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The Fordyce Letter

Straight Talk for the Recruiting Profession


How-To

How to Wow A Tech Start-Up


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Editor’s Note: Clip and copy this article, and give it to your tech candidates. This is a terrific blueprint for how to prep a candidate. Besides reinforcing the need to do their homework, it points out how important fit is, and not only to a start-up, but certainly, especially to one.

If you’re trying to place a candidate, or if you are a candidate yourself, wouldn’t you love to know exactly what the company was thinking so you could tailor your or your candidate’s approach during an interview? Well this post is to tell you specifically what we, and other tech companies, want.

In the last article I wrote (How To Recruit  For Today’s Startup) I gave some inside information on how start-ups approach hiring in general. This time around, let’s get more specific with real-world, actionable insights.

Before The Interview

A start-up’s budget is tight, and a wrong hire will eat up time and resources that we just don’t have, so we really scrutinize each candidate starting with his/her resume. Is this person a star? What projects has he worked on? Where can we see her code?

What really sparks our interest is not just a good track record of producing code, but leadership and interest in the area of expertise in general. If a resume shows contributions to open source projects, that shows us you code on your free time, which means you love it. Are you a star on GitHub? You should be. If you’ve got a great profile and track record there, especially if you’re a “gate-keeper” or respected expert in the forums, you want to bring you in.

Before The Interview

We can tell if you don’t do your homework. Scour our website. Point out its flaws and recommend fixes. Read about exactly who we are and what we do, and don’t neglect Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin to find out more information about our company.

Ask for a list of the employees you’ll interview with and do back channel research on each. Our company blog, case studies, and new features posts are great ways to learn about our current projects. If you can speak intelligently and ask questions about what you’ve read up on, you’ll stand out in the crowd.

During The Interview

If you’re here in person, we know that at least on paper, you have the skills to do the job. Now it’s about the fit. From the company blog, you should get a sense of what our culture is like. If you’re here, you’re saying you fit into that culture. We want to see that. You’re here to sell us on you, not your skills. Your resume and past experience already did that.

When we give you technical questions or tasks during the interview, believe us when we say that getting the right answer is less important than seeing the process you use to get to an answer. We want to see your willingness to try solving challenges that may surprise you. It’s not just a mind game; our team frequently runs into coding issues they’ve never dreamed of, and when a client can’t be serviced, we need them solved yesterday. We want to know if you can rise to the challenge.

After The Interview

If you come up with a brilliant solution to an interview programming task that you didn’t quite get right, don’t bother emailing us about it. You’ve already won or lost the moment you set foot out of our office. Thank you notes are sweet, but we’re a start-up. They get archived immediately. Nothing you can do now, so either pat yourself on the back for wowing us, or get a stiff drink and figure out how to do better prepare before your next interview.

This is specific to tech companies, but I have to imagine some of this will ring true with any company looking to hire. Best of luck!

And yes, we are hiring!

Robert Woo is the Marketing Manager at InsightSquared. Previously, he was mired in the SEM world both in-house (SmarterTravelMedia, Adverplex) and out (UpWordSEM). A student of viral marketing and comedy (his videos have amassed over 10 million views on YouTube, performer at ImprovBoston), his goal is to mesh these two aspects at every turn in his professional career.