The perfect fit: Here's what 6 Chicago tech companies look for in new hires

May 23, 2018

If you want insight into what companies look for on resumes and during interviews, you can scour the internet for second-hand advice. Or you can go straight to the source. We asked six Chicago tech companies what they look for in candidates, from the things that make a resume and cover letter stand out to the personality traits that confirm a solid culture fit.

 

tronc Chicago company

As the media company behind iconic newspapers like the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News and Baltimore Sun, tronc knows a thing or two about what it takes to build a great team. VP of Branded Content and Experiential Marketing Timothy Giles said that when hiring, he looks for candidates who are excited to talk about problem solving and who don't take shortcuts with their work.

 

What makes a resume or cover letter stand out?

Varied experience is valuable in our work. We’re unique in that we’re still very much a startup within a much larger corporate organization. That presents its own set of opportunities and challenges. When candidates who have worked in different capacities, out front and behind the scenes, with internal and external facing clients, it demonstrates they can likely handle working vertically and across the organization. I also think being clear about your objectives and goals on a resume is underrated.

 

How can you tell if someone's going to be a culture fit?

Someone who thinks like a marketer. This is number one for me. I’m biased, because it’s my background. For me, that means they’re curious, creative and adaptable. They ask questions during the interview. They get excited talking about ways to solve a challenge or problem. They pivot easily from one topic to the next. Beyond those, I’d say it’s self-awareness. The capacity to understand one’s own motives and desires leads to empathy and ultimately makes someone better at their job and a better colleague.

 

How do these traits reflect your culture and mission?

We are a people-first environment. So, it’s important that the people that work here want to engage, connect and ultimately enhance the environment through collaboration. At Studio 1847, our focus is on humanizing brands through storytelling. I think the above traits are a direct reflection of that mission. It means we listen. There are so many talented people here. I learn more by listening to my boss and colleagues than I ever do from sharing my opinions. The same holds true when dealing with clients. It means we have a unique point of view and style in how we communicate. I’m a firm believer that there’s more than one road to any destination. I think the same applies to sales and closing deals. Start with knowing how you communicate best, then put yourself in situations that play to your strengths.

And finally, it means no shortcuts. We take our role as a publisher-owned Studio, and the history of great storytelling it embodies, seriously. We take time to prepare. As salespeople, it’s easy to wing it. Yet, the best salespeople I’ve worked with only make it look like they are. The truth is, they’ve taken the time beforehand to research and learn more about the business. Do your homework. Your clients and prospects will appreciate it.

 

GoHealth Chicago interviewing

GoHealth develops technology that makes it easier for consumers to compare and purchase health insurance plans that fit their needs and budgets. GoHealth has a flat organizational structure, so one of the things senior technical recruiter Chris Birk looks for in conversations with candidates is comfortability in speaking with upper management and executives.

 

What makes a resume or cover letter stand out?

Your resume should tell a story about each individual position as well as how those tie into your overall career progression. Highlight any accomplishments that are applicable to the role for which you’re being considered. Then, think about what makes you uniquely valuable to our organization and why you stand out. We want to know about your successes and how you can replicate them at GoHealth.

 

How can you tell if someone's going to be a culture fit?

We look for energetic and innovative problem solvers who can adapt and excel in a changing environment. Prepare some examples showcasing your ability to take calculated risks and try new things to achieve goals. We want to learn about your experience leveraging data to create solutions that drive results. It’s also important to share how you are driven, consistently improving your skills and that you’re motivated to stay ahead of the curve. Being a flat organization, we need people who are successful working within a team and across teams, and who are comfortable communicating with upper management and executives. Be sure to weave that theme into your answers as well.

 

How do these traits reflect your culture and mission?

We are a fast-growing company in the ever-changing health insurance industry. We are passionate about transforming health care and improving Americans’ quality of life. It’s an ambitious mission and we look for people who can help us find better, more effective ways for people to shop for and purchase coverage that meets their needs and fits their budgets.

 

 

Guaranteed Rate interview

Getting a mortgage doesn’t have to be a time-consuming and low-tech process. Guaranteed Rate’s technology allows home shoppers to complete the process online and receive approval in as little as 30 minutes. Recruiting manager Julie McDermott said that one way she judges culture fit is by watching how interviewees react when they’re taken on a tour of the company’s office.

 

What makes a resume or cover letter stand out?

When it comes to hiring for our online sales division, it’s great to see numbers, especially pertaining to growth. Numbers that show how candidates have previously succeeded in sales positions are a huge advantage, as is having recognizable company names and titles. Standout resumes also include sales terminology and an extensive explanation of the candidate’s current role. Listing extracurricular activities is another way to get our attention. It shows that the candidate is capable of multitasking and likely has experience working well with others.

 

How can you tell if someone's going to be a culture fit?

