All throughout February here at Technical.ly, we’ve been diving into the subject of hiring trends — basically, the ins and outs of getting a new job or breaking into a new industry.
We’ve talked to an HR pro who’s decided to create her own consultancy business, a group of recent coding bootcamp grads about entering the tech space and looked at Philly’s freelance landscape. I’m lucky to expand my network this month by talking with a slew of interesting professionals who can tell me how hiring works for them.
But I’m also lucky to have a built-in HR pro in my life.
My mom, Amy Jacobs, is a human resource manager for small insurance third-party administrator in downtown Lancaster (yes, I pass approximately 12 horse and buggies every time I drive home to visit). She’s worked in human resources on and off since before I was born, and every time I have a 401k question or need advice about how to handle a professional situation, I turn to her.
She’s an avid Technical.ly reader, and will often talk through interesting company dynamics, like the concept of unlimited PTO, or the unique HR practices involved in having a remote workforce, with me. During her career, she’s worked in human resources across a variety of industries, including healthcare, manufacturing, service industries and insurance.
Since I already lean on her on a regular basis for hiring and HR-related advice, my editor and I decided: Who better to learn about how to get hired from this month?
I called her up this week to learn about how the industry has changed, current hiring trends and what to do (and definitely not do) to land that job. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What has changed the most about the human resources industry since you started your career?
I feel like now, compliance has become much more important than 30 or 40 years ago. There weren’t necessarily as many laws in place to protect workers then as there are now. I heard a story a few years ago about a long-time worker in the manufacturing space who had gotten hired 30 years or so prior at a company and said that they had him working on the line for a week to essentially “try him out” before he had even filled out an application. Hearing things like that now would really make HR professionals cringe.
What kinds of trends are you seeing right now to attract applicants?
Now, because unemployment is so low, employers are really facing some competition for qualified applicants. What I’ve seen, and when talking with peers, I’m noticing companies offering 100% covered medical or dental benefits, which was not the practice before. More and more companies are offering paid parental leave, remote work and things like unlimited PTO or higher-than-average 401k matches.
Sometimes younger employees who are just starting out don’t necessarily understand what’s considered a really great benefit, because maybe they’re still on their parents’ medical insurance or retirement is so far off that they’re not yet thinking about their 401k, but mid-career candidates are finding a lot of value in that. And a good human resources professional will realize it can be up to them to let applicants know it’s a great benefit.
What’s a good way to stand out as a candidate?
I wish applicants knew that they could help themselves with really clear and concise cover letters and resumes. That’s the place to take the time to and tell me why they would be a good fit, or explain unemployment gaps. Another thing may be obvious, but come well prepared. Show me you’ve invested some time. I’ve asked interviewees why they feel they’re the right fit for a position and they’ve said “I don’t know.”
And it may be old school, but please send an email to thank the interviewer for their time. If I have two equally great interviews with well-qualified applicants, the person who thanks me for their time is going to stand out to me more.
And what will turn you off of a candidate?
A spelling or grammar error. If I see a sloppy cover letter, I simply move on to the next one. It shows you that you really didn’t take the time. Also, when a candidate shows up in ripped jeans and a T-shirt. I know a lot of tech jobs and companies in general have a casual dress code like we do, and I’m certainly not saying you need to come in a suit — I tell applicants they can wear jeans if they’d like to — but we like to look professional. If you’re showing up like that to an interview, what are you going to wear on a normal day?
Is it different hiring for a small company than for one with hundreds of employees?
Yes, and it depends on the industry. If you’re in a manufacturing setting and you need to hire 25 people, that’s a different situation than when I need to hire an IT professional for my small company. When you’re hiring for smaller companies, you need to hire team players. You’re considering culture and you want to make sure that at the end of the day, you’re finding someone who’s going to be happy in their position and in their environment.
What’s one thing you wish candidates knew that would make the process easier for everyone involved?
I know that an interview can be really nerve wracking, and I take that into consideration. I will account for nerves, but after a few minutes of talking, I’d hope they’d be able to express themselves and provide me the answers I need. I’ve been an applicant before, and I want to fill positions with qualified applicants. What I would say is that HR professionals are people too, we really just want to have a great conversation and see if you’re a good fit.
Thanks for your time, Mom. Love you! Also … that’s definitely the first time I’ve said that to an interviewee.
I sure hope so!