Farah Sharghi-Dolatabadi is currently a Global Talent Acquisition Partner at TikTok and has previously been a recruiter at 5 other companies such as Google, Uber, and Lyft. She has a Computer Science degree and worked in finance before pivoting to talent acquisition.
In this unique episode, we will be debunking common career myths on TikTok:
– Applying on a company’s careers page is a black hole
– You should apply to as many companies as you can
– It is a bad idea to apply to multiple roles within the same company
– You need to have a ton of work experience to land most jobs
– I should not apply to a job if I do not check off every box in the job description
– You should include an objective section on the top of your resume
– 1 typo on your resume is fine if the resume is overall good
**Want to find out if these myths are true or false? Listen to the episode to find out!**
Connect with Farah: www.linkedin.com/in/fsharghi/
Learn more about Farah’s Career Content: www.growprospershine.com/
Get 1-on-1 Career Coaching: www.careercoachingcompany.com/
Follow our Host, AJ Eckstein, on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/aaron-aj-eckstein/
Follow “The Final Round” on TikTok: @thefinalround
*Disclaimer: The opinions and views expressed in this podcast are of the host and guest and not of their employers.
“When you’re interviewing at a company, it’s not about you. It’s about the company and the value that you bring to them because a company’s number one expense is employees.” – Farah Sharghi-Dolatabadi
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. I have a passion for helping people achieve their career goals through non-traditional career advice. 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. The Final Round podcast is brought to you by Career Coaching Company. They offer one-on-one live tailored coaching from recent grads who work at leading companies across multiple industries like consulting, investment banking and much more. Now, let’s jump into the ring and get you past the final round.
Have you heard of that short form video app that exploded during the pandemic? Well, our guest today may not be dancing the renegade but she will be hitting with you some knowledge on how to land the top job and will be debunking common TikTok career myths. Farah Sharghi-Dolatabadi is currently a global talent acquisition partner at TikTok and has previously been a recruiter at just about every other top tech company including Uber, Lyft and even Google. Farah, thank you so much for joining us on the show.
Farah: Yeah, thank you.
All of our listeners today either have heard of TikTok, are currently on TikTok while they’re listening to this podcast or maybe they are trying to be an influencer on TikTok. But I know that for you, you had such an amazing experience prior to TikTok, right? You are a recruiter at six different companies. Some of the biggest ones being Uber, Lyft and Google. Do you mind walking us through what is your current day-to-day at TikTok and what does that role encompass?
Farah: What I love about my job the most is that everyday is different. That’s the part that’s really great because one day, I may be looking for candidates myself and going out and finding them on LinkedIn or other resources. Other days, I’m working with my hiring managers or my comp team or I’m interviewing candidates or making offers. So, it really just depends on the day.
Is Having a TikTok Important in Applying to TikTok?
So, you mentioned that you have to have the cultural fit to join TikTok. You also have to know the technical side given that you are recruiting for technical teams. You have to know the technical side. How about just understanding the product? Obviously, everyone knows and especially if you’re applying at TikTok, you should definitely know what the company is, what they do, where they’re based, and all the normal research you need to do. Does the question ever come up when you ask the candidate, do you have a TikTok? Instead of going to their LinkedIn profile, do you look up if they have a TikTok presence and maybe if they are let’s say an influencer, is that taken into consideration versus someone who is not on the platform and applying to a job?
Farah: Good questions. So, yes, I do ask, “Tell me what you know about TikTok. What’s your experience with TikTok?” More often than not, I usually get the same kind of answer, which is super cute. It’s, “Yeah, I downloaded it and then when I first opened it, I was there for an hour.” And I go, “Yeah, me too. Same thing.” So, we usually talk through it. To me, it is a little bit of a yellow flag if they’ve never at least experienced the platform. Let’s say they just read about it and then they go, “Okay. I want to join this company.” Well, why do you want to join this company? What are your actual intentions? Is it just because we’re doing well financially? You see us in the news. You think that the equity is going to go up. That’s great! But I really need an indicator of some type of an investment on the candidate’s side. I will say there is this really great guy. He’s got I think over half a million followers on TikTok and he reached out to me and he wanted some help. He’s also I think one of our content partners but he’s really looking to join us in the future and I was happy to jump on the phone with him. He’s such a nice guy. He’s not appropriate for any of my roles because my roles are mostly on the technical side.
I would say this, it doesn’t hurt if you have a channel and you’ve got followers, that’s awesome. But it doesn’t necessarily sway decision making process when it comes to hiring you to actually work for the company unless maybe it’s a department like let’s say marketing or some people where it’s more outward facing, client facing because you actually do understand what it takes to actually build an audience, grow an audience, things like that. Those are skills that are actually important to the job that you’re applying for. So, if it’s directly applicable, yes, absolutely! If it’s not necessarily, let’s say you’re a software engineer, that’s super cool but it’s not going to sway it either way.
