Episode 93: Strategies on How To Get Hired

Learn from our Talent Acquisition Manager tips on how to properly position yourself to find a job you truly love


Looking for advice on how to transition into a new area of employment. Sasha Katz returns to the podcast to provide tips on how to best position yourself for employment in this new era.
Sasha Katz is the Talent Acquisition Manager at ActiveCampaign


Chris Davis: Welcome to the Active Campaign podcast. I’m your host, Chris Davis.

Chris Davis: On this episode, I have Sasha Katz back.

Chris Davis: For those of you who don’t know, Sasha is part of our internal talent acquisition team and she’s back from her last appearance on the podcast to talk about hiring strategies for those seeking employment. All right.

Chris Davis: One of the things, and in this is kind of personal for me because I recorded this podcast with those in mind that are at job that they currently maybe they don’t like the job. Maybe you know that there’s more in you. You’re more creative than what your job is demanding of you. Your job just isn’t bringing out the best of you, quite frankly. You’re mispositioned.

Chris Davis: And for me that was the case. And finding the startup space has been absolutely amazing for me personally and career wise. So I wanted to record this and talk to Sasha about some qualities, some strategies as well as what does Active Campaign look for? What are some things that we look for in a candidate and what are some things, some insight to our culture to how we do things that could benefit you?

Chris Davis: So I hope this one is a good and timely listen for you. Enjoy the episode.

Chris Davis: Sasha, welcome back to the podcast in the studio. Glad to have you. How are you doing?

Sasha Katz: I’m good. Thanks for having me Chris.

Chris Davis: Yes. In our last podcast we were talking about personal development and high performance and how you have, and really your story too, which was amazing by the way. And we ended on a followup to talk about hiring and I really wanted to record this podcast because I have a formal background in engineering and at that time when I transitioned into the startup space there was no manual. There were no steps to follow. It was very new. Very scary actually.

Chris Davis: I wanted to bring you on and talk about a few things in regards to how to best position yourself for employment in this era, the digital era where mostly everything is visible for a professional. And there’s a couple of layers, but the first layer that I wanted to start with is what are some of the general pointers that you could give somebody right now that could really position them ahead of the competition?

Sasha Katz: Yeah. The advice that I give to a lot of people when they come to me, whether that’s a friend or somebody looking in the space is to make sure that you are differentiating yourself in some capacity. A lot of people think that they can just apply and then step away and that somebody is going to respond to them. Right?

Sasha Katz: When I talk about differentiating yourself, it’s how do you stand out amongst thousands and thousands of applicants with a very similar background? And how to do that I think is very unique. But something as simple as after you apply to a position, go on LinkedIn, look for the hiring manager or look for the talent acquisition manager or a recruiter, and reach out to them and send them a personalized message. I’m telling you from like personal experience, it helps tremendously.

Sasha Katz: Another thing is you need to learn, and I talked about this on the last podcast, but how to really talk about your transferable skill set. If you’re trying to make a switch into high tech from let’s say, a Fortune 500, there may be pieces that are going to be difficult or a learning curve, but how do you talk about your experiences in a way that really speaks to the future company?

Chris Davis: You know what? Oh. Okay. My mind is going already. Two things. First I want to start with LinkedIn and then remember this word, white label. All right? So I don’t forget.

Chris Davis: I have been so strongly pushing the people connected to me to make sure that their LinkedIn profile is optimized. Some of them listen and a lot of them do not. I’m surprised at how many professionals dismiss LinkedIn. So you mentioned it in terms of going on and reaching out to the talent acquisition manager or whoever the person responsible for hiring is. How relevant is LinkedIn today and an optimized profile when it comes to setting yourself apart?

Sasha Katz: Critical. In fact, I don’t even know if you know this, Chris, but I just started doing a half hour with all of the new hires during onboarding around how to optimize your LinkedIn profile and make sure that you’ve updated it with Active Campaign and make sure you know how to do a very basic search to find referrals and make a buck.

