If you are applying for a tech job, you may already have a basic idea of what you should do:
- Tell everyone you know that you're looking for a new gig.
- Attend networking events, even if you hate making small talk.
- Triple-check your resume to make sure it doesn't have any
Don't get us wrong, these are all important. However, there are other ways you can set yourself apart from the competition and convince hiring managers you are the elusive "unicorn" employee they're seeking.
We talked to several folks involved in hiring tech candidates to get the scoop on what they're really looking for in their next employee.
1. Soft Skills
We cannot emphasize the importance of soft skills enough. It is the number one answer we heard from hiring managers when we asked what they look for in tech candidates. You can have every conceivable certification and know every programming language, but if you aren't able to demonstrate that you are also an effective communicator, you may never get past the first-round interview.
So what are soft skills exactly? Glad you asked.
"When I say 'soft skills,' I'm talking about verbal communication, written communication, problem-solving skills, and the ability to work in a team," says
John Reed (@JReedRHT),
senior executive director at
Robert Half Technology
(@RobertHalfTech), a full-service staffing firm for technology jobs. "It's always been important, but now it's more than a 'nice to have.' It's almost mandatory that you bring the holistic set of skills to the table – technical and soft skills."
Why are soft skills such a big deal? CIOs say today's technology professionals could use the most improvement in communication skills, according to a report by Robert Half Technology.
"When I was a hiring manager, I would look for candidates who could communicate clearly, provide examples of creativity and teamwork, problem solve, and who had the technical chops to follow through," says
Nancy Anderson (@Nancy_1),
job search and career coach at
Blackbird Learning Associates, LLC.
"Because IT is a support function to the business, it is important that the staff know how to listen and communicate clearly with their internal clients, business partners, and external vendors."
2. Your Value to Past Employers
Many job candidates simply bullet their skill set and past accomplishments without giving context. But that's a missed opportunity.
Don't just tell potential employers what your job duties were. Explain how your previous employer specifically benefitted from your work.
"One of the best strategies for job seekers is to articulate some of the previous projects that they have worked on," says Reed. "They should explain what the business challenge was and how they were a part of that solution."
As Reed notes, that insight helps the hiring manager visualize the value you'll bring to their company.
"If the hiring manager looks at that and says, 'Wow, this person saved their last company money or helped them capture new market share,' they might then think, 'I need those kinds of people at my company,'" Reed says. "So being able to articulate that versus, 'Oh, these are the programming languages I've used and these are the databases I've used.' Those things are important, but you have to have a story, and a story is a business problem that you've been involved in solving."
In addition to being prepared to share specific achievement anecdotes in job interviews, make sure you include them on your resume as well. Monster has some technology resume samples if you need inspiration.
3. Knowledge of the Latest Tech Developments
We get it – you worked hard in college, at coding boot camp, and / or interning at Google to master certain technical skills. But there is no finish line when it comes to learning. Your potential future employer is going to want to see solid examples of how you are continuing to learn new skills and update old ones.
"What we always tell candidates is that you can't be complacent with the technologies that you know," says Reed. "Technology changes, and if you aren't able to pivot with it, you could quickly look up and find yourself out of date. So you need to continue to hone your craft, learn new technologies, and learn new skills to keep yourself relevant. Because it's not just about making yourself marketable today, but making yourself marketable for the future as well."
Demonstrating that you make it a point to learn about emerging technologies, even in your free time, is another way to show your next potential boss that you are committed to continuous learning.
"If an IT professional knows the technologies they work with inside and out, they'll be a real asset to any company," says
Katy Imhoff (@KatyMImhoff),
regional manager at
Camden Kelly Corporation
(@CamdenKellyCorp). "Additionally, if an IT candidate is always tinkering with new technologies, learning via side projects and constantly growing their skills, they will be irresistible to employers because the value they can bring to their company will continue to grow!"
4. Company Culture Fit
You've got the soft skills, glorious track record, and continuing education on lock. Now seal the deal by showing that you have a firm grasp on the company culture and why you'd fit right in.
"At Frontpoint, culture is vitally important to our business success," says
Meghann Scherrer (@MsMeghannS),
MSC, HCS, and senior manager of culture and engagement at
(@frontpoint). "We ask questions around emotional intelligence for all openings, from sales rep to software engineer. We also ask about the candidate's interests outside of work: what's on your iPod, what was the last book you read, or what was your favorite vacation and why. These questions read for storytelling, imagination, and rapport – and they tell a lot about us, how we work, and what we value."
So spend some time noodling around on a prospective employer's website. Find out if they are active in the community, have a fierce rivalry with another tech company's bowling team, or celebrate Taco Tuesdays with a build-your-own taco bar in the kitchen every week. Showing that you took the time to understand their culture and can demonstrate why you would fit right in (you love giving back, are a killer bowler, and live for tacos) can move you from a maybe to a job offer.
For more job interviewing tips, read our article "3 Things More Important than Your Resume When Applying for IT Jobs." If you'd like to follow our advice and continue learning from industry experts, check out "5 More Twitter Accounts to Follow for IT Professional Development."
About the Contributors
Nancy Anderson is the owner of Blackbird Learning Associates, LLC, a small business specializing in job search skills, outplacement, and learning and development. Her training and background allows her to design, develop, and facilitate job search workshops in areas such as career assessment, resume preparation, interviewing, networking, job searching, and LinkedIn.
Katy Imhoff is the owner / CEO of Camden Kelly Corporation, an information technology recruiting firm headquartered in Dallas, Texas, with offices in Dallas-Fort Worth and Southern California. Her prior experience includes serving as vice president of a publicly-held recruiting and staffing firm and founding Ashley Ellis LLC, a national recruiting firm headquartered in Chicago, IL.
John Reed is the senior executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading specialized staffing firm providing information technology professionals on a project and full-time basis. In this role, he manages operations for more than 100 Robert Half Technology locations worldwide. The firm places IT professionals for initiatives ranging from web development and multiplatform systems integration to network security and technical support.
Meghann Scherrer is the senior manager for culture and engagement at Frontpoint, the leading nationwide provider of wireless alarm systems and interactive home security. At Frontpoint, she leads all culture and talent brand efforts, including employer marketing, internal communications, public relations, creative branding, and events.