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Location: Silicon Valley (30)

  • Silicon Valley Talent Wars: Is broadcasting $250k salaries the right move for anyone?

    Article by Scott Purcell, Division Manager in Jobspring Silicon Valley.

    Salary in Silicon Valley has always been a hot topic. Way back in the old days of 2013, I wrote what became a popular blog post about at 175k offer generated for a Big Data candidate that was turned down for an opportunity at pre-IPO twitter. Since then, things have only heated up here in Silicon Valley with companies ranging from Facebook and Google to the brand name pre-IPO companies like Box and Palantir to the next generation of startup hopefuls, all competing for the best talent.

    Companies have tried varied tactics to attract talent ranging from salary, equity, sign on bonuses, fun perks, to good old fashion selling their opportunity. But what is the best way to attract talent? Recently, there was an article with wide circulation that discussed a local startup offering $250k per year and $1 Million dollars in four years to any engineer that essentially meets their expectation. This article kind of got me thinking; should companies be going out of their way to use this tactic to attract talent? I’m not suggesting there’s a right or wrong answer and I also don’t think $250k is as much as it sounds in Silicon Valley, but I thought I’d share my pros and cons of advertising what is still an explosive salary these days in Silicon Valley:

    Find Your Next Career in Silicon Valley

    Pro Argument:

    The main pro here is, who isn’t attracted to making a million bucks or 200k + a year to do their job if that’s above the normal salary? Most would like the idea. Ultimately, the software engineers are the ones that build the product, so why not pay them what executives and some sales people are making at companies? This seems pretty logical. Being transparent about this also creates a somewhat level playing field and avoids issues that can arise when you have people making different amounts.

    As a recruiter that has worked with over 500 companies during my career, I often hear companies talk about why someone should take their job for less money because of the potential equity, career opportunity, or many other factors that can’t really be guaranteed. It is refreshing that a company would reward the employee up front vs. the promise of something in the future that may or may not happen.  

    Cons Argument:

    On the flip side, to me, it would seem there are some definite risks to attracting the right employees by putting out what is essentially an advertisement to come to a place because of salary. As I mentioned in the pros, who wouldn’t be attracted to that type of offer? Why is that a problem? Well, I would imagine that any engineer would want to apply for that potential offer. It may be difficult to determine who really is passionate about the opportunity. If that doesn’t matter to you and you just want the talent, then that doesn’t matter as much. But most startups I've dealt with care about company culture and that’s exactly the reason companies like Amazon and Google have unique and intricate hiring committees. You run the risk of hiring people that know how to interview well and are really just after the money. It may be difficult, even impossible to know who really is passionate about the opportunity and, in an industry where the best people seem to value employees who do their job out of a passion and not just as a job, this could definitely be a slippery slope.

    I would sum up this topic by asking another question, is $250k that crazy of a salary these days in Silicon Valley? In a place where getting a house for a family in a good school district can cost a minimum of $1 Million - $2 Million dollars, that may be an interesting topic or question to ponder moving forward!

    Find your next career

  • Evolving Trends and Competitive Advantages According to Silicon Valley

    Article by Jason Cooper, Practice Manager in Jobspring Silicon Valley.

    With a record number of IPOs and companies like Beats By Dre and WhatsApp being acquired in the billions, venture capital firms continue to dump more and more money into technology-driven startups, hoping to hit on the next big thing. Thus, it’s no surprise that the demand for engineering talent is approaching an all-time high. Job-seekers and companies are always looking for those things that can give them a competitive advantage in the hiring process. 

    Silicon Valley is at the forefront of it all, and is a good place to look at trends in the market. A couple of months back, I was approached by David Ramel, a technical editor of MSDN Magazine, and asked about the use of social media sites, open source contributions, and general themes we are seeing out here in San Jose. What follows is a Q and A of that interaction.

    Q: Have you seen evidence of recruiters/hiring managers paying more attention to participation in tech-oriented social media sites such as Stack Overflow, Quora, and Slashdot when evaluating job candidates?

