Marisa Jones is an established technical recruiter having worked at multiple tech companies in the Bay Area. She was previously a recruiting coordinator, talent sourcer, and technical recruiter for 4 years at Salesforce, and for the last 3 years has worked as a senior technical recruiter at Airbnb.
Here are some questions we will be answering:
– Difference between tech and general recruiters?
– How to network specifically with tech recruiters and what questions to ask?
– How to ask for referrals in the tech industry?
– Is LinkedIn that important when applying to jobs?
– How to optimize your resume with keywords?
Connect with Marisa Jones: www.linkedin.com/in/marisajones91/
Get 1-on-1 Career Coaching: www.careercoachingcompany.com/
Follow our Host, AJ Eckstein, on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/aaron-aj-eckstein/
*Disclaimer: The opinions and views expressed in this podcast are of the host and guest and not of their employers
“Tech roles are more like, ‘Okay. What have you already accomplished? What have you already built?’ and then on the non-tech side, it’s ‘Okay. How are you going to use your skills for this new role?” – Marisa Jones.
Welcome to the Final Round podcast, where our mission is to help you knock out the competition and land your dream job. My name is A.J. Eckstein, and I’m a recent college graduate, a strategy consultant, a five-time intern and the founder of the Career Coaching Company.
Have you ever wondered why only a few people get past the final round interview and land the job offer? Join me in the ring as I speak with recruiters at top companies to learn the secrets why certain applicants get “knocked-out” and others are still standing after the final round.
Now, let’s jump into the ring and get you past the final round.
If you listen to our first two episodes, we interviewed recruiters from management consulting and the commercial real estate industry. Today, we’re going to take a deep dive into the tech industry. Marisa Jones is an established technical recruiter having worked at multiple tech companies in the Bay Area. She was previously a recruiting coordinator, talent sourcer and technical recruiter for over four years at Salesforce. For almost three years now, she has worked as a senior technical recruiter at Airbnb. I can guarantee you that you’ve heard about Airbnb, whether you’ve rented a property with a host on their platform or a shareholder at Airbnb given their recent IPO in December. Oh, I think there’s someone at the door. Who is it?
Marisa: Hey, it’s Marisa Jones from Airbnb… Technical recruiter here. How is it going?
Hey, Marisa! Welcome to the show. I’m so excited that you’re here today and I can’t wait to learn more about you and Airbnb. Before we dive into Airbnb and your primary role, I would love to learn more about your recruiting experience prior to Airbnb.
Marisa: Yeah. Well, I got into recruiting I think how most people get in, which I kind of fell into. I majored in communications at USC and I just knew I always wanted to do something that really involved working with people on a day-to-day basis. I started off at Salesforce as a recruiting coordinator, and that is the entry level position for recruiters. You’re going to be working on schedules for interviews and supporting recruiters and sourcers in their day-to-day. After that, I worked my way up at Salesforce. So, I started shadowing some of the sourcers and the recruiters. I got into a sourcing role, which is a lot of resume review. And then once you master that, you move onto the more head-hunting type sourcing, which is where you’re on LinkedIn, you’re reaching out to people who may not be actively looking and you’re trying to get them excited and interested in the company, so it’s the Salesforce. From there, I moved into a full-cycle recruiter position, which basically means you’re doing everything end-to-end from kicking off a new opening with your hiring team all the way to discussing your strategy for that hire, building the candidate pipeline. So, you’re sourcing in a full cycle role. You might be forming interview processes with the team. You’re dealing with immigration and legal and mobility sometimes. Super all inclusive of everything that you can imagine.
That’s so great to hear and I think it’s interesting that you had some time at Salesforce, another huge tech company and then moved into Airbnb. It wasn’t just focusing on one aspect of recruiting but it seems like you’ve really focused on every aspect and area that you can imagine throughout the whole recruitment cycle.
Marisa: Yeah! Salesforce was amazing. I had a ton of growth there, obviously. I was looking for a smaller team, I think. Like a bit of a smaller team, smaller company, similar culture because I absolutely loved working at Salesforce. People are amazing and the company really cares about its employees. So, I wanted something that was similar and I can say I really truly found that in Airbnb. So, it was a good move and I moved in 2018.
Tech Company Culture
Absolutely! I think that every tech company prides themselves in their culture and their people but when you get down to the thick of things, every tech company has a different type of culture. So, do you mind elaborating on what the Salesforce culture was like and then now moving into Airbnb.
Marisa: I think the Salesforce culture, the couple of things that really stand out or stood out to me back then and still do today when I look back on it, is definitely the people. I think that that’s something a lot of folks say, but I think when you have people around you that are so consistent in the way that they think and act and support you, that’s kind of where people are getting this, “Okay. What do you love about work? It’s the people I work with.” When it’s super consistent, you feel really comfortable. You can explore different things that’s why there’s such a growth culture there as well and people often feel like Salesforce is a great place to grow and not only start a career but really build your career. I can say that firsthand. People were super supportive. Everyone was always on board with you exploring different roles and really trying to get to where you wanted to be, not just being complacent with the work that you were doing or where you were at. There is always this ongoing conversation about, “Okay. What do you want to do next?” Besides career growth, there is also a conversation about, “Okay. What else interests you and how can we bring that into the workplace?” There’s a lot of groups at both Salesforce and Airbnb, where people who have similar backgrounds can bond together. So, we had a lot of different religious groups, we had some ethnic groups and that was a lot of fun.
