A Recruiter’s Perspective on Job Search Strategy: Part 1 with Kate Sargent

A Recruiter’s Perspective on Job Search Strategy Part 1: Preparing and Networking

Kate Sargent is a talent acquisition expert and job search strategy coach, assisting both companies and candidates alike in matching top talent with career defining roles. In Part 1 of their deep dive conversation, Kate and Roy discuss how candidates can successfully approach and prepare for a job search, and how fostering authentic relationships in the networking process can make or break a job search.

Kate lends a unique perspective to the conversation – she’s served as Head of Global Talent Acquisition for iconic brands like Allbirds and Method, and has most recently served as the VP of People Operations at The Citizenry. Simultaneously, Kate’s built a successful career coaching business, helping candidates refine their search strategy, hone their job seeking assets, and distill their experience into highly relevant and engaging interviews. Her expansive knowledge of the talent pipeline and acquisition process make this discussion essential listening for both candidates and recruiters.

Listen to the podcast

Highlights from our conversation

  • How Kate coaches and supports job seekers (3:59)
  • How to prepare for a job search  (5:47)
  • The importance of distilling and communicating personal narratives (11:29)
  • Ways in which Kate helps job candidates develop a focused job search (17:02)
  • How to track progress during the job search (22:23)
  • Using resources like Linkedin to research roles, network, and maintain relationships (25:36)
  • Ways to foster authentic and reciprocal relationships (27:29)
  • Tips to help job seekers network more successfully (30:26)
  • Building and maintaining relationships with recruiters (34:18)


[00:00:00] Roy Notowitz: Hello and welcome to How I Hire, the podcast that taps directly into the best executive hiring advice and insights. I’m Roy Notowitz, founder and CEO of Noto Group Executive Search. You can learn more about us at notogroup.com. As a go-to firm for purpose-driven companies, we’ve been lucky to work with some of the world’s most inspiring leaders as they’ve tackled the challenge of building high performance leadership teams. Now, I’m sitting down with some of those very people to spark a conversation about how to achieve success in hiring and create purposeful leadership for the next generation of companies. As a talent acquisition expert, I often get asked by candidates and job seekers what they can do to stand out in today’s competitive talent market. So we’re kicking off a special, two-part deep dive to pull back the curtain and share insight from recruiting experts. Today I’m joined by Kate Sargent, a talent acquisition leader and coach who’s worked with top brands such as The North Face, Method, Allbirds, and The Citizenry. She simultaneously built her coaching and consulting business and draws upon her extensive recruiting experience to help job seekers navigate their searches. In this first part of our conversation, we cover how to prepare for your job search, how to network and foster authentic relationships, and how to connect and work with recruiters. Kate, thanks so much for joining us on the podcast today. I’m really excited to have you here, and we’ve talked for many years, of course. I think we should just start with you sharing a bit more about your path to becoming a job search strategy expert and coach.

[00:01:48] Kate Sargent: Sure. I’m super excited to be here today, so thank you so much for inviting me. So, I would say that my background is potentially a little bit unusual for a coach. I worked many years in retail, was a failed law student, decided to go into retail, and found a really incredible path through retail. Loved being in charge of business, in charge of people. No one ever told me that recruiting was an amazing profession, coaching was an option, so I wound up finding my own way into it. Somebody suggested that seemed to be the thing that was giving me the most passion in my recruiting new people for the company. So, eventually I found my in. I wound up working for The North Face as a retail recruiter, then doing corporate recruiting, working my way into some executive recruiting, but, for the most part, I was Head of Talent Acquisition for the last six or seven years between Method and Allbirds, and VP of People Operations for The Citizenry, and I was doing a ton of coaching. Just on the side. I was helping my friends write their resumes, teaching them how to get through the job search process as the expert behind the scenes — let me show you behind the curtain — and I was doing it for free. So, I started telling all of my friends that if they were going to come get it for free, that they needed to bring me a paying client as a thank you for doing it for free. And I built my business on word of mouth for years and years until it became a full fledged business.

[00:03:21] Roy Notowitz: It’s great that it’s a passion of yours. I feel like candidates’ job search strategy is just the other side of the same coin as the recruiting and hiring side. Obviously, we don’t start out as job search experts, so to speak, but then I think we ultimately, having been through the process so much, can offer a lot of insight.

[00:03:41] Kate Sargent: I think you, you get the trial and error of your own experience in the job search process as well because, you know, whether or not we are doing it from the hiring side, you also experience it from the being hired side. And I think that combination of those two perspectives gives you a really unique perspective for coaching.

[00:03:59] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. So in what ways do you coach and support job seekers? 

[00:04:04] Kate Sargent: I have a range of different things that I work on with clients. So, anything from quarterly meetups to talk about their development or their desire to move forward in their career, to really hardcore, “I just got laid off, I’m in a panic. Let’s set up some time to talk through, resume set up, LinkedIn set up, and then interview set up.” The biggest piece of what I do is usually that, “I need to get a job” side of things. And, “I need– 

[00:04:34] Roy Notowitz: Yes. 