So, just to recap. It helps to add to your story of why TikTok and you basically talked about your own personal brand and whatever you’re doing there. So, it helps but you definitely hire people who are not on TikTok.
Farah: Uh-huh, correct.
But having understanding especially from the customer journey of downloading the app, signing up and then going through it and how the different types of pages work especially if you’re on the backend and you’re working through the customer experience or journey and you need to know what that’s like and explaining to someone like yourself, the understanding is critical.
Farah: Absolutely, 100%.
I think that’s very similar because I remember when I was interviewing for companies like Google, oftentimes, a question would arise and saying, “What is your favorite Google product?” Because obviously they have many different products and then also how would you optimize it or offer any feedback in terms of certain types of products. So, would you say not just for TikTok but any type of company out there no matter what type of product or service offering they are selling that you need to know what they do and also be able to actually offer feedback to the hiring manager, the interviewer?
Farah: Yes, absolutely! When I worked at Uber, I supported the Jump Organization, which were the bikes and scooters. I supported hiring for global supply chain manufacturing and quality. So, for example, when I needed to hire a quality engineer, I would ask them, “Have you ridden the products? Have you looked at the bikes? Have you looked at the scooters.” If they said, “No,” I go, “Okay. So, here’s your homework. This is what you need to do. You need to come to San Francisco or wherever they are.
I think we have bikes in Santa Cruz as well, you need to actually go experience a product if you can and I would tell them very specifically and very pointedly, “Okay. If you’re a quality engineer, these are the three modules on the bike and you need to pay attention to this and you need to look at that and based on your experience how would you best optimize and improve this particular part of a product?” So, as a recruiter, I personally take responsibility in making sure that my candidates are fully prepared for their interviews. By that, to your point, AJ, is going, “Okay. What are improvements that you can think of so that when you’re in the interview you’re much better prepared to answer interviewer questions.
Preparing Candidates for Interviews
So, you mentioned that one of your main roles is to prepare candidates before they get to that first round interview, correct?
Farah: Correct, uh-hmm.
I think this is a common theme and it was such a misconception because I know that so many people will think that recruiters are either out to get you or they’re not on your side or they’re not your friends and they are with the company so you can’t be honest with them. We spoke to an Airbnb recruiter recently. We spoke to a Google recruiter recently as well and they said the same thing in that your recruiter is your friend and uses them as a resource to help you through the process. So, when you said that you prepare people for the interview, what should the candidate do when they’re speaking with you? Should they bring up questions in terms of, ‘Here are my weaknesses. How do I make them strengths?’ Are you the one that shares some potential interview questions to help them throughout that process?
Farah: Good question. It’s more collaborative. I will say this before I answer the question. I think there’s a misconception that recruiters are HR. At smaller companies, that’s usually the case. At larger companies like Airbnb, Google, Uber, TikTok, they are separate functions. So, HR is its own function and recruiting is its own function. Really, the differentiating factor is that recruiting we build the teams, HR, they want to make sure that they maintain employees and there’s all sorts of stuff that goes along with HR. I’m not going to get into it because I don’t work at HR. So, yes, recruiters, if you are having a conversation with the recruiter, the recruiter is investing their time into you. If they are investing any time into you, that means they want you to go through a process in order to build their teams. Yes, we want to work with you. The way that I prepare my candidates, let’s say for software engineering, is I will flat out ask them, “Have you been preparing for your interviews?” And I’ll pause and I’ll wait for them to answer. If I hear, “Oh, I’m not preparing.” I’d go, “Okay. Well, you need to take a few weeks to prepare. Here are some resources that I think you should utilize.
Go to LeetCode, crack the interview book, there’s all of these different resources.” Personally, because I have an engineering background, I will go to them and say, “Okay. On LeetCode, you need to make sure that you are at least at minimum practicing 25 to 30 questions that are hard questions, and then I actually will go through and say, let’s say there are three ways to answer a question, which answer is the most optimal given the scope of the fact that you are at an interview. Because one answer is just really elementary. The answer that you want to give that’s going to “Impress the interviewer,” is actually going to hurt you because you don’t have enough time to code it. So, the optimal answer is the middle ground because it will solve the problem, not as elegantly but in the time constraints that you have, you’ll be able to get the job done. So, when you’re answering the question to the interviewer, you’re going to explain the trade-offs and go, “This is the reason why I’m selecting this answer. I would love to use this one for these reasons, but due to time constraints, I’m going to pick this one,” and then you go for it. As I’m having these conversations with candidates, I can tell by their voice, they’ll go, “Oh, yeah. Oh, okay.” Okay. So, you need to practice this because clearly you haven’t or you need to actually understand like with behavioral questions, for example. You’re not being judged by your past performance. You are being assessed on your ability to perform in the future. That’s really where behavioral questions are. I think there’s like a misnomer of, “Oh, they’re going to ask me about past projects and da da da da, and how I would do this?” Yeah, they’re assessing your future potential and what you’re going to actually contribute to the team. So, that’s how I prepare my candidates.