    A: At this point, I think recruiters are making use of sites like Stack Overflow and Quora more so than hiring managers. I think this is due to the fact that there are more open positions than qualified job-seekers. So recruiters are constantly trying to find new ways to source and connect with potential job-seekers. There is no doubt that these sites are becoming a more popular place for engineers to showcase their skills and knowledge of technology trends. However, I think the evaluation of job-seekers (both technical and cultural) still primarily takes place during the interview(s).

    Q: If so, are these becoming more important than traditional evaluation methods such as resumes, CVs, screening interviews, and so on?

    A: I still think that interviews are the most effective way to evaluate potential candidates. Resumes are a helpful tool, but they often don’t tell the whole story. That’s why I meet my job-seekers in-person and go through their background in detail. I’ve been able to schedule interviews for some job-seekers with nothing more than a quick pitch of their background over the phone. Contributions to these types of sites can help set you apart, but it’s not as if a talented engineer will be penalized by a client for not doing so. Again, I do think that participation on these sites is a way for engineers to get noticed, leading to more opportunities being presented to them.

    Q: Do you foresee these new evaluation techniques surpassing those traditional methods in importance/usage?

    A: The modern day job search has greatly evolved over the last several years. As recruiters and hiring managers try to streamline the interview process and find more efficient ways to hire quickly, I think it’s entirely possible that these new evaluation techniques will play a greater role in the decision making process.

    Q: Have you found that open source project contributions/participation are becoming more important?

    A: I think open source contributions say a lot about an engineer. As a recruiter, it tells me that someone is passionate about what they do and plays an active role in the tech community. Again, there are plenty of great engineers that aren’t going to have open source contributions to point to, and that’s fine. However, if someone is very active in the Linux community or is an Apache committer for example, it surely will capture the attention of recruiters and hiring managers.

    Q: Are hirers using specific big data analytics techniques in their evaluations with respect to the aforementioned trends? If so, any specifics as to the techniques/strategies or software packages being used?

    A: I suppose that this could be happening, but I’m not aware of it yet. However, it seems like a natural progression as many companies look to leverage big data analytics in a variety of ways.

    Q: What would be your advice to software developers/engineers looking to advance their careers with respect to these trends? What specific things can they do to enhance their job prospects in the new age of social media and big data?

    A: I think you want to make sure that what you are putting online and sharing in the open source community is something you are proud of and can stand behind. If you are going to share links to your code/projects on your resume or LinkedIn profile, you want to make sure it highlights your strengths. I think the site that’s getting the most attention, especially from hiring managers, is GitHub. For someone looking to enhance their job prospects, that would be the first place I would start.

    Q: With respect to the previous question, how does your advice vary for new developers seeking initial employment versus experienced developers seeking to advance their careers?

    A: The entry-level engineer out of a top computer science program will have no problem landing a job. They really don’t need to do much to attract the attention of potential employers. The Facebook’s and Google’s of the world will snatch these folks up quickly, and often before they even graduate. However, for those engineers not coming out of high profile schools, I think contributions to sites like Stack Overflow, GitHub, etc. become much more important. Without real world career experience, this is a fantastic way for them to showcase their knowledge and skills.  

    Q: Beyond the aforementioned trends, are you seeing other ways that software development/engineering recruiting/hiring is changing?

    A: In recent years, top tier software engineers have become almost like blue chip recruits in collegiate sports. It’s a candidate-driven market and they often have their pick from a handful of job offers. Thus, companies are constantly altering their interview process, sales pitch, compensation packages, and perks to be more attractive than the competition. In 2009, companies could retain and recruit engineers because the majority of them were happy just to have jobs. Now, recruiters and hiring managers really need to sell their opportunity to potential candidates from the get-go, and throughout the interview process if they have any hope of capturing their attention.

    Q: On the flip side, are you seeing other ways that job-seekers are amending their strategies?

