Employee Spotlight, Niema Majidimehr

About Niema

Full Name: Niema Majidimehr

Current Role: Career Mentor

Location: Los Angeles

Time at Pathrise: 8 months  

Questions 

The 411: In a nutshell, what is your day to day role like at Pathrise? 

My role involves helping people overcome challenges in their job searches. I offer support through the entire job search process—from interview preparation to successfully passing recruiter screens. First, I help job seekers optimize key components of their professional profiles, from refining their LinkedIn presence to fine-tuning their resumes. Then I Help them learn to connect with recruiters on a human level.Our expert technical mentors also help our fellows  in navigating technical interviews, offering mock interviews and effective strategies to approach technical challenges. However, I focus mostly on behavioral interviews and job search materials, either personally or through our team of behavioral coaches.

How many fellows are you working with?

Currently, I’m working with a little over 40 fellows. The most fellows I’ve ever worked with at once was 60. With 40 fellows, I place a few per week, which seems like a good balance.

You’ve found a lot of success as a Career Mentor, which is interesting because you come from a talent acquisition background. What are some things you’ve brought from your recruiting experience that have contributed to your success?

My experience with talent acquisition taught me how recruiters work–this was one of the biggest factors that helped me succeed as a mentor. Recruiters are sometimes demonized by people who don’t understand them. Job seekers might say “Oh, recruiters never want to hire people”. But that couldn’t be further from the truth–Recruiters are eager to hire the right candidate, and a fast recruiter who doesn’t want to hire anyone won’t have a job as a recruiter for very long. I understand the pressure that recruiters are under in today’s climate. So when job seekers think “Why won’t a recruiter get back to me?” I try my best to educate them. 

Recruiters are often under immense pressure to hire or risk losing their job. For example, on one of my previous teams, layoffs shrunk a 14-person team to just 2 people my knowledge, now there’s only 1 recruiter left. So I try to educate our fellows on what a recruiter’s day normally looks like under this kind of pressure. They might be looking at 100 applications a day and talking to 15 candidates, so they need to be extremely efficient with their time. I explain to fellows how recruiters think, and try to teach them about human interaction and the recruiter’s perspective.

Are there any persistent myths that job seekers seem to believe about the hiring process?

Fear around the ATS [applicant tracking system] is unfortunately common. Many job seekers wrongly believe that the ATS automatically rejects candidates. I can speak from firsthand experience, having worked with three different ATS systems at different companies–Recruiters are not allowed to tell an ATS to just reject candidates. There are regulations in place around use of the ATS, like the Fair Employment Act, which prohibits discriminatory practices and ensures equal opportunity for everyone.

While an ATS might suggest not moving forward with a particular candidate, the final decision lies with the recruiter. The final call is made by a human.

It’s no secret that the tech market is flush with job seekers in some career paths, more so than others. How would you advise candidates to stand out in the extremely competitive fields right now?

This advice may go against the grain, but I tell my fellows to be selfish with their time. If a recruiter doesn’t get back to you, there is no reason to sit around and beat yourself up. Your best option is to move forward and reach out to other recruiters, no obsess over a particular recruiter who didn’t get back to you for what could be a totally personal reason. While it’s helpful to know what you may be able to do better next time, there is no point in dwelling on a rejection.

Some fellows blame rejections  on gaps in their resumes and worry they can’t overcome these potential red flags. Listen – I have a year and a half gap in my resume, which happened during COVID. Believe me, I understand what they’re facing, and there was a time when I too felt sorry for myself. I was demotivated but I realized nobody will want to hire me with this attitude. I tell my fellows all the time – I’m only interested in the hiring teams that want to talk to us. If they don’t want to talk to us, I don’t care for them. Give your time to recruiters who give their time to you.

Is there anything new that you’ve learned about the candidate experience that you would share with recruiters and hiring managers?

There are a lot of good people out there diligently looking for work. All of my fellows fall into this boat. They have all the skills and experience they need for a role, but they just don’t know how to present it. That’s no fault of their own. When working with hiring managers, there were times when I’d show them a resume and they’d say “I don’t want to talk to this person, this resume is terrible”, and I advocated for the candidate because I knew they had the skills. There are lots of great people on the market but they don’t know how to put together a resume, spruce up their Linkedin, or network effectively. Hiring managers can easily miss out on great talent because they only see candidates’ resumes, not their skills.