So, a candidate could come to you and whether it’s on the technical side or maybe the behavioral side in terms of questions, would I be able to come to you and say, “Farah, I’m preparing for the TikTok question. I have two possible answers to this question. Do you mind if I walk you through both and then you give me feedback in terms of recommending which one is a better answer?”
Farah: I’ll be really honest; those types of questions are better asked of the interview coach. That’s almost like going over the line, I think, because again, recruiters are really busy. We’re going to prepare you the best way that we can and the time that we have but if I had every candidate asking me those kinds of questions, I would never sleep. I genuinely would just be busy 24/7. Those are the types of the questions a candidate should be able to answer themselves. If they can’t, then maybe to take a step back and go, why is my why something that I have to ask a recruiter? Why can’t I answer this myself? So, you need to ask yourself. Why are there two answers? And really be able to analyze the two answers and go, “Okay.”
Here’s the other thing that I think candidates forget about is that when you’re interviewing out of a company, it’s not about you. It’s about the company and the value that you bring to them because a company’s number one expense is employees. So, an employer wants to know, are you going to make my business money or help my business lose money? Right? That’s the big difference here. So, when you’re explaining why TikTok? People are like, “Well, I love it and I like it for this reason. It’s all about me.” And you go, no, that’s right. So, what you do is you go to a company’s mission page, go to the mission statement, you go and you see, ‘Okay. This is what they’re about. This is what the mission statement is. At TikTok, it’s always day 1, what does that actually mean? And how do their mission and values align with your personal mission and values and then you can craft the why message. But again, it’s not like all about you because if you frame your entire interview process in that way, you’re probably going to fail.
I love that response because I do think that so many candidates say, “Why TikTok? Why Google? Why Uber?” Well, me, I, myself, my story and they never come back full circle to the company. Yes, you can talk about your life, of course but it needs to come back to how you would add value like you said and how you’re able to help grow or really increase the size of the company because you are a big expense. So, that’s a great way to approach the Why X company.
To answer that, go to the company’s mission statement, go to their core values and relate it back to your day-to-day. I don’t know if any of the listeners caught that you said that you have a CS background. And most people think that recruiters might not have a CS background or an engineering background. I understand that you have had previous technical recruiting positions but your CS background translated to a finance position. Then you said you do voice over and now you’ve worked and recruited at six different companies. So, what advice would you have for a student who maybe doesn’t have the exact same background as you but the similarity that they can draw is that they have a bunch of very different experiences and backgrounds on their resume and having a tough time drawing a line between their career path and make it a super linear career path?
Farah: I think the best advice I can give here is that if you look at my current resume, I don’t have my background as a software engineer there. I don’t have a background working in finance. I spent a decade working in finance. The reason why I thought it’s not necessarily relevant to the work that I am currently doing. Yes, it made me who I am and it has contributed to a lot of my success. However, I don’t lean on that. Let’s say new grads or people who are just trying to map out their career trajectories are concerned, what they really should be doing is focusing on where they want their path to go. They need to direct the water in the river. Because if the river is just a big pond, “Well, okay. We’re just going to get stagnant waters, right?” We need that water to flow. So, we need to direct that water where it needs to go. A lot of that really rests upon that own person’s shoulders to really at least narrow the scope down. I’ve run into people where people say, “Well, I’m a social media manager and I do marketing and I do PR, da da da da.”
Okay, that’s wonderful. It’s great that you are all of those things but what are you really good at? I think there’s also this misconception that you should follow your passion, follow what makes your heart sing. Yes, there is a component to that, but I also think you should focus on what you’re good at. When you’re good at something, as long as you’re not miserable doing it, as long as you’re like someone happy doing it, it may not be the thing that, “Oh, my god, if I could do this for the rest of my life, that’s great.” The reason why I say that is because if you’re really good at something and it’s somewhat aligned to your passion, you’ll get better and better and better at it and I promise you, it will make you happier. It will actually get you up to that peak of the bell curve. So, yeah, people just need to get more focused on what it is that they are good at. And then also with the resume, the mistake that I see the most is that people do not quantify their success from a business perspective. They usually go, “I did this and I did that.” It’s always a to-do list and I tell people, “Craft a resume that’s a results list. This is what was asked of me, this was the action that I took and this was the results of the action. And the results of my action had an impact on the business in this way. I increased money in the door, I decreased cost. I increased efficiency.” Those are things people need to put on their resume. When they do that within the scope of the work that they’ve done, they will have greater success in getting the job that they want.
