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What are IT employers looking for in an interview?

Posted on Monday, Sep 18, 2017

Brian Pearson, RAD International | Hays What IT Employers WantWhat do IT hiring managers look for on resumes and in interviews when they're searching for their next team member? Hays IT asked 11 IT employers for our recent eBook. Today hear from Brian Pearson, President at RAD International in Mississauga about his do's and don't's for IT candidates.

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

Java, JavaScript, Angular, React

Do you prefer candidates from big companies or smaller firms?
You can get good candidates from both, but we find candidates from smaller companies tend to have a broader experience base and are stronger self-starters.

How much do you value international experience in a candidate?
We do not discount any experience but experience gained in North America is more applicable to our environment.

To land the perfect candidate, what are you willing to negotiate on as part of the total compensation package?
We’ll usually negotiate salary by upwards of 10 per cent and will adjust vacation based on experience level. We also offer telecommuting, which a lot of our employees use and candidates appreciate.

Tech skills: how important is it to know the latest software/language? At what point does this become obsolete?
This depends on the experience level of the individual. For example, with a junior we only consider skills that are current (within two years) but for a senior we presume they can quickly refresh or gain skills.

Reviewing resumes
What are the five things that make an IT resume stand out?

There are two ways to stand out – either good or bad.

To stand out in a good way I’m looking for detailed descriptions of projects with a clear indication of the candidate’s contribution, as well as a clear indication of technologies used for given projects. What part the candidate did they play in requirements gathering, design, development and so on? And I’m also looking for some long-term planning or indicators, providing an indication of the direction the candidate prefers their career to go.

Some things stand out in a bad way. Red flags for me are resumes with big time gaps, formatting mistakes, poor grammar, third person narrative. Sometimes it’s clear that a resume was written by someone other than the candidate. I also like seeing original resumes, not just recruiter templates, because how candidates structure their resumes highlights what they consider important
Spelling mistakes – with spell checking available even on your phone, if we find a spelling mistake we generally put the candidate to the bottom of the pile

Cover letters: What value do you think they add to a resume?
Generally, unless well written, they harm a candidate more than help.

What certifications or qualifications do you look for in a resume?
Any certification that indicates the candidate’s commitment to their career.

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?

I’m looking for communications, clear, concise, including body language. We are trying to determine if they will fit in our team and with our customers. Also how they approach problem solving, their thought process, and their commitment to their specific discipline, e.g. Are they actively trying to improve? How do they spend their leisure time?

I can tell a lot by how a candidate manages their time in an interview. An interview is the candidate’s opportunity to impress upon us their skill level. Taking half of the allotted time to answer one question means they failed to do so

In terms of assessing these, we want honest answers, not answers that sound coached. I’m wary of saying too much because I don’t want people to think there is only one right approach.

What is your experience with skills testing as part of the interview process?
We prefer our candidates have written a skill assessment in advance of the interview and ideally a supervised evaluation. This communicates several things to us including: their commitment to the interview process, what technical areas we should focus on in the interview, and it validates skills identified in their resume.

How can you tell if someone is genuinely interested in the job?
Some of that is mentioned above, but the true indication comes at how they end the interview, what they say or ask.

How does professional attire influence your decision?
It depends on the position being interviewed for. If it is a developer position, attire does not generally influence our decision in any way. I say generally because attire should be respectful of the process, e.g. gym attire would be considered inappropriate

When interviewing candidates, what’s your biggest turn-off?
Candidates that are not prepared, or worse, not expecting to answer technical questions.

How useful is social media when interviewing? Do you view candidates’ profile ahead of time?
We generally do some due diligence in searching out the candidate’s online presence, particularly their public posts relating to technology.

How do you feel when the candidate looks you up on LinkedIn prior to the interview?
We are surprised when candidates have not done some due diligence so looking us up on LinkedIn or reviewing our website is considered normal. Reaching out to us on LinkedIn prior to or before we provide the outcome to the interview is considered inappropriate.

How important is it that the candidate follows up with your after the interview?
We tell all candidates if they have questions after they leave to feel free to reach out to us, but whether a candidate sends a follow-up does not influence our decision.

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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