[00:04:34] Kate Sargent: –to do it relatively quickly.” And I would say that’s not the most ideal scenario to be in a coaching environment. It’s much better when you have a job, and you’re really looking to find your next role. 

[00:04:44] Roy Notowitz: Right. 

[00:04:44] Kate Sargent: So, that’s one of my pieces of advice is that coaching is much better when you are in the early stages and not in a panic or desperation, but I get people at all different stages. So, I run sessions where I do everything from helping them build out their LinkedIn profile, helping them build out their resume, and then really doing a very uncomfortable role play of interviewing that is probably everybody’s least favorite session. 

[00:05:10] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. Just to get a baseline of how they interview? 

[00:05:13] Kate Sargent: Very much so. And then also a huge amount of the work I do is also reframing — teaching people how to reframe their experience in a way that is going to be appealing to a recruiter or hiring manager. Because when we talk about ourselves, we don’t always think about it in the way that’s going to be most effective to getting us the job. 

[00:05:30] Roy Notowitz: Yeah, exactly. A lot of job seekers feel a sense of urgency to get their resume out there; however, investing time, like you were talking about upfront, or even before you start actively searching, to be thoughtful, and strategic, and focused, ultimately generates better results. So, what are some of the things that job seekers should or could do in preparation for their job search? 

[00:05:55] Kate Sargent: Yeah, I think the way that you start is the most important part. I think, first of all, you need to be in a really good head space to be able to do it. So I often recommend that people who are in a layoff situation take a little bit of time to, to get their head straight and be able to talk about themselves in a positive way. So I would say: first, breathe. 

[00:06:13] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. 

[00:06:13] Kate Sargent: Get yourself ready and be prepared to actually do that. And then, a couple of other highlights, I think, of what you could do during that time period is what I call “gathering your army,” being ready to figure out who the people are that you know that can help you in this space, figuring out what connections are in the places that you’d like to go next, which ones are just there for advice, and which ones are actually going to — from, like, a recruiting perspective — help you get the job. And then, I would say, also, start sooner than you think you need to and just assume that, in this market, things are going to take a little bit longer than maybe they did the last time you were looking for a job, or even one, or two years ago.

[00:06:53] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. 

[00:06:54] Kate Sargent: And then I would say the next piece of it is, once you’ve figured out who you know and what you can do on that end, is getting really clear about what you’re looking for. What’s the job you’re looking for? What kind of title? What kind of other titles might you be interested in? What kind of industries are you looking for?

[00:07:11] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. What kind of experience do you want? 

[00:07:14] Kate Sargent: Exactly. Like, “What’s your tolerance for risk?” is a really important one too. Really understanding: do you want to be in a risky business? Or a business that’s really established? 

[00:07:24] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. 

[00:07:25] Kate Sargent: And then I would say, you know, you just start your investigation into the roles and the people and start heading towards that target of whatever type of role you’re looking for. 

[00:07:35] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. You can’t arrive at a destination without an address and getting very specific, and it’s okay to have two or three different types of destinations or jobs that you might be going after, but getting clear on each of those and then being able to build your strategy, and messaging, and experience around each of those, it helps you know what to do when you get up in the morning, versus a shotgun approach. Which is the other way to potentially approach that. 

[00:08:02] Kate Sargent: I mean, I’ve, I’ve heard nothing but tales of people just spreading their applications everywhere, and it just not getting them anywhere. And I think there’s a level of frustration you create for yourself in that, where you get into a bad head space that nobody wants you, when, really, it’s just about approach. And, if you did understand better how to approach it, you wouldn’t be having those kind of experiences. 

[00:08:25] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. 

[00:08:25] Kate Sargent: Because you’d be having those networking conversations. You know, if you’re really targeted and trying to get a job. The more you can build yourself up by connecting and going about this strategically, the better you’re going to feel about the responses that you get.

[00:08:38] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. 

[00:08:38] Kate Sargent: And also knowing you did everything you could, because I think that’s just something we don’t talk about either, right? People are like, “It’s not working, it’s not working,” and they get on LinkedIn, and they complain I can’t get anyone to respond to me. And I think if you know that you have a good strategy, if you know that you’re doing everything you can, there’s, like, a satisfaction in that as well, and it helps you sustain through a job hunt. 

[00:08:59] Roy Notowitz: Yeah, I do think that psychology around the day after you, let’s say, get laid off, you’re no less valuable than the day before, right? And these things happen. I think what’s interesting about the current job market is, because everyone is so connected, there’s more competition because there’s so many passive job seekers and just people who are networked–

[00:09:21] Kate Sargent: Yes. 

[00:09:21] Roy Notowitz: –that it creates a lot of noise. And even if you are very closely aligned and qualified for the opportunity, there’s probably three, to five, or six other people as well, and there’s only one job, and so– 

[00:09:33] Kate Sargent: Mm-hmm. 

