What makes or breaks a candidate: How to find your life’s work

Finding the perfect job is hard.  For many unemployed and underemployed marketing and creative professionals, the “BOOM” economy with unprecedented unemployment rates are making it a candidate’s market.  Yet, if you speak to someone on the market for a new career opportunity the story is almost always the same.  Jobs posted are old, fake, or place holders for internal promotions.

We sat down with the CEO of portfoliorocket.com, Loren Greiff, to discuss how a marketer or creative person can find the career opportunity of their dreams and translate this ever-changing job market.

In this episode, Loren and Kyle discuss:

  • What’s happening in the market and what can we do to land the perfect job?
  • Tips for making a lasting impression
  • Resume as a food label, do tell…
  • Getting the job description decoded
  • Ways to hack your job search for incredible results.



Kyle Hamer: (00:02)
Hello and welcome to the summit, the podcast where we bring you the knowledge and insights from industry leaders and trusted professionals. No fluff, no double digit overnight growth games, just real people having real conversations, getting real answers. We’re talking to people who’ve been there, done that. And today we’re very excited for our guests. Lauren, dr Lauren, how are you today?

Loren Greiff: (00:23)
I’m great. Thank you so much. Hi, I’m so excited to be on your show

Kyle Hamer: (00:27)
today. Lauren and I are going to [inaudible] talk about what makes or breaks a candidate as they find your life’s work. Lauren is the CEO and founder of portfolio rocket.com and is passionate about helping people find their dream job. Laura, tell us a little bit about

Loren Greiff: (00:42)
in your background. Fantastic. So thank you so much Kyle. And yes, that is absolutely 100%. Um, my passion, my life’s work, you know, a third of our lives who spent at work, that’s about 90,000 hours for anybody who hasn’t been counting. And what that means is that it’s not an option. Two, not love your work. And so many people find themselves in, um, areas where they may be frustrated, you know, they’re kind of going through the motions. And I am specifically, my specific mission is really to elevate and empower designers and marketers in particular to own an increase their influence as business leaders. And um, really just been in this field for over 10 years, been in the design and marketing areas for over 25 as a recruiter. Um, my, my only hesitation would really stop me or you know, got me choked up about my, my world. And what I was doing is it was very transactional in nature and the idea was to make a placement. And as a coach, I am thoroughly invested in really helping my candidates, my clients in particular navigate through choppy waters at times. Um, overcome a lot of the, the question marks that had been holding them back, uh, and really articulating how they’re experienced. Even broad-based can really the well positioned and pinpointed to land the job that they’re looking for in a very expeditious manner.

Kyle Hamer: (02:24)
It’s, uh, it’s interesting because you, you, you see a lot of stuff happening in the market today and it seems to me like your, your mission and what you’re passionate about is, is truly aligned with a unique niche. Because marketers and creatives, we’re really good about telling other people’s stories. We’re really good about sharing what the things are that are happening. But at the end of the day, when it comes to telling our story or putting ourselves in a position for winning, that can be very challenging. And, and so I think you probably have your hands full, but also have some things that’ll help us uncover, you know, what makes breaks a candidate as

Loren Greiff: (02:59)
they’re looking for their dream career or their dream job. Absolutely.

Kyle Hamer: (03:03)
So tell me a little bit about what you’re seeing going on in the market. I mean, you’re, you’re doing this all day, every day. What’s, what’s going on in the market seems right now that it’s a, it’s a candidates market. There’s more jobs than there are candidates. What do you see?

Loren Greiff: (03:15)
So there’s, um, actually it’s very kind of paradoxical because everybody is aware that our unemployment rate is at its record low. We’re about 3.6% as of last October in terms of our unemployment rate. So that sounds like, you know, news that we want to cheer about, right? Everybody’s super excited about that. And then the question becomes, so why am I not getting jobs? Why am I not even moving in the, in the, in the process? How is it that I’m not even getting phone interviews? And part of that is, um, based off of much more sophisticated and um, highly rigorous screening processes even before you get to talk to somebody. And what I’m referring to are these things called ATS. And for people that may or may not know what that stands for, that’s called an applicant tracking system. And that system is specifically designed to filter out candidates who are not a good fit for a, for a particular role.

