Main image of article ‘Tech Connects’ Video, Transcript: Kathryn Minshew, Founder of The Muse

Whether or not you’re currently on the hunt for a new job, you’re likely interested in the current state of the tech market—and the factors that recruiters and hiring managers consider when hiring tech professionals. What does a prospective employer’s HR want to see on your resume? What do they consider red flags?

Recently, Dice’s ‘Tech Connects’ podcast sat down with Kathryn Minshew, founder of The Muse, to talk about everything from the current job environment to how often you should switch jobs. The audio of that conversation is available on Dice Career Advice, as well as podcast providers such as Acast and Spotify. We also have a video edition of the episode:

We’ve also included a partial transcript of our conversation with Minshew below; feel free to check out the video and audio for an even deeper dive into “shift shock,” the long-term impact of the Great Resignation, and so much more!

You founded The Muse to help the next generation of job seekers with training and advice. The market right now is really turbulent—I was just talking to an economist who was saying that she couldn't make hide nor hair of anything going on—but unemployment is pretty stable, and a lot of companies are hiring. In turn, that probably changes your approach to the information you're presenting to The Muse’s audience in terms of training. What do you think the environment is like out there for your core audience?

It’s a really interesting time, as you say. I think we're still seeing that job seekers expect to be able to vocalize their preferences and have their top priorities met even in in an environment that, from a macro perspective, seems to be favoring employers a bit more. And I think that’s a sign of this underlying shift which is, twenty years ago there was more of this narrative that you go to work, you get paid, you show up, clock in, clock out. Now, not only are we all connected through our smartphones, we're expected to often be responsive and available 24 hours a day in some cases, but there's also this general narrative that work is a source of learning and growth opportunities; it might be where you find a sense of purpose and meaning; it should be flexible.

I think that this transition is sort of like the one that marriage went through: you had marriages of convenience, and now you have marriages of love and of fulfillment and of growth and so on. You still have people out there that are like, ‘I want a partner who does x y z and doesn't bother me,’ and if that's what you want and you're clear, you can find that person. If you just want a job that kind of pays you, provides nothing else, and doesn't ask much more from you, you can find that job.

Humans have a lot of choices and I think what a lot of employers are missing—because I've been reading all of these think pieces about how employers have the power now—well, if you want to provide the bare minimum to your employees, you will get employees who give you often the bare minimum, right?  

That's why we're hearing about quiet quitting. It's why we're hearing about all of these different buzzwords and catchphrases that basically come down to, ‘I will do exactly the amount of work that I am being paid for and no more.’ That is an employee perspective that I think matches the employer perspective of, ‘I pay you so show up do the work and shut up.’ Okay, fine, if everybody's onboard, that's the arrangement, great. 

And you have an entire other side of the labor force and an entire other kind of employer philosophy which says, for individuals: ‘I want more out of work; I have these expectations; I'm looking for a job that aligns with my values, my preferences, my priorities.’ They are expecting employers to provide more than just a salary. So, I think we're going to see more differentiation in how these two groups of employers and employees find each other. It’s obviously something that we're pretty concerned with at The Muse. 

There was also the Great Resignation and all these companies were up in arms because if employees didn't get what they wanted, if they didn't feel fulfilled, they were walking out the door. The labor market seemed to accommodate that. This goes to the point you're making about how some companies are trying to step up and provide those things and other ones are not: Do you think that Great Resignation caused sort of a seismic shift, where more executives kind of woke up and said, ‘Hey, there's all this quiet quitting, there's this Great Resignation, we need to kind of adjust our strategy and everything’? Or do you think it's more incremental, that it’s taking companies a longer time to recognize and adapt? 

It's a mix. I do think that the shift was pretty dramatic in that many, many more executives and leaders realized that their employees have the full freedom to go somewhere else if they're not happy with the opportunity they have at your company. Of course, there are plenty of people who didn't draw that conclusion, who continue to either adopt slowly or they perhaps don't agree at all and they're deliberately choosing another approach.

But I do think the Great Resignation was pretty seismic, and it dovetailed with another shift, which is how long employees will stay at a job that isn't a good fit. I wrote about this term that we coined at The Muse, called ‘shift shock,’ which is the idea of someone starting a new job and realizing with surprise or regret that it's not at all like what you expected. Seventy-two percent of the American workforce said that they have experienced shift shock at one point or another. But what was most interesting to me about the survey we did was that 80 percent of Gen Z and Millennial employees said that they would leave a new job in under six months if it didn't align with the expectations that they had when they joined, and that is a huge change.  

When I first started work I was at McKinsey and Company, and they very clearly said, ‘You accepted this job, now you need to stay here for at least two years and give it your all otherwise it'll be black mark on your resume that will follow you for the rest of your career.’ And that's actually not true in the same way anymore for most candidates and most employers. If you have multiple short stints, if you're constantly joining and leaving, joining and leaving, it's going to hurt you for sure—but if you have a resume with a couple of long stints and one or two very short stints sprinkled in, I can't tell you how many candidates have this, and if you ask them what happened or what's gone on, they'll say, ‘Well, you know, I got in the new job and it was a real values misalignment I started the new job and it was not at all what they promised me,’ and most interviewers these days are like, ‘Yeah, okay, that tracks, I'm still interested.’ So that's a big generational shift that I think is upping the pressure on employers to be honest and accurate and straightforward before they hire. So, again, it's causing more job change because, someone who's unhappy, there's less pressure on them to kind of grit their teeth and stick it out for two years. 

What can companies do to potentially avoid that before it becomes a serious problem for people who are joining the company? Is it a matter of how the interviewer frames the job? Is it adjusting the corporate website? I feel like there’s a solution here. 

There is absolutely a solution, and it's to be more transparent before people join about what they will find when they arrive. There are a couple of ingredients to that; I think the way you talk about your company publicly on the careers page on the website and on your social channels is part of it. The information you give your interviewers about how to communicate the company culture is part of it, and I also think a piece that companies sometimes miss is you have to actually know what it's like to work at your company in specific teams or specific roles before you can communicate that. So, one of the tools that I really love that’s part of The Muse— we actually acquired it, it was a startup called Brand Amper, now incorporated as Brand Builder—and it actually lets a company tap its engineers, its salespeople, its finance people, all its different employees for real-life insights and data about what it's like to work there.

And you don't have to use this tool or any other tool, you can also do focus groups or an anonymous survey. There are a lot of things you can do in small companies. You may sit right next to them and not need to collect data. But what's important is the people talking to candidates and the materials that candidates need. They need to match the reality, and to do that, you need to understand what are you telling candidates, because candidates are asking questions. If they're not asking questions, you probably have another problem—they may not be a candidate that’s got a lot of other options. Most candidates are asking what's the working environment like, what are the expectations in this role, what hours do people typically work, how fast will I be expected to reply, etc.

Candidates are asking questions and the more that they are getting real answers, the better they will be able to self-select in or self-select out. It's much more damaging for a company to have someone join and then quit two, three, six months in than it is for that person to decide not to join it all.