[00:09:34] Roy Notowitz: –the resilience piece and just having a positive mindset. I always tell people to make sure that they take time to be mindful, or to get to the gym, or to take a walk, or whatever it is that they do to sort of catch their breath, and ground themselves for the journey, and to stay positive about it.

[00:09:54] Kate Sargent: Well, and I think it’s a long game too, right? When you think about networking, you get really immediate focused sometimes when you’re in that type of situation as well. Roy, you and I are a great example of this, right? Like, we met a long time ago. 

[00:10:07] Kate Sargent: I had no idea that this would be a long-term relationship going forward, and I think that’s something that people need to think about too: that there is no wasted networking conversation with people. 

[00:10:18] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. 

[00:10:19] Kate Sargent: Yeah, it’s all great. It might not be for this job search, so don’t be fully shortsighted with all of those networking conversations, but, like, future state, there’s people thinking about you in the future. There’s people who now know more about you in the future. I always tell people, unless it’s a really wild, out-there recruiter approaching you about a scheme in another country, talk to a recruiter. Anything that’s even remotely relevant, talk to them anyway. You don’t know what else they have in their list of roles. They might have misread your profile. They might have something else great for you in the future, so I can’t sound like more of an evangelist for networking. 

[00:10:55] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. 

[00:10:55] Kate Sargent: Talk to people. Take the time doing that, rather than taking the time to apply for a bunch of jobs that aren’t right for you. 

[00:11:02] Roy Notowitz: I always say, “Activity produces luck,” right? 

[00:11:04] Kate Sargent: Yes. 

[00:11:04] Roy Notowitz: All the variables have to align for you to be a candidate in the first place, but then, also to make it through the process. So, the more top-of-the-funnel awareness and connectivity that you create, the more opportunities you’ll get to choose from, which gives you potentially more leverage to negotiate and to pick the job that’s going to be best for you. So, that’s important too, is the velocity or the activity. But talking about how candidates tell their story, you talked a little bit about how you help people with their messaging and how they represent their experience. So, what advice do you offer around that? And how do you help in that way? 

[00:11:42] Kate Sargent: All of my coaching is built around something that I’ve come up with over time in terms of how I think of personal narratives. For me, you think of your personal narrative and your tools as a timeline. For example, your resume is how you tell your story backwards in my mind. It’s a accounting of what you’ve done, it’s bullet points, it’s information about all of the things that you’ve done, and then, your LinkedIn, to me, is about the sort of connection between the past of your resume, and the present of what you’re thinking and what you want to do now, and the future, which is those interviews, those conversations, that next role that you’re going to do and how you’re going to take that experience. And it’s all about telling your story the right way and using the tools that you have to do that. So I think of it as, like, you know, resume/past, LinkedIn/present, and then, your interviewing and conversations as your future. And I also coach through competencies and bucketing your relevant skills, your experiences, and strengths, and where you play so that you have an ability to frame all of the work that you’ve done in a way that makes it relevant to the work that you’re going to do in the future. When someone asks you the question of, “Tell me about your background,” that’s not really what they’re asking. 

[00:12:59] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. 

[00:12:59] Kate Sargent: What they’re asking is: “How does the work that you’ve done before apply to the work that I’m trying to hire you for?” And when you think about telling your story, you’re really not telling it backwards, you’re telling your story forwards so that somebody can understand how those things that you’ve done previously– 

[00:13:16] Roy Notowitz: Right. 

[00:13:16] Kate Sargent: –are going to work out in your next role. And I think that’s a really important piece of it. It’s an awareness, right? It’s a self-awareness that we’re not chatting, we’re taking notes, we’re paying attention to every story you tell. We’re making judgments about everything that you say in that backstory. But really, all we’re thinking about is, “How does this work for the job? How does this work for the hiring manager? How does this work for what I need?” 

[00:13:41] Roy Notowitz: Right. 

[00:13:42] Kate Sargent: And the successful candidate is the one that recognizes that, and plays to that, and tells examples in a way that support that. And then I would say also, people talk about resumes, right? Like, people always ask me if I will write their resume for them. “Oh, can you write a resume? Will you do a resume for me?” I learned that lesson eight years ago when I started doing this, and it would take me 10, 15 hours to write a resume and perfect a resume for somebody that I had to go research all of the work that they do and the position. When you sit with somebody and talk through your experiences in terms of stories, and what’s important, and what you want to highlight, that is the key to a successful coaching session is actually sitting with somebody and helping them understand their story– 

[00:14:26] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. 

[00:14:26] Kate Sargent: –how they want it to come out, and then effectively creating that with them in verbiage that’s going to help move them forward. 

[00:14:33] Roy Notowitz: I always say that the best resumes are the ones that are written by the executives, where they’ve put time and thought into it.

[00:14:39] Kate Sargent: Yes. 

[00:14:39] Roy Notowitz: And I agree, I mean, just really knowing your strengths and what the stories, examples, metrics are that demonstrate those, those are the bullet points. You kind of have to access your database of all your work experience and really try to bring that to life. 