    A: Most analysts predict the demand for engineering talent to continually increase over the next 10-15 years. Provided this trend continues, which I think it will, I see sites like Dice, Monster, and CareerBuilder becoming much less relevant. The job-seekers I know who publically post their resume online can get anywhere from 10-50 calls and/or emails a day. The internet is a great way to advertise that you're looking for a job, but it results in a lot of “noise” with very little filter. Many of the good engineers out there will choose to be more selective in their job search. They may turn to their friends or former colleagues for referrals to specialized agency recruiters or introductions to the hiring manager at their current company. Trust me, if you have a detailed profile on LinkedIn, the good companies and recruiters will find you. You can sit back and choose which ones you respond to and there is no need to subject yourself to the endless calls and emails that come with posting your resume on these sites. It’s gotten to the point where some of the job-seekers I represent no longer have a conventional resume. They simply use their LinkedIn profile in lieu of one, and many clients could care less. It’s about what they can do from a programming standpoint, not about their ability to write a resume.

    Q: What skills are most in demand, in terms of areas of expertise and/or specifics such as experience with programming languages/tools?

    A: Unless you are coding in antiquated languages like VB.Net or ActionScript, chances are your skillset is needed somewhere. However, there are several areas that I think are growing faster than others. I have seen a tremendous amount of demand for engineers with experience building mobile applications for iOS and Android. I see a lot of companies looking for exceptional JavaScript engineers, especially those who have experience with Node.js. Also, there continues to be high demand for people with Hadoop experience as well as data scientists.

     

    In closing, the modern day job search is definitely evolving. The standard resume and job board account is no longer the way to get noticed. While social media and open source community projects make it easier to find and connect with potential candidates, people still hire people. There will always be a place for talented recruiters as it’s a relationship-based business. No matter how many questions you answer on Quora, or how great your resume or GitHub account looks, there is always going to be a personality/cultural component to hiring that I don’t think technology will be able to account for.

  • Tips and Insight from Generation Y

    Article by Daniel Urbaniak, Practice Manager in Jobspring Silicon Valley.

    Recently, Tech in Motion: Silicon Valley hosted the largest event in its history, featuring four members of this years’ Forbes 30 under 30 at the Microsoft building in Mountain View. With over 300 attendees, the house was packed to see Robert Scoble, American blogger, technology evangelist, and published author and Perri Gorman, CEO of Archive.ly moderate four young success stories of Silicon Valley: Morgan Knutson, Chief Product Designer at Dropbox, Lisa Falzone, CEO and co-founder of Revel Systems, Steven Eidelman, Co-founder of Whistle, and AJ Forsythe, Co-founder and CEO of iCracked.

    The night opened with a few crowd-sourced questions to warm up the panel and engage the audience. Topics ranged from, “how did you go about raising money when you first started” to “what was it like making your first real hire”. Many of the answers left the crowd inspired while providing them with a humbling look into the successes and failures of a group no older than 29. Throughout the presentation, there were three moments during the meetup that really stuck with me.

    The first was a conversation that started backstage – Generation Y, and what it's like running a company in the age of entitlement. Being in that generation and having complained about my generation (I’m sure someone has complained about me at some point, as well) I was very curious about what the group would have to say. There was definitely agreement across the board, entitlement is something that they deal with while running their respective companies. However, the conversation turned from a generalization of Generation Y to finding people who are inspired. The group talked about what it was like starting their companies and how there were many times when they could have walked away. The desire to take nothing and make it into something was what kept them motivated. AJ even made the joke that every night he goes to bed pulling out his hair but every morning he wakes up and can’t wait to get to work. He’s 26, by the way, and has over 300 full time employees and twice that working as contractors.

    “Fake it till you make it” was a phrase that was enjoyed by the crowd, you could tell because it was tweeted on our rolling twitter feed 10+ times. The message boiled down to the idea that when you're new at something and you've never experienced certain situations in the business world, it's important to keep working until the unfamiliar becomes familiar. The panel all shared their personal anecdotes on times in their careers where they needed to project an air of confidence while going through specific experiences for the first time. Lisa even shared that she started selling her product before it was even fully created.