Loren Greiff: (04:22)
Um, there are also lots and lots of other AI tools that are coming into play as well. But really what that means is that if your materials, and I’m saying materials specifically because it could be found on LinkedIn, it could be found on your resume or cover letter is really missing key elements and or has things that are not in their right syntax or order. The chances of you actually getting through those filters gets very small and you re you increase the risk and reduce the likelihood that you are going to be found by the right company with the right position that you’re looking for.

Kyle Hamer: (05:02)
But my, wait, let me interrupt you for just a second here. I mean, I, I recognize that, that the world is changing and we’re moving to software and we’re trying to help people do more with less, but we’re, what you’re, what you’re saying is that for the majority of candidates that are out there, people that are looking for these jobs where they, they, they care greatly. They share the emotion, they invest heavily with what they’re doing and telling stories, specifically a marketing creative that there’s a computer that’s denying them about this was the, this was the department of humans. Like human resources. Yeah,

Loren Greiff: (05:33)
yeah. Human element as kind of like, sometimes it’s like the family vacation. That’s an oxymoron. It’s like human resources that like sometimes lacks that humanity. Mmm. And that is entirely true. And, and, and honestly, just to give the benefit of the doubt, it’s in part because there is so much candidate tonnage, no one person, when you send that resume through, it’s an online application or directly to an organization. There isn’t, you know, a John or Sally on the other end. It’s like listing up your resume and going, Oh my goodness, I’m so happy Kyle, to see your resume. You know, it’s all, it’s all automated in order to really come down to a very, very small percentage of people who are able to get through that, those, that, that filter, that channel. Mmm [inaudible]. So yes, it’s really vital, um, that your resume and any of your materials are in sync with the way that the algorithms and the way that these applicant tracking systems can work.

Loren Greiff: (06:41)
It’s interesting because as you think about unemployment being so low, so you have a lot of people that are in current positions that are looking for a new position and they think, Oh man, I really want to work for this company. I really, really want to spend my time, I’m making a career switch. Whether it’s a okay and the upward mobility option or they want to try a new industry, what, what are the things that if I have a dream job, don’t just submit my resume. What do I need to have in place? How do I, how do we start to beat the AI in the, the applicant tracking system? What do I do? Cause I would’ve thought that, Hey, all I have to do is just submit my resume and a cover letter. Maybe call the hiring manager or, or the person that posted the the job and we will at least be in conversation.

Loren Greiff: (07:26)
But that would be my reality. So we start to get around that. So you know, the, there are a lot of um, kind of workarounds to this and the, the most, um, the most efficient and effective way to do that. It’s first of all two, make sure that you are looking at the job description printed out. I mean I definitely would say printed out and start highlighting the real key words that are there. And I want you [inaudible] to impress that there is a hierarchy to how those key words are laid out. There’s nothing accidental in that job description. So as you going through it and if it says for example, um, I’m just making this up, but if it says like, must be highly detailed detail oriented, you keep seeing that word over and over and over again and you’re not putting that in your resume, then how are you expected to be found?

Loren Greiff: (08:29)
So part of it is that Simon says game of being able to, okay, what is on the re, what is in the job description needs to be echoed in the materials themselves strategically in a similar hierarchy. And then clearly if you have, uh, access to a resume writer who is specialized, who specializes in this, by all means. I, I do, I work with somebody very, uh, very closely who has this expertise. If anybody wants to reach out to me after this, I can refer her to you. Um, and she is amazing and she’s able to put the resume in such a vein that age is a, an ideal match without it sounding forced. So, um, I think that there has to be some nuance there too.

Kyle Hamer: (09:21)
Well, and you know, I think one of the things is when you and I, you and I first met the things that you talked about that that was interesting as you kind of have a process and it’s a very common sense process for how you would structure things and look at things specifically to your resume in order to be, to be effective in order to be considered. And can you tell us a little bit more about what you called the food label?