[00:14:53] Kate Sargent: I ask them to bring a document dump to me. I call it the document dump, which is every single bullet point of every single job that you’ve ever done. It’s an ugly, gross, long document that you put somewhere and you really only approach it when you’re ready to start crafting resumes that you’re going to target at certain searches. And, to me, what your coach does for you or whoever, it could be your friend, or it could be somebody who’s with you. Your job is to tell your story, and my job is to help you edit it for success, because you’re the only one who can tell your story. I can tell you how to reframe it so it sounds better, but your story is your own. My job is to help pull that out of you and get you to a place where you can do that. And I think AI is another support tool that people are really focused on now as well. You can’t be coached by an AI system, but it is tremendously helpful to help you think about how you’re writing about yourself and how you’re talking about yourself in a new way, with better verbiage. My frustration is just, you know, you have to be able to back up whatever you put on your resume — and that’s just a good golden piece of advice in general — is if you don’t sound like your resume when you talk about yourself, there is a huge disconnect, and any experienced recruiter or hiring manager is going to pick up on that right away.

[00:16:08] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. 

[00:16:09] Kate Sargent: And then I’d say also being really honest, but also thinking about yourself in a way that is framed high-level, right? Like, you don’t always explain your work. There’s a humility to the way you talk about yourself with your friends and your family, but, what I like to do is say, “You tell me you’re teaching kids in high school, and I’ll say, ‘I am educating people and, you know, helping create great citizens, and preparing people for their next steps in life in college, right?'” And it’s like, “Oh yeah, that is what I do,” right? There’s a weight to what you do that someone else can reflect back at you that you don’t necessarily realize about yourself. And I don’t think there’s any shame in that. I can’t do it for myself. I have a coach that can help me write about myself, because I think that third party, like, that can really give you who you are in the right kind of words is super valuable. 

[00:17:02] Roy Notowitz: We talked earlier about this idea of focusing the job search efforts. Let’s dig into that a little bit more and talk about how you help people develop a focused job search strategy.

[00:17:15] Kate Sargent: In terms of the search itself, you know, we talked a little bit already about identifying what kind of search, and what kind of company, what kind of people you need to support your search. I would consider them tools, right? People, documents, research that you can do. Those are all your tools, but really, what’s important is your end destination, having that clarity of purpose, job titling, leveling. When you think about your job search, are you reaching? Are you looking to take your job to the next level? Is that the move you need to make right now? Are you pivoting? Your job search is going to be very different if you’re pivoting to another industry. Do you need to find an adjacent industry where they’re going to take your experience seriously and make that lateral move? You’re probably not going to pivot into a higher level position in a new industry, just realistically. When I talk about that end destination and clarity of purpose too, you also need to know the conditions you’re working with. You’ve got your tools. If you understand which part of your job search you’re in, like pivoting, reaching, settling, moving backwards. There’s all sorts of reasons for all these different pieces of career work. Consulting. Do you want to be in-house? Do you want to be– like, and really kind of understanding what your pieces are. But, understanding the market is just as crucial as any of those tools, and understanding where you want to go because the market is the thing that’s going to potentially hold you back from getting there. And if you don’t play it right, it’s going to be the thing that causes devastation in the end, I think. So, understanding those pieces before you get started. And then, ultimately having a dream job. I feel like I’m a killer of dreams sometimes as a coach too. I tend to be very blunt, and very transparent, very clear in my feedback. It’s great to have a dream job, but is it tomorrow? Is that your six month job? Is it your two year job? Are there three jobs that you need to take to get there? So I think really sitting down, being honest with yourself and understanding where you are in your search is the most important part. 

[00:19:17] Roy Notowitz: That’s really huge because recruiters know whether or not you have the level of leadership, or scope of responsibility, or accountability. 

[00:19:26] Kate Sargent: Right? I am always, “Scope and scale. Scope and scale.” People who sit in my coaching sessions hear that a lot. When I talk about the LinkedIn being a big piece of this is focusing your job search, it’s also externally showing people what your focused job search is, right? Like, the passersby on your LinkedIn profile. So, I always talk about your headline in LinkedIn and your ‘About’ section as a, “Let me tell you how to read everything you’re about to see.” To me, that is the forward or the preamble. 

[00:19:56] Roy Notowitz: Yeah, the top of the fold. Yeah. 

[00:19:57] Kate Sargent: Yes, exactly. But it’s the thing that’s going to tell people how to interpret everything that comes after it, right? You can just outline your experience, but you’re really leaving that open to interpretation with a recruiter. Your job search appears unfocused unless you explain, “Here’s a little bit about how to interpret what I’m about to tell you,” and I, I would say when you frame your interviews, that’s important too. But, in order to be able to do that, you have to start with being able to have a targeted job search and knowing what you’re heading for. 

[00:20:31] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. I give that same advice for resumes too, like, at the top, in the professional summary or executive summary–

[00:20:37] Kate Sargent: Mm-Hmm. 

