Today’s episode is with Jackie Ducci, the author of Almost Hired. This is a problem for anyone who has ever applied for a job. When we fail to get an interview or a callback or an offer, nobody tells you why.
But Jackie actually knows why.
She is the CEO and founder of Ducci and Associates, which is a boutique talent acquisition agency that recruits top candidates for Fortune 500 companies nationwide. Her firm has an amazing 90% success rate placing candidates in long term positions. She gets to hear firsthand from these companies why they don’t call you back, why you fail to get an interview, and why you fail to get an offer.
In this episode, she reveals the costly mistakes that all job seekers make during the hiring process and why most of the job-seeking advice we get is just wrong. By the end of this episode, you will have Jackie’s best tips and insider knowledge on how to stand out and how to get the right job so you can finally hear those magic words, “you’re hired.” Now, here’s our conversation with Jackie Ducci.
Jackie Ducci: I graduated from college in the early 2000s, and I just remember the economy was good at the time, but I felt like nobody was providing any real guidance. We all just kind of entered to world clueless. We think we know things, and then we realize that we don’t. I remember turning to career counselors at school and different people for advice and just feeling like, “Okay, you gave me a what career is best for me test and a resume template, but I have no idea how to actually get a job.”
I think that that’s something that a lot of people deal with. It was a flashback for me too when I wrote the book. I remember how frustrating this was for me at 22 years old.
Stop Applying for the Wrong Jobs
Charlie Hoehn: You start your book with the chapter called, “Stop applying for the wrong jobs.” What are the wrong jobs?
Jackie Ducci: Well, the answer is different for everyone. It’s true that people get bad advice because everything’s cookie cutter, and the reality is, cookie cutter doesn’t work for everyone. Everybody’s challenges are different, and what everybody’s doing wrong is unique to them.
When I say stop applying for the wrong jobs, the wrong job for one person is different than the next.
I think self-reflection is really important, especially for younger folks. They need to think beyond just the responsibilities of the job that they want, they need to think about company culture, they need to think about the types of people they like to work with, the kind of environment they want, there’s just so many different factors that contribute to a job that somebody’s going to be happy in versus not.
When I say apply for the right jobs, I mean really think this through and make sure that before you send a resume, you’ve done a little bit of homework on the different companies and thinking about what you want. Otherwise it’s so easy to get down this rabbit hole where maybe this company X made you an offer, but then, is this really where you want to be?
They’ve never thought about it until they get to the end, and that’s how people wind up in positions they’re not happy with and then they’re jumping ship.
Nobody wins when you’re in a position short term. That’s what they should be trying to avoid.
How to Get It Right
Charlie Hoehn: For a young person getting out of school, they don’t know what they don’t know, right? They may not have a lot of work experience today, they might go in just like, “I don’t know, I’m hoping for the best.” Could you give an example of somebody who did do a good job of thinking this through?
Jackie Ducci: I see people get it right the second time. Usually what I see is they make a bad decision with their first job and then they learn from that. The example that comes to mind is a college graduate took a sales position and it was a startup company, it was very small, very vibrant. I mean, these people were like hard charging, they would go to happy hour together four nights a week.
It was very social. This candidate was really good at her job, but she was an introvert, so it was exhausting for her to be around these people. And not only was her job forcing her to interact with people all day long, but then if she didn’t want to go out with her coworkers after work, she was looked at like a loser.
So she just finally was like look, I want to stay in sales, but this culture does not work for me. So she was very cautious the next time around to really do more research on where she was applying. She landed somewhere that was amazing and it’s a much better fit, but without the misstep, sometimes you don’t know what you’re looking for.
I would also say, people coming out of school have more experience than they think they do. Internships, even little jobs they had in high school, you can learn things from every step of the way.
“I think if you really reflect, you know more about yourself than you think you do.”
Charlie Hoehn: I’m curious, what else do they have to keep in mind to avoid applying for the wrong jobs?
Jackie Ducci: I think it’s a holistic approach, so the who, what, when, where, why. I mean, really just go through every question in your mind, like who do I want to be around, where do I want to live? All these different things.
The more questions somebody can ask themselves and really just jot down notes, you’ll start to see themes emerging.
Another thing that can be really helpful is when people take some off those career assessments. I know people roll their eyes and sometimes they’re not that great.
But if you take enough of them, themes can start to take shape there as well, and that can be a clue into what you want to make sure you either avoid or that you make sure you have in an opportunity that you take.
Charlie Hoehn: Totally. Do you have any career assessments that you really think are great?
Jackie Ducci: There’s one called the Predictive Index that my team uses. I think it’s really good, for our purposes, we’re using it in the matchmaking process so we usually have a set of data from the employer as well which really helps us do our job much better.
