From A Recruiter’s Perspective, Does Volunteering Help or Hinder Job Search Success

Posted by Kathleen Smith

Kirsten Renner, NovettaAt DerbyCon, panelists shared their community volunteering experience spanning conference management, competitions, and presentations, alongside a community volunteer who is also a recruiter. The recruiter perspective is very important to consider as job seekers look to boost their skills and experience through involvement in their professional community.

Kirsten Renner, Novetta Director of Talent Acquisition, has over 20 years of technical recruiting experience. After working as a software developer, help desk manager, and also studying Human Resources Management at University of Maryland University College, she combined her love for technology and HR by becoming a Technical Recruiter at a start up ecommerce firm in 1999. She then moved to recruiting in Telecom and has primarily supported the Information Security field, mostly for the Intelligence Community since 2008, before joining Novetta in September, 2016.

Kirsten has been in the InfoSec conference community since 2010. Her volunteerism started with workshops, mentoring, and helping people write resumes and learn how to do interviews. She is known for her contributions to the Def Con Car Hacking Village and getting it started five years ago.

How should someone showcase relevant volunteer work

I may have a unique perspective because I volunteer regularly. But if you’re not talking to someone who already understands your experience, you have to learn how to translate the things that you’ve done.

You need to tell a story. What did you do? You were a team leader—so you have leadership skills and maybe you didn’t even realize it. Someone was talking recently about supplies and having to manage a budget. Is that on her resume? I heard her say 30 different skills, but are they on her resume? It takes educating both sides. You have to educate and inform.

Four years ago I was flown out to headquarters to speak to their board of directors, to help them understand why I go to conferences on my own time. “Why is she going there? What’s happening there? Can we add our voice? Can we have her shake our banner while she is there? What’s the return going to be?”

You have to get support. Support for your time to be there and for them to give you the money and the resources that you need. So you have to educate when you are the person who’s doing the volunteering or even when you’re just an attendee.

When I was doing the resume workshop and interview training yesterday, I didn’t read resumes as people were telling me their story. I said, “I’m not going to read your resume. I’m going to ask you questions and then I’m going to say, ‘Why don’t I see that on your resume?’” It happened probably five or 10 times for every person I talked to. I’d say, “Oh, you were the lead. Oh, you built the actual team. Oh, you were in charge of this. Why are none of these things on your resume? You told me this whole other story.”

Where should it be on their resume

So without digressing too far from of the original question, start your resume with the bottom line upfront. “I am a _____.” Tell me, because I don’t know. Assume that the recruiter doesn’t know and you have three to five seconds to get their attention. “I am a _____ and I want to be _____.” You can change the end of that sentence over and over again. Do it in one or two sentences. Do it very quickly because you want me to keep reading down. Highlight those things. Don’t put it in a paragraph. Put it in bullets and capture all those things that you did and make sure that when you’re describing, “I attended this” or “I organized this,” to put bullets underneath of it. “I was in charge of” or “I created this solution.” She is a Solutions Architect. She is a leader. She is managing resources. She is managing people. Those are the things that she said and she didn’t even realize she was saying it.

If someone shares that they were part of a competition, is it important that they win

I love that question because I would actually prefer to hear about what you failed at or what you lost at, because you learned a lot more that day. So if you ever competed, make sure that it’s on your resume. As a recruiter I’m going to have resume fatigue. I go through many resumes, but you’re showing me that you took the time to be part of a competition and you’re obviously a team player. I know right off the bat that this person knows how to collaborate. They know how to be a part of a team and don’t try to do it all themselves, especially if they’ve done more than one competition.

There are two different types of workers. There’s the one that clocks in at clock in time and then clocks out, and that’s okay because that’s all you’re required to do. There is also another person who never really clocks out. There’s that person who text messages themselves at 3 o’clock in the morning because they get amazing thoughts when they should be sleeping. If I saw that someone was in this competition and I had never met them, I automatically know which one of those two workers they are.

When someone shows that they are volunteering, presenting, participating in competitions, do you as a recruiter think, “I don’t want to hire this person because they spend so much time out of the office?”

The number one qualifier for every position that’s listed everywhere on the planet is a willingness and an ability. I hardly actually look at your certifications and your education. I’m sorry, that doesn’t mean you wasted your time, but I don’t look at it. It’s your willingness and your ability. Can you fit? Can you be taught and will you go the extra mile?

I teach this to my recruiters. When hiring managers and the recruiters communicate, you realize how much the hiring managers value what you do in the community. Think about your ability to present. You got to put a slide deck together. I can’t tell you how much time I spent on that just as a little tiny director of a little tiny department in a not huge company.

I happen to be blessed that my company encourages innovation and that sort of thing, but a lot of companies don’t. They want you to stay in your lane.

I think you have to look at it on an individual basis. It’s not going to damage you if your company won’t let you, but I would personally advise you to ask yourself what you care about. I promise there’s somebody out there that will support you. There is a company out there that will support you. I promise. There are 10 jobs for every one candidate now. I just made that up, but that’s how it feels.

Do you see it as a detriment that a company you’re interviewing with does not want you to be active in the community

Maybe you’re at the interview level and they don’t seem encouraging, and that’s something that you’re passionate about—well you’re going to run into that over and over again. It’s a two-way street absolutely. Please interview the people that are interviewing you. People are naturally self-interested and they want to tell you stories. So ask about a personal thing that they can testify to. Ask them to tell you a story. You’re going to catch them off guard.

They’re not going to be prepared for it. You’re going to find things out in that moment. They need you. Right now it is the candidates’ market and those employers need you. Do they understand what you’re passionate about, what you’re spending your time on? ‘I’m on volunteer time right now, not getting paid. I’m doing this because it’s fulfilling. I’m doing this because it matters. I’m doing this because it’s helpful, because we’re going to establish a relationship.’ That’s awesome.

You’ve gone through the interview process. You’ve shared that you volunteer, you present, you’re part of conferences, and it’s part of the company culture to support community involvement. But you find that your immediate line manager is not supportive. What do you do?

I hear that story. That felt like a bait and switch. You told me during the interview that you cared about XYZ and then when it got down to it, I wasn’t supported by my manager. Is the company going to back up what they claim, is that their core value, is that what they really stand for? Or do they just put it there, do they just put their logo up, do they just pay money? Are they willing to do a lot more than that?

Is it just about the logo? Is it just about the attention or do they actually care about their employees? Don’t tell me that you care about the mission, that you care about the customer, or that you care about the bottom line, if you don’t care about the employees, because they’re the ones that get you there.

Learn how to sell to your immediate manager what the value is. Show the brand value of being involved in the community and how the relationships that you’re building support the company and you.

Check Out Novetta’s Current Cleared Jobs



This entry was posted on Monday, November 19, 2018 1:41 pm

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