters. It's illegal for employers to ask you what you're currently making, so do your research on whatever role you're applying for and when they ask you what you're looking for, ask for whatever the market average is for that role. Check Glassdoor or Robert Half—they have salary listings. Don't sell yourself short. I have seen too many times where we have the budget to pay someone far more than what they've asked for.
That’s a great note to end on. To sum up:
Applicants should get their materials in order, start searching for job openings but also for hiring managers and recruiters, and be prepared to talk about themselves and their skills in the interview. Then ask for what the job is worth when you get the offer.
Click here for a copy of Monique’s slides.
To contact Monique, find her on LinkedIn here.