But yeah, that’s something that people can look into, and there are tons of books out there. A lot of them overlap quite a bit.
Charlie Hoehn: Tell me how you hit the send button with confidence.
Jackie Ducci: Once you’ve identified the jobs that you’re applying for and you’re pretty sure that they would be a good fit, then it is all about conveying to the hiring manager that it is a fit. This is where so many people really fall short. The mistake I see made all the time is that people say, “I have all this great experience, I’m going to throw it all on my resume and tell them every wonderful thing about me and just send it off.”
It really tends to backfire, because the hiring manager then gets bombarded with so much information, it’s hard for them to sift through it and see, okay, how is this actually relevant to the position that we’re hiring for? You could be the greatest person in the world but if you’ve just confused them or distracted them, that’s another thing, there are so many things that are distracting on resumes.
They’re just going to move on to the next because they probably have a ton of other people that have applied. That is huge.
Charlie Hoehn: I feel like this is one of the golden keys to getting hired. Basically all young people send the exact same resume to all these different people. There’s no tailoring it, it’s just every single thing that they think could possibly be impressive about them and enticing, when in reality, the employer’s looking at the other end, thinking, “This is a disorganized mess. I have no idea how to apply this to the position that they’re applying for. 70% off it is irrelevant.”
Jackie Ducci: Not only that but they’re also thinking, okay, what the heck does this person actually want to be doing? If they’re scattered in five different directions—the employer is concerned about long term fit, not just picking the right person now, but they want someone to stay in the position.
If it’s confusing and it looks like this person could choose any of 10 different career paths based on what they’ve done. That doesn’t really look attractive to a hiring manager because they’re going to say, “Okay, are they going to have shiny ball syndrome in two years and go the other direction?”
Charlie Hoehn: It’s not about you, it’s about them and is this a fit for the position.
Jackie Ducci: I remember being told as a kid, the more well-rounded you are, the better. Five different stores, speak a couple of languages, and we’re just going to make you so well rounded and you’re going to be amazing and then it was like, you go to apply for colleges and you see the people who were really specialized in something get the attention because they stood out.
Because every kid was well rounded but the ones that were really amazing at something, that was what got people’s attention. It’s kind of the same thing with job seeking. If you can stand out by being specifically ahead of everybody else, that’s what’s going to get noticed.
Charlie Hoehn: It’s not like you have to change, fundamentally just commit to one skillset or area of your life forever. It’s just the way you present yourself matters and it needs to be specific, right?
Jackie Ducci: 100%. I talk about that a lot in this book, you know, tweaking your resume for every position that you’re applying for. Some people actually have a few different versions that they will use if, let’s say, they have two different skillsets that are both very strong. I’ve seen people that are very good with administrative work but also accounting and they’ve truly done both.
They will have one admin resume, one accounting resume, and they send whichever version is appropriate based on what they’re applying for. It makes all the difference in the world. I know it sounds like a lot of work, and sometimes it is, but my gosh, if you want to propel yourself forward, these are the kinds of things that you have to do.
Redo the Resume
Charlie Hoehn: How do you make your application and resume stand out?
Jackie Ducci: I think the job description itself is generally all the information you have to go on. I tell people just read that as carefully as possible and just use your common sense. You can find clues. If they talk about a software package that you have experience with, make sure that that’s not just on your resume but it’s actually highlighted somewhere like bold so they’re going to see it.
Because they didn’t just put that in the JD for no reason.
Somebody put thought into this job description. If you’re picking up on pieces in there and you say well yeah, I’ve done that—it’s amazing how many times people apply and they don’t stress the same information that the hiring manager just told them that they’re looking for. I mean, it sounds like brainless but it’s just true.
You have to go point by point and make sure that you are conveying that you have done what they said they are looking for and then it’s a home run.
“This is the problem in a nutshell: candidates make it about them and not the employer.”
You have to flip that script; you have to think from the perspective of the person who is actually picking.
If you owned a business and you had a position open, would you hire somebody who just sent you a canned resume, just talking about a bunch of random stuff or would you pick someone who actually took the time to show you that they’re invested in the process and they care to give you something unique, but also that they can actually do the job.
I mean, that customization is critical. Thinking about it from the point of view of that person is key.
Charlie Hoehn: Why do you think it’s so common for people to make that mistake of making it just about them? Why do we do that?
Jackie Ducci: You know, I used to think the answer was because people were lazy. Then, the more I observed it happening, I’m talking to really good people who are motivated who make these mistakes. I think it’s just that they just don’t get it.
I think it’s more like, it is a little counterintuitive, right? Because you’re applying for things and you’re selling yourself. I think where they get stuck is it’s like, “Okay, I’m selling myself so I need to talk about every amazing thing that I do.” Rather than, no, you just need to convey why you’re a fit for this job.
