How to get a job in Chicago tech

March 17, 2016

Related: Best Startups to Work for in Chicago

One of the hardest things about applying for jobs is trying to figure out what the person on the other end of the application process is looking for. Preferences differ from industry to industry and from company to company, and trends seem to be changing all the time. 

To help get a handle on what makes for a good job application in Chicago tech, we talked to three companies — a digital marketing agency, a B2B review site and a hiring analytics firm — to find out what they look for in a candidate. Here's what they said:
 

Answers from co-founder and CEO Tim Handorf.

G2 Crowd is a peer-to-peer review site built to bring transparency to the B2B software purchasing process. They do this by letting verified users share their unedited opinions on the software they employ in their daily work. This information is then shared for public consumption. People buying software for their businesses use these reviews to help make a decision on which software to purchase.

The most important thing you look for in a candidate?

Culture fit is our number one priority at G2 Crowd. That culture fit encompasses a few important traits that we look for in individuals, which also embodies our company values. We look for individuals who have an entrepreneurial spirit, are compassionate, want to achieve excellence and are continuous learners.

How do you prioritize other traits and skills?

Our first priority is to find a good culture fit. Then we begin the process of evaluating the past success, skills and test results this candidate brings to the table. The test results are from a pre-screen assessment of general aptitude and personality.

The most effective cover letter you’ve seen?

One candidate, who now works at G2 Crowd, had a cover letter that really stood out. He spoke about having taken part in the early stages of a G2 Crowd user testing group, in 2013. He had also created his own business and had served as an Army sniper leader. The experiences he described embodied our culture of entrepreneurship, hard-work and passion and it has stuck with me to this day. My favorite cover letters are ones where individuals are proud of something they’ve accomplished or they express their passion.

The interview question you lend the most weight to?

A common question we like to ask candidates is: what is the hardest thing you have ever done? It is an opportunity for individuals to show how they handle adversity and overcome it. We value individuals who enjoy being challenged and can take on problems head first.

The most unusual approach from a job applicant who got the job

A member of our development team didn’t join G2 Crowd based on the company — he joined based on the leadership and culture. Our founders worked together at a company called BigMachines. This individual had heard about their unique and positive leadership-style from Glassdoor and was determined to work with them. He was disappointed when he learned the leadership team had left BigMachines, so he began to research where they had gone. Sure enough he tracked them down, sold himself as a candidate and became one of G2 Crowd’s first employees.

What differentiates a good resume?

First, I rarely look at a resume. The vast majority of the time I am looking at a LinkedIn profile.  However, in a resume (or a LinkedIn profile, I want to see the key highlights of the candidate and achievements in each role. Cluttered and busy resumes are a big turn-off but incomplete information provides only part of the picture. The candidate should find a balance of just the right information and present it in an organized fashion.

What makes you delete an email right away?

Spam.
 

Answers from Melissa Ryan, director of talent.

Hireology believes that a business owner's first step to building successful companies is building great teams. The company was founded on the idea that analyzing the behaviors of top-performing employees can help organizations create highly accurate systems for identifying the best candidate for the job. Its technology, process and industry expertise helps businesses streamline and improve their hiring process, resulting in smarter hiring and stronger company performance.

The most important thing you look for in a candidate?

We think that the ultimate arbiters of success at Hireology are: (1) fitting with our core values and culture, and (2) passion for what we’re doing as a company. We certainly appreciate previous work experience, credentials, and skills, but our recruiting process is really designed to go beyond these attributes to truly determine a candidate’s fit on those dimensions.

How do you prioritize other skills and traits?

Intrinsic motivation, drive and work ethic as well as culture fit are at the top of the list. Experience and skill are important as well, but in most roles, we can teach someone how to do a task, but we can’t make them want to do it.

The most effective cover letter you’ve seen?

I appreciate a cover letter that speaks directly to why the applicant wants the role, and why they want to work at Hireology. If you don’t have the exact experience that we’re looking for, but you explain in a compelling way why you want to do that job at Hireology, it catches my attention.

The interview question you lend the most weight to?

Our interviews are designed to go beyond resumes and high level platitudes. We really want to understand “What motivates you?” and “Why Hireology?” We’re trying to find out if an applicant truly wants to be part of our company and culture and whether they have the capacity to be a proactive, positive contributor to our company.

The most unusual approach from a job applicant who got the job

Many Hireology employees have unique backgrounds, but one of the most unusual was the time we hired an Uber driver. One of our people met the candidate during an Uber ride, and he was looking for something new, and we ended up hiring him!

What differentiates a good resume?

Making a resume stand out from the crowd is really challenging. I look for a well-structured and readable resume that flows well, and has numbers to back up their accomplishments.

What makes you delete an email right away?

Poor grammar and spelling mistakes are instant disqualifiers for me. And it happens surprisingly often! My advice to job seekers is to proofread their resume, cover letter, and emails. Then proof read them again. And then have a friend or someone else proof read it to make sure nothing is missed. So much of our success is based on successful communication and if an applicant doesn’t display quality communication in the initial outreach to Hireology it creates strong concerns that they will struggle on a day to day basis.
 

Answers from Joanna Kontoudakis, director of human resources.

closerlook is a digital marketing agency that specializes in helping pharmaceutical brands build and maintain meaningful relationships with their most valuable customers. Its 100-plus employees specialize in digital strategy, user experience, creative design and writing, data analytics, web and mobile application development, video, and program management.

The most important thing you look for in a candidate?

While a pharma or healthcare background is a plus, we’re looking for people who can thrive and succeed in their roles who possess the soft skills we’re looking for — people who are self-starters and can identify problems and work through them. They collaborate and work well within a team atmosphere.

How do you prioritize other traits and skills?

They are truly all a priority and we weigh these concerns equally.

The most effective cover letter you’ve ever seen?

The more focused, the more effective. We love seeing cover letters that parallel experience with what the job requires. We view this as someone who has done their research and is excited about the opportunity at closerlook, not just any opportunity. Getting to know us as an agency and the type of work we create on behalf of our clients shows initiative and commitment to good work — both are values we look for in candidates.

The interview question you lend the most weight to?

We are problem solvers, self-starters and collaborators; inherently we weigh heavily on answers that demonstrate all of these things. We don’t just look for the right answer, but one that shows people have done the work, know the thinking behind it and can tell an interesting story with it.

The most unusual approach from a job applicant who got the job

We like referrals. We’re a niche agency and if you have a friend or someone in your extended network here, chances are you’ll have a better idea of the type of work we do for the pharma industry, and aspects about our culture that make us unique. A recent new hire came with a friend to an after-hours event we hosted, met with a few staff members, made great connections and ended up applying for a position. The fact that he came here first for fun and came back to work was telling about what he liked, and was not the typical method of getting a job with us.

What makes you delete an email right away?

Our agency’s needs are best supported by candidates with experience. We pass on emails from people who apply for jobs with little or no experience matching the role. We don’t receive many but do get a few here and there.

 

Related: Best Startups to Work for in Chicago

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