Interested in getting a job in the cannabis industry? If so, your timing may be just right. In a recent Forbes article, Ziprecruiter’s CEO Ian Siegel says that the marijuana industry is the fastest-growing job category within the U.S. In fact, Siegel says the marijuana sector has had a 445% growth rate for the past few years. In 2016, $6.7 billion of cannabis was sold, and the booming legal cannabis industry will continue to grow year over year for the foreseeable future.
All of this growth in a brand-new industry naturally leads to a lot of job opportunities. This is fantastic news, especially if you’re interested in getting involved in the so-called green rush. That said, you still need to be able to get your foot in the door. And as with any other job you might interview for, this involves a little bit of preparation, research and the ability to present yourself well.
Most people we’ve interviewed and then hired haven’t worked in the cannabis industry before taking their position at HelloMD. You don’t need to know everything there is to know about the legal cannabis industry, but it’s important to do some research before your interview.
For instance, we’d expect you to have some understanding of the cannabis industry and its evolution. We’d also expect job candidates to be able to discuss cannabis basics—what we call cannabis 101.
David Hua, CEO and founder of Meadow, a company that builds dispensary software solutions for California’s cannabis industry, has been working in cannabis for years. When talking about what he looks for in new employees, David says, “It’s important that a potential candidate understands and respects the history of cannabis prohibition to help advocate for change. Be patient, but also have a sense of urgency. The learning curve within the cannabis industry is steep, but in a couple of years, you'll be an expert in an industry that will continue to evolve.”
David Hua, founder of Meadow
Beyond basic cannabis knowledge, you should also be familiar with the company itself. Understanding the history of the company, its evolution and who’s on the founding team is a great place to start. Also:
Do you understand what the company does? Have you spent time on that company’s website, used its app or tried its software (if applicable)? If not, don’t bother showing up to the interview. It’s frustrating as an employer to spend time with a potential candidate who hasn’t spent any time understanding what the company does.
You should also understand the company’s mission and goals. If the company’s mission is to cater to the high-end cannabis connoisseur, do you relate to that?
Or perhaps it’s a company that seeks to help medical patients with serious health conditions. Are you comfortable with their approach, messaging and how they connect with patients?
In another instance, a cannabis company may be laser focused on dominating a particular section of the market, and for them it’s simply about making money. Are you comfortable working for a company with that singular goal?
Whatever the case may be, make sure you understand what the company’s founders are trying to achieve and that your values align with their goals. The cannabis industry is filled with people who start companies often driven by personal passion centered on, in my experience, one of three things:
In most cases, employers would like job candidates to have an applicable skill set. In some instances, a company will be willing to train a new employee, but it will still be up to you to convince the team that you’d be a good fit for that specific job.
Lauren Sparacino, the HR manager at Jetty Extracts says, “Depending on the open position, we look for different qualities in our applicants. Certainly, not everyone coming into the cannabis industry needs to have industry experience. It's actually interesting to see that some people who do have specific experience with cannabis are sometimes hesitant to highlight it in a résumé, which isn't surprising considering the historic prohibition. Sometimes experience is really valuable. For instance, in our lab, we appreciate people with cannabis extraction or other experience in a laboratory setting.”
If a job has a highly specific list of requirements that may require either a degree or a previous similar experience, don’t waste your time applying for that position. If you’re targeting a specific position, but don’t currently have the skills, try to figure out a way to get there. Go for extra training, volunteer your time or try to get a job on the ground floor, and see if there’s a way to work your way up.
Lauren adds, “All in all, we're looking for people who can work hard and who can be accountable. That's true across the company for whatever position we're trying to fill. At the end of the day, we want to assemble a team of individuals who care about the industry, about their role and about the other people in our company. That way, we can trust that we'll accomplish what we set out to do.”
The team at Jetty
You’ve found the perfect job opening. Now it’s time to apply. Your cover letter and résumé are either your entry into an interview or the kiss of death. When we review cover letters and résumés, 99% are immediately deleted. That’s right, most are scanned and trashed due to poor grammar, terrible formatting or lack of an applicable skill set.
First impressions matter. And if you can’t present well and follow instructions from the job post, unfortunately, the door closes—and fast.
Ashleigh, who leads our hiring as HelloMD’s director of operations, has the following résumé dos and don’ts for potential job applicants:
To add to Ashleigh’s résumé advice, Tim Condor, a co-founder of Blackbird, the cannabis distribution and last-mile delivery company, says, “Blackbird fields requests and inquiries from a high volume of job seekers. It’s absolutely vital that candidates stand out. However, we don't want someone to send a singing telegram. (OK, maybe we do.) But really, the best way to stand out in a sea of job requests is to be prepared with a thorough résumé and a thoughtful cover letter.
“Demonstrate that you understand what your potential employer does. Talk about how you will be a good addition to the team. Please don't use phrases like, ‘I would like to help you out.’ Blackbird is an environment of collaboration. Everyone contributes. We share in the failures and in the successes. It’s vital that candidates convey their willingness to do the same.”
If you find yourself unable to land any cannabis industry interviews, another way to go about it is to get involved in local events and groups where many cannabis businesses spend their time. In our experience, the marijuana industry is built on a foundation of trusted relationships. Getting to know people who are already working in the industry may be helpful when seeking a job.
If you go to local events or join a cannabis group, you’re likely to see many of the same people again and again. Over time you’ll develop relationships that may come in handy during your job search. This strategy has worked for many people we know and getting involved in the local scene will also give you an inside track on who’s hiring.
Another great way to get involved is to volunteer your time. If you don’t have experience for a specific position, but have some skills you can put to use, why not offer them up? Volunteering may seem counterintuitive in what seems to be an industry awash in cash, but the reality is many cannabis businesses are short-handed and cash strapped. Volunteering allows you to show off your skills while building relationships and trust. It can also help you build your cannabis résumé.
The team at HelloMD
In your cannabis interview, do all of the things you would in any other industry interview:
Trashing your old boss throws up a huge red flag. During a recent interview, a candidate not only complained about former employers, but she also told us everything she thought we were doing wrong and how she might single-handedly fix it. Every now and again, we run into someone with an air of entitlement or who seems a little too big for their own shoes. We value:
Another thing you should do in your interview is be up-front about the role of marijuana in your life. We’ve been surprised by how many people have felt uncomfortable telling us about their cannabis consumption. If you’re looking for a job in the cannabis industry, it’s helpful to be a cannabis consumer. However, in some positions this may not be a necessary qualification.
If your prospective employer asks how much cannabis you consume, and you’re an active cannabis consumer, we suggest sharing your honest answer about your consumption patterns. Also, be aware that in most professional environments, cannabis isn’t being consumed all day, every day.
If you’re not an active marijuana consumer, but have seen the plant positively affect someone around you, share this with your interviewer. Any personal connection to cannabis is a great thing to highlight in your interview (and cover letter, too).
As HelloMD has grown over the years, we’ve received hundreds of applications and interviewed scores of people interested in getting into the cannabis industry. I can easily say that most people don’t follow the most basic rules when it comes to submitting a résumé and completing a successful interview.
As an employer, it’s in our interest to hire the best job candidate, and mediocrity on any level is a non-starter. We understand nobody’s perfect. We all have strengths and weaknesses, but putting your best foot forward is going to give you the strongest chance of not only scoring an interview, but ultimately getting you the cannabis job you’ve been dreaming of.
Main photo credit: NeONBRAND