How to Prove You Have the Skills Tech Recruiters Value Most

Recruitment in any industry is a difficult process. Finding staff that are not only qualified to the role, but fit into your company (and will stay with you) is important if you want the process to be sustainable and financially prudent.

In the tech industry, there are even more considerations and pitfalls when trying to attract the best talent. To find out what recruiters in the industry were looking for (and struggling to find), tech job recruitment specialists, Modis, spoke to 500 IT decision makers. So, what do they want, and how can candidates show it?

Teamwork and interpersonal skills

31 percent of recruiters said that teamwork and interpersonal skills were the most difficult skills to find. While so-called ‘soft skills’ may not be the most obvious requirement recruiters look for in tech roles, this highlights how important these skills are. While working in tech and IT does often require a mind with the ability to focus on and complete tasks without supervision, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to work with other people. When applying for roles in the industry, candidates should emphasize their ability to work harmoniously with others and give practical examples to support their claims.

Project management

While management of others is a specified role and doesn’t necessarily need to be a requirement of every tech job, the ability to manage your own projects is vital. Surprisingly, it seems to be lacking in many candidates, with 21 percent of decision makers saying it was the hardest skill to find when looking for appropriate staff. So, what do interviewers look for?

“They have to have a methodology,” Donna Farrugia, executive director of The Creative Group says. “Maybe they use software, or a book, or they just have years of experience.” Demonstrate your process when applying for roles and use real life examples when possible to give your experience a practical edge. You could even demonstrate a plan using your process with knowledge of the company you’re applying for to really show off your skills.

Security and infrastructure

You don’t have to look far in the news to find a story about hacking, leaked documents or a company’s website being compromised. So, it makes sense that recruiters see practical knowledge about security and infrastructure to be an important part of any tech recruit. However, 22 percent of those surveyed said it was still one skill area they struggled to find staff with.

Stay up to date with trends and news in the industry, mainly because this will help you do your job more effectively, and mean you can spot threats early. However, it will also demonstrate to an employer that the security of their business is a priority to you and make you seem like a safe pair of hands.

A loyal track record

A proven track record of employee loyalty is always a good sign of an employee’s intentions. Over half of recruiters surveyed (58 percent) said a candidate with five or more years at their previous post was a more attractive prospect to them. While this isn’t something job seekers can necessarily work on as a skill, it should factor in to your decision making when assessing job prospects and changes in role. If you’re thinking about changing your current role after only a short space of time, consider the reasons you’re doing it, and the ramifications of a patchy resume. Lots of short stints at different companies can appear inconsistent and ‘flighty’, so sticking out a job for a few extra months, even if it’s not your thing, can mean a stronger looking track record for the future.

There are some huge skill gaps when it comes to tech recruitment. While some of them, such as security and infrastructure, can be addressed with training, others such as social skills are often inherent. The tech industry, by its nature, does attract candidates with analytical minds. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t be analytical and social, but it means if you are, and you demonstrate loyalty and an ability to take control of project and drive it to the next level, you’ll have recruiters knocking down your door.

Photo Credit: primeprogressive Flickr via Compfight cc

Why “Culture Fit” Means Nothing

Looking specifically for “culture fits” is one of the biggest mistakes a tech startup can make.

Yet, with so many tech industry giants incessantly reiterating the importance of “culture fit,” it’s easy for startups to fall into that trap. In reality, the kind of people startups need is fundamentally different.

The corporate behemoths need employees who can fall in line — who fit right in, get along, and play nice with fellow employees.

Startups, on the other hand, need employees who are more inspiring, more original and more impactful.

Hiring is the first thing young companies must get right when it comes to culture.

“Culture Fit” Has No Value

It’s easy for an employee to consume the culture at one of those big companies. Who doesn’t like to be paid well, have more freedom, and work alongside smart colleagues? Who doesn’t want to have great amenities? Who doesn’t want to work at a fast-growing company that helps them grow as well?

Smart startups realize they can easily find anyone off the street who will probably love to fit right in. But if they are not actively contributing, then they are actively draining the company culture. The mission and values of the company lose momentum, which leads to culture complacency and disintegration.