    The final piece was actually the last question that was asked by a member of the audience. It was so spot-on, that if I wasn't involved with the organizing of the event, I would have thought it was planted. Erik Finman, who cashed in $100,000 in Bitcoins to launch his own education startup called Botangled, stood up and asked what kind of advice you would give a fifteen year old programmer and entrepreneur who just moved from Idaho to try and get his first company off the ground. Fifteen!!! The group shared some words of wisdom, but the two common themes were to have as much fun as possible with the company, and to learn as much as possible. There was even a joke or two thrown in there that he needed to sit on the stage with the rest of the group.

    After the presentation, many of the audience members stuck around to network. The overwhelming theme when discussing the panel was inspiration. Whether you want to start your own company, take the first or next step in your career, or learn to better manage your team, there was something for everyone to take home and implement in their everyday lives.

  • Instant Gratification is Holding You Back: It’s Okay to Smell the Roses

    Written by Daniel Urbaniak, Practice Manager in Jobspring Silicon Valley

    Type, type, dial, hang up, voicemail… email, email, dial, “Hello, how are you?” “Let’s make it happen”, type, dial, email, “How can you help me right now?” Repeat.

    Sound familiar?

    As a culture we’ve grown ever more reliant on instant gratification. Understandably so, with a constant race to see who can get there first and how you can help me this second. Work and life is becoming progressively faster-paced, and details begin to blur together. Magnify that by 10 if you are in sales, and you have a recipe for missing important details.

    As a Sales Manager, I fall into this trap way too often, as I’m sure most of you do as well. Sure, moving quickly, delivering on due dates, hitting numbers and constant hustle are the name of the game. However, it becomes necessary to look at the big picture before you become the hamster who is addicted to running on its wheel. Once in a while, we need to slow down, take a look around and see where we can add value, even if it doesn’t directly impact our bottom lines.

    In February, I received an email from an Afi Bryant, Career Service Advisor at The Art Institute of California- Silicon Valley. What caught my eye was Afi’s title, Career Service Advisor for a local Art Institute. I knew Afi was reaching out on behalf of her students; there would be no purple unicorn resume here.

    In Silicon Valley, our services are not typically used for entry-level candidates and at the time I knew I wouldn’t be much help to Afi for finding open positions for her students. Then I remembered how daunting it was for me to graduate college and think, “What in the world am I going to do now?” So I stopped, asked the office if anyone knew of any entry-level positions, and as I imagined, crickets ensued. I decided to just give Afi a call.

    The conversation was immediately better than expected. Afi was a native of the same area I relocated from roughly a year before, and we ended up talking at length about a quarterly event that they hold, where local tech companies stop by for two or three hours to sit down with soon-to-be graduates to discuss interviewing best practices, job search techniques, and general feedback on their portfolios. It sounded like a great way to give back to the community, so I volunteered us right away. After the event, we realized that not only was this something that we’d like to continue to do as an organization, but that the Art Institute had a great space for events.

    One month later, the Art Institute was host to the largest Tech in Motion: Silicon Valley event in its history. 320 attendees packed the Art Institute for the ‘Women in Tech Panel’ event which featured Perri GormanKimber LockhartSophia PerlLisa FalzoneMarissa Louie, and Ewa Ding. Not only was this very rewarding for all 320 attendees and the technical individuals on campus, but it also allowed the culinary students to display their talents. (Thanks for the food, guys!)

    The relationship with the Art Institute has continued to grow, and in fact, this post was inspired by Afi calling in yesterday, three months after our initial interaction. An email which ordinarily may have been overlooked will add to the success of a growing event series, and a rewarding experience for both our staff and those students that attend the Art Institute.

    The next time that you find yourself calling and emailing away, focusing on instant gratification, don’t forget to look at the big picture.

  • The Talent Crunch in Silicon Valley- Why Is It Happening and How Do We Fix It?