And it seems like Airbnb’s culture is very creative. I mean, I think right when we started off this conversation, I had a comment on your background and I saw that Airbnb logo and I thought you made it yourself but you’ve said that your team, the creative team at the company, supplies Airbnb backgrounds. You said you can rent this. Do you know where it’s located?
Marisa: I don’t. I want to say it’s probably somewhere in South America just looking at what’s out there but I can’t remember where exactly this one is from. You are absolutely right! Airbnb, it’s very similar to the people aspect, I would say, to what I just described at Salesforce. But definitely super creative. I think that really speaks to me as well. I’m part of the dance group at Airbnb. So, we have a whole group for dancers and people who want to even learn to dance. We have a lot of first timers who have done a ton of performances. We did flash mobs at the company right when we were back in the office pre-Covid. Our CEO, Brian Chesky has danced with us before a number of times. So, it’s a ton of fun. I think we just really pride ourselves on that. Another good example is when we do holiday parties or celebrations, there is always a really cool creative element that’s very unique to Airbnb. So, oftentimes, we’ll have experience as hosts come in. It was like glass blowing. I remember at one of our parties last year, Paella making out in the back alley. So, there’s tons of cool things that you really wouldn’t see anywhere else, right? Like not a lot of people are using Airbnb experiences. It was a really fun thing that we always got to kind of have those people in and be a part of that.
When you were talking about dancing, I’m sure both Brian Chesky as well as the entire Airbnb family were dancing, especially in December when they filed to go public. They had an initial opening price of $146 per share, and that was on the first day of trading and it actually doubled from $68. But obviously, if you were to go back just a few months in May, there were some very large layoffs and people probably weren’t dancing in the halls and they weren’t very exuberant. Before we dive into the recruiting and application process, they get into Airbnb, what’s this journey been like and just the last few months of going from layoffs to a very successful IPO?
Marisa: That’s such a great question. I mean, last year was probably one of the craziest experiences that I’ve ever had. Airbnb, you mentioned back in March, April time, Airbnb actually lost 80% of its business overnight, and to come back from something like that is pretty unheard of. And so, the company obviously didn’t think they were going to recover. If they were going to recover, they definitely weren’t going to do it quickly. So, I actually was affected by the layoffs. A really, really large part of our recruiting team was let go. It was really tough. You could see how tough it was on Brian, when he had to announce that. Yeah, it was a terrible time for everyone at Airbnb, I think people that got let go, people that didn’t. It’s a super stressful thing for a company to go through. I don’t think that anyone really expected to bounce back that we had with Airbnb in the business. I myself was really lucky to hear from my manager about three weeks after that company-wide layoff that affected me. I’m just saying that the company is really starting to bounce back. Things are looking great and ended up going back to Airbnb just I think two months after I was laid off. So, it was an amazing, amazing situation. I feel so lucky. Obviously, my dream job. So, just to speak to the IPO, you could see it in Brian Chesky’s eyes when we had that success. I mean, to go from where we were in March and be desperate with the state of the company and the state of the world to just having your company be so widely accepted and celebrated by everyone and an IPO like that, it was super, super exciting. We obviously all wanted to be together, do a flash mob, do something fun like that but we do a lot of Zoom parties instead. So, we got to celebrate but looking forward to more celebrations.
Navigating the Pandemic
The most fascinating thing about Airbnb is that they were able to pivot and focus on a new strategy instead of focusing on the cities. They focus on suburbs because people are not going to get on a plane but they get a car, rent an RV, travel with their family to a more secluded area. So, I think obviously that was wildly successful and I’m so happy that everything did work out. Let’s just stop for a second and walk through the time when you were laid off. And I think a lot of our listeners either had internships or job rescinded so they never started or they were working maybe for a short time and they unfortunately got laid off due to the pandemic. So, what was your morale like during that time? Were you nervous? Were you looking for other opportunities?
Marisa: It was really, really difficult. When Covid happened in March, a lot of my colleagues and I decided to get together on a Zoom and update our resumes. I think it was so funny because we’ve never done that. We never thought we would need those things. One of my colleagues was like, “This is probably a good idea.” One of the things that we’re not going to want to do if we do get laid off and we just were not thinking it was a possibility at that point. I wasn’t ready to look for anything else. When morale is so low, it’s really hard. I think interviewing and applying to a job takes a lot of confidence in what you’re talking about and what you do and really bringing that across in an interview. But I had a lot of colleagues that ended up interviewing and getting some amazing other jobs in the tech industry. I think it was just different for everyone and it was really, really tough for us all.