[00:20:37] Roy Notowitz: –talking about, okay, help the recruiter, help the person reading the resume. Okay, 20 years supply chain operations, leadership experience in this industry sector, whatever that statement is, but, the next part of that would be where you want to go and how that aligns, giving a clue to the reader, like, “Okay, this is what I am and this is what I want to do,”–

[00:20:56] Kate Sargent: Yes. 

[00:20:56] Roy Notowitz: –is really important to help them understand right away what they’re looking at below that. 

[00:21:02] Kate Sargent: We get a tiny bit of information to make informed decisions from our hiring managers a lot of times too, right? 

[00:21:09] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. 

[00:21:10] Kate Sargent: You’re going into this with ignorance, sometimes, of fully understanding what the role even is because sometimes your hiring manager can’t even tell you exactly what the role is. So, when you send me off with a little bit of information, I do my very best to understand, but then, when I get into your profile and your profile is confusing, I’ve got about 10 seconds to look at your profile or 10 seconds to look at your resume. So, to me, if I can’t, in that first four sentences, figure out what it is you’re doing, why you’re here, why you applied, I might not go any further. 

[00:21:43] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. 

[00:21:43] Kate Sargent: There’s a lot of candidates out there right now. To me, it’s the one I can quickly get through, make sense of, and know that, if I send it along to the hiring manager, they’re going to be the ones who understand the rest of the work. So I always feel like you write your top of your resume, or your headline, or your profile for the recruiter, and you write your experience, on some level, for the hiring manager. 

[00:22:04] Roy Notowitz: Yeah, and I think, even though there are a lot of candidates in the market, passively or actively, because of the connectivity, it’s still competitive, right? So that it makes it extra hard. You really have to be a close fit with a job for a recruiter to move forward or for somebody to move forward. Okay. Once they’ve focused their efforts, how does a job seeker organize their efforts or track progress? Is there an app? Are there LinkedIn tools? We love Excel spreadsheets for this type of stuff. So, what are your thoughts about that? 

[00:22:37] Kate Sargent: I’m super basic. I don’t need a bunch of fancy stuff, personally. I prefer just a really nice spreadsheet with very clear list of the companies that you’re interested in. Then, a very clear list of the people you need to reach out to. I would highly recommend that people do company, hiring manager, or whoever you can seek out in LinkedIn to try and get close to whoever might be the hiring manager for a role. Who’s the recruiter? And then, accounting of: “Did I apply? Have I followed up?” And marking when you followed up, and, usually, I’m a fan of, like, the two outreach in an application process. Being persistent is important, but being organized about your persistence is really important too, because if you send me a note tomorrow after we had an interview, and then you send me a follow up the next day, and then you send me another follow up the next day, I’m going, “You clearly do not have an understanding of how a hiring process works, how timelines work, how hiring managers interact with recruiters, how hiring managers interact with HR. And, to me, that’s a turnoff, versus somebody who has a very strategic timeline, who’s adding something to the conversation. But I would say tracking your progress is the thing that’s going to really help you maintain an organized format for that. But that’s really, to me, all I’m looking for. I mean, your document dump, a couple of different versions of your resume for different industries that you can tweak, a spreadsheet with who, what, when. And then I would say also some analysis on interview questions is nice too. This is a little bit more in the weeds, but I think being able to reassess how your interview went once it’s done immediately is super important and taking notes of the type of questions you’re being asked. 

[00:24:30] Roy Notowitz: Yep. 

[00:24:30] Kate Sargent: Particularly if you’re working with a coach. This is tremendously helpful for me, when you come back to me and say, “Hey, I’ve organized the questions I was asked. Here’s where I feel like I failed. Here was the way I answered this question,” and we can work through them. But, what you also see, I think, in tracking that piece of things is being able to address the things in your background that people continue to bring up. I’ll speak from my personal experience. I was in retail, and I was interviewing for a lot of tech jobs several years ago, and everyone kept pointing out that I didn’t have a ton of tech experience in my background. And finally, I got to the point where I was like, “No, I get it. I know that I don’t have tech in my background.” 

[00:25:10] Roy Notowitz: Right. 

[00:25:10] Kate Sargent: So what I started to do was address it. 

[00:25:12] Roy Notowitz: Heading them off at the pass. You have to think about what are the things that they’re going to have concerns about and be– 

[00:25:18] Kate Sargent: Yes. 

[00:25:18] Roy Notowitz: –proactive in terms of thinking about how you’re going to communicate that even before they ask the question. Sometimes that really helps. 

[00:25:26] Kate Sargent: That is the key because then you can craft your stories around it, right? Make your narrative tell that story and how it’s easily relevant to a tech job. 