I agree that everyone should follow their passion. They should follow what they’re especially good at. And then where the two meet and where maybe money is involved right there then you should apply to those types of opportunities. But obviously as great as that sounds on paper, it’s very hard to get your dream job especially early on. I know we’re still living in the Covid-19 pandemic and a lot of students and professionals are still having a really tough time landing opportunities. I’ve spoken with a few colleagues, a few friends and they say that they almost hate going on LinkedIn now because they constantly see the Congratulations posts saying, “I’m thrilled to announce that I landed my dream job at TikTok as a software engineer.” It’s very tough because I would say a majority of the LinkedIn content – yes, some of it is helpful but a lot of it is just posting about your achievements. How do you continue to have a morale booster and build that confidence throughout the recruiting journey knowing that it’s not always going to be perfect and sunshine and you have to continue to persevere?
Farah: I’ve been laid off three times in my career. Last time was during Covid. But the one that was the most impactful because I was laid off for so long was the second one and I was laid off for eight months and that was pre-Covid. So, imagine like you’re working during a time when everyone is getting a job and for some reason, I wasn’t and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m a woman in finance. What is going on? I don’t understand.” Yeah, there were tears. I was getting upset. I’m not going to sugarcoat it and say, “Oh, it was all sunshine and roses.” No, it wasn’t. Just a little bit of life advice from a friend of mine, a really close friend of mine gave me as he goes, “Every house has a junk door, and that’s okay. Right? It’s okay to have a little bit of a sad time. It’s okay to have a little crazy time. Just don’t live there.” Going on LinkedIn, I’m sure, is almost like punishment. Right? You’re like, “Oh my god, I feel like I’m being punished. Why me?” Again, it’s not about you. You did nothing wrong.
If you were laid off, it was a business decision. The last time I got laid off, I went into wonder woman mode and created training for people that I also helped to hire and I go, “I’m going to teach you how to optimize your resume. I’m going to teach you about ATS systems. I’m going to do all of this and I’m going to make sure we all get jobs.” Really, I’m not going to allow this. LinkedIn actually has a jobs app. I know they have it for the iPhone. I don’t know if they have it for other mobile platforms but download that and that way you can avoid the LinkedIn fee. So, if you’re just on LinkedIn for jobs and you want to bypass all of that, that’s one way of doing it. The second is to get a support system in place that is actually a positive neutral support system for you. I don’t believe in being overly positive or overly negative when it comes to most things in life. We need to find the middle path. It’s a journey. Life is a journey. That’s okay. It will take some time but what we have to do is not get upset and what we have to do is look back and go, “Okay. If I was rejected from a job, let me ask the recruiter, can you give me any feedback?” If they’re kind of wishy washy about it, what you do is you go, “Look, I’m unemployed. I really need to find a job. Any help you can provide me would be really valuable to me and I would really appreciate it.” Oftentimes, they’ll give you something. So, you take that little nugget and then you go back and you reassess and break down that interview and go, “Okay. Where did I go wrong? What did I do wrong?” And then you can recover from there. Another tip is something that I think people need to be aware of and you mentioned that I do voiceover. I still don’t like the sound of my own voice. Just as a heads up, it’s still a little cringey to me. But the voice memo app on your phone is going to be extremely valuable to you during this period of time. Here’s why, people will practice interview questions but they can’t hear themselves. So, what I tell people to do is have a list of questions and ask yourself a question and on the voice memo say, “Question, then answer,” then give the answer.
Then when you listen back to the recording: A, get over the fact that you don’t like the sound of your own voice. Nobody likes it. It’s very weird sounding. B, when you are analyzing the answer to your question, pay very close attention to the tone of your language, not necessarily just the tone of your voice but the tone of your language. Is it overly positive? Is it overly negative? Is it neutral? If you can get it to a place where it’s mostly neutral, that’s where you want to be. I found that in my experience when people are less confident in themselves, they’ll usually put themselves down or speak in a negative tone. There are some people who are the polar opposite and they’re like, “I am amazing. My ego is [makes noise],” and you go, whoa, hold on. That’s going to put people off too. So, if you’re too much on the extreme one way or the other, it’s going to tip the scales not in your favor. So, the best thing to do is to be polite and maybe like slightly to the positive but mostly on the neutral side. Speak as factually as possible. Also, again, with the tone if there’s issues with tone, I don’t know if people could see this but I’m actually smiling right now and I’m forcing a smile. When you force a smile, it will immediately upvote your tone.
Definitely! I think that recording yourself in terms of preparation for interviews is essential. And I would actually go one step further than just your voice and hop on Zoom, record yourself, either you go on Photobooth or whatever app it is to record your video and ask yourself questions, maybe hop on with a friend, record yourself and then watch yourself because so many interviews today are virtual and it’s not just your voice but it’s also your body language, how are you looking with the camera, the lighting, everything to make sure that your posture is upright and you look great to a recruiter in terms of a candidate that they want to have in the company.