Tech Recruiter vs General Recruiter
It’s so happened that you were essentially hired back and now you’re continuing to live, like you said, as now a senior technical recruiter at Airbnb. What drove you to be a technical recruiter versus a general recruiter. Do you mind sharing with us what’s the difference and maybe some similarities as well?
Marisa: Yeah. So, that’s such an interesting question. I mean, I think it was luck of the draw. When I started at Salesforce, to be honest, as I kind of learned more about a lot of the technical roles, I absolutely fell in love with it and I really can’t imagine doing anything else or focusing on anything else. The real sort of divider that we normally have at a company is tech and non-tech. And so, technical roles are going to be mainly engineering, data science, product management, design. I think that’s pretty much it. On the other side, the non-tech, you’re going to have everything else. You’re going to have legal, HR, marketing, sales. That’s really what separates the two teams and they’re called different things at every company but that’s the main difference. There’s a lot more objectiveness to the non-tech side.
Sometimes you’re looking for personality traits and soft skills whereas on the technical side, most of the time we’re going to be looking for hard skills. Do you have this coding language in your background or in your portfolio or do you not? So, it’s a little different. I think with technical recruiting, most of us don’t have technical backgrounds. So, to be a really successful technical recruiter, you have to make a pretty big effort to learn and understand what people are telling you. We don’t often have to interview very technically. But you want to be able to advise people. You want to be able to prepare them for the interviews. So, the more you know about what the team is doing and the specifics and how they can be successful during the interview process, the better. So, I would say that the one difficult thing is that we don’t normally come from that background. So, it’s something that’s definitely learned on the job.
What would you say to someone who is not sure if they want to go down a tech role or non-tech role but they like a company like Airbnb, for instance? Do you mind elaborating on the difference between interviews?
Marisa: Yeah, the difference is kind of between the hard skills and subjective interviews versus the more objective ones, we can take recruiting as an example as a non-tech role. The interviews will be a lot more about maybe your communication style. How are you selling the company or the role to different people? Maybe you’ll have some role plays and things like that. It’s a lot more about how you can think on your feet as well. With tech roles, most of the time what we’re going to see are projects like coding projects or can you show me your design portfolio? What have you done? What kind of work can you show me on a piece of paper or an attachment that I can look over and see what you’ve accomplished already? Tech roles are more like, “Okay. What have you already accomplished? What have you already built?” And then on the non-tech side, it’s, “Okay. How are you going to use your skills for this new role?” I think that’s for marketing, sales, everything because you have to switch gears. It’s very different and you have to really tailor what you know and how you know how to do it and the things you know how to do and then figure out how you’re going to do them in the new company.
I think that’s a great classification for tech interviews or interviews for a tech role, it’s what you have done previously. A lot of times, you don’t necessarily need an internship but through your computer science major or maybe through a coding class or a personal project you can show a technical recruiter like yourself what they’ve done in the past. But on the other side, a non-tech role let’s say it’s finance, it’s hard to get finance experience other than an internship or maybe dealing with the finances of an organization but it’s more so can you show a few smaller examples to where it would make sense to be relevant to being a finance internet Airbnb.
I remember when I was reaching out to recruiters from my own network a few years ago, oftentimes at tech companies there are a ton of tech recruiters. If I’m going for a non-tech role, could a tech recruiter still help me or should I only focus on the type of recruiter for the type of role that I want?
Marisa: I think when it comes to making connections and reaching out to recruiters or folks at the company that you’d like to apply to, it kind of depends. What I always say is when you’re building your network and making connections, a previous connection or something meaningful that you and that person share is always going to be most valuable. So, when you and I connected, we both were trojans, trojans of love. Honestly, that was a huge reason it caught my attention, something that you guys have in common. So, I will try my best often to help people even for non-tech roles. But I think I don’t necessarily have a lot of knowledge to be able to help sometimes. In any case, just reach out to whoever you can. If someone were to reach out to me and it was for let’s say a marketing role, I might just go and tap one of the marketing recruiters. So, it’s always great to just try and find an in no matter what it is. Because if someone is willing to help you, they should be willing to connect you with the right person as well. So, there’s lots of different ways I think that folks can help.
I think that’s a great piece of advice, because I would say our audience is pretty split into people pursuing tech roles as well as non-tech roles. I feel like a lot of the candidates pursuing the non-tech roles were only focused on the general recruiters that are not tech-recruiters and they exclude people like yourself but you are so helpful and you’re so resourceful and maybe I reach out to you and I say, “I’m on the fence between the two and you explained more about the position and I say, “Hmm, it seems like I’ll be better suited for a marketing role.” After our conversation, if you enjoy what I’ve said and you think I’m a good person for the role, you still have that Airbnb hat on and you can just refer me to the actual recruiter. So, I do think everyone out there listening doesn’t exclude the pool of people working at a company that they’re not in the exact role because you obviously may not have the end say but if you know the marketing recruiter very well, your word goes a long way.
Marisa: Yeah, exactly! I 100% agree.
Cover Letters in Tech
So, with tech roles, I know that you have a stance on cover letters and I believe you said that they are not as important as people may seem. Why is that the case in tech?