Chris Davis: Wow. Sasha, I’ll admit I optimized my profile a while back. It was some marketer I was following and he was like, “This is how you get leads on LinkedIn.” So my whole approach was different, but it has served me so well over time because so many people are going there. I know for me when I’m hiring here, when a candidate applies, I look at their resume and I’m trying to look for their LinkedIn because I feel like the LinkedIn is going to give me … First off, I feel like information is a little easier to see as far as the sequence, and then of course you just get extra points.

Sasha Katz: Absolutely. And it’s a way for you to see who are you connected to that’s connected to them. Right?

Chris Davis: Yeah.

Sasha Katz: So it’s a very, and I know, I feel like I’m on the LinkedIn bus here, but it’s a very powerful tool, and great people know great people. It’s a way for you to stand out. It’s a way for recruiters to look at your old companies and get a direct connection to what does that company do, in order to find out if they’re a fit based on that as well.

Chris Davis: Yup. Yup. So all the listeners, make sure your LinkedIn profile is optimized, please.

Chris Davis: And the second one was white labeling. White label is not the official term for this, but it’s only thing I could connect it to. And I want to ask you this. All right? I’ve been talking to a few people who have been struggling with that, the understanding how their skills transfer from more of a formal background to maybe a more creative space or just maybe a space that they just didn’t know those skills will be valuable in.

Chris Davis: And one of the exercises that I had them go through and I’m just curious what your thoughts are on this is I said, once you list all of the things that you know to do and strip your current job from it, because it’s almost like you have to isolate it from the context in which you learned it for. So for instance, I have a friend who is in the medical field and I’m trying to get them to think, okay, forget about the medical field because you’re thinking about the skills only with respect to how it impacts the medical field. How about you just talk about the skills that you’ve learned and talk to a staffing agency or someone and say, hey, where would these skills also be good?

Sasha Katz: Do you want to join the recruiting team? That’s actually exactly what I would advise is looking holistically at what are the skills that you deploy on a daily basis that actually get you excited and that you feel like you thrive in. And maybe you don’t even thrive, maybe you want to thrive, right? But what are those core skills? And talking to somebody in the space to figure out where else can I utilize these skills? It doesn’t always have to be, to your point, in, let’s call it medical, right?

Chris Davis: Yeah.

Sasha Katz: But you can use those core skills in so many different ways. It’s just a matter of knowing how to discuss them, how to sell yourself and how to position yourself.

Chris Davis: Yeah. And one of the things, so of course, I have a lot of friends who are still in the corporate world, a lot of engineers, just a lot of professionals that are working the traditional 9 to 5. And anytime we, I can sense of nervousness. They’re curious, but at the same time they necessarily … it’s almost like they walk away like, That’s good for you Chris.” Right?

Sasha Katz: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris Davis: Like, “I’m glad that it’s working for you.” But they don’t necessarily see it as an opportunity for them.

Chris Davis: So with somebody who does have more of a formal or traditional background and they’re looking, or maybe they’re not looking, maybe they’re just a bit nervous, what could you tell them? What would you say to them to help them understand that this is a viable space to grow? I’ve grown more in the last four years in the startup space than the seven I spent as an engineer at Lockheed Martin. Nobody told me. I was very nervous. Extremely nervous and terrified. But I feel now is the time to really start assessing, when you’re looking at your career path.

Sasha Katz: Yeah. And something I want to point out that I think is important for the listeners is that, so as I mentioned in the last podcast, I only oversee the recruiting on the customer facing side, right? So that’s sales, success, support, HR, operations, finance, et cetera. But can speak more holistically to this. Right? So, a couple of things I tell people or ask people when they’re coming from a larger well oiled machine into a more nimble, fast paced, high growth startup is think about how comfortable you are with ambiguity, and in your life and you’re in your work and your personal life in any regard, right?

Sasha Katz: And if that’s something that you understand you’re comfortable with, how do you think of examples that maybe let the hiring manager or the recruiter know that you are in fact comfortable with ambiguity? So thinking of personal examples in that regard is really powerful.