Farah: I totally agree.
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Farah: Mistakes that I’ve seen candidates make on virtual interviews, I actually had a woman who was wearing workout clothes. You could tell she was very sweaty. She had a workout band around her head. I go, “Okay. She didn’t–all right. No, that’s not very professional.” I had another piece of advice: don’t have a clicky pen nearby, one that has a clicky end because of a candidate, and I gave her the feedback afterwards. She does not consciously grab the pen and starts clicking it multiple times in the interview. At the end of it, I go, “Yeah, you unconsciously picked up your pen and started clicking it. You’re clearly nervous.” I go, “There’s nothing to be nervous about. I’m on your side. I’m the recruiter. I’m not even the interviewer.” She laughed and she was, “Oh my gosh, I didn’t realize I did that.” I go, “Yeah, keep those objects away from yourself in those interviews. Yeah, you are definitely being judged on your appearance.” It’s little things like that that can make a huge difference with their friends.
Going back to just looking at LinkedIn and seeing those posts about, ‘I’m thrilled to announce that I got my dream job at TikTok.’ I think people look at those posts and if they don’t have a summer internship or that full-time job and they’re still looking, they get upset and they’re just very dejected. I think that what you should do is look at that post and if someone is posting about TikTok and it’s your dream job to work there and maybe you’re a junior so you’re looking for an internship, reach out to the person who just said that they announced that they got that TikTok job. Also, a lot of times, they’ll thank people and they’ll say, “Thank you so much to Farah for helping you throughout the process,” which as I’m sure you realize a lot of the recruiters tag in those posts. So, I would reach out to the person who posted that specific congratulatory post as well as the recruiter because they’re literally telling you what recruiter helped that person get into that position. I think people should use those posts to their advantage, not to their disadvantage.
Farah: Agreed! I think to add to your point, create a spreadsheet. Put those people’s names, why you’re actually putting them in the spreadsheet. And it’d go, Farah is a recruiter for TikTok. She helped this person get this job. Don’t reach out to that recruiter right away. You still need to prepare to then reach out to the recruiter because I have people who shoot from the head and they go, “Hey, I saw you got so and so a job. Can you get me a job?” Well, that’s one of the worst messages you can send me. Do not do that. When you see those congratulatory messages on LinkedIn, I think you just need to change the lens that we’re looking through. Yes, it can be really hard when you see other people’s success but it can also be a reminder that you are going to be next. It’s coming, right? Have an attitude of gratitude that I’m so grateful that I’m seeing these positive messages out there because all of that positivity is actually flowing into my life and I’m seeing other people’s success and that success is also going to come to me as well. My time will come and that right job that’s going to be perfect for me and I’m going to be super happy is on its way. This is just a reminder of that. So, I think people just need to look at it from a different lens.
And I totally agree, looking at a different lens is so important and just talking about positivity is everything. I know you talked a lot about positivity, looking at recruiting through a different lens on your own branded content through your own TikTok. Yes, everyone out there. A TikTok recruiter has her own TikTok to help everyone with career content. You also have an Instagram, you have a website @growprospershine. So, what was the reasoning behind making your own content outside? A lot of recruiters will just post opportunities at TikTok for instance on LinkedIn.
Farah: Right. Let’s go back into the way back machine, go in the time machine and talk about what happened at Uber. So, I was laid off from Uber last year and a lot of people came to me and asked me for help. Well, I was unemployed so I thought, ‘Well, okay. I’ll just help you.’ I had friends who would just literally Venmo me money and they’re like, “You’re going to help me. I’m going to pay you.” And I go, “Well, okay. I guess, I have no choice now. You just Venmo me some money. So, okay, fine.” And I thought, ‘Okay. Well, let me just put this out there,’ and then I got the website and everything. I didn’t really do much with it. Fast forward to now. I’m now employed with TikTok and I was speaking with my manager and I wanted to make sure that I got the all clear from her and I did. I got her blessing and I said, “I’m on the platform. I see so much bad content and it’s driving me bananas. So, I just want to give you guidance and advice.” And she’s like, “Yeah, go for it. Why not?”
To me, it’s also very disheartening when I see people who: A, have never worked a recruitment in any capacity or people who are let’s say their resume writers giving bad advice that doesn’t actually apply anymore. Maybe it did, maybe it was applicable for a long time but it definitely is not right now. That was my main motivation and driver to actually put out some content. I don’t even have that much because I’m busy like I got a job to do. But I really wanted to break down the myths. The big one for me and I know you’ve probably seen this video was about applicant tracking systems doing keyword searches. I saw what was put out there and it’s kind of a double-edged sword because people love TikTok for the short form content. “Oh, I could get this quick,” and people go, “Yeah, if you do this one quick thing and you copy and paste a job description into Jobscan or one of these similar websites, it will pull up all the keywords and if you just put that into your resume, you’ll get past an applicant tracking system. Wrong! That does not work for the most part.
