What do ‘great’ companies look for in technical talent?
A shiny resume can get you in the door, however, hiring managers at (great) companies know that there’s more than just a resume. (Great) Companies have started to realize that just having a computer science degree, proof of academic excellence, or an employment history with some known brands is not enough signal to build a world-class team. They are always looking for that extra oomph factor, and all the more now, as the talent hunt goes global.
Most candidates correctly “solve” the coding exercises, yet get rejected? Meanwhile, many others who never do those tests and still land full-time offers. Most people assume that to land a good job, all they need to do is just practice solving 400+ leet-code problems and have a keyword-optimized resume, OR work with a recruiter to get references. That is not true!
Here are the 3 things that (great) companies care about -
It is easy to say that ‘I’m a problem solver’ on a resume, difficult to show what makes you one. (Great) Companies don’t hire you because you know everything about something, they hire you for having an attitude of openness, adaptability, and no preconceptions about a subject, they look for that beginner's mindset to fit in a new tribe.
Talking about your work shows that you’re a problem solver, for e.g. how you approached to build a product, solve an algorithmic problem, come up with an architectural solution, or reduce wastage with some hack all these work specifics help them learn about your competitive advantage.
Developing the mindset of a beginner is crucial to being a good engineer. Beginners aren’t afraid to take risks and know that they don’t have all the answers. That balance of confidence with an open mind is what hiring managers look for.
Proof of Work
For a software engineer, your previous work history is the only armor that will help you move forward in your career. Having a portfolio is a must, projects and code act as your proof of work and that is what companies want to see.
Don’t let a job “happen” to you. Be deliberate about your goals and make it happen. In order to get what we want, we first need to know what exactly it is that we want and then try to get it. That’s what I call as intention. It’s not about dreaming that one day at some point in the future you’ll be hired by the company you always wanted to work with. It’s about doing things every day in a way that brings you closer to your goals. You can feel your career is happening each day. You are making it happen; it’s deliberate. That’s Intentional Career. This is what (great) companies look for, your intent, what will make you successful in a new job environment.
In my journey as an entrepreneur, I’m obsessed to highlight signals with data to show the real potential of a person irrespective of their age, gender, color, education, brand associations, etc. At StackRaft, I work with a lot of companies and help them get introductions with engineers matched as per skills, personality, and career intent. Data signals like Stanford or worked with YC startup before, or published a paper at Harvard means nothing if there’s no intent to work in a given domain. I’d rather focus on what you built when in school, what you learned in your last job, and a link to your blog or published work. This is what so many people don’t understand. They over-prepare for the interviews as if it were a competitive programming contest, with no consideration for exemplifying their knowledge and work done.
PS. I intentionally overused the word (great) for companies, because 70% or more companies are not great. I’ll save the description for another blog!