    Written by Scott Purcell, Division Manager in Jobspring Silicon Valley

    Lately there has been much discussion about the skyrocketing salaries and cost of living in the Bay Area. As seen here and here, it seems to be one of Silicon Valley’s biggest issues.

    However, the very important topic that isn’t getting nearly as much press is why salaries are soaring, and why is it becoming so difficult to hire and retain good talent? While this is a complicated issue with many of factors, such as the market and rising need for software in all industries, there is one reason that clearly supersedes them all; while there are more than enough people in Silicon Valley for all of the open jobs, there simply aren’t enough US Citizens, permanent residents, or Visa holders to come close to filling all the positions.

    Why don’t we have a sufficient amount of qualified Software Engineering candidates to take these jobs?

    Through tech recruiting in Silicon Valley, it becomes apparent that over the past few decades, the United States’ focus on math and science diminished. Where previous generations put a large focus on these areas, many students learned the bare minimums to get into a decent college and study other subjects of greater interest.

    Conversely, other countries around the world have seen the rise of software as an opportunity to pick up where the US has slacked off, and have put a much bigger emphasis then before on math and science. This has directly given rise to outsourcing, and an influx of people from countries like India, China, and Russia coming to the US and working computer science jobs that in previous generations would have gone to qualified engineers born and educated in the US.

    Do we have any solutions?

    I was recently asked to give a short interview on the talent crunch in Silicon Valley for KTVU FOX 2. I spoke about how our biggest challenges are finding talent born and trained both here in the US and abroad. One solution discussed in this article is specialized schools, which is a wonderful idea. I think the key take away from KTVU’s story is that we need to refocus education from a young age. While we are a generation that has shield away from math and science, we need to refocus, not just in specialized schools, but in public schools as well. Math, science, and basic programming should be taught from kindergarten on, and there should be an emphasis on the excitement that goes along with working in these fields. This is how we can prevent outsourcing abroad and get local candidates to take advantage of the plethora of high-paying IT jobs.

    We should be encouraging computer science education and promoting the opportunities that having these skills will bring. There are great resources like Coursera and Standford Online where people can go online and develop all kinds of IT proficiencies. Although it takes time and effort to learn how to program, we are a nation of entrepreneurs. Anyone who can really master these areas and show passion will have an abundance of opportunities to enter the industry.

    Lastly, the technology fields would greatly benefit from immigration reform. As it stands in the US right now, not only are there not enough Americans here who are ready to take on these jobs, but there are also a lack of Visas to bring over the best talent to keep more jobs in the US. We need to put an emphasis on a system that will allow the US to find the best global candidates. If we can make it easier for these people to work in America, (which will again cut down on outsourcing) we can continue to be the pioneering country that led the way in Computer Science, and continue to show the power of innovation that exists in Silicon Valley! 

  • Where to Live in Silicon Valley’s Booming Tech Market

    Article by Scott Purcell, Dan Urbaniack and Jason Cooper, Division Manager and Practice Managers in Jobspring Silicon Valley

    If you were to ask the average American what they picture when they hear Silicon Valley, they’d probably say the big names like Google in Mountain View, Apple in Cupertino, and the Stanford/Palo Alto lifestyle they saw in The Social Network.  While these may be the landmarks people outside of California have come to know as the epicenter of technology, Silicon Valley has become a sprawling and growing landscape represented across the bay area. With Google and Apple buying up office space left and right in their respective cities, and companies like Palantir seemingly doing the same in Palo Alto, tech startups are often forced to find other cities to call home. 

    But let’s say you want to move to the Silicon Valley; where do you start? Which areas were popular in the past and where is it hot spot now? Where will you be most profitable? Where are the startups and the big name companies located? Being in the tech recruiting space, we have all had ample experience in this market. Hopefully, with our knowledge, you’ll be able to find your perfect location to get the most out of Silicon Valley.