Debunking TikTok Career Myths
I think that’s a great transition right there because our next section of this podcast is going to be debunking the most popular TikTok career myths. You mentioned one of them talking about ATS. You mentioned one of them talking about ATS, Applicant Tracking system. You mentioned that you can just take keywords, put them in white font and put them on your resume and you said that does not work. So, let’s talk about a ton of other myths, misconceptions that I think everyone listening will have thought about or has a different opinion about and obviously, there’s no better person to debunk these myths than someone like yourself with six years of recruiting experience at all these amazing companies like TikTok. So, my first question for you is applying on a company’s career page is a blackhole. Is that true or is that not true?
Farah: False. It’s false. It’s not a blackhole. If a job is actually actively being listed on a company’s page, then it exists within the ATS system. So, ATS, Applicant Tracking System, all it is, is a tool to allow us as recruiters to keep track of our candidates, to keep track of the jobs that we’re responsible for, to post those jobs. It’s basically like a big sales funnel. For example, CRM systems, Customer Relationship Management tools like Salesforce, for example, it’s similar and akin to an ATS system. We’re just keeping track of clients and what’s going on. That’s what an ATS system is. So, yeah. So, when you apply and you send it out. Of course, you’ll probably get that form email, thanks for applying. We’ll be in touch. What ends up happening to your resume is that it goes into the ATS system and it shows to me, on my end, “Oh, I have this job that I posted.” Let’s say my front-end engineer position. Oh, okay. I’ve got a new resume. Great! So, now I can go look at the resume and see, okay, is this somebody I’m interested in or not? Now, if it goes into a blackhole it could be that the recruiter just hasn’t looked at it or no one’s actioned it like nothing is really happening.
So, let’s say we have one job that has one position open, and you’ve applied at the later stage of the recruiting process, there may be a candidate that’s already getting an offer. Let’s say that candidate gets an offer but your resume is stuck at the top of the funnel, which is the application phase and then two weeks later, three weeks later, you get a rejection and you’re like, “What? I didn’t even get a chance to interview.” That’s probably because they had candidates in later stages and it has nothing to do with you. I want to re-emphasize this and this is why I tell candidates to always apply for multiple jobs at different companies because when you apply, you don’t know at what phase of the recruiting stage you’re applying into. Because you think, if I apply, everyone else is applying at the same time. That’s false. That’s a huge myth. Please do not write your resume in Canva or these other popular tools where it’s super pretty and graphic. The definition of an expert is somebody who can find the flaws in things, right? That’s why we go to experts.
Why would I go to a doctor instead of just finding out the information on WebMD? Of course, people go on WebMD and they try to self-assess themselves. They go to the doctor and the doctor just goes, “Okay. That might be the case but I need to look at some other things to make sure that if that is true then I’m doing what I need to do to make sure that assessment that you made on yourself is correct. But I think it might be these other things based on what I’m seeing.” As a recruiter, the graphics and all of that, I don’t care. I kind of almost blur it out. I just go in there and I hone in, I go, “I’m looking for this. I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to that.” And if I don’t see it, done. I am moving on to another candidate. You are better off having a boring resume that looks “boring” than you thinking, “Well, if I make this resume in Canva and I have all these colors on my photo, it’s going to be super pretty.” We don’t care. To me, it doesn’t make that much of a difference. It might in certain roles if let’s say a design role but even then, keep a professional and modify it just slightly, make it a little pretty or a little bit different other than have links to your portfolio so that the recruiter or the hiring manager could then go and look at your work. Make it interesting enough. When I say interesting, quantify it, qualify it with your skill set so that they know, “Oh, this is somebody who could really contribute to the business. Now, I’m ready to look at their portfolio.
So, red font and making your name, size 80, and Times New Roman and having 18 pages and sending a book to you is not what you’re looking for.
Farah: No, not at all.
And I have a bunch of other myths and just to be mindful of time, we’ll kind of just go through this rapid fire and just really quickly either say, “Yes, it’s true,” or “No, that’s not true,” maybe a quick reason why it’s not true. The next one, you should apply to as many companies as you possibly can to increase your chances of landing interviews.
Farah: Not as many as you can, have a more tailored list.
So, almost like a sniper approach, very strategic application process not just rapid fire, LinkedIn, quick apply.
Farah: Let’s not shotgun this. Yeah, no shotguns with pellets going all over the place. I’d rather narrow the scope and have five to ten companies that you really want to target.
Absolutely! Next myth, it is a bad idea to apply to multiple roles within the same company, for instance TikTok having multiple roles.
Farah: Again, yes or no. As long as the jobs are related to one another. So, for example, I’m hiring frontend engineers for our CRM platform, our ads team is also hiring for frontend and they’re similar. So, as long as the two or three are kind of similar, it will indicate to the recruiter that you really want to join the team and that your skillset is transferable to these other groups.