Sasha Katz: I think another thing to think about is when you’re in a company like Active Campaign or a fast growing, ever changing organization, the amount of skills that you acquire due to the business need, I can’t even tell you how many things I’ve touched as a talent acquisition professional and even HR or learning and development because the business called for it, right? Because we’re so nimble and everybody gets a chance to do so many different things.

Sasha Katz: So somebody that really wants to continue to build upon their toolbox or toolkit, but understanding that there is frequent and rapid change, and it’s not for everybody, but it’s extremely exciting. and I tell people here at Active Campaign, you truly never know what you’re going to walk into on any given day. But that’s the exciting part.

Chris Davis: Right. Right. And you know what, Sasha? When I just think about some of the hardest things for me to conceptualize when I made the transition, ambiguity was one of them, right? Because you come from a background or a space where everything is laid out. You’re literally walking into a predefined seat for you. There’s a little bit of freedom in there, but it comes really slow over time and you’re kind of spoonfed, the projects and everything else. It’s a very safe approach.

Chris Davis: And, when I came into the startup space, it took me a while to realize oh wait, I’m waiting for directives when I’m really in a position to start start creating those directives. Let me take what I know and do it. And it was a transition, but once you get it, for me, it felt a lot more freeing. And I would say if anybody’s listening here, in business we always talk about have you hit the revenue ceiling? You seem to be doing all that you can do. You just can’t break through more revenue.

Chris Davis: But there’s also a career ceiling, and I feel like there’s a lot of people that may be listening that have tried to reposition. They’ve tried talking with their manager, they’ve tried so many things on the job and they just can’t reach that level of satisfaction. I think it would be a huge benefit to them to seriously think about, not necessarily a career change, but like you said, where else can I transfer these skills and give me what I’m looking for?

Sasha Katz: Yeah. And here’s the thing, I also want to say I’ve done the big company, I’ve done the small company and I think whatever makes you happy, right? If the big company, well-oiled, structured organization is what does it for you then at least you know that, right?

Chris Davis: Yeah.

Sasha Katz: But what I can tell you about your last point is you can … I like to think of a company like this as a lattice instead of a ladder. You don’t have to climb up and up and up and up to get where you want. You can go over here, you can go … It’s like a jungle gym. Right?

Chris Davis: Wow. Yeah.

Sasha Katz: And I think that is really appealing for some people as well. The ability to grow and change in an organization like this, it happens quicker. On a company that has thousands of people, they have a lot of restrictions around how many people they can promote and when they can promote them and different levers they need to pull. And not to say that we don’t as well, but it’s just the needs are different and they arise quicker and change more rapid.

Chris Davis: I agree. I agree. All right.

Chris Davis: So we’re gonna shift into Active Campaign. Now, we’ve been speaking in general and I hope it’s been helpful for you all who are listening. But when it comes to Active Campaign, this is one of the most unique places I’ve ever worked or heard of people working at, right? We do an amazing job with ongoing fast growth and still focusing on the main things. Right? Keeping those in place which, one is the culture.

Chris Davis: And of course, this is the part that you oversee, what qualities do you look for in an applicant that makes it more of a no brainer that they’ll fit into the culture?

Sasha Katz: A couple things. A lot of people ask me about our core values, right? And I think it’s important to note that this is an organization that doesn’t just take the core values and throw them on a wall or say, oh we have core values. But we evaluate people against those core values to ensure that we are, I will not call it maintaining the culture, but more so diversifying the culture while continuing to build upon the things that really make us unique and Active Campaign.

Sasha Katz: When it comes to qualities, I think some no brainers for me are two things that really come to mind and this is outside of the hard skill, whether you’re going in for sales and you have SaaS closing experience or whether you have a specific engineering side, if you can code in the specific language, right? Those things are very unique to the position.

Sasha Katz: But more holistically, I think about two things that stand out. One of them is humility. To me that’s the foundation of a lot of things. When you have humility that allows you to really have a growth mindset, know what you know, know what you don’t know, allows you to feel comfortable and needs room for you to go outside of your scope of your role and ask other people for help, et cetera.