    Many people consider the Silicon Valley to be the technologically-savvy region ranging from San Mateo, California to San Jose. As Scott stated in a previous post, the area is booming and salaries are higher than ever. However, there is a serious concern throughout the Valley-- where do people live? How does anyone outside of the top dog execs or the plain lucky afford to live a comfortable life when an average one bedroom apartment goes for $2,100 a month?  Where do the folks working the lower-salary tech jobs go?

    Since the recession in 2010 things have slowly begun to change. A blazing hot startup and IPO market pushed salaries to record level highs, and with that market, housing prices have also risen. It has become incredibly difficult to purchase a home in the region. The local real estate market is selling faster than ever, thus driving rental prices higher and making it difficult for those not making the top bucks to live comfortably within their means.

    Surprisingly, Downtown San Jose housing seems to be plateauing at a reasonable price through this real estate resurgence. There are multiple new apartments, offices, and entertainment spaces being built in the area, and there seems to be a lot of room to expand; which begs the question, how will all of this growth affect the cost of living and the economy of the region as a whole?

    The Palo Alto area has had the largest growth in the Bay Area between the Summer of 2012 to Summer of 2013; while over the last three years, Santa Clara County has become the second fastest-growing county in California. One of the major reasons for the rapid population growth is the above average regional job growth.

    Let’s look at some of the local players within 5 miles of Palo Alto:

    1. Apple, located in Cupertino: whose stock over the last three years has grown from $422/share to $580/share, while hitting a high of +$700/share during that time period
    2. Google, Mountain View: 2010 – $610/share, 2013 - $1105/share (high-water mark)
    3. Tesla, Palo Alto: 2010 - $22/share, 2013 -$150/share, with a high +/- $200/share  
    4. HortonWorks, Palo Alto: Founded in 2011 and still pre-IPO has received almost $100 million in funding.

    So why are those numbers so important? They are directly correlated with opportunity. The common dominator for the candidates that we speak to everyday are: stability, cutting-edge technology, and an opportunity for growth. Silicon Valley is the 21st century’s American Dream- the combination of professional growth, premier technology companies, mild winters and gorgeous summers makes the region, and specifically Palo Alto, an ideal place to begin or jump start your career. Not to mention salaries that are reminiscent of the “.Com Era”.

    However, this rapid expansion has created a predictable but not-so-easy to solve problem: where can we put everyone? Forget about office space or commercial real estate issues for a minute and let’s just look at living situations. On November 5th, the voters of Palo Alto overturned a council approval for the development of 60 apartments and 12 single-family homes. The approved plan allowed housing developers to exceed zoning regulations for public benefit. The constituents of Palo Alto don’t see it this way. They think the area is overpopulated, extremely dense, and parking is a nightmare. Check out this quote from a commenter on a recent article about Measure D, the aforementioned Palo Alto proposal-

    “The damage is done and maneuvering downtown with wall-to-wall people and cars is disgusting. I’m so disappointed in this city and walk around frustrated every day I walk out my front door. I can’t drive down my street to get to my house between 3pm – 6pm, we can’t park in front of our house because all of the downtown employees, I sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic, and riding our bikes through all of this traffic is getting more dangerous…

    -Downtown Palo Alto Resident - Link

    The Peninsula has become an attractive place to set up shop. Available homes and office spaces in areas like Redwood City, San Mateo, Belmont, and San Bruno are popular choices. The rent in this region of the Bay Area is comparable and cheaper than many of the other surrounding areas. It’s no secret that there is a shortage of qualified engineering talent out there. By living in the Peninsula, more transportation options, including public, becomes a possibility. The location is fairly central to people commuting from all directions.  For example, the growing populace of tech work in Redwood City and San Francisco is just a short Cal-Train ride away. Want to go south? Taking the 280 to San Mateo or San Jose is a much more attractive option to avoid the bumper-to-bumper traffic found on one the most highly congested freeways in America.

    For many of the same reasons, in addition to the number of bridges, certain cities in the east bay, like Fremont, are also becoming more popular. Granted, Palo Alto does have a certain associated appeal, but there are many so many advantages to moving 7-10 miles up the Peninsula that they just cannot be ignored.