[00:25:35] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. One thing we talked about and that I recommend for candidates is this idea of using LinkedIn as a research tool. So, identifying the people who are in the jobs, the companies, the roles that you are actually really interested in, creating a spreadsheet with their link to their LinkedIn profiles, and just trying to build relationships with those folks through people you already know, or through associations or other methods, trade shows, or whatever it is that you might go to, or a conference. Because they’re inevitably getting calls from recruiters as well and hearing about opportunities, and if they’re not actively searching, they might be a good referral source, right? Or, oftentimes, the first thing people do when they switch jobs is update their LinkedIn profile, so you might have a little bit of a heads up on a job opportunity before it even gets posted. 

[00:26:23] Kate Sargent: I love this. I’m always heading people in that same direction of researching the people that are in the roles that you want. Understand the verbiage that’s right for those kind of things, and understanding the experience, and what you, who you might be up against, but I, I personally never even thought of the fact that you would know when they left their position and be able to get a first dibs on it. So, I do think that’s a really interesting way of utilizing that. But it’s so true. And also just being able to get time with those people to understand more, particularly if you’ve identified in your search, if you’re, like, a pivoter, or if you’re reaching for a new role, understanding the levels and the pieces that are involved in that particular job you’re looking to go after.

[00:27:05] Roy Notowitz: I would recommend doing that even while you’re in your existing job. If– 

[00:27:10] Kate Sargent: Yes. 

[00:27:10] Roy Notowitz: –because building your network within the industry is great because that’s how people learn, and develop, and get the best ideas is by listening to podcasts, and by talking to peers, and, and there’s not a lot of opportunities– as many opportunities to do that because people get busy and they don’t take the time. Those relationships and being intentional throughout your career of spending a little bit of time each month, each quarter, making sure that you’re maintaining your network and building new connections 

[00:27:39] Kate Sargent: Well, and doing it in an intentional way that you don’t seem like a leech too, on some level, right?

[00:27:45] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. 

[00:27:46] Kate Sargent: I, just this week, introduced somebody to my old boss. They were looking at a role, and they were like, “Do you know anyone in this company?” I was like, “No, but somebody I know is on the board of that company, and let me see what I can do.” It always feels weird to me when people do it for me. I’m so grateful. But, I think that feeling of gratitude when you offer your network to somebody is a great way to sort of return that favor. Because I think if you, at the end of your ask, or, you know, “Hey, can I get a few minutes with you?” or, “Hey, can you look at my resume?” Also offer, “Hey, if there’s anybody in my network that might be great for anything that you are looking for, I am happy to make a connection for you.” 

[00:28:25] Roy Notowitz: Right. 

[00:28:25] Kate Sargent: It diffuses the ask so significantly. So be that person for other people. 

[00:28:31] Roy Notowitz: You know, there’s this idea of social capital or relationship capital that people don’t always want to spend– 

[00:28:37] Kate Sargent: Yes. 

[00:28:37] Roy Notowitz: –if they don’t know somebody very well. So, there’s this idea of you have to really start to get to know people and build relationships over time. It’s fine to ask, but I think being realistic about whether or not that person might feel comfortable sharing. At the same time, I always say that if you’re going to make a connection, you have to invest in the success of other people. 

[00:28:56] Kate Sargent: Mm-Hmm. 

[00:28:57] Roy Notowitz: So, what that means is maybe I sent you a job description or two when you were at Allbirds when you were searching for something, or a candidate or two that I thought was interesting, or maybe you find an article or something that’s relevant to that industry, or that person, or that company, or you read something, a press release that was interesting. It’s just taking a minute to say, “Hey, congrats. I read that. That was really awesome,” And taking the time to really pay attention and engaging with that network in an authentic way. 

[00:29:24] Kate Sargent: I love that. You know, I write little articles. Very rarely. I don’t have a ton of time these days, but, when people are like, “I read that nerdy article you wrote about the awkward goodbye at the end of a recruiting call and it resonated with me.” I am so much more likely to talk to you if you have read something that I have written. 

[00:29:45] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. 

[00:29:45] Kate Sargent: Or you have noticed something that I did because people love to talk about the things they’ve done or themselves. And be interesting. Say something that I don’t feel like you just pulled off of an AI situation where you have no idea what it is. Like, this week I got several networking asks that all had the same exact first sentence, and I was like, “Oh, did you guys all go to the same website and find out exactly what you should say? And pick one little piece of relevant information from my profile?” 

[00:30:15] Roy Notowitz: Right. 

[00:30:15] Kate Sargent: Plus add template. It felt very, you know, cold and impersonal. But, if you say something interesting, or funny, or really paying attention, I’m happy to engage in a conversation there. 

[00:30:25] Kate Sargent: 

[00:30:25] Roy Notowitz: Okay, so after a thoughtful job seeker spends a few weeks on the planning, prepping, researching, organizing, now it’s Monday morning of the third week, and it’s time to start networking. How should they get started? 