You can sell yourself, but it’s just shifting the way that you do it.
That bleeds into the interview phase too. Once you are in front of a hiring manager, the candidates that show that they have actually given thought to this process and they’re asking really good questions and processing everything that you just said, they tend to be favored for obvious reasons. I mean, an employer would want to pick someone who’s being thoughtful about this and again more likely to stay rather than just haphazardly like, “Okay, well maybe this will work out.”
Shiny Object Syndrome
Charlie Hoehn: Why are we so concerned with finding the next shiny object within one to two, three years? I mean that hurts our chances of getting a job.
Jackie Ducci: It does, and some of that is happening now just a result of the economy that we are in. I mean the economy is booming like this and unemployment is so low, the fact is people have more options. If you are a good candidate with good experience, you’ve probably got other employers chasing you right now.
I think because people feel like they are so in demand, they tend to look at their options more so, even if they weren’t necessarily actively out there looking.
It is easy to get a little ADD like, “Oh wow all these companies want me, maybe I should go take a jump.” But the grass is not always greener. I think that’s part of the reason it’s happening now.
Charlie Hoehn: How do you impress upon them that, “Hey, I actually want to stay. I’m not going to go running for the green grass over there. I want to sit and stay.”
Jackie Ducci: So the best way to do that is by conveying why it is a good fit from your perspective as a candidate. So, for example, in that story that I told earlier about the girl that had the sales job and then it wasn’t a good fit culturally, if she went into the next interview process and explained exactly what had happened to her and then highlighted, “Hey, your company culture seems different from where I have been. I really like that about you all and this is why I feel that it would be a great home for me,” that is a perfect answer.
Then that hiring manager can see:
“Okay this person thought about it and is being very genuine. If what she said is true, it should be a long-term fit”
Charlie Hoehn: Are there other things that you can say that really standout as this: “Look if you say this in a sentence this is almost certainly going to be in your favor”?
Jackie Ducci: I don’t know about that. I don’t know, I mean even the company culture thing is a little tricky because this is why research is important. So if you are applying for a company and you’re on their website or you are researching them on social media or whatever and they really stress their company culture, they are so proud of it and rah-rah company culture—that is a perfect time to go in and talk about it in the interview.
I have actually seen other employers that don’t stress it so much. Like for example, I work with a lot of construction companies that are sort of they are what they are. They are not as focused on that kind of stuff, the bells and whistles and so if somebody goes into a firm like that, talking about company culture is probably not going to go over so well. Yeah they just want somebody that can do the job and show up and be happy.
I think it is really about doing your homework before. I don’t know if there are any buzzwords or anything like that that I would encourage in general.
Charlie Hoehn: That is a great point. I am glad you shot me down there. Excellent job.
Jackie Ducci: Just being honest.
Charlie Hoehn: Going to interviews—you call it so close but yet so far. How do people stay on track in these final stages, going to multiple rounds of interviews or getting shot down. How do they keep the wind in their sails?
Jackie Ducci: It can be tough. I mean, I think obviously the further you get in the process, the more disappointing it is when things don’t come together, so it’s hard and it is like your dating analogy earlier. It’s like, “Oh man another one didn’t work out, what am I doing wrong?”
I think it is just taking time to regroup and keep yourself motivated. I mean there is nothing too complicated about it even though it is hard. I think maybe doing some analysis of maybe why it wasn’t the right fit from the beginning.
Sometimes you’ll get a gut feeling about that and sometimes you won’t, but the information that you can gather can then apply to the next search. If you have a hunch just to why they didn’t pick you or something you feel like you could have done better, it is just information for the future and trying to get it right the next time. You’ve just got to keep pushing. It’s a numbers game, really it is.
“The more you put yourself out there, something is going to go right.”
When I say a numbers game, it is like it is but you want to make sure that you are applying for the right jobs because then you are going to see the success rate and the who have to go hand in hand.
Working with an Agency
Charlie Hoehn: I know you run an agency, can you talk a bit about what it’s like to work with an agency?
Jackie Ducci: The good news is, if you are in with a good headhunter, you are golden. They will go to the ends of the earth for you because when you look good, they look good and their goal is to put the right person in the right job. So if you have a good relationship there, they can be your best friend through the process, clearly.
There is a general misconception though and this is something I wish that everybody had a better understanding of. As an agency, we work on behalf of the employer, not the candidate.
So even though we are the go-between and we are technically representing both sides, the way our business works is that an employer comes to us and says, “Hey, here’s the position that is open. This is our vision of the ideal candidate, go find us that person,” and then we are paid to run the search and find the needle in the haystack.
From the candidate’s point of view, sometimes they say, “Well, just go find me a job” and it is like, I wish I could do that but I can’t find you a job unless you are a match for my client.