If you ever decide to go back to recruiting in the future, is there anything that you’d do differently now that you’ve spent time as a Career Mentor?

If it went back into recruiting, I would network with more people even if I didn’t feel like they were a good fit for my open roles at the moment. As a recruiter, I generally had a “back pocket” where I’d have five to 10 candidates who were really good at what they did. But they never quite get selected for more interviews of the process or the position closed. When I knew I’d have a position opening up soon, I kept them warm and interested unless they landed a new role within that time. 

I would also do more education events, like the one I did recently with Hired. I resonate with the public speaking component of hiring and think I’m good in front of a crowd. I’d love to educate people on what a recruiter’s day is like and what they look for, like the videos you see on social media. People are surprised when I tell them how many applications recruiters go through, or how many phone calls and meetings they have. People don’t see that side and they think recruiting is easy.

Can you tell me more about that Hired event?

The event focused on key behind-the-scenes information about recruiting. We talked about gatekeeping by recruiters and why recruiters sometimes don’t respond to messages. Then we did roleplay–I played the devil’s advocate,asking some hard questions to help people see a different perspective. Recruiters are culture champions. I want to connect with people that fit the dynamic of our teams, so we talked about the importance of cultural fit, too.

I’ve seen a lot of hot takes on LinkedIn and social media about the hiring process, particularly about the number of steps. On one hand, I get it – going through an interview process isn’t fun. But as a recruiter, I know it’s often necessary to have multiple steps to weed out candidates who aren’t a fit.

On that note, what do you tell fellows when they are upset about going through multiple rounds of interviews? And how often do you come across a hiring process that seems excessive or doesn’t make sense?

When recruiting, my general rule of thumb was that if you need to speak to someone more than two or three times, that’s not the right person. Now there is a caveat to that. Two years ago, the job market was booming–everyone seemed to be getting hired, every company was reaching out looking for a recruiter. My LinkedIn was awful and I still had people constantly in my inbox trying to hire me. That’s what we call a candidate market. Right now, because of how difficult everything is, it is now a client based market where companies have the pick of the litter. Job seekers have to jump through more hoops, and negotiation also becomes more difficult when you get to the salary discussion. 

Unfortunately, some companies ghost candidates who try to negotiate. I generally am a believer in always negotiating and not jumping at the first offer. But in today’s world, you’re more likely to get ghosted than two years ago because companies may go to the next candidate down the line. It’s terrible, but I do my best to shine light on both sides.

We’ve seen many companies reverse course when it comes to working from home (WFH). Have your fellows trended more towards WFH or are they “matching the market” so to speak?

It depends on the industry. The marketing and operations folks I work with are more open to some form of hybrid or on-site work. Those who are still set working remotely tend to be the engineering or technical tracks. I personally love in-person work because of the camaraderie and social aspects. Recruiters tend to be extroverted and love being around people. Unfortunately, you have companies like Zoom that announce a relocation timeframe, like 90 days, and if you don’t relocate closer to the office then you receive a severance package. There was no in between, which is very extreme. 

As for my fellows, their willingness to consider on-site work tends to align more with the track they’re in at Pathrise. But, those who are willing to go back on-site might have a better chance of landing a job with how difficult things are currently.

AI is a buzzy, hot topic right now, and I’ve seen some pretty cool applications of the technology for job seekers. Have you found it to be helpful for candidates, or in your coaching practice?

AI is one of my favorite conversations. Yes, I use AI in my sessions. ChatGPT is very, very good, as are the other tools from Google, Amazon, and so on. I believe they should be used as a guide, but not as a crutch especially since they’re not always up to date. Also, you have to ask the right questions. If you tell ChatGPT to build an engineering resume, it will give you something basic that won’t help you stand out. You have to be specific with what you’ve done, the tech stacks you’ve used and thinking about how a recruiter would understand it.

There’s this funny trope of recruiters falling into talent acquisition by happenstance, but it seems to ring true for many of us. How did you find your niche in recruiting to begin with?

I was working in banking as a very happy – note my sarcasm – banker when a couple of buddies of mine started getting into recruiting. They recommended that I get into it. They Said I’d be good at it since I’m social and love talking. I eventually joined a boutique agency where I got into the weeds of recruiting and gained tons of knowledge. It didn’t work out but I learned many lessons. I tried, failed, and repeated, but after that everything was pretty successful for me.