Loren Greiff: (09:41)
Absolutely. This is, this is one of my favorite quote unquote hacks. And I use this not just for resumes. I also use it for folks who are so rod based in their experience that, and they say to me things like, yeah, well you know I also do this and this and this and I, you know, by the way, and what ends up happening in that conversation, it sounds like you’re Jack of all trades, master of none, which could be a huge concern for hiring managers and other other decision makers who may, it may in fact want is specialist’s number one. But what really unfortunately comes across that nobody necessarily is going to tell you is it makes me sound desperate because it sounds like, and I do this and I do this and I do this and it’s, and it’s compensation rather than having ownership of your expertise.

Loren Greiff: (10:36)
So here’s where the food label really comes in. And please, I apologize, this is a horrible analogy, but it will make perfect sense. So when you go to the grocery store and you are buying spaghetti sauce for your pasta dinner tonight and you reach on the shelf and you pull out that jar, you know whatever it is, tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, and you don’t see tomatoes is your first ingredient. You know intuitively you’re putting it back unless less your experience is outline and set up in the hierarchy of which you do. You are leaving decision makers [inaudible] open reign to figure out what you do without you telling them. So your job as an applicant or as a candidate is to go for your own personal food label. Get honest about where your, where are your top skills are and other things that support it. For example, we know that tomato sauce is going to have garlic in it.

Loren Greiff: (11:39)
That’s a supporting point. Do the spaghetti sauce. However, if you see garlic is your first ingredient, you’re not buying it. So there are certain assumptions that you’re going to be able to make. If you are a performance marketing person, you don’t need to put your Google analytics as your first point. You know the people, the expectation is that you would have that built into your experience. So it’s very important to lay that out in a logical fashion because hiring managers are literal. They are not interested in figuring things out. There’s too much work to be done. If you make it through a filter, fantastic. Now it’s time to seal the deal. So you said hiring managers are literal. What do you mean by that? So they are literal in the sense that Mmm, they are not going to be interpreting your resume. What you put out there is what they are going to take at face value.

Loren Greiff: (12:44)
You’re not going to be able to read between the lines to be able to say, Oh, I think that this person is highly adaptive. I think this person would do really well in an ambiguous work environment. This is somebody who really understands highly matrix organizations. It’s your job to spoon feed it to them in a way that they are able to walk away with a very clear, succinct picture. I remind candidates of this all the time. Your resume arrived long before you do [inaudible]. It’s there to tell your story, your professional story, and you cannot leave interpretation up to anybody else because otherwise it’s just too random. And so your job is to really get right with that before you just fire it off because that big black hole can be very frustrating. I think that there are a lot of candidates that I speak with who are very frustrated right now with, they can’t, either they can’t get it through the ATS or they get through and they find out that the way that the job was built wasn’t there, that it was a ghost job.

Loren Greiff: (13:59)
Well the next thing is that I think you wanted to share, we wanted to talk about was, is really understanding the job description had to coat it. I know you talked about it earlier, getting down, so you know with a highlighter, but now that we have the backdrop of the food label, how do we really decode a job description to, to get our resume to get through at least the first filter. Or maybe you get a phone interview. What are the, what are the tips there to the job description? So I, I have a, um, a warning out there with job descriptions because job descriptions don’t have a timestamp. So we don’t know how old that job description is. We don’t know if it’s a place holder for a live job or ghost job as you called it. Um, we don’t know necessarily if, you know, somebody wrote it and doesn’t have all the information.

Loren Greiff: (14:45)
It’s the only information that you have to go on. So, you know, allowing there to be some grace around that, fine. You’re going to do the best that you can with the job description itself, but then you’re going to start to marry it and partner it with other information that you know about the company. So one of the things that’s really important is if you understand the size of the company, how, how their, how their organization is laid out. A fortune 500 marketing manager, more than likely is going to have direct reports, is going to have some, some kind of support staff may have resources. Maybe a required to have a ownership over a P and L marketing manager is small startup or uh, uh, a smaller company is wearing like 20 different hats. They may not have any support system, they may not have resources, they may not have direct reports.

