Managing Expectations: Kellie Gordon’s Job Search Success Story
Have you ever been ghosted by an employer after an interview? Perhaps you’ve even spent hours providing work samples, only to never hear a word back. On this bonus episode of Find Your Dream Job, Kellie Gordon shares how ghosting and rejection impacted her job search. Kellie also tells how she used these experiences to determine the company culture she desired to work in. Learn more about Kellie’s career history below in this installment of our Success Stories series.
Find Your Dream Job, Bonus Episode 60:
Managing Expectations: Kellie Gordon’s Job Search Success Story
Airdate: January 3, 2023
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.
One of the best ways to get good at job hunting is to talk to people who do it well.
That’s why once a month, I interview a Mac’s List reader who found a job they love.
Our guest today is Kellie Gordon.
She’s a senior recruitment marketing consultant at Northwest Permanente in Portland, Oregon.
It’s the world’s first physician-led medical group to be certified as a Benefit Corporation.
Kellie Gordon believes in the power of managing expectations.
In a story you can find on the Mac’s List website, Kellie says she recognized from the start that a job search takes more than sending out a few resumes.
She credits this understanding with helping her through a year-long job hunt.
Why do you love your job, Kellie?
Oh boy. There’s so many things I love about my job. I’m not sure where to begin. But I do love the team that I work with. I love the mission of Northwest Permanente and Permanente Medicine in general. I like to believe that I have some small role in connecting physicians with the patients. So, I guess, in some respects, I feel like I am helping to contribute to solving some of the issues we have in healthcare, particularly around access and accessibility and care for all.
But I love the team and the culture at Northwest Perm. I feel like we’re all in the work together. It’s a supportive and collaborative environment, and it’s a B-corp. So that was a huge bonus for me.
Well, let’s talk about your job search. What was your biggest challenge, Kellie?
Oh boy, I think keeping my spirits up and remaining optimistic was the biggest challenge when there were multiple times I thought, oh, this is it. This is the end of my job search. This is the one. And then, for whatever reason, it turned out not to be.
That happened three times in the course of about six months, and it was very discouraging, I’ll admit, and then, just by a stroke of luck and perhaps perseverance, I applied to the role that I’m in now, and it was really clear from the first interview that that’s where I should be, and everything. I really hesitate to say everything happens for a reason because I find that to be such a platitude, and it’s not something I really even believe. But in this case, it did show me that maybe the ghostings and the rejections and the times I came so close but didn’t get an offer did happen for a reason.
In your article for us, you talk very candidly about being ghosted by employers, and as you mentioned a moment ago, you were a finalist with three different companies, and you went through multiple interviews with each of these organizations, and in each case, you never heard back. You were ghosted.
How did you deal with that, Kellie? I mean, to have it happen once is really tough, but to have it happen three times, that must’ve been very challenging for you.
It was. It definitely was, and one of those times, though, about two months after the last interview, I did hear back from the hiring manager, and she explained that there had been some restructuring and some cuts to their budget, and she no longer had the position available but wanted to hire me on a freelance basis, and so, I did some freelance work for a few months before I got the role that I have now.
And then, in another one of those occasions, I also ended up working as a contractor for a very short time, and they did end up going with a different person, and that person lasted in the role for about eight months, nine months maybe.
So, I did feel, after some time, and you know, these things played out. I did feel somewhat vindicated. Maybe that’s not the right word. But it did help me feel, or take the issue or take the rejections less personally, I guess I would say, and just realize that, yes, not every opportunity is going to result in an offer.
Even after multiple interviews and actually in a couple of cases, too, I had done presentations and spec work, a comms plan, and an advertising plan, quite a lot of work, honestly, outside of the interview process. So it was discouraging, to say the least. But I guess I just kept going, thinking this is a numbers game, and I’m just gonna count this as one more almost, but not quite there.