You did somewhat of a pivot yourself, moving from recruiting into coaching. How did you position yourself to do that successfully and find a new role that you genuinely enjoy?

At Interview Kickstart, much of my work was on the recruiting side.I had amazing colleagues likeNick Camilleri and Stephanie Rosson. They showed me the ropes and helped me understand how the startup world worked. Through my colleagues, I was able to network with interesting professionals, including senior staff level engineers in big tech. I met so many people and continued to network at Next Insurance, connecting with people overseas in the insurance space. A week after I was laid off, a connection at Next Insurance introduced me to someone at Formation and I got a part-time role. My coaching was so effective that it quickly went from working 5 hours a week at Formation to 30 hours. I started to think that I was really good at this coaching thing. When I found Pathrise, I figured I could do coaching. It was a make or break moment. I thought that if Pathrise didn’t work out, I’d know to stick with recruiting. But being here has shown me that I can do both.

For pivoters, one of the trickiest things is figuring out “what’s next for me?”. It’s hard to know if a new career path will really stick. How would you advise someone who is struggling with making that change, especially when the need for a new job is urgent or pressing?

I have a lot of engineers in my caseload who are pivoters. They’re often fellows who have been teachers, pharmacists, marketers, or even people who dropped out of school to enroll in a coding bootcamp. I advise them about the competitive space they’re entering and it’s important that I’m real with them. Is engineering fun? Yes. Can you make a lot of money out of it? Yes.

I’m also studying development and have a degree in computer science, so I understand. I’m excited to learn what it’s like to make that transition and better relate to my fellows. At the same time, we live in a world where we’re always being told to just go for it, like “you can do it!”. But you need to convince yourself that you can do it. If you can’t, then there’s nothing I can do to help you, honestly.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on this – you describe yourself as a “huge gamer” and you’ve been DJing for the better part of a decade. Spill the tea!

I recently got back into spinning and I’ve thought about doing the whole social media thing. I keep DJing and gaming as a hobby because it’s my fun time. I turn up my headphones and disappear from the world, whether it’s playing League of Legends or spinning something on the ones and twos. Everyone needs to have that outlet to get energy out. I get satisfaction when I make a really sick transition or win a game with all my friends. It’s a sense of accomplishment, without pressure from the outside world. I tell my fellows to find something like that, too. It could be something as simple as reading a book, going for a walk, going for a swim, or trying new restaurants regularly. Maybe you want to write a blog, or be a Yelp reviewer. Do something to get your energy out and get your dopamine hit.

Who is your fav DJ?

I’d say an old drum and bass group out of the UK called Chase & Status. And everytime I go to Vegas, I see Cascade.

Ok ok, circling back to coaching – what keeps you here at Pathrise?

I can only speak from the mentors’ point of view because those are the people I work closely with. But, we genuinely care. We really do. I may have different ideas on how to show that, but the goal remains the same. We don’t want people to not have a job, that’s such a horrible thing to go through. Your fellows could have kids to take care of, they need to provide for their families, put a roof over their heads whatever it is – you want to help with that because as a mentor, you care.

Career Mentor is one of the most complex roles I’ve had to hire for. You need someone who cares, but also knows how to balance the business side of things and get stuff done. That’s tough to do.

There are times when I’ve wanted to just yell at a fellow who’s slacking on their applications and say “doing five applications a week is nothing, I do that in an hour! What is this?!” But I’ve really had to curb myself. Ultimately, it’s because we care and want our fellows to succeed.

What’s one piece of advice you’d like to share with someone who is new to career coaching in the tech space?

Don’t just get advice on coaching from someone with one particular background. Don’t just listen to me because I come from recruiting. Listen to people that come from higher education or even mindset coaching side. Listen to people who work on the behavioral coaching, the technical – that is what’ll make you well rounded. To be a coach, you have to always be willing to learn something new. I’m one of only three mentors here that come from recruiting and many of the things I say are going to sound weird. People may wonder why I do things a certain way. But I also need to learn how they do things too. It’s about learning different perspectives, not just relying on yours alone..

 

Thank You!🙏🏾

 

 

Erica Holloway

Erica Holloway is a recruiter with close to a decade of talent acquisition experience in the ed-tech and startup space. She currently leads Pathrise's recruiting efforts, touching on roles in career coaching, operations, engineering, sales, marketing and more. She resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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