Austin is the founder of Cultivated Culture where he teaches people how to land amazing jobs without prior connections or ‘traditional’ experience, and without applying online. His strategies have been featured in Forbes and Business Insider and they have helped people land jobs at Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Deloitte, and more. In this exclusive interview Austin shares case studies of successful clients and offers his top strategies for landing your dream job!
Please could you give our readers a quick recap of how you started Cultivated Culture…
Cultivated Culture was born out of my experience trying to transition industries in today’s job market. I graduated from college with a biology degree and a job in the medical field – a job I quickly realised was not for me. I figured that my degree would get me in the door for an entry level job… well, that’s what everyone said would happen. You got to college, you’ll always have a job – why else would we pay hundreds of thousands of dollars? I quickly found that wasn’t the case. I spent the first few months taking the advice people gave me – tweak my CV, apply online, and repeat until something stuck. In the span of three months I applied to over 300 jobs online and landed zero interviews. I knew something wasn’t right and I was incredibly frustrated. All I wanted was a chance to try something new, to do what I was passionate about.
I made it my mission to tear apart the hiring process so I could fully understand the ‘game’ that was being played and how I could beat it. I A/B tested my resume, I sent thousands of cold emails, I audited companies and found creative ways to add value, and I turned it all into a system. That system allowed me to essentially pick and choose where I interviewed without having to apply online. I’d target people who could impact the decision to hire for the role, I’d build a relationship with them, and I’d put together a deliverable that illustrated my value as it related to the companies needs. That got me job offers from Microsoft, Google, and Twitter along with a $60,000 raise.
Shortly after I started at Microsoft, I had people coming out of the woodwork asking me how I did it. I dedicated to take everything I learned and put it into a blog post. I called it How To Get A Job Anywhere With No Connections at it saw 60,000 views in the first 60 days of publishing. That was how everything got started.
How is Cultivated Culture unique and what makes your company so successful?
My approach is unique because I teach people how to choose where they want to work and I show them how make it happen without applying online. Not only that, but I show them how they can do that if they don’t have a network or if they come from a non-traditional background.
We’re successful because we get to the root of why companies hire and we leverage the pervasive issue of online applications to our advantage. 75% of people out there use online applications as their main channel to find jobs. In 2022, you have less than a 2% chance of landing an interview when you apply online. However, people don’t stop – they keep applying and applying, hoping for a different result.
At the end of the day, companies want to hire the person that will bring them the most return for their investment (the salary they pay the person they hire). Resumes and cover letters are terrible indicators of performance. I teach people how to step outside of the resume and the online app to showcase their value in creative ways, ways that directly align with a company’s needs. While everyone else is relying on their 8.5×11″ piece of paper, you’re showing up with a full slide deck identifying areas of opportunity and providing suggestions to capitalise on them. That is a huge differentiator and it’s incredibly effective.
Please could you name the two most inspiring people you met when you were starting out
The first is someone I ‘met’ via reading his book, The 4-Hour Workweek. It’s kind of a cliched answer at this point, but Tim Ferriss’s book came to me at the moment I needed it most. I was lost, frustrated, and depressed by the job search because I was doing what everyone else told me to do. What I was ‘supposed’ to do. Tim opened my eyes to the fact that, just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean it’s the best (or only) way for it to be done. His book was a pivotal moment that changed the course of my career and my life.
The other person would be my friend Ben Berman. Ben was one of the few like-minded people I found in Charlotte, USA, who wanted more out of life and our careers. We gave up nights out to brainstorm business ideas, talk about books we read, and plot our version of world domination. Those conversations pushed us to chase our dreams, despite the fact that they were a bit eccentric compared to our friends and family. He’s now a super successful entrepreneur who consults with businesses to help them optimise processes. A long way from where we came from a few months after graduating.
Founder, Career Coach, Blogger, Writer, Keynote Speaker… that’s a lot of roles and skills, which are your favourites?