Loren Greiff: (15:47)
Um, their performance metrics may be very poorly defined. [inaudible] and so understanding those different environments can help fill in the picture of what the job description is not sharing. So using, using your, your sleuthing techniques for sure. Um, the other kind of hack that I so suggest as as partner to that is I’m signing up for Google alerts. Mmm. Google alerts is real time relevant information that can help you. Again, um, it’s like a clue. It’s like a clue finder, right? It helps to tell you about the health and wellbeing of a company. Um, I have a can, a client that I’m working with, she’s interviewing at CVS and I told her yesterday, by all means, make sure that before you go to the interview, you go to at least three different stores. I want you doing store checks and seeing how they’re handling, you know, our Corona virus pandemic. [inaudible]

Loren Greiff: (16:54)
really have a point of view on that so that when she goes to apply or when she goes to her interview, um, she’s able to, you know, really, really stand out as somebody who is [inaudible] who is informed. Um, and back to, back to the last, um, kind of decoding, you know, tip that I would offer is look for your first connection, second connections on LinkedIn for those who have worked there before. Because they can tell you if this is a company that, uh, was very supportive of them. If their management was, you know, if they had pressed and valued their management or if they, um, thought otherwise. But you want to talk to people who have actually been there just to get a little bit of a cleaner read,

Kyle Hamer: (17:51)
finding a job or finding your, the job of your choice. Your dream job is a challenge. I mean it requires you have the right skills and talents and personality. The company has the right demand for your skills and talents. And then has the,

Loren Greiff: (18:09)
some of the things you’ve shared today,

Kyle Hamer: (18:11)
Mmm. The Google alerts set up, the [inaudible] decoding the job description, the creating a, you know, thinking of yourself as a, as a food label. Those things are really great at creating a base. But are there other things, we don’t see that as our common, there are ways to maybe hack or shortcut or at least accelerate finding that that ideal fit for both you culturally as well as you know, the opportunities that may not be coming through on LinkedIn or may not be on glass door. You may not see on indeed winter.

Loren Greiff: (18:45)
What are, what are other things that you could do to find that dream position? Sure. I mean I, aye I’m going to call this out as plain and clear as I can. There is no one, uh, there is no one solution. This is that this is not a, um, I just do this one thing. I’ve impressed candidates, um, throughout my career that you don’t eat one thing every morning for breakfast. You need a up and tire, um, range of options and that’s the same way that you go about your job search. Not reliant on any recruiter is that reliant on LinkedIn. It needs to be a combination of, of all of these things. I also, I’m really believe [inaudible] support my clients in so far as having them take some ownership and power over their search by identifying at least 10, maybe even 15 companies, their dream companies, companies they respect is a value, um, places that are really meeting their criteria and, and start with the Google alerts and build some connections through LinkedIn. And even if it’s just something so, so benign as setting up a coffee with those people, you have no idea, um, where they will go. Where that, where that opportunity will go. People want to hire great people. Um, so, you know, as with that kind of passion and forward thinking, um, strategy, it is certainly a viable way to land yourself a dream job. In fact, I’ve done it myself that way,

Kyle Hamer: (20:35)
but Lauren, I’m not under Derrius. I’m not, I’m not an extrovert. I’m an introvert. How do I, how do I come out of my shell because I like to create, I don’t think necessarily enjoy meeting new people or putting myself there. I’m afraid of being rejected. How do I work through that? What are things that I can do to overcome that or, or, and work through those challenges that I have?

Loren Greiff: (20:56)
Yeah. Um, this is, this is a very common Mmm issue, especially a rungs. Designers and marketers who think of themselves as, you know, strong communicators and they’re out there with their materials all the time and, you know, making apps and websites and all that. Mmm. No,

Loren Greiff: (21:16)
this is a shameless self promotion. You can certainly work with a coach, um, and they can walk you through some of these challenges for sure. Uh, I have clients that say to me, gosh, if I had only known that this was available before, Oh my God, I wouldn’t have been suffering for so long. So yes, it’s okay to ask for help. My goodness. It’s like this is your job we’re talking about is that like, it’s not about like, you know, call plumber when you have issues with your [inaudible] your pipes and this is your job where you are earning your livelihoods. So yes, it’s okay to ask for help. And um, as far as, as far as being an introvert, Mmm know I think it’s baby steps, but I think you have to be comfortable getting uncomfortable. I mean, it’s tough love, sorry to say that, but it really is the truth. Start mingling, start talking to people. And LinkedIn, I have to say is probably one of the safest ways for you to build connections without necessarily having to, you know, go to a networking meeting if that’s what your, what your kind of biases, you know, you get to, you get to meet with other thought leaders. Um, even strike up an instant message conversation. I’ve been doing that consistently and I’ve found it to be shored narrowly welcoming and supportive. So, um, I hate to say this, but there’s really no excuse.