Marisa: The pretty personal stance with cover letters, although I think a lot of my colleagues tend to agree. I think it goes back to what I mentioned before. For a lot of tech roles my main focus is engineering so I want to call that out as well. For engineering and data science, which is going to be the bulk of tech roles at companies these days, it’s a lot more about like I said what have you done already and just highlight those things on your resume. There shouldn’t be a need to explain too much as long as you are quantifying things on your resume and being really, really detailed in what you did, what was your role and then what was the outcome of what you did. That’s really what we want to see. It’s just sort of those couple of highlights of what you’ve done and that maybe you have some experience in that role or that realm already.
So, it’s more focused on what you’ve done, cover letters are not as important. It’s really trying to see if you can quantify from your resume the result and impact that you personally had.
Marisa: Yeah, I would say so. Just jumping into resumes here as well. I think the big mistake that I see a lot of people make, they try to add too many accomplishments to their resume for a role. I think sticking to what is going to be super relevant, what’s going to catch the eye and what’s going to be unique. If everyone was a part of a lot of group projects or something like that, that is going to stand out less to me than if you did a specific group project that really helps your team accomplish something. Again, really specific. So, tell me about those more unique abilities on your resume. I always say depending on the role, try to keep each role that you had to about three to five bullet points. So, keep it nice and concise. I think I saw that you posted something about having it be one page, if possible. That is definitely, definitely something that I agree with. With technology, I think we see a lot of two pagers. Some people like to include different academic papers and things that are obviously really relevant to the experience that they have. So, it’s very dependent. Of course, once you have more and more experience, you’re probably going to have more to chat about and more to put on the resume. I think sticking to one to two pages is always really important as well.
Tailoring Your Resumes
So, let’s say that I’m a candidate and I am applying to two very different roles because I’m maybe younger in school and I’m just not exactly sure what I want to do. I have to get my feet wet first. Do you recommend students and young professionals to have different resumes for different roles because you mentioned that you should really focus on what’s relevant to that specific role?
Marisa: Yeah, absolutely! I’m so glad you brought that up. That’s my number one advice, and that’s honestly what I did. I think I had a sales resume; I had a marketing resume, I had an advertising resume and I’d taken all those classes until I kind of wanted to, I thought about, ‘Okay. What kind of projects have I been a part of? What kinds of extra curriculars relate specifically to advertising or marketing or making connections with people for recruiting. So, I had a number of different resumes. I think the thing that you want to keep in mind is that recruiters or resume reviewers, or sourcers, are going through hundreds of resumes sometimes every day. So, when they’re looking for something in particular, oftentimes a lot of newer companies and smaller companies are using software that has keyword searches in it. So, one of the biggest things and one of the biggest pieces of advice that I give to people is to really look at the job description and see if you’ve done those things. They might look a little bit different in your experience. Like I said, it might be a lot of projects and extracurriculars but see if you can kind of back your experience to those things as much as possible. Also, when possible, use the language from the job description and get feedback from people because I think you don’t want to sound that you’re telling them that you’ve done the job before but you want them to know that you have those certain types of skills and experience that’s pretty closely related to what they might be looking for.
I’m so happy you brought up looking at the job application or job description. I’ve heard so many stories of people just randomly applying to jobs. Maybe looking at the title, marketing role at Airbnb or marketing internship let’s say, but they don’t actually read what they’re looking for and then it literally says, you would be a highly skilled candidate if you can complete XYZ, right? And especially those higher bullet points usually with little more value. I think that randomly applying to a job is like going on a blind date. You don’t know what the other person is looking for. What I used to do when I was going through recruiting is I would actually print out every job description or application that I was applying to and I think printing it out is important because I get a highlighter and actually highlight some of the keywords and then think about my own skills or traits and see if I can match them together.
I think what you were saying is so important because the company or a recruiter is telling you what they want and if you’re blindly applying to something, you’re not going to fit what they’re looking for unless you actually tailor it. Yes, it takes a little bit more time and sometimes it’s tedious for a lot of different companies but I think when people say that recruiting is a number’s game, it is. But I hate when people say, “I applied to 500 companies last week.” And I said, “Okay, great! How many did you tailor the resume for?” “Oh, I didn’t.” “Did you read the job application?” “Oh, there was a job application?” Yes, it’s a numbers game. Going off what you said, keep the numbers rather small but then make sure you network at that company, make sure you have a tailored resume, make sure you can highlight the keywords and you have a better chance with 10 to 20 companies versus 100 random companies.
Marisa: Absolutely! Yeah.
On the resume, especially for tech roles, there are a lot of skills that you need to have. Even if you seem like a qualified candidate, if you don’t know how to code it in Python and the role specifically is you have to be coding in Python, you’re not qualified. Where is the best way to, whether from the resume or an interview, showcase someone like yourself that they are qualified? Is it just with the skills section on the resume? Is it with the skills section on your LinkedIn? How can we portray that to someone like yourself?
