By Amy Knapp
The way we apply for jobs can change dramatically depending upon a company’s hiring practices. Many times, you’d follow a traditional route to getting the job: that well-known trajectory that includes submitting a resume that hits the sweet spot, followed by interviews where you arrive with a firm handshake, looking and behaving as if you already belong.
But other companies don’t follow the usual paths to recruiting new employees. You may never have to figure out what to wear and there’s no reason to act like you’re already in. None of those really matter. What’s in your head will be all that counts.
When it comes to job hunting, are you a cut-and-dried traditionalist, or do you prefer to wing it? Either way, you’re more likely to be happy with a company whose thinking matches yours. So you have to know your audience.
Here are two companies that come at the process from opposite ends of the hiring spectrum.
Casual Slacks or Torn Jeans?
Scottie Girouard, director of Human Capital at website developer Conjecture and a 14-year veteran of technology talent acquisition, has an old-school take on interview attire.
While Conjecture has a casual work environment, Girouard likes candidates to kick things up a notch at the interview. “I expect a candidate to dress professionally,” she says. “When you’re searching for a job, that’s serious business, and you want to present the best you possible.” When in doubt, she recommends overdressing.
In stark contrast is Adam Spector, CEO and co-founder of Virtrue, a Silicon Valley startup that solves ID verification challenges, who observes that the three-piece suit has gone the way of the dinosaur, at least in his part of the world. “The fact is we don’t care what you look like and we’re not going to hire based on that. It comes down to your ability to do the work and if you can answer the questions.”
How They Assess You
Girouard and Spector have a dramatically different takes on assessing potential candidates, and their process for verifying that experience is worlds apart.
Girouard recommends using the right key words in your resume and organizing information into an easily digested format. “Take a Java developer, for example,” she says. “You’re using “Java” as much as you possibly can in that resume. They’re driving it home, driving it home, driving it home.”
For his part, Spector starts by verifying the resume with Virtrue’s pre-screening tool to make sure the applicant’s education and work history are legitimate. Next he looks at sites like GitHub. “It can’t guarantee five years of experience,” he acknowledges, “but it tells me a lot about what the candidate has been doing, things they’ve looked at, what they’re involved in from a technological perspective.” When Spector brings candidates in for an interview, he and his colleagues will ask questions or pose whiteboard problems about Java or Ruby.
How to Dazzle Them
Girouard places great importance on respect for tradition, though she acknowledges that becomes a somewhat clinical process. She gives more weight to the small details that fill out a candidate’s profile. “The general things we all learned growing up,” she says. She wants to see impeccable grammar and spelling, a handwritten follow-up note, a demonstrated knowledge of the company, and a positive attitude.
Spector is blunt about his approach. “I just want to know you’re brilliant, he says. “How smart are you? What’s your brain like? Are you the best at what you claim to be able to do? That’s all we care about.”
Virtrue, Spector says, is no different from any other startup in Silicon Valley. “We want to surround ourselves every single day with the best and brightest people. As long as we all get along, I don’t care where you come from, what you look like or what you do in your free time. I just want to know you’re brilliant.”
Amy Knapp writes about all things careers for Australian website InsideTrak. She holds a BFA from a university in Canada that no one has ever heard of and also completed three misguided years at law school. Her travel memoir, I Am The Swallow, will be published this Spring by Iguana Books. She lives nowhere and sleeps on couches everywhere. You can read more of her work here.