Kyle Hamer: (22:44)
Well, I think the, the, you know, the thing that, um, a lot of people who are introverted don’t necessarily think about is, is that there’s a way to craft and tell your story and showcase your skills, um, that may feel irreverence, may feel like it’s flipping this, um, flipping it, uh, the normal process on its head. I mean, the person that we have on the show a couple of weeks ago, Bree, she, she did a whole new now hiring my new boss. So it’s like, Hey, I’m going to do marketing for myself and those companies that are interested in what I am, what am I about beyond the resume can apply to potentially hire me? Which was, which was a really creative and natural way of expressing who she is. And, and I think one of the things that oftentimes job seekers forget is it, that we’re looking for people who are authentic, not just [inaudible] cogs in the wheel, right? Like there’s some authenticy authenticity. And uniqueness you bring to the,

Loren Greiff: (23:46)
to the table that should show up in your food level, that should show up in your, in your submissions, that should show up in how you’re interviewing or, or what you’re doing. [inaudible] it should be prevalent so that they’re not getting, what do you think they want the you to be. And so you have this facade you’ve got to have the whole time, but you get to be your true authentic self as you move into this career of dreams. I hundred percent agree. I fully applaud Bree land. Um, and I love what she did. I am, um, a practitioner of zigging where other people’s ag. So the strategies that I share and offer, um, our completely untraditional and there’s a reason for it. Um, because if you keep doing the same thing over and over again, you’re going to wind up with a pack and sitting in the no pile.

Loren Greiff: (24:36)
And so I don’t want to see that for anybody, especially the folks that I’m working with. But I think that the, it’s the real thing that you touched on is that, okay, you know, crafting your story. And that that includes your talking points too. So all of these elements need to be in alignment. Your resume [inaudible], your LinkedIn. If you are a designer, your portfolio and you’re interviewing style and technique, all need to be aligned. They all need to say the same thing in a little bit of a different way. And you articulating that really solidifies your message. And it really, it really speaks to your confidence that you know who you are and that is authentic. Mmm. Interviewing is not a performance. Isn’t that a performance acting opportunity? This is an opportunity for people to see the person that’s going to be working there day in and day out and for you to be doing the same.

Loren Greiff: (25:35)
Okay? So you know when you are looking around and you’re interviewing and talking to people, that radar should be, she’d be on it, you know, applicable to you as well. All right, so we’ve, we’ve talked about how to prepare ourselves because the job description, how to be our true authentic selves. Now let’s talk about ways to act the interview or at least ways to make sure that we’re the most prepared. I mean you just touched on bullet points, talking points, having it tied together, but other things should we be aware of heading into an interview? Absolutely. So, um, you know, hopefully you have a little bit of lead time as you are getting those Google alerts to prepare. And I, I stress this, I cannot stress this enough. Tough questions, tough questions. Mmm, nothing that is Mmm. Kind of a, an obvious question. You can use those after you’ve done your hard questions like uh, saying, well, you know, how do you like it here?

Loren Greiff: (26:42)
What don’t you like about your job? What do you like about it? Those are kind of throwaway questions. I’m talking about questions that demonstrate a level of, um, strong research. And when you were getting those Google alerts, those are hot beds. You to start formulating some of those questions and really understanding you should be also following the threads of the link of LinkedIn folks who you know, you’re going to be interviewing. Um, last night I was, I was helping this client prepare. I found I found a 20, 20 a study that they just released. And that again is fodder for coming up with some really great questions. Um, additionally that those LinkedIn, those Google alerts can also help you to really understand some of the, um, the, the, the financial wellbeing of the company if they are going through layoffs. DTCs right now are struggling. They’re struggling.

