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Make sure the right IT skills stand out on your resume

Posted on Friday, Jun 30, 2017

Kylie McCready, You.i TV | What IT employers wantKylie McCready - Lead Talent Acquisition Specialist at You.i TV

Kylie McCready is currently the Lead Talent Acquisition Specialist at You.i TV, a privately-held software company in Ottawa. She has 6 years of experience of Corporate & Agency-Side Recruitment with a large focus on securing technical talent for startups, and small to medium-sized companies. Coupling experience with an Honours Degree, specializing in Organization Communication & and an RPR Designation, Kylie is well-positioned to offer her unfiltered opinion & raw outlook on all things job search and staffing.

Current job market

What are the hottest tech skills right now?
It’s most definitely a candidate-driven market. Every company is vying for premium talent with long-term potential -- especially in Kanata.

Cloud technologies (AWS) and anything DevOps-related continue to be highly sought after skillsets. In Ottawa, the pool is limited for people with this type of experience, which means companies will pay quite a bit to secure talent in this space.

In my opinion, the hottest technology continues to be in the mobile & consumer electronic space. We love to see experience developing for Roku, AppleTV (tvOS), Android, PlayStation, and Xbox (to name a few).

Do you prefer candidates from big companies or smaller firms?
At the end of the day, we like entrepreneurial spirit and we really encourage that in all of our staff. We have a mix of people who have come from big companies, however, several of our employees have come from small agencies, game design studios, or startups. It’s not about where they are coming from, it’s about what they did there.

How much do you value international experience in a candidate?
We are always interested in international experience, but again it’s about the calibre of work that we’re focused on. Our market -- TV & Media -- is global, so we would be limiting ourselves if we were only looking at the local candidate market.

To land the perfect candidate, what are you willing to negotiate on as part of the total compensation package?
The majority of candidates we’re speaking to are currently employed -- as is always the case in tech. So, we offer benefits right off the bat to break any barriers one might have from coming onboard. We also offer flexible working hours which not only improves work/life balance but allows us to attract people commuting from all parts of town (avoiding rush hour etc).

Additionally, as a privately-held company, we offer stock options to all of our employees.

To attract the best talent in the industry, you have to remove as many obstacles to your onboarding process as possible. You have to be flexible, while at the same time, maintaining a standard across the organization so you’re not bending over backwards for “superstars”.

Tech skills: how important is it to know the latest software/language? At what point does this become obsolete?
Great question. Our industry changes and evolves so quickly that it is definitely important to stay up-to-date on the latest versions. We tend to favour candidates who have experience with the latest platforms, devices, consoles, and engines. We love to see Github accounts with side projects or code samples.

Our core language at You.i TV is C++, which is a foundational language that has been around for a long time. It’s also the most widely used language in game development, which translates well into deploying video apps across multiple platforms -- the staple behind our engine. We like to see developers who have done more with C++ than list it on their resume. They can speak to the latest versions and current projects they’ve worked on.

Reviewing resumes

What make an IT resume stand out?
I’m always on the lookout for a table of your technical skills, followed up with a section of your tech environment under each project/job. The technologies you are listing need to be as relevant as possible. For example, if you dabbled in Swift in college.. but never used it again.. should it really be highlighted in your resume? If something is listed in there, be prepared to talk about it.

I also like to see detailed examples of what you did on a specific project. I can’t even tell you how often I see a developer who has summed up five years of experience with a company in 3-4 bullet points. This is your place to shine! Tell me about all the awesome things you did. This is about you, not the whole team.

Cover letters: What value do you think they add to a resume?
These days - it’s more about the “cover email” with resume attached. They do add context and personality which is missing from a standalone resume. It should be a simple, short paragraph that is tailored to the job and/or person receiving it. It’s not enough to send an email that just asks if anything is a fit. Don’t be lazy and do your research. If you don’t see any available positions posted, preface your note with something like “although I do not see any available positions, my experience in X is relevant to Y.” Use job descriptions for other positions within the company to determine what their tech environment is and better position yourself.

I absolutely adore when I receive a “cover email” that demonstrates the candidate’s knowledge, research and interest in our business and industry. I’ve even shared them with my marketing team. Tone and formality in the job search process has also changed over the years. It’s totally acceptable to be less formal and drop the “Sir or Madam”. You should probably still leave out emojis and memes.. at least this early on in the hiring process.

But what if I don’t have an email address? A quick search on LinkedIn will probably tell you who the contact person should be - most likely an HR person, Recruiter, Talent Acquisition Specialist, Sourcing Wizard etc. Most companies will follow a firstname.lastname@company.com or firstletter+lastname@company combo.

