With all the end-of-year success Southern California startups saw in 2017, it's clear that 2018 will involve just as much hiring, if not more. Last year, a number of tech recruiters offered Built In LA readers advice on aspects of the job search, including what to wear to a tech startup interview, what non-traditional skills impress recruiters and what you should leave off your resume. Here was our favorite advice from 2017.
With 80-plus jobs open, Hyperloop One is in the midst of a massive hiring campaign, and last month, lead engineering recruiter Greg Toroosian offered advice on what really impresses him about an applicant.
What makes a cover letter strong and memorable?
Cover letters attached to the first page of a resume are more likely to be seen compared to letters shared as a separate attachment. Depending on the ATS used, your resume may be the only file reviewed and/or forwarded on to the hiring manager. Cover letters that are concise and written specifically for the role and company are best. Keep it to one page and try to use short paragraphs or bullet points when listing. Start by briefly expressing your interest in the company, then in the role/team. List relevant education, experience and projects, then showcase these aspects of your professional history in greater detail on your resume. Finally, if there is anything that may make you appear as a less suitable candidate, address it in the letter. For example, if you stayed with a company for a short time, confirm that you’re serious about relocating or moving into a new industry.
Cover letters that are concise and written specifically for the role and company are best. Keep it to one page and try to use short paragraphs or bullet points when listing."
Aside from a great cover letter and a strong background, how can job applicants make their application stand out?
This is a tough one to answer when you have a high volume of applicants. I tend to review applicants who add me on LinkedIn and send me a message to further express their interest after they have applied for a specific role.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to job candidates who land an interview?
Answer the questions being asked and answer them clearly, providing examples — when relevant — of your own experience, knowledge or project involvement.
What are the red flags you see too often from applicants?
Applying for multiple roles with our company that require different skills definitely appears as a red flag. Another thing to avoid is repeatedly contacting various employees at the company, particularly if they haven’t responded to your outreach. Both of these actions can show a lack of self-awareness and professionalism.
With cryptocurrency exploding, blockchain startups — in particular — are rapidly scaling their teams to meet the demand for their respective platforms. Responsible for filling both technical and non-technical positions, Gem's people operations manager Madeline Mann, offered some advice for applicants that didn't go to Stanford after graduating with a 4.0 from Harvard-Westlake School.
What stands out is when a candidate knows exactly what they want — the industry, type of company and the role. A candidate may be highly qualified, but if they can't articulate why our industry and type of company is compelling to them, then the passion may not be there. Additionally, we look for candidates who have a hunger for challenges and knowledge — they could have a blog about their interests, started a meetup group, or set out to create something complex just for the thrill of it. These are all great signs of curiosity and taking initiative.
How are you able to identify the "it" factor when vetting applicants?
Humility is the ingredient Gem holds paramount. This opens the door for great collaboration and empathy in the workplace. We are able to identify this by seeing how much ownership they take over their situation. Do they blame others for failures and bad work situations or do they acknowledge their role in the situation and actively work to improve it?
How often do you find quality candidates with resumes/experience that are lacking?
We often become enchanted by candidates whose skills aren't exactly at the level we had set out to find. That is because attitude and non-technical skills are more difficult or at times impossible to teach, so when we find someone who is well-rounded with a great attitude we hire them and invest in their development once they join the team.
We often become enchanted by candidates whose skills aren't exactly at the level we had set out to find."
How can applicants accentuate their non-technical/experiential skills on a resume and in an interview?
When a candidate has excellent follow-up questions in an interview, it always impresses the team because it reveals their listening and analytical skills. I've also seen candidates bring work samples that walk us through their thought processes on a project. This is very rare, and it takes a level of creativity to distill one's work into a story with visuals.
Last year, Built In LA spoke to Irvine-based Cie Digital Labs' specially-formed HR clothing taskforce — consisting of Natasha Schulman (HR generalist), Evelyn Lee (director of human resources) and Kristie Reynolds (talent acquisition) — about the optimal dress code calls for a job interview. Here's what they had to say.
When applicants show up for the interview, we want them to show their most authentic selves...whether that is causal or business attire, we leave it up to them.”
Most tech companies have a casual work attire. Does that affect what you expect someone to wear when they’re onsite for an interview?
“We expect our candidates to be confident and knowledgeable, and that is hard to translate into clothing,” said Schulman. “We always share what we wear within the office and the candidate has the option. However, we believe that a person should wear what makes them happy while staying professional. When applicants show up for the interview, we want them to show their most authentic selves, and whether that is causal or business attire, we leave it up to them!”
What are your top three dos for dressing for an interview?
Make sure to wear clean clothes.
Make sure that they fit properly.
Just make sure you are professional. A clean, well-fitting t-shirt would be fine, but an “I got Tanked in Cabo” t-shirt is not.
What are your top three don’ts?
Do not wear dirty or stained clothing.
Make sure you shower and do not put on too much perfume or cologne. We are in a small room during interviews and a strong odor is a big no for us.
Don’t wear a smartwatch if you’re going to keep glancing or touching the screen. That is distracting and will be considered a negative.