Loren Greiff: (27:45)
These direct consumer brands are struggling. So what does that mean? It means that they’re higher. That even though it’s a sexy place to work, yeah, they may not be that stable and you want to know that before you’re interviewing and you want to be able to ask questions like, wow, I understand that there’s been a lot of turnover or there’s been a lot of layoffs. Please explain that. Um, I want to understand what’s going on. What do you attribute that to? Or on the opposite end, if you’re getting Google alerts and you find out that an agency or a company just wanted big piece of business, wow, you guys are hiring, you guys are staffing up, right? Cause I heard about this big win. How is it impacting your hiring decision? Does that mean that you want to bring people on sooner rather than later?

Loren Greiff: (28:32)
Um, so that can kind of give you some clues and tips, but really also, Mmm. I would suggest that you ask like you work there, make sure you are signing up for any newsletters. If there’s an app that they have, download it and look at it by that product and service. You know, like they used to say, be the ball, be be the employee, you know, drive that, drive that home and you will find like lots of traces for you to come up with some compelling questions. So three to five really strong questions. If you’re interviewing on a panel, [inaudible] know who those people are and make those questions specific to that person. That way you’ve done your research so you’re not asking the head of engineering the same questions as you’re asking the person who’s the head of marketing and you’re really targeting those questions in a very strategic way. That’s really, really valuable in my life. And I don’t think I’ve ever really sat down, been prepared for each individual person

Kyle Hamer: (29:41)
on a panel. There may be hard questions [inaudible] you’re good at asking or you can ask these that are relative to the role that are hard questions. The business may not, uh, fully appreciated, fully understand yet as you bring value to the organization. But I have not ever been in a panel where each panel person got a different question. And I think that’s really, really sound advice.

Loren Greiff: (30:04)
I want to add one other, one other thing to this that I think is also very important. It’s not, it’s not necessarily for every company. You can never go wrong. If you want to give yourself a [inaudible] [inaudible] interview kind of torture test. I’m using the stars methodology. So if you don’t know what the stars stars methodology is, um, big companies like Amazon, I know Purina uses it. Um, I could go on and on, but really a lot of these companies use this and it stands for situations, tactics, um, actions and results. So you can use, you can use that. Go online. You’ll be able to find a, it’s a grid. It can be exhausting. Um, so just FYI, but it’s very thorough and it will force you to come up with a lot of those answers.

Kyle Hamer: (30:52)
That’s fantastic. Cool. Laura and I think a lot of the things for people who are looking for their career change or their next dream job that we’ve been giving them, just nuggets of great information. [inaudible] fantastic resources. So I really, really thank you for being so incredibly gracious and open with what you’ve provided today. If somebody wants to get in contact with you or wants to understand what a pocket portfolio is all about, portfolio rocket portfolio rocket is all about what, what is the best way to get ahold of you? What’s the best way to get involved with Warren?

Loren Greiff: (31:30)
I’ll make it real easy. You can always reach out to me. I spell my name Loren, L. O. R E N. um, and my last name, Grice, G. R. O. D. I. F. F.

Kyle Hamer: (31:39)
you can find me certainly on LinkedIn or just reach out to me directly at Loren, L. O, R E N F portfolio rocket.com. We really, really thank you very much for being here today. Thank you for sharing all of these tips and we look forward to watching you help many people find the career of their dreams in the future. I’m all in. Thank you so much, Kyle. Our pleasure.

Loren Grieff
Loren GrieffPresident and Founder
Loren Greiff is the Founder & President of Portfoliorocket.com a career accelerator coaching business on a mission to: elevate & empower designers and marketers to own and increase their influence as business leaders.
For more than 10+ years Loren has established herself as a top-performing design and marketing recruiter recognized for her ability to serve demanding (Fortune 100 to notable start-up) Clients, identify talent unicorns and drive excellence within the broadening digital design & marketing sectors.

Loren works with ambitious creatives and marketers who struggle to break into or pivot within the industry. She coaches them on how to market & value themselves and their talents, to communicate that value to others, to land their dream job. She shows them the fastest way to get to the work they love to do.