So, is it okay to apply to multiple roles within the same company?
Farah: It’s okay. I would say not more than three. I would say two is a good sweet spot.
Two is a sweet spot, perfect. The next one, you need to have a ton of work experience to land most jobs since a lot of job descriptions say that you have to have one or three years of work experience.
Farah: False. That’s a big no. I know this is long, but let me clarify. Job descriptions for most of the fan companies like Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google are written in generality on purpose because oftentimes the press will go to a company’s career page to reverse engineer the projects that they’re working on. So, oftentimes, those job descriptions are written so generally that you go, “Well, I feel like I need to have all this experience so I could do any of these jobs.” It’s done on purpose. That’s why you can’t rely on these keyword websites that you can go and copy and paste the keywords into a website. It’s not a good word. Really, just read between the lines of what you think that company is actually looking for then tailor your resume to what you think that company actually needs.
Next myth, I should only apply to a job if I check off every single box in the job description and I feel hundred percent qualified.
Farah: No, but what I will say is this, if there is a job description that says you need to have 3 to 5 years’ experience, they may actually want somebody with the greater end of that range. They’ll take somebody with fewer years if there are things like let’s say they worked at a startup, they’re working at a startup, they’re working all the time. So, like a year at the startup, maybe two or three years at a big company. But I would say if the job asks for 3 to 5 years of experience and you have one or two, don’t apply for that job.
You mentioned startups and that’s perfect, that’s the next myth we’re going to talk about. It’s a misconception and also just people think down about startups compared to large corporations in terms of experience or maybe that’s a myth. So, interning at a startup instead of a large company is not valued by company recruiters.
Farah: That’s false. Again, to my earlier point, as long as you can quantify and qualify the work that you’ve done over there and how you contributed to projects then I think you’re fine.
Next myth and this is a big one because referrals are a huge topic. You need to get a referral to get an interview at a big company like TikTok.
Farah: It’s false. However, it really helps. If you look at the statistics of any company, any company, they are more likely to hire a referral than they would just a right then applicant.
Perfect. And then the last few myths will be focused on the resume. You should include an objective section on the top of your resume.
Farah: No! No! Absolutely remove, remove because oftentimes the objective, it’s–yeah, you’re applying for a job because you want a career. I get it. I get it but again, it’s about you. That’s not what the resume is about. It’s about the company. So, remove the objective, remove the summary. Use that extra space to quantify your resume.
Next myth, you should only include your GPA in your resume if it is above a 3.5 and it’s at a 4.0.
Farah: False, but also, the only time you need to include your GPA is if you graduated within let’s say you’re a new grad or you graduated within three years. After about three years, you could just remove your GPA. I don’t have it on mine. Don’t need it.
So, if you have a 3.3 GPA and you are a junior, senior and undergrad, do you recommend including it on your resume?
Farah: Yes, the reason why is because when you’re going through a background check, they’re going to look at it. It’s going to get pulled anyway. So, you’re not hiding anything. Like hiding it on the resume may not even get you the interview. So, if your resume is compelling enough and you can talk through the GPA, let’s say there were something going on at home, you had to be there for family, and your GPA suffered or let’s say you had a bout of depression, I know a candidate where that happened to them for a year and then they recovered and they graduated with honors. It was like they got all these awards. So, they were able to really talk through the GPA.
A resume is substantially more important than a cover letter.
Farah: Yes, period.
And is a cover letter important?
Farah: I would say that I have one just in case, but don’t invest too much into it. The purpose of the cover letter is to determine how a candidate communicates and can walk through a story, right. So, that’s what they’re assessing if the company actually requires a cover letter. A lot of older companies do but I would say for the most part they don’t but have one just in case.
I’m actually curious to know what you say for this one. You should include both soft and hard skills in the skill section of your resume.
Farah: Well, I don’t really like a skill section on my resume to begin with if I’m also being honest. For example, I see things like soft skills, effective communicators and it’ll have a gauge like let’s say they’ll be like five dots and three of them are filled in. I’m like, what does that even mean? I don’t know what that means. There’s no key to this and who’s assessing you on your effectiveness on your soft skills. Yeah, I’m not a fan of the skill section.
How about just having technical skills without those three out of five dots and just basically saying Microsoft Office, Excel, PowerPoint, Google Suite, Python, C++, things like that?
Farah: I would rather see that in your resume underneath your experience rather than a separate skill section because that information should already be underneath your experience. So, if there’s an executive assistant and they use G Cal like Google Calendar, okay, use G Cal and these tools to set up X many meetings for X amount of people I supported. So, that information should be embedded. And again, you’ll save more space on your resume, if you remove the skills section. That’s my two cents.
