“What do Tech companies want from graduates?”Posted: February 5, 2014
gradireland recently attended a symposium organised by the HEA which addressed this question. Panellists included representatives from Altocloud, Fidelity Investments, the Irish Internet Association and Storm Technology. Here we report back on the findings.
What do recruiters look for?
I can already hear you groan! Employers ALWAYS say this, but WHAT DO THEY MEAN?!
When deciding which graduates to hire, the recruiters perspective is that ‘technical competency’ is demonstrated by your academic achievements and knowledge. Your success at University shows your ability to learn. That is all the employer needs when looking for graduate hires – their approach is that they will teach you what they need you to know for their business anyway, once you have been hired.
There are two sides to knowledge: one is gathering knowledge (learning); the other is applying it. Your application will be enough to show the recruiters your ability to learn; you need to show them that you can continue to learn; and that you can apply this learning. They will find this believable if you show passion. So passion in this context means genuine interest, a curiosity in ‘how things work’. They want you to show that you like taking things apart to find out how they work (and what you learned when you tried to put it back together again or to build an improved version). You need to show how you have applied your knowledge, through work placement, projects, entrepreneurial or charitable ventures, etc; that you are not afraid to get your hands dirty with code, and that you are not afraid to fail in order to learn.
Curiosity and interest
You don’t need to be a massive ‘techy’ to get into Tech companies – showing curiosity and interest can get you through the interview, then company training can provide any technical development required to get you up to speed. A good example is if you have an interest in art. The ability to visualise in the tech sector is really important, so if you are interested in applying your creativity in a practical way and can work in a multi-disciplinary team, you could build your career in tech.
All agreed that this is a must-have. Best way to demonstrate that you have the required skills? Take on a team project, and if possible work in multi-disciplinary teams so that you can prove you can work with non-technical colleagues (see also ‘Connectivity’ below).
Killer CVs and interview tips
The CVs from everyone in your class all look the same, trust me. Recruiters are crying out for you to stand out and make it easy for them to hire YOU. So how do you do it? Keep the boring stuff to a minimum, eg qualifications; you all have pretty similar ones! You have 2 pages (max) so don’t waste this space. Recruiters don’t want to see a long bullet point list of every topic you’ve covered in your undergraduate studies, they want to see the key elements that are relevant to their business and the job you’re applying for; they want to know about your Project (see below); and they want you to pithily demonstrate the passion and interest you have for their business and your career through your experiences.
At Careers Fairs, never just hand in your CV to a recruiter behind a stand and walk away. Talk to them, they are there to meet you! Make an impression, THEN hand them your CV. If you watch carefully at Careers Fairs, you will always see recruiters either marking a CV or putting some into a different pile to others. These are the CVs of individuals who have engaged with and impressed the recruiters, and these are often the ones who get called for interview.
The most important thing you’ll be asked about at interview will be your Project. You need to know your Project inside out, and be able to discuss the learnings you took from it. If you are an undergraduate and still thinking about what your Project could be on, then try to identify a ‘problem’ in industry/business that needs to be solved (eg a mechanical operation that could be made easier through a software application), then research it – this process gives huge value to employers and is gold-dust at interview.
The skills conversation always goes something like this:
Students: “yeah, ok, passion… yep; personalise my CV… got all that… but what do you actually want me to know when it comes to hard skills?? Just tell me, pleeeeeaase!”
Employers: “well, we want a mix of hard skills and soft skills, passion, communication…” [students stop listening].
We can report that, in terms of hard skills and knowledge areas for students and graduates seeking a technical role in Tech companies, it’s knowing about:
They also want language skills. If you want to work for the likes of Facebook, Realex or Google, languages allied to your academic qualifications are your golden ticket in.
Does that answer your question?!
Trends for the future
The ability to question data will be key, so get used to using data that is publicly available now. For example check out Dublinked, get in and start playing or hacking with free public access open data.
It’s a global world and you will be working within global teams at some point in your career. Understanding the scale of teams, having an understanding of the different roles within teams and where your role sits, is really important; as is showing that you have the empathy and communication skills to work with non-technical colleagues, eg marketing and sales. Business is always business, and showing awareness of commercial necessities is a real asset in the recruitment process.
Final tips from the top Tech recruiters…
- Demonstrate teamwork, show that you can learn and share.
- For technical roles, you have to show you can get down and dirty with code.
- Talk about where you’ve failed and what you learned. Especially in IT, many of those interviewing you will have learned more from failures and experimentation than from success.
- Show stickability. Talk about something you really struggled with, but stuck at and found a way to make it work. This will also demonstrate your passion and determination.
- Practice your interview skills. Prepare thoroughly, and know your Project inside out.
- Research the company interviewing you as widely as possible, including reading any press about them. Not knowing what your prospective employer is doing and what their goals are is a big no-no and it’s a question you will always be asked at interview.
- There are plenty of roles in tech companies for non-technical graduates from all disciplines, be open-minded and curious.