How to get a job in Chicago tech: the top tips from 2016

December 27, 2016

A new year is always full of potential, and one of the most enticing possibilities is the chance to land a new job in tech. But today’s competitive tech environment means landing that job is harder than ever.

Luckily, we talked to plenty of experts over the course of the year who know a thing or two about how to land a job in Chicago tech — and some of their advice really stood out. Below, find our top five tips for job seekers from 2016.

 

Think about whether working at startup is right for you

Is working at a startup even the right move for you? Startups aren’t right for everyone and require a certain mindset for success.

In our discussions with founders and startup vets, there were a few key traits that stood out when it comes to sticking with a startup and growing both personally and professionally.

“In order to be successful at a tech company, an individual must be committed to three things: learning, communicating and collaborating. It’s key to be an active listener, ask good questions, and make connections to the big picture,” said PowerReviews’ CEO Matt Moog. “At PowerReviews, we’ve found that our most successful employees go above and beyond what’s asked of them to solve problems, create opportunities, and improve efficiency — both within their own functional areas and across the organization.”

 

Go beyond the job description

Sometimes, a job description can stop you in your tracks. But if it’s a growing company that you really want to work with, you may be surprised at the potential for employment.

When we talked to companies hiring salespeople, we were surprised at how out-of-the-box the hiring process can be. Things like humor and curiosity often drove hiring decisions over just past sales experiences.

“Some of the best salespeople we have hired didn't come from a traditional sales background,” said ReviewTrackers’ vice president of sales Josh Fosburg. “We have worked with fantastic salespeople who were teachers or those who are in the middle of writing novels. We guess what we are trying to say is we don't let resumes do all the talking.”

 

Be prepared for tough questions

Once you land an interview, it’s time to start preparing for a barrage of well-aimed questions (if you haven’t started already). While standard questions like “What do you bring to this role?” should come easy to you, harder questions are your chance to shine.

We talked to some of Chicago tech’s biggest hirers about the questions that usually reveal the most in their interviews. Sometimes, they were questions that were meant to make sure an interviewee would succeed in the role, while other times they looked deep into what motivates a potential hire.

“A common question we like to ask candidates is: what is the hardest thing you have ever done?” said G2 Crowd co-founder and CEO Tim Handorf. “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.”

 

Learn how to stand out in a good way

For some high-demand openings, standing out can help you land the job. Sometimes, that means having some great answers that make the interviewer laugh or understand your passion for the position. Other times, that means asking the right questions at the right time.

One good way to stand out is to ask about the future of the company, either talking about where growth is happening or how that growth can change things.

“This shows the candidate has a genuine interest in the company's success and is looking to stay long-term,” said Heather Redisch, Yello’s vice president of talent acquisition. “In startups and high-growth organizations, just a few years can make a big difference, and it's important that candidates realize that.”

 

Always come with questions of your own

Almost every interview wraps up with someone from the company asking “Do you have any questions for us?” It can be one of the most nerve-wracking sections of any interview, but it can also be the most rewarding if you come prepared.

In our interviews with three Chicago tech startups, the best questions they’ve been asked range from the serious to the silly, but they always help both parties make sure there’s a good fit in the works.

“My interview style is conversational, so the questions I love getting asked are ones that keep the conversation going,” said Linda Corman, TurboAppeal’s human resources director. Once, Corman was asked what keeps the team as a group motivated — a question she said impressed her. ”This might not seem like an earth-shattering question, but it stuck out to me because I could hear one of their values: they like to get things done and wanted know what makes us tick. It started a great conversation about how we show TurboAppeal’s values, and how we typically solve challenges we might face. I got a better sense of that candidate, and they got a better sense of what we’re about.”

 

Images via featured companies. 

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