Marisa: I’m actually really glad that you brought that up. I work with a very senior VP at Airbnb right now, who loves detailed LinkedIn. He always looks at candidates on LinkedIn. So, every single candidate that we review from the start, even if it’s just a resume I found in the application pool, will go straight to LinkedIn. As you’re updating your resumes and every time you go through the job search and application process, definitely make sure that your LinkedIn is up-to-date as well. A lot of people from my experience want two things. They want to see if anyone is connected with you on LinkedIn and then they want to see that you have a professional brand. When the students of the world, you’re not going to have a ton of experience necessarily on your LinkedIn but showing where you went to school, showing some of those amazing groups and teams that people are a part of when they’re at school, those are all really important things because there’s a lot of groups, I think let’s take engineering, for example. There’s a lot of engineering groups in certain colleges that you never knew that your hiring manager might have been in when they were at the college.
So, it’s just really important to have everything in one place. Doing that on your resume and LinkedIn is super, super important. In terms of where things should go on your resume, I think having a skill section is great. If it’s something that you really want to highlight, I would say put it up top. I always, always love to see experience first and foremost, even if that was an internship or a group project or even a hobby. Coding is a hobby for a lot of folks. So, whatever that might be, whatever is relevant, try to put it at the top and read your own resume like a recruiter would and do the top three things that I want to really come across if I’m looking at this for 5 seconds or 10 seconds. Do a little bit of a test on yourself like, ‘Does that come across to you?’ I think I mentioned getting feedback from other people like, ‘What are the top three things you see on my resume if you have 5 seconds to look at it.’ And that will really help you position things on your resume and highlight the things that you want to really highlight.
ATS: Applicant Tracking System
I love how you said utilize your own network at your own school or in your social group or just even a friend that you can call your recruiting buddy, who’s recruiting with you. Maybe your ‘recruiting buddy’ is going for engineering and you’re going for finance but it could be at the same company like Airbnb. I think what I used to do as well is print out that job application and then have your friend look at it, read it for 30 seconds then read your resume and say, “Does it feel like it’s the same content?” Because it should feel like it’s a perfect match. If it’s completely different then it’s not tailored enough. On the topic of resume, you said before that there are certain softwares that the majority of companies do today that do keyword searches. I think it’s called ATS. I feel like candidates, especially myself, we know or at least we’ve heard it exists but can you elaborate on how it works and how to essentially beat the system so you’ll get caught by the system and not just get thrown into the rejection pile?
Marisa: Yeah! I love that you asked this question. At Airbnb, we have an ATS, which is an Applicant Tracking System, but that’s a little bit different from the resume review software. So, that’s going to be basically AI that’s reviewing resumes for you and spitting out what it thinks are the most qualified candidates. So, we don’t use that. At Airbnb, we have a person looking at all of the applications, which is nice. I think the two things that I would recommend, the way to get your application seen and looked at by someone is to have someone at the company refer you in. This may not be a secret to a lot of people. It may be a secret to others. So, the referral process at most companies, it’s a different process than the regular application process. So, referring basically as an employee, let’s say myself if you reached out to me, I would put you in the system and it would have a tag that says my name on it and it will say, ‘Referred by Marisa Jones.’ So, the recruiter knows, “Okay, cool! Hey, this is one of our employees referring to someone that they know or a connection or someone that they think might be a good fit for this role and Airbnb, in general.” It goes into a different bucket.
Most companies will have different SLAs for when they want to get back to those people because we want to be respectful of our employees and if they’re recommending someone, we want to make sure that we get back to those people and we get back to them in a timely manner. So, I always, always, always encourage people to try and find a referral and we can chat more about how to make connections and everything in a minute but that’s number one. If for any reason you can’t find someone at the company that you know or that you’ve made a connection with that’s willing to refer you, I think just what we chatted about before, go to the job description and make sure that your resume is really speaking to what the team is asking for in that description. Make sure it matches up as best as possible with your experience.
Asking for Referrals
Do you have the data in terms of how many new hires at least from the team that you’re hiring from or recruiting from get pulled from the bucket of referrals versus the bucket of applications?
Marisa: I think we just had some data from last year. On average, what I’ve seen at companies that I’ve worked at, companies that I’ve had friends and other colleagues worked at, referrals are probably the number one source of hire at most places. At Salesforce and Airbnb, it probably comes in maybe around 40%, 50%. I want to say Salesforce is even higher. They’ve had an amazing referral program for a really long time. I believe at Airbnb; it was probably around 40% maybe. The other sources, of course, being just applications in general and then source hires. So, what I was chatting about, we reached out on LinkedIn, those people are passive. They may not be necessarily looking and we get them interested and get them to interview. So, those are the three buckets and out of that, I would say referral is almost always the highest.