You mentioned that, in two of these cases, you didn’t receive a job offer, but you received an opportunity, in one case, to do contract work and, in another, freelance work. Why did you say yes to part-time work on a temporary basis? Why did you do that? And was it hard to do?
Yes, it was really hard to do, and in the first case, I said yes because that was the company who had some budget reassignments or cuts, and they couldn’t hire the position, and I was hopeful that at some point, they would be able to hire the position and I wanted to be first in line for it. So, I was willing to prove myself as a contractor first.
And in the other case, honestly, I honestly didn’t really want the work, and so I gave a freelance rate that was about twenty percent higher than I normally ask for, and I guess they were in such need they said okay to it, and I thought, well, okay, I’m just gonna see it as a means to an ends, and then, thankfully, I received my full-time offer, and I didn’t need to do that anymore.
You mentioned that you were asked in these three different interview processes, sometimes, to do presentations and even create a communications plan. How do you feel in hindsight about doing work that required a fair amount of effort on your part for which you didn’t get paid? And would you do it again?
You know, I think that, in hindsight, no. I don’t think I would do it again. At least, not without asking a few more questions. In both cases, everything that I provided in my portfolio, in my online published writing samples, and examples of comms plans, et cetera. Everything that I provided as evidence of my ability to do the job because I had done it, should’ve been sufficient to evaluate my ability to do the role that they were asking me to do.
So, I think I would ask, what are you looking for that you haven’t seen already in the materials that I’ve provided? I think I would push back a little bit more because, in both of those cases, I spent ten or more hours on an outside project. And then, in one of them, got zero feedback.
Sometimes, I hear of candidates who asked to be paid to do this kind of work. Would you consider doing that in the future?
I might. I can see why candidates might ask to be paid, particularly if it’s something that’s clear the organization needs. In one of the cases, they wanted a comms plan, and it was clear that they really hadn’t implemented much of one. So, this is something that they could’ve used, and I do feel that there is a point where it’s taking advantage of a candidate’s eagerness or willingness to prove themselves, to ask them to do this work, and then in some cases, they go ahead and even use it. That doesn’t sit very well with me. I don’t think that’s being very transparent.
How did these experiences with these three companies, what did they teach you about the culture of these employers? And how did the lessons you learned from that experience shape your job search?
Oh, that’s a good question. It absolutely impacted my job search. Because it showed me, well, for example, in the first case, after eight interviews, including one with the CEO, over the course of several months, I felt like, if you haven’t made a decision by now, maybe there’s an issue of indecisiveness in the organization. Right? Or maybe somebody’s so afraid of making a bad hire that they just keep passing the buck and having other people weigh in. What did you think? What did you think?
And that left me feeling that the culture could be one of fear. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of making a decision. And I don’t want to work in a fear-based organization. So, ultimately I was able to let that one go as being, perhaps, not the best opportunity for me.
And in other cases, where I’ve really liked what the company or I thought I liked what the company stood for, I think getting so far in the interview process and then not hearing anything shows just such a level of lack of respect for the candidate and their time, that that in and of itself is reason that I wouldn’t want to work for such an organization, and I think that was the differentiator from the very beginning with Northwest Perm.
It was clear to me from the very first interview that it wasn’t just them evaluating me. They wanted to know what questions I had of them. They saw the interview process as a two-way street, and I was part of that. So, it just left me with a much more positive feeling about the organization, that they recognized my value as well, and I felt that from the first interview.
You learned to manage expectations during your search. Tell us what you did exactly, Kelli, and how that helped you.
You know, this might sound silly, but I would review letters of recommendation I have received from previous employers or freelance clients that I worked for. I would go back to them, especially my favorites.
