How To Get Your Foot in The Door at Your Dream Company, with Mike Stroud

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Find Your Dream Job, Episode 362:

How To Get Your Foot in The Door at Your Dream Company, with Mike Stroud

Airdate: August 24, 2022

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life. 

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.

Find Your Dream Job is brought to you by TopResume. TopResume has helped more than 400,000 professionals land more interviews and get hired faster. 

Get a free review of your resume today. 

Go to macslist.org/topresume. 

You know where you want to land your next job.

In fact, you have long hoped to work for one employer alone.

But you’re not sure how to make this happen. 

Mike Stroud is here to talk about how to get your foot in the door at your dream company. 

He’s the associate manager for talent acquisition at the Tillamook County Creamery Association. 

He joins us from Astoria, Oregon. 

Well, let’s get going, Mike. Have you found that everybody has a dream company where they’d like to work? 

Mike Stroud:

Yeah, absolutely, Mac. Everybody has a company that they eventually want to land theirselves at and be able to stay there for the foreseeable career future. 

Mac Prichard:

And how do you define a dream company? What makes a place so attractive that somebody not only wants to go there but perhaps stay for much of their career? 

Mike Stroud:

Yeah, that’s a great question, and really it’s gonna depend on the individual. It’s going to depend on the brand of the company, the field that this company is in, as well as, you know, overall package of compensation, work-life balance, everything that really shows that this company does care about their employees. 

Mac Prichard:

So what you describe, getting clear about compensation, values, company culture, those are all important factors in any job search. Do you find, Mike, in your experience as a recruiter, that job-seekers who do go through that process get clarity about those things, so they not only know where they want to work but what they want to get from that job? 

Mike Stroud:

Yeah, and it’s becoming a lot easier in this day and age with several different kind of online sites to research on a company. Both on employee and employer data, for what they offer, what it’s like working in there, because when you’re interviewing for a company, you have an idea of what it might look like, but you don’t know what the actuality of that is until you’re in the door. So going through those kind of websites and doing your own research really reaps a lot of benefits. 

Mac Prichard:

What kind of research do you recommend someone do to get clarity about a dream company or whether an employer that they think might be their dream employer, other than looking at websites? 

Mike Stroud:

Yeah, connecting with people that do work there. Not necessarily people in talent acquisition or HR, but people that work in the department, the field that you’re interested in, and having a, you know, initial blunt conversation about what it’s like to have this role at this company. 

Mac Prichard:

When you have those conversations, one thing I’m curious about is, from the employer’s perspective, are hiring managers looking for candidates who are clear that this is the place they want to be, that this is indeed their dream company? Especially with the most popular brands. 

Mike Stroud:

Yeah, absolutely. Doing your research and kind of coming with that background research on the company really sets yourself apart from the rest of the field of candidates because you’re genuinely showing how much you enjoy this company and how this company is a great match for what your kind of future career endeavors are. 

Mac Prichard:

I’m sure you’ve had this experience as a recruiter, Mike; I meet job-seekers who are so enthusiastic about working at a particular place, especially larger organizations- if they see multiple positions on a website at that company, they’ll apply even if they’re not qualified or perhaps only have some of the qualifications. From a recruiter’s perspective, what do you think when you see multiple applications come in from somebody? And it’s well-intentioned; they want to get their foot in the door. Is that a good thing or a bad strategy? 

Mike Stroud:

You know, that’s a great question, and honestly, it could go each different way. If somebody is applying for multiple jobs, you can tell that they’re enthusiastic about the company, that they really love the brand, and they want to join it, and they would, you know, be proud to represent this company. 

On the other side, if you’re just applying for a bunch of jobs, there’s not a real theme of what you want to do in your career. You’ve identified the company you want to work for, but you haven’t identified what your career is or what your interest is. 

So it really depends on how many jobs you apply for and the themes of those jobs. Are they in the same department? Are they all over the place? If they’re all over the place, it doesn’t look the best from a recruiter’s standpoint. 

Mac Prichard:

What about the strategy that I’ve seen some job seekers take of applying for entry-level positions at a company where they want to work? It’s, again, their dream to be inside and work for that brand. But they’re perhaps mid-career or even further along in their career. Is that a good or a bad strategy? 

Mike Stroud:

That strategy could work, yeah. I would consider it good because you’re showing interest. I really think those first initial conversations with a recruiter or hiring manager are gonna be pivotal of saying that you are interested in this and not that you’re interested in this certain position now, but you’re hoping to be promoted within six months. That would kind of shine a negative light on your application. But if you’re saying, I’m interested in this company, I’m willing to take an entry-level position, I’m gonna be here for the long haul and grow over time, that really, as a recruiter, that makes me excited about the potential of this person. 

