What You Need to Know If You're Applying for a Job in Colorado
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Denver is one of the best cities in the country for job seekers, and the employment market in the state as a whole for millennials in particular remains red hot in 2017. But that doesn't mean finding the perfect gig is as easy as announcing you're available and waiting for a line to form outside your door. Indeed, a local employment expert stresses that understanding Colorado's unique culture is key to landing a job that's right for you.

So says Andrew Hudson, the man behind Andrew Hudson's Jobs List, which typically posts more than 1,000 new jobs every month in a wide range of fields: advertising, aerospace, digital media, health care, nonprofits, public relations and more. Hudson has a realistic view of our city and state, as was made clear in our recent post "Why It's So Hard to Make a Living in Denver Despite Strong Economy," and there's no doubt older workers looking for new opportunities face different challenges than do twenty- or thirty-somethings. Still, he understands the incredible appeal of living and working in the area, as well as the quirkier aspects associated with job seeking here.

"The first month marijuana was legalized, we got a job posting from Larimer County that said in big, bold letters, 'WE ADHERE TO FEDERAL DRUG RULES AND FEDERAL DRUG TESTING,'" he recalls. "Then, about twenty minutes later, we got a job posting from an architectural firm in Telluride, and it had big letters that said, 'DID YOU KNOW MARIJUANA IS LEGAL IN COLORADO?' So you had a government agency warning people about it and this other business using it as an incentive."

Motivating candidates to apply is even more important today because of trends in the job force.

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"I've seen statistics saying 10,000 baby boomers retire every day," Hudson notes, "and here in Colorado, we're seeing massive amounts of senior-level talent just disappearing. So businesses are having to deal very quickly with setting up succession plans for younger people in mid-level management to take over roles that some of these people have been in for ten, fifteen, twenty years. And the cost of attrition — of not being able to keep good people on the payroll — is extremely high. Recruiting, training and getting a new person into the groove of a job takes a long time, so it's very frustrating for recruiters and HR people to bring in new talent and have them leave in three to six months — especially if it's a culture issue."

For that reason, Hudson says, Colorado employers have in recent years been paying more attention to "talent brand management, which is a way for employers to brand themselves as an employer of choice. Because there's a huge fight for talent, companies are studying millennial profiles to find out what younger people are looking for in terms of work cultures and work environments. And I'm seeing a lot of companies that either include language in their job listings or on their websites or videos that really try to play up the Colorado lifestyle: where they're located, how close they are to the mountains, that sort of thing."

This tactic may mask another goal, though. In our previous interview with Hudson, he talked about salaries not keeping up with the cost of living in Colorado, particularly when it comes to housing costs — and recently, he's been hearing anecdotal accounts about what he calls "a Colorado discount that employers believe employees need to give them for being here. In other words, because of the lifestyle, you should be willing to work here for less. I don't know if there's a premium on that from an employee's standpoint, but I suppose that if you're coming from the hustle and bustle of Chicago or New York or one of the other major markets, the chance to go to Colorado, with its more laid-back lifestyle, might make you think about taking a cheaper salary."

As partial compensation, some firms in Colorado are open to adjusting schedules for recreational activities.

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One such approach is the concept of "unlimited vacation, as opposed to the kind of post-industrial work rules that still govern most workplaces today," Hudson reveals. "Instead of saying, 'You've got two weeks of vacation and that's it,' these places focus on the idea of what it means to get your work done and be accountable to your team. So instead of everyone frantically trying to get their two weeks in, they can schedule their vacations around their work and be more flexible about it."

Not that big salaries or outside-the-box perks tend to be what Coloradans (or wannabe Coloradans) want most in a career. Hudson regularly hosts job-seeker boot camps, and when he does so, "I always ask what were the qualities of your favorite job that made it a favorite. Everyone talks about, 'It was an ethical company,' or 'My boss respected me and really understood what it was that made me successful' or 'The company was transparent and had a great team of people' — and not once has anyone ever said, 'The job was awesome because I was paid a boatload of money.' That's part of it, but at the end of the day, when you're spending more time with your boss, your colleagues and your teammates than you are with your wife or husband, your friends or your pets, the other things mean more. So here in Colorado, people really interview the company for those things that go beyond how much money they're going to make."

With that in mind, Hudson recommends that job seekers visit Glassdoor, "which is kind of the Yelp for employees, where people rate companies for culture and what it's like to work there. Also go to LinkedIn and try to find anybody you know who works at one of the companies you're applying for, and get as much background as you possibly can not only on the culture and those kinds of things, but also on the people you'll be working with. Try to get a good understanding of what makes a company tick, or what makes your boss tick. Go to Facebook and Pinterest, too, because a lot of companies are spending a lot of money on elaborate videos to promote themselves — even 360-degree videos that let you walk through the offices."

Oh, yeah: If you land an interview, Hudson says, "ask what the dress code is. Because here in Colorado, if you come in a three-piece suit and everyone else is in jeans, T-shirts and Birkenstocks, you're going to feel weird."