I have a letter of recommendation from one of my first employers, who I worked for in Lexington, Kentucky, from 1996 to 1999, almost 2000, and he, John Campbell, creative director at Hammond Communications, wrote me the most glowing, effusive, complimentary letter of recommendation I have ever read, much less had written for me, and since he knew me from so early in my career and I feel I’ve improved since then, sometimes, I would go back to that and read it, or read some of the LinkedIn recommendations that I’ve received from other people that I’ve worked with in the past, and just review them to give myself a little bit of a boost and to remind me what other people have thought. Smart people, who I respected and enjoyed working with, and that if they could think that of me at that particular point in time, then somebody else would too, and it was just a matter of finding the right fit.
So, I saved those cards, those letters, those LinkedIn recommendations, and just reviewed them from time to time when I was feeling particularly discouraged.
You worked with a career coach during your job search, Dalena Bradley. What inspired you to hire a career coach?
Well, just honestly, Mac, looking at my number of interviews; I had more than forty interviews in 2021, and that includes some of those companies where I had, you know, four, or five, or six, eight.
But I felt like if I’ve had more than forty interviews and I still haven’t gotten an offer, there must be something I’m not doing right, and maybe I have a blind spot to it. So, I hired Dalena. I had seen her content on LinkedIn. I’d read a lot of what she wrote. I liked what she had to say, and I thought maybe she can tell me what I’m doing wrong, and I just felt like, if she could give me some insight that I might be missing, then that investment would pay for itself if I were to receive an offer, and it did.
I hired Dalena, actually, kind of on a whim after my first interview with Northwest Perm. I was so sure I didn’t want the rest to go poorly or go the, you know, the way the others had with multiple interviews and lots of work outside the interviews, ultimately to receive no offer.
I was so certain I didn’t want that to happen that I called Dalena, and I asked her if she could coach me in some interview questions on very short notice. I mean, we had less than a week before my second interview, and she agreed to it, and I met with her three times, and she coached me through some interviews, and mostly she just gave me some extra confidence.
She said she really couldn’t find anything I was doing wrong, and she thought if anything, maybe the problem was that I was applying to roles that were too junior to my experience, and she suspected that I wasn’t being hired, perhaps because they thought they couldn’t afford me, or they thought I wouldn’t stay long, or any number of reasons related to that. So, she encouraged me to go for more senior-level roles and then, to just try to exude a level of confidence, even if I wasn’t feeling it, that would lend confidence to the employer.
So, that was her main suggestion, and I implemented that, and I got the job. So, she must’ve been right.
What didn’t work in your job search?
What didn’t work, I think, would be just sending out resume after resume to check a box without really looking at the company first, evaluating GlassDoor reviews and others, familiarizing myself more with the company and their work. I think becoming more discriminating in where I applied and then investing that time in a cover letter, in tweaking my resume to be more geared to that position. That was worth the time.
I think sending LinkedIn instant reply after instant reply, or any job that only wanted a resume and didn’t even ask for a cover letter, I didn’t have much luck with those. So, I would say the mass application process didn’t work.
Finally, Kellie, what’s your number one job-hunting tip?
Well, I think the landscape of looking for a job has changed quite a bit, even since last year at this time when I was still looking.
So, I don’t know if my advice would be as applicable today. But I think preparing for an interview- I feel like it’s really hard to over-prepare, and I think really knowing the company and the background, their mission, vision, values, seeing if you have any contacts that might work there or secondary contacts that you can find through LinkedIn. I think that’s worthwhile.
I think having a really polished resume that’s just impeccable in terms of writing, grammar, punctuation, et cetera, I think should be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many resumes are full of mistakes.
So, my job advice would be to have a really polished, professional-looking resume, researching a company, and also preparing for an interview, guessing the kind of questions that might be asked, and having a pretty concise answer prepared already.
Well, thank you for sharing your story, Kellie. To learn more about Kellie Gordon’s job search, visit macslist.org/stories.
And check out the Mac’s List website for dozens of other success stories.
On the second Friday of every month, we add a new interview with a Mac’s List reader who has found a dream job. Go to macslist.org/stories.
In the meantime, thank you for listening to today’s bonus episode of 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.