Land that interview: 4 Boston tech recruiters share advice for job seekers

by Justine Hofherr
January 29, 2018

As we head into 2018, many people are on the lookout for new beginnings. For some, that means a new career.

To help you in your job search, we’ve gathered some tips for job seekers from a handful of local tech recruiters, covering topics like crafting the perfect cover letter to cultivating a genuine social media presence.

 

acquia
Photo via Acquia

Shawn Lugdon and Maureen Lawson, talent acquisition leads at Acquia, said that mentioning any connections you have at a company can dramatically improve your chances of landing a job.

 

What makes a cover letter strong and memorable?  

In this day and age of 'less is more,' if you're going to take the time to write a cover letter, then it should be direct, meaningful and memorable. It should be concise and directly address the key skills required for the job. Use bullets and make sure it’s easy to read. Feel free to be creative so you’ll stand out from the bunch — if you're applying for a sales or marketing role, for example, include a fun story or unique talent that will catch the reader's eye. Your cover letter is also your opportunity to answer any questions you anticipate a recruiter may have.

 

Aside from a great cover letter and strong background, how can job applicants make their application stand out?

Make sure to mention a close connection at the company — LinkedIn has a great feature for finding whom you're connected to at a particular company. Or share a real-world experience with one of the company’s products — it's important for the hiring manager or recruiter to know you've done your homework and understand the company's offerings.

 

What is one piece of advice you would give to applicants to help them land an interview?

We typically conduct phone interviews with all potential candidates. This is a great opportunity for candidates to not only learn more about the company and position but to highlight key accomplishments and experiences. Being prepared is critical. Set aside enough time for the call so you aren’t rushed and make sure you are in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed or distracted.

 

What red flags do you see too often from applicants?

A poorly written resume and making the mistake of not preparing for phone interviews. Grammatical errors, spelling errors and typos are easy fixes.

 

 

mendix
Photo via Mendix

Tara Griesbach, director of talent acquisition at Mendix, said that job candidates should consider cultivating a consistent and genuine social media presence.

 

What makes a cover letter strong and memorable?

Quality over quantity makes all the difference here. Connecting your past experience and accomplishments with your understanding of the role and company vision is important. Recruiters look for candidates that are engaged by both the opportunity and the company in which they will be joining. Lastly, human-ness and, if possible, humor is a big plus. Not being afraid to show who you are, even if it means citing learnings and — dare I say it — lessons learned by failures, are viewed as positives in my book.

 

How can applicants make their application stand out?  

Have a consistent online presence. These days, recruiters have a variety of social media platforms that we research as part of our vetting process. Think intentionally about how to portray yourself and do it in a genuine and consistent manner.  Have a full Linkedin profile with career progression and more insight into accomplishments as well as causes you believe in. It helps to get to know who you are as an overall individual.

 

What is one piece of advice you would give to applicants to help them land an interview?

Do your research. Just like the saying, “words not actions,” it’s important to truly show a company your level of interest in and commitment by taking time to research them and show your understanding of who they are and what they do. Even if you are applying to a company that is a new industry for you, you can learn a considerable amount by leveraging online resources to come up to speed on that industry landscape and highlight your true interest.

 

What red flags do you often see from applicants?

Aside from lots of spelling mistakes, a repeated history of short tenures is a cause for flags. It’s understandable to have one or two shorter stints over a career but a repeated history of them is a warning sign for potential employers who are looking for employees that want to put down roots and grow with a company.

 

 

panorama education
Photo via Panorama Education

Danielle Farina, talent recruiter at Panorama Education, said that grammatical errors are a major red flag for hiring managers, so always make sure to triple check your cover letter and resume.

 

What makes a cover letter strong and memorable?

I review over 100 applications per week; cover letters help me determine how to respond to each applicant. Well-written cover letters show that an applicant is an effective communicator, helps me understand what sets them apart from competing candidates and convinces me that they've done their research on Panorama. It also shows that they have a genuine interest in our work (mission alignment is huge for us!).

Conversely, a poorly-written cover letter (grammar/spelling errors or, my favorite, when a candidate addresses a cover letter to the wrong company) gives me the assumption that the candidate isn't detail oriented and doesn't specifically care about landing a great role at Panorama.

 

Aside from a great cover letter and strong background, how can job applicants make their application stand out?

Make your resume easy to read. Recruiters are reviewing a ton of applications so to make sure we see all of your stand-out credentials, make sure the format, font style and size are clear and orderly. Also, job descriptions list out qualifications in order of importance — tailor your resume to each job description so the first bullets we see on your resume are the ones that match the role you applied for.

 

What is one piece of advice you would give to applicants to help them land an interview?

Find a connection at the company you're applying for  — it can be second or third degree connection — and ask to be referred. Most companies have referral bonuses so team members are incentivized to help applicants land an interview.  

 

What red flags do you see too often from applicants?

Job hopping (cover letters can help bring clarity to this) and applications from grossly under or overqualified candidates.

 

 

medtouch
Photo via MedTouch

Erica Larkin, talent acquisition lead at MedTouch, said cover letters should be as unique as possible — showcase what makes you a standout candidate.

 

What makes a cover letter strong and memorable?

Specificity is key. We want to connect with a candidate who is highly interested in our specific role, not someone who’s moderately interested in many general roles. An applicant who relates his or her specific experiences or areas of expertise to the detailed requirements of the job description will stand out every time.

 

Aside from a great cover letter and strong background, how can job applicants make their application stand out?

Our online application asks candidates to share a (clean) joke and provide a short description of what makes them unique. We understand that there’s much more to who you are than your professional resume describes, and this is a great opportunity to showcase your individuality. Tell us about an accomplishment, unique hobby or specific value that you live by to catch our eye.

 

What is one piece of advice you would give to applicants to help them land an interview?

Leverage your network. Every applicant who is referred by an existing employee is guaranteed a first-round interview. Don’t feel bad about messaging someone about an open position at their company — professional networking sites such as LinkedIn exist so you can get that introduction, and most employers have referral programs that reward their employees for referring new candidates. It’s a win-win opportunity.

 

What red flags do you see too often from applicants?

Pay attention to details. Many applicants don’t take the time to understand our mission and services before sending in their application. Five extra minutes reading the “About Us” section on a company’s website will help you avoid this common pitfall. And while this may seem obvious, be sure to fill out all the requested fields and check your application for typos and errors before submitting — this is your shot at a good first impression.

 

 

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