     

    Which Bay Area location sparked your interest? Did you find any insight to the area where you already live? Leave your comments and questions below!

  • Volunteering at Sacred Heart in Silicon Valley

    On November 7th our Silicon Valley office had the opportunity to volunteer with Sacred Heart.

    Sacred Heart Community Service was created by Louise Benson, who began this whole operation from her garage in 1964. Louise started with two critical ideas. The first is that everyone shares a responsibility in working to overcome the injustice of poverty. The second is that sufficient resources exist within our community to make this happen.

    “49 years later, these fundamental concepts of hard work, justice, and shared responsibility still frame the critical work of Sacred Heart Community Service. Sacred Heart's commitment to reach out and educate, engage, and involve the entire community in the services we provide sets it apart from other nonprofit organizations.”

    Sacred Heart has a whole operation of give-back programs, from their food pantry to their clothing closet, after school children’s programs, ESL classes, and other opportunities for the disadvantaged.

    Our office was split in two, half went to the pantry to sort food and create baskets, while the other half went to the closet to sort clothing and assist those in need.

    Much of the food donated to Sacred Heart came from Second Harvest Food bank, while others were purchased from major grocery stores. The food is sorted into two baskets, a cook basket for those who have access to a kitchen, and a ready-to-eat basket for those who unfortunately do not. It was here that we learned the importance of pop top cans, and were told the story of a man who had received a can of soup, but with no can opener. He was found opening the can on an iron gate to get to the contents inside.

    The clothes for the closet are donated at the back of their building, where we collected and sorted through each garment. We wanted to make sure the apparel is in good condition, and wanted to encourage dignity and self-respect. Each piece of donated clothing was examined for stains or holes to toss. We learned that Sacred Heart is always in need of men’s and baby’s clothing and accessories, and that the clothes collected here go straight to the needy, unlike at other charity services that sell the clothing for profit.

    As a whole, we learned so much from this experience and would love the chance to come back and help again!

  • The Key to Interviewing

    Article by Daniel Urbaniak, Practice Manager in Jobspring Silicon Valley.

    For most people, interviewing is a daunting task. There's the gauntlet-style interview process, with interviewer after interviewer for hours on end. There's the never-ending phone screen-style, with a multitude of conversations over the phone that hopefully, if all goes well, lead to an on-site meeting. And once you finally land that face-to-face interview, you might find yourself being grilled by a panel of 5 to 10 interviewers all at once. Even if the interview process is streamlined, an initial 30-60 minute interview followed by an in-depth, in-person interview can still be a roller coaster ride of emotions.

    Now, there are definitely methods to overcome the anxiety and properly prepare for success. The obvious is to stay true to yourself. Talk about what you know, and be honest when you are unsure of the answer. Every day I receive feedback from hiring managers who are looking to introduce new candidates to their team. Frequently, it goes something like, "I really like him or her, but I asked a question and they gave me the totally wrong answer. If they didn't know, they should have just said that instead of guessing and getting it completely wrong and continuing to justify that wrong answer."

    If you are looking for less of an introspective approach to interviewing, there are a multitude of articles on the web detailing interview styles, prep questions, and how to deal with different scenarios, such as whiteboarding. There's an endless supply of information, really, however it is very easy to become inundated with information and styles to the point where themes begin to contradict one another.

    You may want to consider using a recruiter, as they're often a wealth of knowledge when it comes to interviewing processes. The amount of time the recruiter has worked internally or with the client will dictate the amount of prep information that they're able to pass along. Obviously the recruiter you are working with wants you to be as successful as possible, but if this is a new client, they might not have a ton of insider information to pass along to you yet. At the same time, you could hit a similar wall with an internal recruiter or human resources, who are likely swamped with many responsibilities. Information falls through the cracks, or because you are 1 of 100 candidates interviewing, that internal resource just does not have the bandwidth to get the appropriate information to you.