The next myth, you should always include an interest section because it is important to differentiate yourself from just your professional work experience.
Farah: No. If you have room on the resume to include it, it doesn’t hurt. It’s nice to have and sometimes it’s a good talking point. Sometimes interviewers will see and go, “Oh, I run marathons too. Okay, cool.” That’s not why you’re interviewing for the position. So, again, if you have room and you want to include it, include it. If not, I wouldn’t worry about it.
It is fine to include hyperlinks in your resume for instance sending the recruiter to a news article that was written about you or maybe a personal portfolio.
Farah: Yes. I was interviewed by TechCrunch and I did a podcast and there’s video and everything, you better believe I put that on my resume.
So, the Final Round podcast interview will be on your resume as well, correct?
Farah: Yes, of course!
And the last and final myth to hopefully debunk is that recruiters will reject your resume if you have just one typo on your resume.
Farah: I would say no, but I have had a hiring manager do that when I was at Google. And I went, but it’s just one typo. And I was like, “But this candidate is great.” And they’d go, “Yes, but they don’t pay attention to detail and I don’t want them on my team.” So, if I catch it or if I’m able to catch it then I can ask the candidate, can you update your resume? I just sent it over so I could redo it in the system. But yeah, that happened one time and that was unfortunate.
Well, that was so fun going over and debunking myths with someone like yourself. Again, everyone out there, if you’re on TikTok and you’re consuming career content, be careful and try to fact check or maybe just go straight to Grow, Prosper, Shine which is Farah’s page. Listen to her content versus just a random person with really no experience. And we’re almost at the last stage of our podcast and we have a tradition here.
What is the best piece of advice that you can give to our audience to help them get past the Final Round interview and land the job offer?
Farah: I think Ben Franklin has a great quote, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” It’s great to prepare and I know people will prepare answers and memorize answers to questions. Don’t do that. It’s good to prepare and it’s good to practice the same answer over and over again but what you need to do is that when you’re in those final round interviews, you need to throw all of that away and really just bring your authentic self to the interview. I prefer using frameworks when I’m answering questions. I know there’s frameworks like the STAR method, Situation, Task, Action, Result. There’s another one by a really great ex-Google recruiter. I forgot his name. I think it might be Chris [?]. He has the STAR LF model. So, it’s STAR and then Learnings and Findings are the last two bits. So, if you can structure your answers around a framework, you’ll be much more confident.
The other thing I would say is that make sure that when you are asking questions in the interview, you ask thoughtful questions around the team, around the projects that they’re working on and really have a genuine curiosity about the person sitting across from you and what they’re doing at the company. I think a big mistake I see from candidates is that they always want to do a ton of research on their interviewer. I would advise against that. At Google, they only give you the first name of your first interviewer. They don’t tell you who else you’re interviewing with. I think that’s a better approach because you’re less focused on buttering up someone’s ego and you’re going to be more focused on, “Okay. Well, what is it that you do on a day-to-day basis for this team? Tell me more about these projects? What are some of the issues that you’re having with these projects?” Talk through that.
I think if you can demonstrate to them this curiosity, that helps. Then the last thing and I tell this to all of my candidates and I think I have a video on this too, as I go, when you’re in an interview, pretend that your interviewer is a current colleague that you have not met yet. This will immediately change your frame of view of what’s going on. You’ll be less nervous. Yes, you want to impress this person because you never met them before but you work with the same company. And also, you may very well work with this person in the future, right? So, why don’t you take that potential future and bring it into the present and say, “Okay. I work with this person. No need to be nervous. Let’s just have a nice conversation. In an interview, they want to get to know me and then at the end, hopefully there’s some time and I can get to know them and be curious.” So, those are some of my tips.
I think you’re definitely the first guest we’ve had on the show who quoted Benjamin Franklin. I would say that I totally agree that preparation is so critical and like you said, not just researching the interviewer but researching in-depth the company, what’s going on, any recent news articles like if you’re applying to Airbnb, and you didn’t know that they just went public. That’s totally a red flag. Right? So, such a fun interview today, Farah.
Farah: Well, I’ve had a blast. This is a lot of fun. Thank you so much for having me. The whole reason why I got into recruiting was to really help other people in that process because I struggled so much and I just really love helping people get jobs and there’s no better feeling to me than when someone said, “I took your advice, I got the job.” And I’m like, “Yes, that’s so great.” And so, I really hope that this advice will help other people too.
This was such a unique episode since we literally debunked the most common TikTok career myths with the TikTok recruiter. To top things off, our team just launched the TikTok of our own to share this insight with even more listeners out there. Be sure to follow us on TikTok @thefinalround where we will be posting the best snippets and highlight quotes from our guests on the show. Please make sure to subscribe on all platforms and leave a rating and review on Apple podcast. Until the next episode of the Final Round podcast, keep fighting and I will see you in the ring.