People know that it’s better to have a referral than to not have one. Right? I think we can both agree it’s pretty obvious. However, getting that referral is a whole different story. I love that you can share if I were to reach out to you, and obviously in my head I know that let’s say that I saw on your LinkedIn that you went to USC. We both graduated from USC so there’s a similarity there. I’m applying to a role, an engineering internship that you are recruiting for and I see it’s open on the website. So, when we hop on that call, in my head my goal of course is to create a connection but also at the end of the day to get a referral. In your head, you probably know that when candidates reach out to you, they were looking for a referral but how do you make it an organic conversation and actually provide value to the recruiter as well and not just take advice from them?
Marisa: I think that being straightforward when you’re trying to make connections with people is the way to go. I’ll use myself as an example. Sometimes I get messages from people wanting to make connections, but it’s not obvious what they want from me. They might be in a very different position than me so it’s not obvious if they want to learn about Airbnb, or if they want a referral into the company. It’s not obvious if they want to learn about being a recruiter or a technical recruiter. The ones that I’m more likely to respond to are the ones where someone is asking me for something like, “Hey, do you have time to do an informational interview? I want to learn about the engineering process and just like how that whole thing works because that’s something I’m interested in down the road, or I want to make the connection. I want to learn about Airbnb as a company and I hope that at the end of the day, you’ll feel comfortable and excited enough about me to refer me to the company for XYZ roles.” So, I think being really straightforward in your messaging to make those connections and build your network is a great, great strategy. A lot of people, I hope, will appreciate it as much as I do. Kind of like an action item like, ‘Okay. What is it that you need from me? How can I help?’ If they’re able to help in that way, hopefully they’ll respond and hopefully they’ll be able to get you that referral or do that informational interview for you.
So, do you recommend just blatantly asking for a referral whether it’s on a LinkedIn message or in the conversation or should you make it straightforward as in saying, “I want to apply for this position,” and then you as a recruiter know that you applying to this position means that you want it. If I like you, I’ll refer you. So, it’s more indirect.
Marisa: I think one thing to notice that recruiters can’t often refer people into their roles because it’s just a conflict of interest with the role that we’re trying to do. So, we don’t really want to bias ourselves with the teams. What I always recommend actually is reaching out to people in the role that you are trying to get into. So, let’s take an engineering internship for example. I think one school is a great way to do it. So, if you can find some alumni from the school that you’re graduating from that are at the company, I would definitely start there and not only reach out for the referral into the company but for an informational interview. I think that informational interviews are so important and so valuable because they’ll give you a sense of what it’s actually like in the day-to-day versus what you think it might be like having been to school for that certain job or major skill set. I think it’s a great way to get to know someone a little bit, sell yourself a little bit and then that person hopefully will feel much more comfortable referring to you at the end of the day. So, I think number one, reaching out to the people with that school connection is a great one.
Alternatively, if you don’t have that connection with a lot of people with the company, maybe it’s a smaller company. Just reaching out to any folks that you can find other connections with. A lot of people are in certain groups together, coming from certain backgrounds. Maybe you’re both from New York City, those are all great connections to try and find with people. Hopefully, you’re not unlucky enough to find zero connections but if that’s the case, I think just making a case for why you want to be in that company and have it be as unique and genuine as possible. So, almost figuring out, ‘Okay. Why do I even want to be at Airbnb? Why would that be a fun place for me?’ Really looking into the company and figuring out why it might be a good spot for you and then including that in your subject line or in your message right up front like, “Hey, Airbnb is somewhere that I’d really like to be. Here’s exactly why. Do you have time to chat and just make the connection?” I think if it’s a more random reach out, I would say try to get that call or that connection first before asking for the referrals because you’ll need to do a little bit more selling on who you are and why you might be a good candidate for the team and the company.
I completely agree with you that when reaching out, you should not only try to draw similarities with the person you’re reaching out to but also explain why you’re interested and a good fit for the company like Airbnb, for instance. I think with drawing similarities, of course, in my opinion and like you said as well, the first place to look is through your alumni network and see if they went to the same school. Of course, there are certain students that come from “non-target schools,” where the alumni base is not very strong at certain companies and certain industries. I think that utilizing LinkedIn to essentially look through the person you want to reach out to and see where they’re located. Like you said, the location is right there on LinkedIn that they’re in New York and you’re in New York, draw that similarity, talk about New York Sports Teams. People from New York love talking about sports, right?
I think going through it, even if they’re not from the same school, let’s say that UCLA versus USC, if someone from UCLA at Airbnb was in the same engineering group that you were in at USC but they’re completely different, it’s still a similarity. So, I think being more creative with drawing similarities and then showing and explaining your why for the company is such an advantage when reaching out versus other people who just rapid fire, “Hey, Marisa, I saw you work at Airbnb, I’m interested. Thanks. Bye-bye.” I’m sure you get a ton of those outreach messages and they’re not good for you, right? Again, it’s a numbers game with recruiting but it’s not just how many people you reach out to, but make that list smaller and try to see if you can spend some time on that outreach message, research the person like yourself and see if you can draw similarities.
So, I think that getting a referral is one way to enter a company, going through the normal front door of the application process is the second way. You were speaking about a third way, which is sourcing, where the recruiter reaches out to the candidate coldly. So, do you mind elaborating on how that works? Because I think a lot of people think that the recruiter in the company has all the leverage but oftentimes, the recruiter can be reaching out to you directly.