What specifically drains company culture depends on the company’s core values. Here at VideoAmp we clearly describe what culture draining behaviors are for us:

“If you are complacent, if you constantly hide who you really are in order to be liked, if you constantly worry about propriety rather than the task at hand, if you are a lone genius, if you have no opinions about anything, if you like to play politics, if you like to hoard secrets and power, if you have no passion for life, if you are not naturally curious, if you think you are entitled to the bounties of life or if you can’t laugh at yourself, you won’t succeed, and you’ll be miserable here.”

That kind of thinking helps a tech startup narrow down its candidates to a select few who can actually elevate the culture, rather than drain it.

The realization—and acceptance—that you are not for everyone, can change everything for a startup.

Instead of just looking for people who “fit,” you can search for people to elevate your game, bring new ideas to the table, make the collective whole stronger, and continually inspire your other employees. You’re looking for a person you can learn from, someone who pushes you outside your comfort zones, and has a strong work ethic that makes everyone else better.

Wanted: “Culture Contributors”

Let’s call this person a “culture contributor” rather than a culture consumer. The difference between them is a matter of magnitude.

Imagine a startup as a rocket that uses 90% of its fuel just to take off. Each employee is a part of the fuel that helps the rocket escape gravity. If you are not elevating the rocket, then you are dragging it down.

Every person you hire must elevate your culture.

What do these “culture contributors” bring to the table? Things you haven’t even thought of yet. That’s the beauty of someone who understands your culture and values; they can find and create new ways to elevate standards with your company culture and values in mind.

Culture contributors love what they do. You’ll see a lot of infectious smiles, positivity, and humor that spreads to those around them.

They won’t be afraid to question things that are misaligned with your culture and values, and to suggest growth opportunities when they see them.

By their very example, culture contributors hold up a mirror and reflect what you’re doing right or not doing at all, day in and day out.

Finding  “Culture Contributors”

If you explicitly state your desire to hire culture contributors, and allow each candidate to express how they qualify as one, you will find those people who will help grow your company by expanding the culture rather than helping it stagnate.

First you need to share with them the following in order to support your quest:

  • Your intention to make sure that everyone who gets hired can use the company as a platform to get closer to their life purpose
  • Your company purpose, mission and core values
  • Your culture mission
  • Your specific initiatives that address each of your commitments

Then ask them the following  questions:

  • How will you elevate our culture?
  • How will you inspire me or your team?
  • Will your work ethic be stronger than our average employee?
  • How do you push people around you to make them better?
  • What can you teach your colleagues?
  • How do you think about culture in a company, and what moves the needle?
  • Is culture important to you? What are you doing about it in your present position?
  • What drives you crazy about working at your current company?
  • What kind of work environment are you the most happy and productive in?

Then, let the candidates convince you.

Those that are a good fit will get it; those that don’t get it aren’t ready.

Furthermore, you may consider ruling out candidates who give you answers like these:

“In my current company, I’ve implemented a popular drinking Olympics. I’ll be able to bring something similar to your company.”

Do I Get A Bonus If I Am A Culture Contributor?

If potential candidates can’t speak intelligently beyond the obvious, you can assume that’s the limit of their mindset around culture, which means they can’t contribute beyond that level.

Potential employees don’t have to provide the most original idea you’ve ever heard. But you do want to hear something that shows you that they think of culture beyond the obvious happy hour, ping-pong tables, etc.  Responses you’re looking for follow along these lines:

“Based on the core values you have, I really resonate with the core value ‘grit’ and one habit I have that helps me be better in that area is I’m not afraid to approach new challenges because I’ll outwork anyone.”

“You said ‘authenticity’ is your core value, has anyone been penalized for speaking up?”

Reasonably High Expectations

Are you asking too much by seeking job candidates who not only have  skills and passion,  but will also contribute to your culture? No, because any startup is only as good or successful as its people.

Your startup will grow as much as your employees grow. Any one of them can have as much impact on your culture as the CEO. Settling for someone who just “fits” can have a huge opportunity cost — for that person, for the team, and for the entire company. Knowing the collective cost helps the hiring manager make a decision with both eyes open.