[00:30:39] Kate Sargent: I think always my first idea is the gather your army piece, right? Who are you talking to? And what are you talking to them about? Making sure you’re clear on what you need from your different connections. And I don’t mean to say rank your connections, but rank your connections, right? Is this the group of people at the top that you know extremely well that would put in a great word for you? And there’s a different approach for that, right? You can ask in a friendly way, you can tell them everything about what’s going on and, you know, they already know your work history and care about you. So I would say you approach those people in a very personal way, asking for time, asking for a conversation, asking for introductions, and you can consider them almost friends. And then, I would say there’s the next tier down, which is people you’ve worked with, or know, or have connected with on LinkedIn, or you know each other, but not that well. Those are the type of people that I think are, in some ways, almost more useful because it creates a much broader group of people that you can attach to through that group of people, because there’s usually a broad group of people there. And I think those folks, you need to expect that you’re probably going to get ignored, maybe, by some of them, or they’re going to be really busy, or they’re not going to jump to help you right away. So, those are the ones that you maybe approach through email, and ask if they can move your resume along, or if they know somebody that they could introduce you to, and already knowing who that person is that you want to be introduced to. And then there’s recruiters or people that are in roles that you want to get to know that you don’t know anything about. The sort of cold outreach folks. And I think the understanding of how willing each of these groups of people are going to be to help you out in varying levels of knowing you, versus having a stake in it like a recruiter does, that they would have a stake in helping you out, or they would have a reason to help you out, and being able to connect with them in the right kind of way. I’m a big fan of the– I call it “the disclaimer,” when you reach out to people in saying, “Would really love it if you would take a look at my resume,” or “Would really love five minutes of your time if you have a minute to chat,” or whatever. And then an out for people. I love an out. I love an out in a party that I don’t want to go to. I love an out in a situation where somebody helps me out of a conversation. 

[00:33:02] Roy Notowitz: Right. 

[00:33:03] Kate Sargent: So I’m always thinking of giving people an out, because, on my end, when people are trying to get communication and conversations with me, I want them to be like, “It’s okay–” 

[00:33:12] Roy Notowitz: Right. 

[00:33:13] Kate Sargent: “–if you don’t respond quickly,” or “It’s okay if you don’t respond at all.” And I think setting your expectations that, like, one in every five people is going to respond, and that’s a win. 

[00:33:24] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. I feel like you can do that in a confident way still and just be like, “If now’s not a good time–” 

[00:33:29] Kate Sargent: Yep. 

[00:33:29] Roy Notowitz: “–based on your schedule, or travel, or whatever, that’s fine. I’ll loop back in a few months and check in with you then.” 

[00:33:36] Kate Sargent: That’s an easy out for them. If you give them that sort of out or that ability to be like, “In your timeline,” right? “It’s okay if you get back to me later,” but I also say that it’s a good thing to sort of temper your expectations, particularly with people who get a lot of those outreach pieces, and particularly with people at the higher levels too, right? If you’re talking to people in a C-Suite. 

[00:33:56] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. 

[00:33:56] Kate Sargent: If you’re talking to people at the VP level. You can just imagine there’s probably a large group of people that are doing that, and you don’t need to take it personally if somebody doesn’t get back to you. But I would say the really nice, casual LinkedIn message with an out, with an offer of, “If there’s ever anything I can do for you in my network,” some sort of, “I’m not just in this for me right now.”

[00:34:18] Roy Notowitz: Yeah, just being honest, like, “I appreciate any help because it’s a challenging job environment right now,” or whatever. I mean, keeping it real is fine. I think people generally want to help other people. I think, like you said, the time, and the priorities that they have every day, and all the things coming at them personally, professionally, it’s a lot. And so, don’t feel uncomfortable asking for help and looping back. 

[00:34:44] Kate Sargent: I think understanding the players is really important in terms of how you approach them and how they help you in your search too. So, for example, this week I explained to somebody who hadn’t been on the job market for, like, nine years, and I was trying to explain the difference between, you know, “That recruiter is an external recruiter, right? That recruiter does not work for that company. They are recruiting as part of a retained search or contingent search.” It was really mind blowing to understand that there’s, like, this whole different, like, layering of the type of people that recruit for roles too. You know, you’ve got your in-house recruiter that’s really directly tied to the brand, and probably knows the person very well that’s hiring for this role, and may have their own opinions about what this role actually is. That was my role, so that’s the perspective I come from. And then there’s retained search and agencies, and those folks are very invested in you as a candidate, versus I’m not super invested in you as a candidate on an in-house side. I am very invested in the hiring manager and what they need. The relationships and how you approach those people are a little bit different. Ultimately, everybody wants to get someone hired, and everybody wants to find the right fit for a job, and everybody wants to do a great job in this process, but there’s a different way to sort of approach people and, and understand what kind of information you can get out of people, and what kind of support you can get.

[00:36:17] Roy Notowitz: Yeah, I think it’s important to understand the difference between the different types of recruiters. A retained recruiter is very much like an in-house recruiter in the sense that they’re really only working on jobs that companies hire them or retain them to fill. And, outside of that, they’re not set up to really market you to companies or help you get interviews. That said, they need to and want to get to know the best candidates and have a relationship, assuming that you’re in their area of expertise or focus for their recruiting practice. But, outside of that, if your experience doesn’t really align with the types of clients and jobs they work on, that’s not a good fit.