Sasha Katz: The other thing, and I’ll say this, I don’t care what job you’re going for. Authenticity is critical. I make it a point whenever I interview people to try to meet people where they’re at, make them comfortable. And that’s because if not, when that person starts in three weeks or three whatever, you’re going to get somebody completely different. So I think if you can make somebody comfortable, if you can show up authentically and be yourself while also showing a bit of humility, those are things that will take you very far. And those two things also stem from our core values as well.

Chris Davis: The authenticity pieces is a tough one. I know it is, Sasha. Because as you’re saying that, I remember putting on the representative. Go in for the interview, you’re buttoned up, you’re saying all the right things. If you don’t know something, you’re lying about it. And that’s how you got a job. That was literally the blueprint. And then you start working and you’re trying to slowly leave a little bit more of the representative at home as time goes on.

Chris Davis: The authenticity is huge.

Sasha Katz: Especially, and I’ll say this, I heavily recruit in sales. And I’m going to be cliche for a second, so forgive me, but people buy from people they like. And so if you can let that guard down and truly be yourself while remaining knowledgeable, of course, it’s really appealing and it can take you really far.

Sasha Katz: I’ll say one more thing that I would be remiss if I didn’t is coachability. That’s a doozy. I think it’s knowing your weaknesses, but knowing your areas in which you maybe fall short, taking coaching and actually putting it into action.

Chris Davis: Yeah. Coachability is one that was on the radar here a little under a year ago. I actually was not familiar with the term. I had done leadership training and all that. So I knew that you needed to be able to follow effectively before you could ever anticipate leading. But, absolutely, coachability … And you know what I would add into coachability? Is ownership too, right?

Sasha Katz: Yes. Critical.

Chris Davis: And Sasha, these are skills that you pick up right in the startup space, primarily in the startup space. Not to say it’s limited, but I’ve picked them up a lot faster in the startup space and especially here and you can without a shadow of a doubt, take them anywhere. You can take them in your personal relationships and see positive impacts. You can take it to any, like you said, went to a well oiled machine. Be cause I was another one for me was coming in, just being able to transfer my mind from, tell me what to do to owning what to do, and potentially being in a position earlier in your career than you anticipate actually instructing someone who may be above you on what to do.

Sasha Katz: And the beauty of being able to do that here is that one of our core value, and again, not to harp on this, but one of our core values as is to iterate always. And I think that goes hand in hand and, and taking that ownership and knowing that I’m going to iterate, I’m going to iterate a gazillion times. Right?

Chris Davis: Yeah.

Sasha Katz: But I have to own that. And it’s really powerful and fun.

Chris Davis: Yeah. I know I can’t imagine how many people you’ve interviewed. Right? You could probably write a book, encyclopedia. What would you say was in the most memorable interview, and by interview, I mean from when the candidate reached out, if they did reach out to you, all the way to the point of deciding to hire or not, what was the most memorable one if there’s one that stands out?

Sasha Katz: Oh man, there’s so many. I think some memorable ones are probably not as appropriate to share because they’re hilarious. In fact, in our interview training that Denise does, we talk about stories from the trenches and crazy things that people have done. I think most memorable if I have to be honest, I’m not going to give you one example. I’m going to give you a more holistic because I left a company a couple months ago that laid off several hundred people, and the ability to come into an organization like Active Campaign and be able to rehire those people because I felt so confident in their abilities and have already interviewed them time and time.

Sasha Katz: So when I think about just an experience as opposed to one specific person, it was being able to do that. It was extremely fulfilling. But it’s funny, when I interview other recruiters, I have in the past, I always ask them, what’s your most proud hire? Or what’s the most creative way in which you’ve hired somebody or recruited somebody? And when I think about that specifically, I have recruited and hired a delivery gal, I think it was a Postmates delivery. I started talking to her, next thing I gave her my card and interviewed her and here we are, right?

Sasha Katz: So, I think it’s the creative times. And like I said, initially, the people that differentiate themselves and reach out to me through LinkedIn, I never, and by the way, I can’t say never, but more often than not, I always reach back out because they are in a state of vulnerability because I think a lot of, and I’m not to give recruiters or anything a bad name, but a lot of times they’re swamped with those an inundated. And so you don’t necessarily get the chance to do that, but you have to because there’s so many good personalized messages in there and recruiters notice that.