As entrepreneurs, you already know that the people you hire won’t exceed the level of thinking you exhibit. You also know that your resolve is the strength of your company. So lean into it. Think about what your company’s culture means to you. Articulate your vision, tell job candidates your commitment to your employees, and show them how happy your people are. Ask them to specify what they’ll do to elevate your culture in return. Those who get it will jump at the opportunity for a seat in your rocket ship.

A version of this post was first published on LinkedIn.

The Great Rated! People’s Picks: 20 Great Workplaces In Technology

(Above: Workday photo)

The tech industry isn’t just transforming our world with gadgets, apps and entirely new ways of communicating. Leading tech firms also are upgrading the workplace, inventing corporate climates that are fun, fair and focused on allowing employees to integrate their professional and personal lives. They also excel at hiring people who are a good fit for their organization. We at Great Rated! decided to spotlight tech firms on the cutting edge of company culture by creating “The Great Rated!TM People’s Picks: 20 Great Workplaces in Technology.”

The top large technology workplaces (those with 1,000 or more employees) are:

1. Workday
2. World Wide Technology
3. Ultimate Software
4. Google
5. FactSet Research Systems
6. Hyland Software
7. SAS Institute
8. Twitter
10. Riverbed Technology

The top small and medium technology workplaces (those with fewer than 1,000 employees) are:

1. Visionist
2. AgileThought
3. Square Root
4. Convergence Consulting Group
5. Tapestry Technologies
6. OpenDNS
7. Gainsight
8. Innovative Architects
9. Intellinet
10. Polyvore

(For details on any of the firms and their cultures, click on them to visit their Great Rated! review.)

The 20 winning companies were selected based on the average scores of nearly 50,000 employees who were surveyed using the Trust Index© assessment. The Trust Index© is the 58-question survey of workplace trust, pride and camaraderie that Great Rated!’s parent, Great Place to Work®, uses to survey millions of employees worldwide each year. The Great Rated!™ People’s Picks: 20 Great Workplaces in Technology marks the first published list since the official launch of Great Rated!™, the site that gives job seekers the inside scoop on companies and their cultures.

The 20 Great Workplaces in Technology have created cultures that their employees love.
“It’s a big, happy family: work hard, play hard and party hard,” one staffer at business software maker Workday told us. “We have internal tournaments for Ping Pong, a pool table, a Workday cycling team and Workday volunteers. People really care about one another. Teams share happiness and sorrow with the same spirit.”

Or listen to this employee from Visionist, which provides technology services to government agencies: “Visionist is unique in how mission-focused it is. A lot of defense contractors say that, but the people are so dedicated to their support of the government’s mission that on some contracts they work all hours of the night, come in on their weekends or build unpaid prototypes to help make the government better.”

Visionist photo

Visionist photo

It may not be surprising that tech firms have more fun—given the reputations companies like Google have for zany antics and playful perks like office slides. But our research shows the 20 Great Workplaces in Technology excel in some surprising ways. Like creating a level playing field, where promotions go to those who best deserve them and managers avoid playing favorites. And despite the hard work often associated with computer and coding jobs, employees at the 20 Great Workplaces in Technology give their companies high marks when it comes to work-life balance.

Google photo

Google photo

Hiring people who fit in well is another strength of the 20 Great Workplaces in Technology. Rigor in the recruiting process is a common theme. Information technology services firm AgileThought has candidates prove their technical chops in a whiteboard exercise as well as take part in a “fit” interview with an executive. “Our executives are involved because we understand how important it is to build the right types of teams, and those qualities go beyond just having the technical skill,” the company says.

AgileThought photo

AgileThought photo

It’s a similar story at retail software maker Square Root. “If you want to be part of the Square Root team, expect several rounds of interviews, a take-home assignment and lots of socializing before we make you an offer,” the firm says.

Congratulations to the 20 Great Workplaces in Technology. Please keep advancing the workplace as you wow us with the next killer app.

(About the Author: Ed Frauenheim is editor at workplace research site Great Rated!™, where he produces content and reviews companies.)

(All photos courtesy of Great Rated!)