Marisa: Yeah, totally! I think that’s why I mentioned earlier, always keeping your LinkedIn up-to-date. You may not always be looking for a job but sometimes that’s when some of the best opportunities will come your way. So, I think just always having what you’re up to and what you’re doing up-to-date, have a LinkedIn picture that’s up-to-date as well. The more that you update your profile, the more likely you are to pop up in searches. I think that’s a LinkedIn AI thing that they have built in. So, the more active people are, the more likely you are to pop up in different searches. So, I would say definitely have your LinkedIn up-to-date and really what we’re doing there it’s oftentimes for pretty specific roles and it’s going to be back to the keyword search. So, if there is something that you’re really good or that you find unique about the role that you’re doing, make sure that’s very clear on LinkedIn. It will pop up in the keyword search. If your job title is a little bit obscure, this is definitely one thing that I tell people all the time. Sometimes people will have really, really obscure job titles. I think it’s best to try and simplify your job title in whatever way possible. At Salesforce, our sourcing titles were outbound sourcing recruiters. It was a lot of words and I think a lot of times like if I were to search for a sourcer now, I would just say sourcer. Just putting a technical sourcer on your profile or something like that. It makes it easier for people to very quickly understand and tie it back to their job descriptions and what the team is looking for. So, I think just as we just talked about doing with your resume, try to simplify things and highlight the most important things and the value that you bring into the table right off the bat. Smaller companies are going to have really different titles as well. So, one thing that I see sometimes is that smaller companies have slightly inflated titles, right? So, you might be President of Sales, but you have a couple of years of experience. So, it might be valuable to say Global Sales Leader or something like that so that the president title doesn’t necessarily throw people off or make it so that you don’t show up in a search. When I want to look for a lead with 5, 6 years of experience or even 2, 3 years of experience. Just optics and how your profile looks to other people is really, really important when you’re thinking about, ‘Okay. Is someone going to reach out to me for a role that I would actually want to do?’
You have so many great points there and I think when you’re looking through LinkedIn, it should not be just a dump of every single thing you’ve done and if you’re a senior about to graduate, you have things freshman year of high school where it was almost eight years ago, let’s say, that’s not what someone like yourself wants to see. Keep it simple, be concise, still have it tailored for what you’re applying to, make it obvious for what you’re doing. I think the headline is the first thing you see, have an updated professional picture. I think people ignore that background picture, that rectangle but it’s a way to also talk about what you’re applying to.
I think I’ve seen a lot of buildings, if you’re going corporate. I’ve seen a variety of other things. If you’re someone going for a creative positive, have some sort of creativity there. Obviously, keep it professional but add some flare and make your personal brand. And then the last thing you were saying is keywords and actually popping up when a sourcing recruiter would find you on LinkedIn. I think the best way to understand that is to treat your LinkedIn like a landing page on Google, like a website. Same with how SEO or search engine optimization is critical for a website to rise in keyword searches, in keyword rankings. The more keywords you have, you’ll be able to rank for certain keywords that this sourcer is looking for. I think the way to add more keywords isn’t that about or some recession explaining who I am, what I’m currently doing and what I want to be doing. I think a lot of people ignore that section but it’s a section where if I’m going for your profile and I’m confused, go back to the summary and there’s nothing there. Would you agree that it’s important to have that?
Marisa: Yeah, especially I think when people have backgrounds that aren’t kind of on one path. So, if they’ve jumped around a little bit. Maybe they were a marketing associate for a bit then they moved into a business analyst role and now they’re in a financial specialist role. I’m like, “Okay. Do they want to go back to marketing necessarily or might they want to be in finance now and they want to continue down that path?” Especially if you have a background that’s a little bit unclear. Tell people what it is that you’re currently doing and what you’re passionate about. That’s one thing that I see a lot of. Engineers will do this. I obviously source for engineers the most but they’ll talk about what they’re passionate about. Sometimes it’s not necessarily what they’re doing and they might want to learn or pick up a new skill and that’s great for us to know. If that’s something that maybe is nice to have in the job but they didn’t necessarily need to have it, that’s a perfect candidate. It’s like that person wants to learn this. This is going to be great. They’re already kind of on their way to being the perfect candidate for this role and what we want to see in that person. So, yeah, I agree. I think that’s a really overlooked section by a lot of us.
I think a lot of people hear about recruiters who are sorcerers who bring talent into the company. It’s more outgoing than inbound that just me applying to Airbnb is that it would never happen to them because they think they have a lack of experience. They’re not talented enough or they can’t shine in a group of thousands upon thousands of other applicants. But just to share a really quick story from my experience, I actually didn’t think that early on. But I actually had recruiters reach out to me for certain roles. I think one of the biggest companies was Google.