Chris Davis: Yeah. And you have to look at yourself as the product, right?

Sasha Katz: Absolutely. It’s funny, right? Because as a recruiter, we don’t touch the product and we don’t touch the customer, but we get to hire the people that are going to shape the future of the organization and the product. So it’s a very strange place to be, but a fulfilling one at that.

Chris Davis: Yeah. Before I understood marketing, positioning and like you said, all of those things matter when you’re looking at you as the product in trying to pitch the product to a company. I found beforehand I was going from resume workshop building, exercises, and downloading all these templates, and all of that has its place. But I think where you want to end up is at a point where you, to what you said at Sasha, you understand your unique value add to the marketplace, whatever that marketplace is and you know how to communicate that, right? Using tools like LinkedIn to reach out to the people in the appropriate places to start the conversation. And once that conversation has started, being authentic, clearly communicating your skills and how they transfer over, I feel like that’s a very simple blueprint that anybody could follow right now.

Sasha Katz: I agree. I think it’s easier said than done. And I say that because we’ve all been there, right. We’ve all been an interviewee, and it’s really nerve wracking. It really, really is. And it’s meant to be. Right?

Chris Davis: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sasha Katz: So I think that’s okay, but not overthinking it. Not over preparing to the point where you’re trying to prove that you know more about the company than the interviewer. Right?

Chris Davis: Yeah.

Sasha Katz: So again, this all goes back to authenticity, but there’s a lot more to that I think, than meets the eye.

Chris Davis: Yeah. If there’s somebody listening to this and it doesn’t matter when they listen because we’re always hiring and it probably will not be changing anytime soon, what’s one thing you like for them to know if they’re interested in applying for Active Campaign?

Sasha Katz: If you’re interested in applying to Active Campaign, I would advise you to do so. It’s very simple. I think a lot of people are gun shy. A lot of people think I’m not a fit or what if I don’t have this. Apply. Put yourself out there. This is a very, to your point initially, a very unique, special place and when anybody ever asks me what my favorite part of being here is I tell them two things. One, the people. You can’t duplicate our population. And two, is the ability to walk into a place every day that I know I can be myself while doing great work.

Chris Davis: That’s huge. That is huge. Sometimes I have to just remind myself how it used to be. And like you mentioned, there are a lot of times when you can’t bring your whole self to work. There’s certain places where you would have to wear sleeves every single day.

Sasha Katz: You’re right, you’re right. You are so right.

Chris Davis: It’s just refreshing to be able to be you.

Sasha Katz: I knew that was the case the minute I walked in here and that was amazing and refreshing. And the reason Chris is bringing up my sleeve is because I have a tattoo, I’ve had it for a long time. Historically have not felt comfortable. It’s not that I couldn’t do it, I didn’t feel comfortable until I walked in here.

Chris Davis: Wow. Wow.

Sasha Katz: And it’s the feeling that this place has created and that the people here have created, it’s not even a known thing that you can do that. It’s built in to the nature of the company.

Chris Davis: You know what? You don’t feel like the secret judging, right? There’s no law or rule that I can’t do it, so I’m going to do it and see how people react. There’s never this nervousness around it. We’re just open. We are very open. We’re very collaborative. If anything, that is one of the qualities here that I truly enjoy is you will never know somebody’s position by a conversation. Never.

Sasha Katz: Ever.

Chris Davis: Never know. And that is just great. From the outside just coming in, it helps. But being on the inside for years now, it makes it easy to approach people with ideas, with questions.

Sasha Katz: Yeah. Jason sits right on the floor. People want to know what’s he like and he’s involved in day to day decisions. We all talk to each other. We all collaborate, to your point. And it’s really, really unique.

Chris Davis: Yeah. Yeah. It’s funny, when I bring people to the office and I’m just showing them around, a lot of times, Jason’s just sitting there and I’m like, “And here’s what Jason sits,” and I just keep going. And they’re like, “What? Wait a minute.”

