How 7 Chicago tech companies spot a great job applicant — and how you can stand out

Andreas Rekdal

"Ambitious self-starter with a can-do attitude" is a common cover letter refrain, but what do those characteristics look like in real life? To help you ace your next interview or cover letter, we talked to some leading tech companies about the traits that stick out to them when considering a new hire — and how great candidates demonstrate that they possess them.


Founded in 2008, Devbridge Group creates software for companies like Bloomberg, John Deere and Microsoft. Developing software is a great way to stay mentally fit, but Devbridge likes employees who work physical activity into their daily lives, too.  

“We like people who are physically active,” said Bill Cronin, director of PMO. “It’s often an indicator of someone who understands the value of self-improvement and has good stress management. Running, soccer, basketball — whatever it is. As a result, our organization is full of active people who run marathons, play basketball and stay physically fit together as a team.”


One of Chicago’s fastest-growing tech companies, Signal makes a marketing platform that helps brands reach consumers with targeted, consistent messaging across platforms. Although changing the way online advertising works is an ambitious undertaking, the startup wants employees to do interesting things outside of work, too.

“At Signal, we look for people who have interests and passions beyond what’s on their resume. These could be ‘quirky’ hobbies — anything from glass blowing to cooking to theatre to Boy Scouts, all of which are actual examples of Signalites’ outside interests,” said Talent Acquisition Manager Rachel Kraska.

“A fire for something besides their everyday job shows that person has initiative, discipline, bravery, a sense of adventure and is motivated by more than just money,” she added. “That’s what life at a fast-growth company is all about — change, risk and wanting to build something. Plus, different backgrounds and experiences makes the Signal team more creative, interesting, and innovative.”


With its unique hybrid of on-demand rides and mass transit, Via wants to change how people get around in cities. In order to accomplish that lofty goal, the company is always on the lookout for people who are exceptional — in tons of different ways.

"It's on-demand transit on a mass scale; smart transportation that’s friendly to our planet,” said Director of Communications Gabby McCaig. “It's tough work that calls for the best and the brightest and to make sure we're finding the people we need, we set our bar at ‘exceptional.’”

"Exceptional doesn't just mean outstanding grades or a fancy diploma. We want people who have achieved greatness in all their endeavors,” she added. “Via employees have summited Mt. Everest, toured the nation in rock bands and captained submarines. By working with exceptional people, we're able to build an exceptional products and it always keeps things interesting around the water cooler!"


Founded in 2011 to bring together experienced engineers and designers who wanted to take on rewarding work, DevMynd wants new hires to be socially conscious.

“It's within our core values to do the best work of our lives that will make an impact, so it's important for us to hire people who embody that mentality and want to make a difference with their skill set,” said Client Engagement Manager Chase Hires.

“We also have many gamers on our team,” he added. “There's definitely a line between enjoying video or board games and the ability to solve problems and think strategically from what we've seen. And since the primary focus of our business is helping customers solve problems, we seek out perfectionists and those with a Type A personality. This way, our entire team is committed to shipping quality work.”


ContextMedia helps healthcare recipients improve their outcomes by offering actionable advice at the point of care. In an industry where employees need to step up to move the needle every morning, the most important trait the company’s recruiters look for in prospective employees is passion for something outside of work.

“In building a team with diverse perspectives and backgrounds, we don’t care what you are passionate about, but that you are passionate about something,” said Communications Lead Phillip de Guzman. “We’ve had candidates who played professional sports, others who are aspiring polyglots and others who actually find joy in taking apart their cars and putting them back together. We also have multiple former founders on the team, all of whom have continued to find success at ContextMedia when they are met with autonomy, leadership and ownership.”

According to de Guzman, passion is important because it is infectious, and because finding joy in other pursuits — whether it’s carpentry or brewing beer at home — helps employees get motivated about their work at ContextMedia, too.


The maker of a customer feedback platform that helps companies better understand consumers, ReviewTrackers is growing at a rapid clip. As the startup makes hires to beef up its team, one thing it’s always on the lookout for is life-long learners.

“They say curiosity kills the cat, but we love it!” said Head of Communications Mandy Yoh. “We value curiosity in all things work and life. Our potential recruits are always on the verge to learn something — they are the types of people who are constantly venturing out in the world to seek new knowledge. ”

Other key attributes, said Yoh, include going above and beyond and being intrinsically motivated by the company’s mission. ReviewTrackers also loves a candidate with a track record of resourcefulness.

“Those people who can come in and talk about how they've turned around a bad situation into a good one by lean means — you're a winner in our book,” Yoh said.


Founded in 1996, bswift makes software that helps companies and their employees navigate the increasingly complex world of healthcare and benefits. With over 500 employees, Chief Fun Officer Patrick McGarrity said, it’s hard to find a single thing they all have in common — and that’s by design.

“We don’t look for cogs to fit into a machine — we look for people who want to be part of the bswift community,” said McGarrity. “We look for people who have positive attitudes, in smooth and rough waters, who have a sense of humor and who can laugh at themselves even as they strive for excellence. We look for people who challenge themselves and their coworkers to do better, but still recognize the contributions of all, and help create a warm, friendly office atmosphere.”

“In short, he added, “we look for people who shine on their own, but also take pride in helping to build up something bigger than themselves.”


Images via listed companies.

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