Ace your interview: What 4 Chicago tech companies look for when they hire

by Alton Zenon III
September 12, 2018

When searching for jobs, it’s easy to feel like just another fish in a deepening sea. So what does it take to stand out from the crowd? We spoke to talent acquisition professionals at four companies about what you can do to make a real splash during the interview process and let companies know your worth.

 

Entire ActiveCampaign team assembled for meeting
image via activecampaign

ActiveCampaign provides automation software companies can use to run effective, targeted digital marketing campaigns. Anil Puli, tech talent acquisition manager, and Sasha Katz, talent acquisition manager, provided some insight into what they feel makes a candidate stand out.

 

What is the most important characteristic you look for in new hires?

Katz: Humility. No matter which role you are taking on, this is critical to our organization and to anyone’s success here. In order to build an inclusive environment, candidates must have a level of humility and take others’ opinions and ideas into consideration in everyday decisions.

Be authentic, show up as you are and be prepared.”

 

Can you share a recent example of how an applicant demonstrated that characteristic?

Puli: We recently interviewed an engineer who comes from an organization that functions very differently in comparison to ActiveCampaign. Prior to the interview, this engineer used LinkedIn to research the interview panel, signed up for a demo account through our website and used the platform as a customer would to gain a perspective on the product. The engineer was able to strategically tailor the conversation, highlight their strengths and get the job.


How can applicants differentiate themselves during the interview process?

Katz: Be authentic, show up as you are and be prepared.

Puli: Talk about the value you’ve delivered to your current or prior employers by using examples of results, achievements and accomplishments.

 

Sertifi team posing in their office
image via sertifi

Sertifi provides tools like e-signature and payment technologies to help businesses go paper free and increase sales efficiency. Director of HR and People Operations Olivia Kilian said putting in extra effort to highlight your past, and future, can make a huge difference.

 

What is the most important characteristic you look for in new hires?

We look to bring on people who are passionate and innovative. Someone who isn’t afraid to challenge the status quo and come up with solutions, instead of just stating the problem.

We like when a candidate articulates how their previous experience aligns with our role.”

 

Can you share a recent example of how an applicant demonstrated that characteristic?

We recently had a candidate go above and beyond to present solutions to challenges they would tackle in their role here. They listened closely when we explained what the role would entail and came prepared to their follow-up interview. They put together a timeline, roadmap and plan of how they would accomplish their goals here. We were impressed by their proactiveness and creativity.

 

How can applicants differentiate themselves during the interview process?

We like when a candidate articulates how their previous experience aligns with our role. It’s difficult to find a candidate who checks every single box for desired skills and experience, so candidates stand out when they send a cover letter or LinkedIn message explaining why they would be a great fit. It also shows us that they took time to read over the role and responsibilities and made an effort to highlight their strengths.

 

FourKites team members working together on their computers
image via fourkites

FourKites, Inc. operates an analytics-based predictive supply chain platform that helps companies make deliveries on time. Talent Manager Amanda Bossie said a candidate’s pre-interview preparation can go a very long way in helping them differentiate themselves.

 

What is the most important characteristic you look for in new hires?

Attitude is a great word to use here. We focus on both behavioral and motivational interviews to allow the team to vet for all the right skills. If you have what it takes to do the job and the right attitude, we want to meet you.

We want to vet candidates to make sure they will be adding to our culture.”

 

How do applicants demonstrate that characteristic? 

During our interviews, we like to ask a lot of problem-solving and critical thinking questions to see if the candidate has that “I can” attitude.

For example: People who can walk us through how they have improved a process or have made an impact in their current role or organization allow us to see how they took a problem or pain point and created a positive solution.

 

How can applicants differentiate themselves during the interview process?

When a candidate comes into FourKites, we ask them to explain who we are based on the research they have done before the interview. Reading our blog, press releases and having a basic understanding of the supply chain space is something we have seen set candidates apart.

We also want to know why you want to be part of the team in that position in particular. Where do you see your career growing, and how does that align with the need we have here? We want to vet candidates to make sure they will be adding to our culture.

 

Smokeball team on outing in Chicago
image via smokeball

Smokeball gives small law firms efficiency-boosting legal practice management software. Vice President of Sales Michael Renderman gave us an example of how a candidate, now an employee, put forth extra work to prove their value.

 

What is the most important characteristic you look for in new hires?

We love when we run into people who have a passion for sales and have either practiced law in the past or are familiar with the legal space. Also, we look for demonstrated sales performances — not just the numbers, but how the person succeeded and made it happen. We like people who are high-energy, positive and self-aware about what they do well and skills they want to develop.

We like people who are high-energy, positive and self-aware.”

 

Can you share a recent example of how an applicant demonstrated that characteristic?

We had a candidate interview for a specific role. That person’s background didn’t match the experience level we were seeking, although we liked the candidate from a culture standpoint. That person really wanted to join the company, and she came back to us with a different idea of how we can bring her into the organization. We thought it was a great idea and decided it was good for the business. The passion to join the organization really stood out to us.

 

How can applicants differentiate themselves during the interview process?

Be yourself, be genuine and be honest. Also, to the best of your abilities, understand who we are, what we do, who we service and how your experiences can make an immediate impact. Ask great questions so you can get clear sense of whether Smokeball is the right place for you.

 

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