4 recruiters reveal how your non-technical skills can still land you a job in tech

March 16, 2017

In a world where recruiters receive thousands of applications for almost every open position, finding a unique way to stand out is a difficult challenge for applicants. While a master's degree in computer science from Harvard or a stint at Google will certainly do the trick, there is a myriad of non-technical skills recruiters want to see on applicants' resumes.

 

Dollar Shave Club had established itself as one of the preeminent tech organizations in Los Angeles long before its $1 billion acquisition last year. Aside from being bought by one of the biggest companies in the world, not much has changed for the Venice-based startup, including the need to bring on more talent. As someone tasked with sifting through hundreds of inquiries, Vice President of Talent Management and Acquisition Peter Moore said the key to accentuating an applicant's non-technical skills lies in the resume.

What are a few things that stand out on an applicant's resume that don't involve experience?

A brief summary at the header of the page is always helpful, as are professional and industry associations and organizations. 

How are you able to identify the "it" factor when vetting applicants?

Applying for a job you’re qualified for goes a long way. 70 percent of applicants are not qualified for roles they apply to, so showing your understanding of what the hiring manager is looking for increases your chances of getting noticed. Cultural fit is another important factor. We look at past experience to determine if a candidate has worked at companies that may exhibit a similar culture or style to ours. 

How often do you find quality candidates with resumes/experience that are lacking?

Honestly, it’s not easy. We have a large number of candidates apply for positions at our company and it means a recruiter could sift through 100 to 1,000-plus resumes for each position. While we review these applications, we also source proactively on sites like Built In LA, Github and Mogul.

How can applicants accentuate their non-technical/experiential skills on a resume and in an interview?

Keep the resume clean and simple. Too much clutter makes it hard to read and make an assessment. We prefer bullets versus run-on paragraphs. Identify one or two professional skills such as great communication skills (assuming communication is a requirement of the job) within the context of the bullet or answer you give. 

 

Though their headcount might be small in comparison to some of the other companies on this list, Venice-based blockchain developer Gem is in the process of rapidly expanding their roster. According to ‎people operations manager Madeline Mann, the company often finds itself leaning toward an employee that might seem unqualified at first glance for the role they are interviewing for. 

What are a few things that stand out on an applicant's resume that don't involve experience?

What stands out is when a candidate knows exactly what they want — the industry, type of company and the role. A candidate may be highly qualified, but if they can't articulate why our industry and type of company is compelling to them, then the passion may not be there. Additionally, we look for candidates who have a hunger for challenges and knowledge — they could have a blog about their interests, or started a meetup group, or set out to create something complex just for the thrill of it. These are all great signs of curiosity and taking initiative. 

How are you able to identify the "it" factor when vetting applicants?

Humility is the ingredient Gem holds paramount. This opens the door for great collaboration and empathy in the workplace. We are able to identify this by seeing how much ownership they take over their situation. Do they blame others for failures and bad work situations or do they acknowledge their role in the situation and actively work to improve it? 

How often do you find quality candidates with resumes/experience that are lacking?

We often become enchanted by candidates whose skills aren't exactly at the level we had set out to find. That is because attitude and non-technical skills are more difficult or at times impossible to teach, so when we find someone who is well-rounded with a great attitude we hire them and invest in their development once they join the team. 

How can applicants accentuate their non-technical/experiential skills on a resume and in an interview?

When a candidate has excellent follow-up questions in an interview, it always impresses the team because it reveals their listening and analytical skills. I've also seen candidates bring work samples that walk us through their thought processes on a project. This is very rare, and it takes a level of creativity to distill one's work into a story with visuals. 

 

Loot Crate was on pretty much every publication's list of hottest tech companies of 2016, and that success hasn't slowed at all in early 2017. For recruiting manager Allen Fei, the thing he looks for most is an applicant's passion. 

What are a few things that stand out on an applicant's resume that don't involve experience?

Passion. People at Loot Crate have a tremendous amount of passion beyond what they do at work. Whether it's gaming, LARP or comics — we have a lot of people here who are passionate about something outside of work, and that readily translates into identifying with our core customers.

How are you able to identify the "it" factor when vetting applicants?

Just by speaking to them. When someone is excited and enthusiastic about something, they start talking really excitedly about it and you can feel the energy and intensity level increase as your chatting with them.

How often do you find quality candidates with resumes/experience that are lacking?

More often than not. But at the same time, you have to have some translatable experiences on paper as well, because there are just as many passionate people with relatable experience than passionate people with no experience whatsoever.

How can applicants accentuate their non-technical/experiential skills on a resume and in an interview?

They say cover letters are dead, but I would disagree. I will spend a few seconds to scan a cover letter because templates are easy to spot. If I come across and genuine, sincere and engaging cover letter — even if they're not qualified for the role — I might reach out and tell the applicant that I loved their cover letter and would consider them down the road for something more appropriate.

 

Enervee, the world's first commerce platform based on energy efficiency, is currently hiring for a number of positions. For director of people operations and recruiting Drew Smith, a current or past role doesn't necessarily mean there aren't a number of transferable skills the applicant could apply for the new position.

What are a few things that stand out on an applicant's resume that don't involve experience?

I have a writing background, so I pay particular attention to the manner in which a person chooses to articulate themselves via their resume. I also like when people are concise, precise and their resumes seem to flow well. Additionally, I only give one pass per resume for minor spelling and grammar mistakes. Sorry, guys.

How are you able to identify the "it" factor when vetting applicants?

If I told you, I’d most certainly have to kill you! On a more serious — and less lethal note — I think the “it” factor is a moving target for each position. For engineers, perhaps it’s their Python programming experience in an e-commerce company, or machine learning expertise (along with generally being a nice human being, of course).

However, the less technical the role, the more I’d argue that the “it” factor becomes increasingly vague. At times, I can tell from an initial conversation that a person is a right fit for a role; other times, it’s a practice in iteration and the interview process itself to help a top candidate emerge.  

How often do you find quality candidates with resumes/experience that are lacking?

Almost every hire I make, there are concessions being made by the company, and I prefer it that way. If someone is being paid market value and has to stretch their skill set to be successful in a role, that’s a mutually advantageous situation for the employer and employee. If the company is properly vetting candidates, they’ll surely hire highly intelligent people with a penchant for picking up new things to adequately meet the expected business results for their position.  

How can applicants accentuate their non-technical/experiential skills on a resume and in an interview?

A way to accomplish this would be to highlight the projects or volunteer experience that speak to the job for which one is being vetted. For instance, if someone has been an accounts-receivable clerk, but is looking to transition into a social media manager role, they would really want to focus on their side projects and be as specific as possible when communicating their fit. Just because someone hasn’t held the same title as a certain role, doesn’t mean there aren’t transferable skills that can be utilized to help ease the learning curve.  

 

Images via featured companies. Responses have been edited for clarity and length.

Have a tip for us or know of a company that deserves coverage? Let us know and like us on Facebook.

Jobs from companies in this blog32 open jobs
All
Finance
Data + Analytics
Design + UX
Developer + Engineer
Legal
Marketing
Operations
Product
Project Mgmt
Sales
Project Mgmt
new
Developer + Engineer
new
Developer + Engineer
new
Developer + Engineer
new
Developer + Engineer
new