Mac Prichard:

Is it possible to communicate that in an application or a cover letter? Or do you recommend reaching out, finding a way to connect with a recruiter, and speak to them directly to make those points? 

Mike Stroud:

I think, so cover letters, these days, cover letters are more shown for what you’ve done in the past, and what skillsets you’re going to bring to this company. I don’t think this is the most appropriate way of going about showing your skillset. I do think something like reaching out through LinkedIn or if you have the person’s contact information, reaching out and kind of showing, like hey, I realize I may have a lot more qualifications than what this job is asking for. But I really want to join this company and grow with this company over time. 

Mac Prichard:

We’re gonna get to your list of steps people can take to get your foot in the door of your dream company. But one last question about strategy and your experience with job-seekers. Do you meet people, Mike, who want to work at a place, it’s their dream, but they don’t take action? I’m curious, what stops them from pursuing a career at a place where they dream of working? 

Mike Stroud:

Yeah, I would say, lots of roadblocks. So if they apply for a lot of jobs and just are getting rejected over and over again, and don’t really know the reasons why outside of, you know, like a kind of candid email saying that you weren’t selected. It can get, you know, a little much. It can get a little saddening that you’re getting rejected over and over again. So, eventually, you kind of transition into this phase of like, I’m never going to be able to join this company. This company is just too good for me. 

Mac Prichard:

And any general advice about who to overcome that? How have you seen people overcome that barrier? 

Mike Stroud:

Yeah, again, I think that networking is gonna be anyone’s best friend in this kind of situation. Talking to, you know, friends or referral of friends who do work for the company. What did they do? How did they change their kind of application style to, you know, land this job that the future, this candidate thinks is, you know, the best company out there? 

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s go through your list of tips about how to get your foot in the door at your dream job. The first step you recommend is to tailor your resume. Why is this important, Mike? 

Mike Stroud:

Yeah, it’s really important because you want alignment from your work experience and what the job description is showing. You want to be able to point out specific software you’re using or, you know, certain responsibilities you’ve had in the past that are listed in the job description. Because that alignment, that really jumps out to me, as a recruiter, when I’m reviewing resumes. 

Mac Prichard:

Why is that important to you as a recruiter? Seeing that kind of alignment. 

Mike Stroud:

Someone’s taken the time to curtail their resume, specific to the job. It’s not a general resume of what they’ve done in the past, but they’re really taking the time to review the full job description, scope of the job and then being able to point out their experiences in their resume. 

Mac Prichard:

In your experience, how much time do you think it might take a job-seeker to make these changes? Are we talking about a major rewrite here or tweaks to particular sections? 

Mike Stroud:

Tweaks to just different sections, really. The baseline kind of work experience that someone has when they’re applying for a job should be somewhat close to the background of what the job description is asking. But you want to point out exact software that you’ve used that we’re asking someone has experience with or managing a certain amount of people. You want to point out how many people you’ve managed. And is that aligned with the job description as well?

Mac Prichard:

Well, this is terrific, Mike. We’re gonna take a break. Stay with us. When we come back, Mike Stroud will continue to share his advice on how to get your foot in the door at your dream company. 

As you network with people inside your dream company, they will want to see your resume.

Is yours ready?

Go to macslist.org/topresume.

A professional writer at TopResume will review your resume for free. 

Go to macslist.org/topresume.

Learn how you can fix your resume right away. 

Or hire TopResume to do it for you. 

Go to macslist.org/topresume. 

Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Mike Stroud.

He’s the associate manager for talent acquisition at the Tillamook County Creamery Association. 

He joins us from Astoria, Oregon. 

Now, Mike, before the break, we were talking about how to get your foot in the door at your dream company. You’ve got a list of recommendations that you have for people who want to do this, and the next one on your list is to make yourself stand out as a candidate. What kind of visibility do you have in mind here, Mike? 

Mike Stroud:

Yeah, so really, with this kind of point, I’m talking about networking. You want to stand out, not necessarily like when you’re applying for jobs, because personally, that doesn’t always come across as positive when you finally reach out to a recruiter or someone that’s working at a company when you’re interested, or you’re applying for the job, but more in that interim. Connecting with someone at the company, again, it could be someone in talent acquisition, or it could be a referral of someone or a friend. And just, kind of, engaging with the brand prior to applying for a job. 

I often get messages saying, “Hey, Mike. Just wanted to let you know I applied for this job.”