What certifications or qualifications do you look for in a resume?
I absolutely look for post-secondary education. That could either be from College, University, or a combo of the two. Depending on the position, certifications could also be of value. For example, if you’re a Project Manager, you should have your PMP. Game Engines like Unity also have their own certifications. They help show that you’ve gone the extra mile to hone your expertise.

Evaluating candidates in interviews

What are the top three soft skills that you look for in an IT professional? How do you assess during an interview?
We ask that all of our developers should have the capacity to be client-facing. We have a highly collaborative business model. Our developers get right into the trenches with our development partners or customers and we need them to demonstrate that they can talk tech with various audiences.

We also like when candidates bring a fresh outlook or challenge our ideas by offering alternative ways of coming to a solution. Strong interpersonal communication skills are important to us, and we look for these at all stages of the interview process (including events leading up to the actual in-person interview).

We assess both technical and soft skills during our 2-step interview process. We want to see a candidate’s personality, what interests them, and what they love about development.

What is your experience with skills testing as part of the interview process?
We absolutely administer a hands-on technical test as part of our interview process. While we do test for C++, some of the questions are language agnostic. The key is that, after the test, there is a break-out discussion between the candidate and our developers where answers are discussed out loud (almost like a white-boarding session). This gives the candidate a chance to elaborate on their thought process, or come to a solution that they maybe hadn’t immediately thought of. It also enables the candidate to really show us their stuff. We aren’t just ticking boxes off a list.

At You.i TV, we’re all about Guilds for everything (Magic Cards, Yoga, Training, Popcorn, etc). I have a group of around 15 developers dubbed the “Hiring Guild” who help me recruit, interview, and on-board new hires. In addition to those duties, the Hiring Guild meets once a month to discuss, tweak, and evolve, the test questions. This ensures that what we are testing on is actually relevant to the job at hand.
For Non-Engineering roles, we ask candidates to prepare a case study or business plan in advance and to present it during the in-person interview. This also allows room for creativity, thought process, and personality to come out.

How can you tell if someone is genuinely interested in the job?
That’s easy: are they paying attention? What’s their body language like? You can tell a lot about someone from their non-verbal cues. Are they nodding and engaging in the discussion? Do they seem distracted?

Another big indicator would be whether or not they are asking questions. We highly encourage them. We love all sorts of questions; from culture, to role, to apps we’ve shipped and the mechanics behind them.

How does professional attire influence your decision?
Attire is part of the first impression so it is very important but it’s equally as important to know your audience. For example, our culture could infer that showing up in a suit and tie might make you feel out of place. Having said that, the best advice is to always overdress than underdress if you aren’t sure. A nice shirt and jeans is totally acceptable attire for us. Save those sweatpants and graphic tees for once you get the job.

When interviewing candidates, what’s your biggest turn-off?
It drives me bonkers when a candidate won’t answer a question. It is okay if you don’t know the answer to a certain question, or you aren’t sure. Just say that and tell us how you might go about finding the answer. This actually demonstrates your ability to critically think and show initiative. Don’t dance around the subject!

How useful is social media when interviewing? Do you view a candidate’s profile ahead of time?
Your Mom and Teachers were right; your online persona has an impact on your job search. I always check out a candidate’s LinkedIn profile ahead of time. I’ll also check out their Github or Behance accounts as well. It’s actually really important to get active on LinkedIn as a job searcher. I care about endorsements, connections, groups, and recommendations. Twitter is another good one, as we’re really active on Twitter and I like to see what opinions you share via tweets with the world.

I do not however, look up Facebook or Instagram profiles. But some recruiters do so maybe take down that profile pic of you doing a keg stand last summer (until you land your next job). I do believe that people are entitled to a personal life...but just be aware of what’s out there. In my agency days, I have seen employers reject candidates purely based on their social media posts.

How do you feel when the candidate looks you up on LinkedIn prior to the interview?
I think it’s great! Bonus points for them. It shows their ability to research, their interest level, and that they are an active participant in their own job search.

There is still a line though. If you send a note through LinkedIn, it’s probably not a good idea to also message me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Remember, this is still a professional job search.

How important is it that the candidate follows up with your after the interview?
I think it’s extremely important! I really love a good thank you email. Just like the above, it shows that the candidate is motivated, engaged, and organized.

Also, how can you look poorly on good manners?!

 Learn more about how you can stand out in the IT market. Claim your copy of the 2017 Hays IT Pros Guide.


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