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What tech skills stand out right now?

Posted on Monday, Sep 18, 2017

Dave North, Signiant | Hays What IT Employers WantWhat do IT employers really want? We asked 11 hiring managers how they sought, screened, and assessed tech talent and compiled the interviews so you can find out how to be the candidate they want. Hear what skills Signiant Director of DevOps Dave North looks for, and what will turn him off in an interview.Do you have the right IT experience?

Current job market
What are the hottest tech skills right now?

DevOps. Finding Dev and Ops in one person is really hard! Cloud computing is huge, it’s a must-have skill. And it’s not just technical, business skills matter as well – blended skills are crucial. Things have changed extremely fast over the last five years – “nice to haves” have become “must haves”. AWS is a hot skill, particularly for us but also market wide in Ottawa.  Learning that servers are disposable and anything can fail at any time sounds easy enough but It’s hard to find people that think that way out of the gate.  I like the quote “Treat your servers like cattle, not pets”.  People who get that generally understand public cloud and horizontal scaling.

Do you prefer candidates from big companies or smaller firms?
Smaller, we are 150 staff. Smaller firms are much more agile and I think that reflects in individuals. We need people who can wear multiple hats rather than people who have only worked a small part of the ‘project pie’.

How much do you value international experience in a candidate?
Not important, it’s about the skillset and the ability to learn

To land the perfect candidate, what are you willing to negotiate on as part of the total compensation package?
Salary, obviously. Our benefits are pretty competitive in the Ottawa area for companies our size. The reality is outside of our industry (Media and Entertainment), we are not well known so we don’t have candidates knocking down the doors like other higher profile companies in the area.  However, whenever I get a candidate in and describe the technology and market we are in, people want to work here.  I generally find that people want to work on interesting technology in an strong market with a great team. My negotiating tool is the work you will be doing here; it’s very exciting.

Tech skills: how important is it to know the latest software/language? At what point does this become obsolete? E.g. 6 months, 2 year, 5 years etc.
The days of a specific language are gone, there are so many layers to things. You need the concepts, whether its Ruby, Python, javascript, Bash, does it really matter? You have to have fundamental components. I’m having to teach my new guys cloud components and concepts first – the code and language is easy to learn. There is a trend of using new things because they are cool, rather than saying “What is the business reason?” Docker is a great example – what you adopted a year ago is completely different now. If you’re not prepared to keep up with the change stay with the fundamentals. You need to know about them up but not in-depth.

Reviewing resumes
What are the five things that make an IT resume stand out?
Specific projects. I browse the buzz words, tech-wise, but I find people just list items, it doesn’t illustrate their actual experience. I want to know what they have done – context to the technologies needs to be provided, implementations, migrations and so on. I don’t need a huge project description, but I want to know what they did as an individual. Top accomplishments in a specific position are essential.  I look for the word “I” in interviews rather than “we”.
Cover letters: What value do you think they add to a resume?
For me they’re not relevant. The only thing it shows is the person can actually write. Written communication is very important to me so if you are going to do one make sure you can write properly!
What certifications or qualifications do you look for in a resume?
Doesn’t even matter to me that much. I look at it but it’s not a deal breaker. If somebody has AWS certification that’s a big plus but you can learn it and we can teach it.

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?

Somebody who can carry on a conversation! In IT now there are so many people you have to deal with – from devs to execs of a company, and customers to coders. If you’re unable to build rapport and just talk to people it won’t work. Especially in a devops organization, you’re always dealing with people from multiple groups and communication is key. Can they articulate what they did, not what “we” did. I actually find “we” a potential red flag if everything is a “we”. . Be yourself. I try and disarm candidates early on and just tell them “this is just a chat” and to relax.

What is your experience with skills testing as part of the interview process?
“Hello new world” – I ask candidates to do a task on a technology they have never used before. I’m looking for the display of process and thinking and how you go about learning a new technology rather than the actual results. I’m looking for people who can critically think rather than “I know x y and z technologies”. I find actual skills testing (coding tests) puts candidates under unnecessary pressure. I like them to demonstrate research skills and show me how they approach a problem.

How can you tell if someone is genuinely interested in the job?
I like lots of questions about the company, the technology, the team, examples of previous work we’ve done.  If they are asking me as many questions as I’m asking them, they are probably interested and it’s most likely someone that has a capacity to learn.

How does professional attire influence your decision?
We’re pretty casual here.  Showing up in ripped jeans is probably not appropriate but neither is an Armani suit!

When interviewing candidates, what’s your biggest turn-off?
When people ask the HR questions at the first meeting. If that is the core of what you care about, we’re probably not a great. fit.  I’m  looking for people who are interested in working here because they want to improve things, work on fantastic technology and are generally passionate about what they do.

One word answers or “I can’t think of anything”. I want to hear detail and context. If I ask “What is the toughest problem you’ve ever solved?” and you can’t think of anything, I question what have you really done I like to ask.

How useful is social media when interviewing? Do you view candidates’ profile ahead of time?
If I get the CV from a recruiter like Hays – no, I trust in you. If I get them through a referral, I will look them up on LinkedIn. I don’t use Facebook as I think people are entitled to privacy. LinkedIn profiles seem to be pretty good these days though and can be used as an indicator of how much attention to detail someone has.

How do you feel when the candidate looks you up on LinkedIn prior to the interview?
Almost everybody does and I think it’s good. It can help with rapport building if you know a bit about somebody. If I was a candidate I would.

How important is it that the candidate follows up with your after the interview?
I don’t really care. I was always told it was the right thing to do but society has changed. I personally follow up with every candidate I interview. If they follow up wanting feedback and advice I would absolutely give it to them.

Hear from 11 other IT employers to learn more about how you can stand out in the IT market. Claim your copy of the 2017 What Employers Want eBook today.

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