Sasha Katz: Why?

Chris Davis: Right. The Jason? I was like “Oh, we’re so used to it.” Right?

Sasha Katz: Right.

Chris Davis: We’re so used to it.

Chris Davis: And for the listeners, just some quick history, there was a time where Jason in the old office used to have his own office and he vacated that office to sit amongst the people. And I think when leadership does things like that, it does nothing but fall down.

Sasha Katz: Fish [inaudible 00:28:26] from the head down. That’s my favorite saying. And again, not to make this about anybody, but I think it really is indicative of how the culture is shaped yeah. It’s from the leadership and that’s exactly how our leadership team is here. And hopefully we’ll continue to hire people in the leadership team that are the same way.

Chris Davis: Absolutely. Well, Sasha again, thank you. Thank you. Thank you for stopping by. It’s always good to do these because we get to do them in person, you get to come into the studio and everything. But I’m grateful and thankful for you to come by and share your knowledge and insight.

Chris Davis: I have no doubt, no doubt, Sasha, that this is going to help somebody.

Sasha Katz: I hope so.

Chris Davis: I appreciate it.

Sasha Katz: Thank you for having me.

Chris Davis: All right.

Chris Davis: Thank you for listening to this episode of the Active Campaign podcast and I hope that you do two things. One, optimize your LinkedIn profile. This is last time I will say it, I promise you. I won’t beat you up over the head with it, If you already have it optimized, thumbs up. Two is be creative and be intentional to set yourself apart and reach out. Any by creative, I mean do something different than just applying. Like Sasha said, reach out via LinkedIn to that talent acquisition manager or the HR department. Find ways that you can maybe put a video on your LinkedIn or perhaps you just need to talk to someone at a staffing agency, as I’ve mentioned with all of your skills on a blank canvas with them having no bearings of your personal expertise, so that they can just look at them at face value the skills that you possess and say, “Oh, this may be an industry, this may be an industry, this may be an industry” that you will find success in.

Chris Davis: And just be willing, be willing and open to change. Listen, things look differently than they did just five, 10 years ago. And that’s going to keep happening over time, even faster.

Chris Davis: So, times where you maybe didn’t have to change as much in your career, I think we’re seeing that those times are going to be long gone very, very soon. So embrace the change and remember it’s for your good. It’s for the betterment of you as a person and as a professional. So I hope all of that is heard from the intention that I mean and that that is for you to be better for those around you to be better.

Chris Davis: If you are listening to this podcast for the first time, this is the time where I give you my personal invitation to join the family of listeners. Savvy, small business owners, extremely intelligent workers looking for employment with a business or startup, experienced and mature business owners, they’re all in the family. Join. Join. Come join the family. You can do so by subscribing to the Active Campaign podcast in iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Google Play, SoundCloud, and anywhere that you can subscribe to a podcast, we are there.

Chris Davis: If you’re looking to get started with Active Campaign as an employee, please, I invite you to visit our careers page careers.activecampaign.com look at our listings and apply boldly. Apply boldly.

Chris Davis: If you’re just getting started with Active Campaign in your little confused, maybe you’re not moving as fast as you’d like to or you’re just frustrated. Let’s be honest. Sometimes it can be frustrating learning a new tool. We’ve got a couple of resources for you. One is our success team activecampaign.com/training. You can go sign up for one on one and talk to somebody in person about your business use case for a more self-guided approach. I know you’re busy. You may not have time to wait, schedule a call, get on the call.

Chris Davis: Maybe you want to learn with in-between time when you have meetings or some free time on your own or at home relaxing. you could do that at the Education Center, activecampaign.com/learn. That’s where you find the podcast, guides, manuals, videos, webinars, courses.

Chris Davis: And speaking of courses, I highly recommend that you enroll for free in our latest course, getting started with Active Campaign. You can find that course in all other courses at courses.activecampaign.com.

Chris Davis: That’s all the resources for you, everybody. I hope that you do with them what you will for your continued success. This is the Active Campaign podcast, the small business podcast, to help you scale and propel with automation. I’ll see you on the next episode.