The Google recruiter reached out to me. I did apply and I went through the whole application process and the recruitment process and actually received an offer and it was all because my LinkedIn was up to date. I was very specific about what I was looking for and I was very detailed with what I have done. I think LinkedIn gives you that platform to add media snippets of a video if I was featured in any PR piece or a website that I created or a book that I wrote, right? There’s so much there that you can show to someone like yourself so just making sure that it’s up to date, treat it like a landing page because it’s so important for people to research who you are and what you’re trying to do.
Marisa: Yeah, absolutely! I think the only thing you could do wrong on LinkedIn is make a skeleton profile and that’s where you have no photo, no details and then of course, like we said, you’re not going to pop up in those keyword searches. So, no one is going to be able to find you. So, the more that you have on there and as clear as you can be about what you’re doing and what you want to do, you’re doing exactly what you should be doing.
For the LinkedIn profile, there’s one part that I’m always curious to know if recruiters like yourself really care about, because it takes time and its certifications: Lynda.com, you can do a Coursera, you can do a LinkedIn assessment. There are ways to essentially get a certification saying, “Hey, I am certified in Excel.” The recruiting team, do you look at that and say, “Wow, this person has a leg up on someone else who doesn’t have that certification,” or is it almost like a waste of time and I’d rather see an experience of you using Excel through an internship or class project?
Marisa: Certifications are a lot like many other skills. So, if the job requires something very specific, it’s a great thing to have. I’ll take for an example; I was recruiting for our security team last year. And there were I think two or three certifications that we had on the job description that my manager said, “Hey, if anyone has one of these three things, show them to me immediately because these certifications are somewhat rare. They’re pretty difficult to get and if they have them, it means that they have some of the things that we’re looking for, number one. But they might be able to fill gaps that we have on the team. In that case, I think it’s really, really important. When it’s a skill that is a little bit more common like Excel and things like that, I’m not sure that it would be as impactful on LinkedIn. If it’s something that not a lot of people have and it’s a unique certification that you’re going for because it’s something either that you’re passionate about or that you know that whatever professions or professions that you’re aiming toward need that in the roles then it’s a great thing to have on there and I would 100% highlight. But again, if it’s a more common skill, I would say that it’s something maybe you can add in a list somewhere, maybe on your resume but it’s not necessarily something that I would put on my LinkedIn especially if there’s only one and it’s Excel. I may just kind of leave that off.
Absolutely. As you and I are both saying, LinkedIn is so critical. Everyone out there doesn’t just make a LinkedIn but spend time on it. It’s something that you constantly have to iterate like a resume and you keep updating both the content and the profile pictures. It should not be a picture of you freshman year of high school, you’re a senior now in college, it should be updated. Just be very active on LinkedIn and grow that network. Marisa, I want to be respectful of your time. I know you’ve been on the show for some time now. Before our reservation ends and the host of this Airbnb kicks us out, I have one final question for you. It’s a tradition on the Final Round podcast.
What is the best piece of advice you can give to our audience to help them get past the Final Round interview and ultimately land the job offer?
Marisa: The number one thing you can do and we’ve touched upon this quite a few times is lean on your network and actually lean on your recruiter more than you think you should. With your recruiter, that person is super close to the hiring team. They may have been working on these types of roles for quite some time. They’re going to know all of the ins and outs of the job description. They may have written the job description. They may be a part of forming some of the interview questions. They’re going to know exactly what you should be focused on and what types of things each specific hiring manager is going to be looking for. So, use your recruiter as much as possible to get the best preparation information you can get, ask them all the tough questions and just really make sure that you’re taking notes and paying attention to what they’re telling you when you get time with them. And then of course, the networking and making connections. That’s going to be the most important thing that you do and that’s actually how I’ve gotten both of the roles that I’ve had.
The Salesforce role, it was a personal connection that we made and then the Airbnb role, it was a colleague that I had at Salesforce. Actually, two colleagues that I had from Salesforce that were at Airbnb at the time. One of the biggest questions that a lot of recruiters are trained to ask and we’re supposed to ask at Airbnb is, “Do you know anyone at Airbnb?” We’re just curious. Do you have any connections here? If there is a mutual connection there, we can go to that person. We can say, “Hey, have you ever worked with this person? Would you recommend them? We don’t know much about them. We’re putting them through the interview process but if you can help us in any way or if you want to reach out to them and help them in any way.” It’s just really beneficial for everyone that we have someone on the inside helping you prepare and we also might have a bit of a recommendation from that person on you. And then the last thing I think I mentioned as well is reach out to as many people as possible in the profession that you want to be a part of and the companies that you want to be a part of and ask for informational interviews. They’re really fun. I did a ton of them when I graduated, when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. A lot of people like myself in a lot of situations are going to be really happy to help and really happy to chat.
I hope everyone learned as much as I did today specifically about the difference between a technical recruiter, talent sourcer and general recruiter. It was fascinating to hear the rollercoaster ride Airbnb has been on from having their booking demand drop by 80% in March to now having an ultra-successful IPO. If you guys have not already, please subscribe and leave a rating. I would love to hear what you found most interesting in this episode by sharing it in a review on Apple podcast. Until the next episode of the Final Round podcast, keep fighting and I will see you in the ring.