[00:36:55] Kate Sargent: Mm-Hmm. 

[00:36:56] Roy Notowitz: I get a lot of people sending me resumes in the tech industry, and we just don’t do any work in tech, and they didn’t take the time to maybe look at our website. And most retained recruiters are working on more of the executive-level roles, so there’s not going to be a lot of contingent recruiters slinging executive resumes out there.

[00:37:14] Kate Sargent: Right. 

[00:37:14] Roy Notowitz: But I think having a good mix of different types of people and recruiters is probably the right approach. 

[00:37:22] Kate Sargent: Right. And I think also understanding who they are that you’re talking to too. 

[00:37:27] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. 

[00:37:27] Kate Sargent: Because I’ll get a lot of questions like, “Why is this job poster not working for the company that I’m looking to get into?” Right? And understanding, like, that you still probably want a connection in the company too. 

[00:37:41] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. 

[00:37:41] Kate Sargent: Right? Like, you probably want to talk to somebody in the company and understand a little bit more about the roles and the internal structure there too. 

[00:37:48] Roy Notowitz: Mm-Hmm. 

[00:37:49] Kate Sargent: I think there’s an understanding too, of just really getting an outline of who the people are that you’re talking to and like who the decision makers are too. People are always like, “Oh, it was just a first conversation with a recruiter,” and I’m like, “That conversation is your gatekeeper.” Do not treat that initial casual conversation with the recruiter that talks to you as just a casual conversation. 

[00:38:13] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. 

[00:38:13] Kate Sargent: That recruiter can stop your progress in its tracks. That conversation, while it feels subtle and casual, is just as important as any other conversation you have with the hiring manager down the line, in my opinion. 

[00:38:28] Roy Notowitz: It’s true. There’s not a lot of great follow up and follow through, mostly because of the volume, and the number of meetings, and the priorities that a recruiter has. They might have 40 jobs on their plate if they’re an internal recruiter or seven executive searches going at once. And that means a lot of candidates, a lot of client interactions, a lot of meetings and conversations, and the ability to get back in a timely basis, especially to people who aren’t a fit, sometimes it has to wait till the end of the search. And I think it’s having realistic expectations, but understanding that, sometimes, if you’re not getting a response or not getting any information, it’s probably because you’re not a fit. 

[00:39:09] Kate Sargent: Yeah, I mean, it’s just like in any job out there, there’s people who are really excellent at their job, and there are people who drive you crazy because they’re not great at their job. But I, I don’t ever want to defend a recruiter ghosting or not getting back in touch, but I’ve been that bad recruiter myself. I have forgotten about somebody in a process that I had a ton of people. I have accidentally sent an auto email out to everybody before I was ready to close a search. Early in my career — it was horrifying. I’ve been that bad recruiter, and I certainly don’t want to be, and it certainly– 

[00:39:42] Roy Notowitz: We’re human. 

[00:39:42] Kate Sargent: –isn’t intentional, and I really do try to, like ,apologize if I have found somebody or someone said, “Hey, you never got back to me.” It’s embarrassing. 

[00:39:51] Roy Notowitz: Yeah.

[00:39:51] Kate Sargent: Frankly, and I hope it embarrasses other recruiters when they hear that too, because it’s certainly not intentional. I don’t want to not get back to people.

[00:40:00] Roy Notowitz: You know, I definitely think it’s a long-term strategy, back to what we talked about early on, building relationships with recruiters, and if you happen to be in the right place at the right time, that’s great, but having a few really good, retained recruiters that you know are really tight in the industry and just maintaining relationships with them. And then focusing your search in other areas, in other types of contacts: the internal recruiters, private equity firms, investment bankers, whatever level that you’re at. If you’re at the senior level, those are really good contacts sometimes. But there’s also the people in the companies, which we talked about as well. 

[00:40:34] Kate Sargent: Yes. Also the recruiter that knows you is the person who’s going to call you up and be like, this is the job for you. And I think everybody needs a buddy like that out there. 

[00:40:46] Roy Notowitz: I agree. You never know, but it is more likely that the recruiter will call you the day after you accept a job somewhere else. 

[00:40:53] Kate Sargent: That’s why I say you should always be active on the backend of LinkedIn too, making sure that you’re open to recruiters, because I will tell you, that’s how we filter our searches down on the backend, y’all. 

[00:41:03] Roy Notowitz: Yeah, follow up with them too, if you can. Even if you’re not interested. Because they remember. 

[00:41:11] Roy Notowitz: Thanks for tuning in to this episode of How I Hire. Stay tuned for Part Two of my conversation with Kate when we’ll dig into everything candidates need to know as they start interviewing and evaluating job opportunities. Visit howihire.com for more details about the show. And to find out more about Noto Group, visit us at notogroup.com. This podcast was created by Noto Group Executive Search and produced by AO McClain, LLC. To learn more about their great work, visit aomcclain.com.