    Combinations of the aforementioned tools are helpful and will contribute to your success, if used properly. The job seekers that are the most successful are those that can put themselves in the shoes of the individual on the other side of the table.

    With that in mind, I asked David Ta, Manager of Cloud Services at FireEye, to spend a few minutes with me discussing his thoughts when interviewing candidates for his team.

    Me: If someone doesn’t have the ‘full package’ from a technical standpoint, what quality or intangible traits do you look for that would make up for those missing skills?

    David: It’s pretty straight forward. I ask questions where they can work towards the answer. It shows me how they could work through problems. I am also looking for people that are intelligent, someone that inspires confidence when delivering their answer.

    Obviously, this also depends on the role that I am filling. If we are talking about a task doer, I expect a certain level of passion or someone that really puts their heart and soul into their work as opposed to someone that is just cooling to collect a paycheck. If I know this person is interacting with others, if they are light technically it’s important they can articulate themselves in a way both technical and non-technical individuals can understand. Engineering teams will eat you alive if you don’t have the ability to explain your proposed solutions.

    Me: What are the challenges and your thought process when you are considering head count and building a team?

    David: Challenges, the main thing is finding that balance between a rockstar and a team player. Of course there are candidates that are great at what they do, but they know they are great and that can be a problem for culture. Team work is just as crucial as talent. If someone is less concerned with team work but succeeding on their own work it does not matter. If the one person is failing the team is failing. This is a mentality I consider when interviewing and follow through with once they are on the team. It’s also important to find individuals who take the initiative to do things that will help the team. That’s priceless really.

    When actually considering the number of requirements a team needs, I consider the metrics. You cannot justify headcount without understanding and displaying statistics. You need actual numbers. I ‘ve been using a kanban board to visualize work across the team, and the resulting data will help me justify an actual headcount when needed.

    Me: If money was no object what resources would you seek out to help you build your engineering team?

    David: I would start hosting user groups and meetups here in our office. I would fly famous, relevant speakers (ie. Linux Torvalds) to attract as many people as we could. Obviously provide food, top shelf liquor, and soft drinks. Hopefully it would attract solid candidates and be a great marketing tool for our company. I think hosting free training sessions would also be a pretty cool way to identify talented individuals, you can build a relationship with them while they are in the office and if they excel at picking up new technology it would be an easy transition.

    Me: What would your advice be for an entry level candidate?

    David: I would tell them to go get their Red Hat (RHCE) certification. Then continue learning and advancing, eventually working toward a Red Hat Architect certification.

    When it comes to salary, do not just spit out a number. Let the hiring manager talk to you about a number. Let’s say they are thinking 120K and all you want is 80K, you can really short change yourself.

    Another thing to keep in mind while you are interviewing with any company is the interview is not just for the company, it’s for you too. Once you approach it that way you can be more confident.

    Smile a lot and create rapport with your interviewer. I read a study that people that were interviewing were more likely to remember the name of a candidate that smiled more often than candidates who didn’t.

    Me: What would be your advice for a mid-level engineer?

    David: Specifically, I hire for automation. So learn how to script and code. Don’t just put on your resume that you do whatever it is you do, but actually explain what you did and how it either saved time and money or how it improved the business.

    Me: What would be your advice for a senior- level engineer?

    David: The more programming languages you know the better. Be sure to keep educating yourself on the newest technologies. Python and Ruby seem to be the languages in demand right now, back in the day it was Perl. People tend to just stick to what they know as they get older and it can be a huge detriment if they have not expanded their skillset.

    Me: What was your most memorable response to an interview question?

    David: There is definitely one… I was interviewing a Perl expert. So I asked him, “What is the difference between for loop and foreach loop?” He told me, “Four letters.” He followed up with the right answer, but very witty.

    In Closing

    If you have a fear of interviewing or always wanted to know what that hiring manager was thinking, just put yourself in their shoes. What qualities would you look for in a candidate? David showed us it is not just about technical skills, but the whole package when building a team. There are qualities that each of us have, so take note, have confidence, and think about how you could add value to that team.

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