It’s great to see candidates who have done their homework and have researched the company. We like to meet and hire people who are detail-oriented, resourceful, driven and passionate about their careers. Knowing they have taken the time to get to know the company says a lot about their work ethic. Part of our interview process includes a tour of our office space, which is another great way to see if someone would be a culture fit. When candidates react positively to the space and the way everyone works, we can gauge whether they’d be happy working in our environment.

 

How do these traits reflect your culture and mission?

At Guaranteed Rate, we have 10 core values which include putting the customer first, demanding excellence and holding yourself and others accountable. When interviewing and hiring candidates, we like to see which values that person embodies. Our core values are the backbone of the company and we want to make sure we’re bringing in people who fit into them.

 

bswift Chicago interview

Taking the pain and confusion out of employee benefits administration is what bswift is working on. Its tech is used by employers, brokers and exchanges to streamline and manage their operations. Given that the world of benefits is always evolving, it’s no wonder senior recruiter Michele Anderson keeps a sharp eye out for applicants who have an insatiable appetite for learning.

 

What makes a resume or cover letter stand out?

We’re looking for results-based resumes and cover letters. We like to see parallels between what you’ve accomplished and what you hope to do with bswift in the future. And, we look for specific instances of problem solving. We seek applicants who are driven to find the source of a problem, analyze its immediate and long-term impact and then work individually as well as with a team to brainstorm creative solutions. Ideally, we like to see how your previous experiences will help us identify areas of improvement, develop innovative solutions and continue to move our organization in a positive direction.

 

How can you tell if someone's going to be a culture fit?

Our culture is open and collaborative. We’re looking for you to feel comfortable expressing your thoughts and ideas, and in return we expect that you will be receptive to new experiences and feedback. The people we hire have an innate drive to constantly learn. While we expect applicants to be familiar with what bswift does, we know you can’t possibly know everything about us. That’s why we’re looking for you to ask us questions so we can help you better understand our organization and how you may contribute here. We also hope you’re genuinely curious about our goals, our product, our team and the industry as a whole.

 

How do these traits reflect your culture and mission?

Our core values are higher standards, greater accountability and more fun. Being a curious person means that you’re constantly seeking new and improved ways to do things, thereby encouraging you to hold yourself to a higher standard. As a problem solver, you have a “can-do” attitude, which ensures you feel accountable for finding strategic solutions to our clients’ and partners’ needs. And finally, being open and collaborative strengthens the relationships and trust you have with your teammates, allowing you to enjoy the time you spend working with them and naturally have more fun at bswift.

 

Strong Analytics interview

Strong Analytics’ team of full-stack data scientists, engineers and app developers help companies better leverage their data and implement custom machine learning solutions into their products. Co-founder Brock Ferguson said that while academic training is important, he looks for cover letters and resumes that highlight what a candidate has actually built.

 

What makes a resume or cover letter stand out?

When we read a resume or cover letter, we're looking for a balance of academic training — typically post-graduate training in a quantitative science — and a history of building and publishing real data products, whether for fun, school or work. Being able to point to things you built is much more compelling than simply having the programming and statistical skills needed to theoretically build something in the future.

 

How can you tell if someone's going to be a culture fit?

Identifying whether someone is a good culture fit is challenging because it's not always about looking for a fixed set of personality traits. Sometimes it's about being open to considering how a different kind of personality or experience could positively shape our culture. That said, there are a couple of traits that we can't see trading for anything: a generous, collaborative spirit, and internal motivation driven by curiosity and growth.

 

How do these traits reflect your culture and mission?

We want people who are excited to grow together with our team, and who can make all of us better through collaboration. Although we pride ourselves on being a team composed of full-stack data scientists who can design, research, engineer and deploy solutions, our focus on collaboration ensures that we can do the best work possible for our clients.

 

Camelot Illinois interview

If you purchased a Mega Million or Powerball ticket recently, you’ve interacted with Camelot Illinois, the new private manager of the Illinois State Lottery. Managing a state lottery is a team effort, which is why human resources coordinator Melissa Taylor said she looks for candidates who put “we” before “me.”

 

What makes a resume or cover letter stand out?

When an applicant has done their research about Camelot and has customized the resume for the job they want. When candidates can highlight change and growth on their resume, that really stands out, too. We really value soft skills and seek out culture fits. A willingness to change and the ability to work together in a collaborative team environment is important.

 

How can you tell if someone's going to be a culture fit?

When a candidate demonstrates how they’re a team player and shares examples of how they improved and worked well on a team in the past. We also like to see examples of how their positive attitude helped motivate colleagues. We look for people who have the ability to change, since we are constantly changing in this startup world. Processes are being established as we grow, and each department is learning how to do things in the most effective and efficient way for them. Having a past that shows flexibility, change, an ability to think outside of the box and a desire to work together truly is important to success.

 

How do these traits reflect your culture and mission?

We are a collaborative team. It is crucial that employees have that “we” attitude. During our first year, goals were set for departments rather than for individuals. Every day it was all hands on deck and everyone worked together to ensure their unit was successful.

 

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