 And that doesn’t really give me much information about their ins in the company. I’m more interested in people who are following us through social media, LinkedIn, people that are engaging with us as a company. 

Mac Prichard:

And you talk about doing this- what you have in mind is doing it before the job is posted. Is that what you’re thinking here, Mike?

Mike Stroud:

Exactly, yeah. So if you were, let’s take, for an example, like if you’re interested in working for Nike. You want to engage with Nike in everything that they’re kind of showing. It could be through their celebration of different heritages that they post on LinkedIn or Instagram, resharing stuff. Just overall, showing that this is a company that you’re following and that you’re, honestly, advocating for. 

Mac Prichard:

Nike’s a big company. It has many, many followers on its social accounts. As a recruiter inside an organization, are you paying attention to engagement by applicants on your company’s social accounts? Even for big companies like yours. 

Mike Stroud:

Yeah, absolutely. It’s really important for us because, again, we’ll take Tillamook for an example. We’re growing immensely right now, and so I want people to kind of share that excitement of the growth that we’re doing. So I think it’s really important to follow those kind of metrics on engagement, specifically through like LinkedIn. 

Mac Prichard:

When you think back about candidates who did engage with you or your colleague on LinkedIn or other social accounts, what are the examples that stand out? What did these people do to catch your attention on social media? 

Mike Stroud:

Yeah, I think it’s when they have, you know, a real response to something. If I post something about Tillamook on LinkedIn, I love seeing the replies back of, “Tillamook seems like such a great company to work for.” Not so much of when they’re like, “Oh, I love the cheese and ice cream.”

Because I mean, I love when people love the cheese and ice cream, but I’m more interested in hearing the engagement of like what they think about the company, not just the products that we make. 

Mac Prichard:

What other steps can you take to be visible besides engaging with a brand online? You mentioned a moment ago reaching out to people inside the company. Does that make a difference? And what is the best way to do that?  And when should you do it? 

Mike Stroud:

Yeah, so it really does make a difference. There is a, I guess, there is a respect to engaging with people within talent acquisition or other people in the company. Not just kind of blasting messages over and over again of like, “Hey, have you made a decision on this job yet? Have you made a decision?”

But really just personalizing the message of like, “I’ve always wanted to work for Tillamook. I love all the different kinds of DI initiatives that you guys are showcasing on LinkedIn.”

I’m more interested in just that personal kind of touch. 

Mac Prichard:

And what about timing, Mike? Is it important to build these relationships before positions are posted? You mentioned that was important with social engagement. Is it true, too, with the impersonal connection? 

Mike Stroud:

Yeah, absolutely. What I always say is, you know, employer referral is the best sourcing that anyone in talent acquisition can do. But people don’t always have, you know, a friend or a former colleague that’s now working for this company you consider to be your dream job. So you need to network kind of on your own, and that takes time to build a relationship like all other relationships. So you’re gonna kind of have to look at it as, you know, each conversation is strengthening this kind of bond between, you know, the person at the company and yourself. 

Mac Prichard:

What advice would you have for a listener who knows the company where they want to work but they don’t know anyone on the inside? How have you seen people build those relationships and make those connections successfully? 

Mike Stroud:

Yeah, I think, so there’s a couple of ways you can do it. One of the best ways is different kinds of events. Local events, say that this dream company is sponsoring, so you can engage them live in person. You know, during the pandemic online, we did a lot of, kind of, virtual networking or meet-up groups. But being able to engage them and kind of make yourself stand out, make yourself familiar to these people who, otherwise, you don’t really have an in to that company. 

Mac Prichard:

What’s a good way of doing that, of making yourself stand out? You go to an event. You meet somebody from the company. You share your enthusiasm for the work of the brand. How do you continue that relationship after you’ve swapped business cards and had a pleasant conversation? 

Mike Stroud:

Yeah, I think that goes back to just like the timely follow-up with these individuals. Either if you have, say you got their business card, you know, sending them an email just talking about say, like talent acquisition, different strategies that you’re trying. And what have they found that works best within the community, as well? So kind of like more, you’re coming at them with an angle of process improvement, opposed to, hey, I’m just connecting with you because, eventually, I want to have a job here. It’s just more personal, again. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, so keep it personal. You also mentioned a moment ago about communicating with people on the hiring team. Talk more about how to do that effectively because, particularly with large employers, there might be a talent acquisition manager, a recruiter, and- or ultimately, the supervisor that you would work for. How have you seen job seekers communicate and build relationships with these people on the inside? 