If the match exists, then great, we will go to the mat for you and you’re going to be successful. But until that time comes, people have to sit tight and just understand that we can’t market them unless we have a match.
Charlie Hoehn: How do you find a good agency? How do you find a good head hunter?
Jackie Ducci: There are so many bad ones out there, and it is something that we run into all the time. People roll their eyes when they hear about recruiters, but the ones that are good are really good.
I think that the best thing to do is ask for referrals. If you know somebody in your network that has worked with an agency before and they say good things, that is a great lead. Even putting something out to your LinkedIn maybe and saying:
“Hey, does anybody have experience with an agency that is reputable?”
I just think personal referrals is always the best way. You can obviously Google search and all of that, but you never really know what you are running into until you’ve had contact. So personal referral is best.
Who Should Read Almost Hired?
Charlie Hoehn: And we never clarified actually, is your book for everybody who’s on the job hunt or is it primarily for younger people?
Jackie Ducci: That’s a great question because technically anybody can benefit from it. Anybody who is feeling stuck in a job search can benefit from the content because the rules are the same.
I will say, I always have a gut feeling that the 20-something crowd can benefit the most and would probably enjoy it the most. So my hope is that they’ll devour it.
Charlie Hoehn: How many people have you worked with at this point?
Jackie Ducci: I have five within my company but in terms of our client lists, it is probably between, I don’t know, 50 to 75 employers that we work with.
Charlie Hoehn: And so how can people potentially contact you, work with you?
Jackie Ducci: Our website is the best way to find us. It is ducciassociates.com, or you can just Google the company name. So you can see us on our social channels, there’s contact information there if you are candidate or an employer.
The other thing we are starting to do now is offer selectively some coaching services to candidates. So if anybody is interested in having some support in their job search, we do offer that now one on one.
We can only take on so many at a time but that’s something else in addition to placements that we are doing now.
Working with Jackie Ducci
Charlie Hoehn: Tell me a story, if you would, about a client that you’ve worked with, one that you are particularly proud of having placed into a career.
Jackie Ducci: There are a bunch. One in particular that stands out, and this actually speaks to your point about why it is great to work with an agency if you can. We have had people come our way that would not like, they’re a perfect fit for the job, but they wouldn’t have got it without us intervening.
The person I am thinking of, she came to us and her resume was just a mess. She had a really good experience but had she sent it to our client the way that it was, they would have just passed it over because she had no detail in there.
It was a very specific position, but it just wasn’t obvious that she had the experience. I knew based on the company she was working with previously that they were a competitor of my client and I thought if she has worked there for couple of years in that title, she’s good to go. We just need to revamp her resume. So sure enough, she goes through the process, we fix everything up.
“She interviewed like a champ, and she got the job.”
We all just sat around high fiving because we’re like, “If this girl applied on her own, they would have never given her a second look.” Because we’re able to repackage her, she wound up where she belonged.
Charlie Hoehn: I love that and it speaks to the broader point of, if you have been sending out resumes and not getting responses at all or just getting unfavorable responses, you might be in that person’s shoes and just not even knowing it. Your resumes that you are sending out might be a disaster even though they seemed great to you. So it is worth the time at the very least to get in touch with someone like Jackie or her team just to have an assessment of where you currently are.
Jackie Ducci: Another thing that we’ve seen happen a lot is candidates who really blow it in the offer stage. So somewhere in the negotiation there’s some classic mistakes people make and so I think so many times us being involved and helping them navigate that final stage, it is like, “You are on the 99-yard line, don’t say X or Y say Z.”
Charlie Hoehn: Can you give an example of that?
Jackie Ducci: People get stressed all the time about negotiating salary, and I think it’s just always best to be honest about where you are and what your expectations are, because at the end of the day, the employer has a budget in mind for each position.
I always tell people it is not about you, it is about them.
“Before they even knew you existed, they had a number in mind.”
So if you are completely misaligned then it is better to get that out in the open earlier, right? So nobody wastes their time. People price themselves out sometimes because they’ll say, “Okay well I think I am worth this” and it is like, “Ugh, did you really have to throw out a number that high?” because now, they are going to look at you like, “Well, we’re just in completely two different ballparks.”
So just being a little bit humble and a little bit honest can really go a long way.
Charlie Hoehn: I’ve got one final question for you Jackie and that is to give our listeners a challenge. What is the one thing they can do from your book this week that will have a positive impact?
Jackie Ducci: It is very simple. Just apply the advice. I wrote this book with 15 years of experience in this industry. It is chock full, every single page, of things that I have actually observed that work and don’t work. It is going to take some effort. If you read it, even a chapter of it, and apply what I am saying, you will see an uptick in your success rate when you are job seeking. It is not rocket science. It’s simple stuff, but it does take some effort.