Being a founder and a writer are easily my two favourites. I love teaching people that they can take control of their job search, that they don’t have to throw their resumes into a black hole. Coaching lets me do that in an intimate fashion, but with the way the hiring landscape exists right now, it’s important to me to get that message to as many job seekers as possible. Writing – be it on my blog or LinkedIn (the two places you’ll find me writing the most) – makes that possible because I can reach so many people. My goal since day one has been to provide the most actionable career content you can find online.
Do you have any case studies / success stories from your coaching that you’d like to share?
One of my favourite stories from a client of mine named Paula.
Paula emigrated to the U.S. from Brazil and landed a generic marketing role. She wanted to move up the ladder at a for-profit company that focused on social impact. She networked her way into a relationship with the CEO of a company that sold water bottles that donated a large portion of proceeds to clean water initiatives.
Through conversations with the CEO and her own research, Paula came up with a robust marketing plan that eventually landed her the job! But things got dicey shortly after she started her new role…
Paula had been working at the company for a few months when she got an email from the CEO, ‘we need to talk.’ It turns out the company was running low on cash and had to lay off their entire employee base. Paula was back to square one, but this time she had a proven system she could leverage to work her way into a new role.
She hit the ground running and leveraged my system to land a Marketing Director role at Talkspace in less than a month!
Your article for Business Insider mentions that just 4% of online applications reach a human being. Bear in mind this was written in 2017; what do you think the figure is in 2022? Plus, how can candidates stand out from the crowd when it comes to job applications?
Data from different sources has shown that the 4% figure has actually decreased and is closer to ~2%. The average number of applicants for open roles has increased, but the robots are still only spitting out 5-10 resumes that actually make it into the hands of a human being. If people want to stand out from the crowd they need to take their job search offline. While only 2% of online applicants land interviews, the Wall Street Journal ran a survey that showed 80% of roles were being filled via word of mouth (usually before they were posted online). Other data sources show that referrals account for 40% of hires — the largest hiring channel by far. If you want a job in today’s market you need to figure out how to get a referral.
Please give our readers a quick breakdown of why Cultivatedculture.com should be every candidate’s go-to resource…
It’s been my mission since the first post to share the most actionable job searching content on the web. One of the things that frustrated me the most when I was job searching was wading through conflicting, fluffy advice. I just wanted to know exactly what I needed to do, and that’s what I aim to provide in my content. You’ll find step by step breakdowns, email scripts, tools, templates, resources, etc. all right there in the free material. I haven’t found another site that offers the same level of detail.
I do not share anything on my site that I have not personally tested with a decent sample size of clients in the Cultivated Culture community. I will not share something if I am not confident that the data proves it works.
Finally, the results are there to prove it! There are many career coaches who have nice logos on their site. But how many of them have taught people how to land jobs at the world’s best companies regardless of their previous experience and without ever sending in an online application? We have a consistent, proven system for making that happen.
You’re also a keen blogger – which recruiting topics do you enjoy writing about the most?
I love seeing how creative people get once they realise that landing a job is more about finding ways to add value than about the best resume, or striking gold with an online application. Giving them an alternative empowers them to step outside of that box and truly show what they’re capable of. I love writing about those success stories, for example:
Cam wanted a job at AirBnB so she used social media to source hundreds of complaints from AirBnB’s customers. She used that data to identify two major issues – an issue with their search filter and the inability for people to easily get in touch with customer service. She mocked up two solutions on her own, found reliable data sources to back up her ideas, and then packaged the whole thing up in a deck. That’s the kind of story I love to tell!
What was best piece of advice you were ever given?
‘Take advice from people who already have what you want.’ If you want to do something, find someone who already did it and came from a situation similar to yours. Want to build an app but don’t have any money or coding skills? Find someone who created a successful app without either of those things!
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Want to learn more? Read my article on How To Get A Job Anywhere with No Connections. I’ve also distilled the 5 most effective strategies my clients have used to land jobs without applying online, you can find them here.