Mike Stroud:

I think the best way to really do this is to connect with the recruiter. The recruiter is the one that’s working the open position. The talent acquisition manager or director, yes, they do have eyes on the current openings at the company, but they’re not the ones that are going to be making the decisions to move forward or not move forward with a candidate. So engaging with the recruiter, specifically for the chance of, you know, working for a company or applying for a job, that’s gonna be the most crucial connection you can make. 

Mac Prichard:

What mistakes have you seen job-seekers make when engaging with recruiters that you would encourage them to avoid? 

Mike Stroud:

One of the first is, you know, like a mundane kind of message. Where you’re not personalizing it, when you’re just, again, and I use this example a little bit ago, when you send a message saying, “Hey, I applied for this job. Let me know what you think.”

And you’re not really, you’re not engaging. You’re not making it personal. You’re not showing your interest. All you’re saying is that you applied. And so the recruiter doesn’t know that this is going to be your dream job, that this company is the dream company that you’ve always strived to go work for. You need to show enthusiasm in an appropriate way. 

Mac Prichard:

I want to go back to a point you addressed a moment ago about follow-up. Let’s say that you’ve applied for a position after building relationships with people inside the organization; you’ve engaged with the brand online. Now you’re actually interviewing with people on the recruitment team and the department where you might work, and you talked a moment ago about the importance of follow-up. How about follow-up at this stage of the process, Mike? What kind of follow-up can make a difference and help you get your foot in the door? 

Mike Stroud:

Yeah, I think it’s still very important if you have the hiring team’s contact information to send, like a follow-up thank you note. But, again, like you want to point out what was covered in the interview and what you learned about the team during the interview. You don’t want to just send a thank you note saying thanks for interviewing me. You want to take more time and really showcase the passion that you have while you were interviewing, what you learned when you were interviewing, and really what skillsets you have that this company team could utilize. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, it’s been a terrific conversation. Now, tell us, Mike, what’s next for you?

Mike Stroud:

Yeah, absolutely. So I’m really excited. I have been with Tillamook for about two and a half years. I oversee the internship cohort that we have, our summer internship. This year, starting in the summer, it’s gonna be our first internship we’re gonna have live post-pandemic, in-person. The last internships have all been virtual, again, due to the pandemic. So we’re able to do a lot of really fun things. 

We’re bringing people in from all over the United States, and they’re gonna come stay in Tillamook, Boardman, Portland. They’re going to meet people who create our products. They’ll have open networking time to network with our executive team. 

It’s not often that in person, you have a chance to meet with the entire executive leadership team during a luncheon, and that’s something that we have planned during this summer internship. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and I really think they’re gonna get a ton of value from this internship being in person. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, it sounds like a great experience. I know listeners can learn more about you, and your company, and the internship, and other opportunities at the organization by visiting tillamook.com/careers. 

Now, Mike, given all the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about how to get your foot in the door at your dream company? 

Mike Stroud:

Yeah, I would say the one thing is just to be your real self and be honest and transparent. There’s nothing wrong with showing how much interest you really have in a company. There’s appropriate steps to take so you’re not coming off as overbearing at all to a talent acquisition team. Just be honest, and be real, be your true self. Those are the best skills that we all possess that people really want. 

Mac Prichard:

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Next week, our guest will be Emily Wong.

She’s a resume writer, a career coach, and the founder of Words of Distinction. Her company helps you land an interview through powerful career storytelling.

Emily also hosts the Career Cohort podcast.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by a job search. 

You’ll have more success, says Emily, if you treat your search like a project, not a full-time job, and break your work into manageable segments. 

Join us next Wednesday when Emily Wong and I talk about how to create structure for your job search. 

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

This show is produced by Mac’s List. 

Susan Thornton-Hough schedules our guests and writes our newsletter. Lisa Kislingbury Anderson manages our social media.

Our sound engineer is Matt Fiorillo. Ryan Morrison at Podfly Productions edits the show. Dawn Mole creates our transcripts. And our music is by Freddy Trujillo.

This is Mac Prichard. See you next week. 

You have clarity on your next job; you know the company and the position that will be your dream come true. How do you get your foot in the door? Find Your Dream Job guest Mike Stroud is here to share his tips, beginning with tailoring your resume. Show the alignment between your past experience and the job requirements. Mike also says you need to stand out from the crowd. Show the employer why this is your dream company and how you can serve them. And finally, networking is always the best way to find your dream job. 

About Our Guest:

Mike Stroud, is a talent acquisition manager and is here to talk about how to get your foot in the door at your dream company. 

Resources in This Episode: