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Valuable tips from a tech recruiter: Rowan Hardy, Talent Acquisition Specialist

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ARTICLE SUMMARY

We caught up with Rowan Hardy, talent acquisition specialist, at checkout.com on how to stand out.

I am a Tech Recruiter at Checkout.com, where I focus on recruiting incredible and innovative Engineers to join our team. This includes everything from Software Engineers to Engineering Managers, DevOps Engineers, and SDETs. I’ve always worked in Tech Recruitment, and am really passionate about making the recruitment process feel less daunting.

Rowan Hardy, Tech Recruiter at Checkout.com

1. WHAT MAKES A GOOD APPLICATION? WHAT DOES CHECKOUT.COM LOOK FOR IN A CANDIDATE?

As recruiters, it is true we often receive quite a few applications for roles we advertise and so so it’s important to try and make your profile stand out. One thing I would suggest doing is tailoring your application and CV to the specific role that you are applying for. When you apply for a role at Checkout.com, there is a section in which you can submit a cover letter. This is a great opportunity to call out what really excites you about Checkout.com, the role that you are applying to, and why your experience makes you a good fit for the role.

Whilst it’s not crucial to have an online presence to secure the job you are going after, this could really help you to stand out. If you’ve had the chance to be part of an event or meet-up, I would suggest mentioning that in your application. If you are earlier on in your career, we love to see candidates who have completed training or certification outside of work or have been involved with a tech community!

2. ARE THERE ANY RED FLAGS FOR YOU WHEN YOU FIRST SEE A CV?

I think with some of the things I am about to mention, the context is really important. That said, there are definitely a few things that could be considered red flags to a recruiter:

● Poor formatting: A CV with inconsistent formatting, typos, or grammatical errors can immediately create a negative impression, so make sure to double-check your CV before applying to any role.

● Lack of clarity or conciseness: Your CV should be a clear and succinct summary of your experience. I’d recommend using bullet points to highlight key points effectively and as I mentioned before, try to tailor it to the role that you’re applying to.

● Lots of shorter stints: It’s very common to change jobs throughout your career, especially in the current climate. Sometimes, if someone has a history of shorter stints without providing any additional context, it may raise questions. In these cases, I recommend adding that context to your CV or simply being prepared to discuss it if it comes up during an interview.

● Gaps in employment: Unexplained gaps in employment history can sometimes raise concerns for recruiters. If you have significant gaps, I’d suggest highlighting the context and also mentioning any relevant skills or experiences gained during these periods, eg. a course you may have completed.

○ Additionally, If you have taken some time out of work and are worried about how to re-enter the market, there are some great companies that you can look into such as Tech Returners, who provide skilled tech professionals returning to the industry accessible opportunities to refresh their skills. They are committed to removing the barriers that returners face after a career break and helping tackle the digital skills shortage by supporting skilled people back into their technology careers. We recently wrapped up a 6-month program with them and welcomed several people from the programme into full-time Checkout.com roles!

The best applications that we see, clearly and concisely cover a candidate’s experience and mention both duties and responsibilities and also notable/high-impact achievements they’ve had in each role. This is particularly helpful for recruiters because when we are looking through applications, we are able to quickly assess if the candidate will be a good match to interview with us.

3. SHOULD I GENERALIZE OR SPECIALIZE IN AN IT TECH STACK?

Ultimately, there is value in both generalising and specialising in the tech industry. It’s crucial to consider your career goals, the job market, personal preferences, and the specific requirements of the roles you’re targeting. Keep in mind that the tech industry is constantly evolving, so it’s beneficial to remain adaptable and continuously update your skills to stay competitive in the field. A lot of the time now, companies will be open to Engineers from a variety of backgrounds (in terms of language) and recognise lots of skills are transferable, such as the public cloud platform(s) you have experience with.

For example, at Checkout.com, most of our Engineers are C#/.Net, but we do also have some teams who work with Golang and Java!

Something worth mentioning here, I think, is to try not to talk yourself out of applying to a role just because you don’t match every single bullet point mentioned in the job advert. There are lots of instances where an engineer may apply to one job advert at Checkout.com that’s not the perfect fit, but end up being offered another role. If you don’t meet all the requirements but think you might still be right for the role, you should always apply. We’re always keen to speak to people who connect with our mission and values.

4. ANY TIPS ON HOW CANDIDATES SHOULD PREPARE FOR A TECHNICAL INTERVIEW?

At Checkout.com, we have two types of technical interviews – the first is a coding assessment and the second is a system design interview. A top tip for our system design interview would be to remember that there is no right or wrong answer to the exercise. What our interviewers are looking to assess is how well you can justify your design, whether you stated all the assumptions that you’ve made, and if your design takes into consideration all of the below:

● Scalability

● Security

● Performance

● Availability/Resilience

● Hosting

● Observability

● Data storage

In addition to assessing your technical capabilities, we are also looking to assess how well you are able to communicate and explain what you are doing, and why you’ve chosen to do it that way.

If something comes up in a technical interview that you’re not sure about too, it’s ok to say you don’t know!

5. ARE SOFT SKILLS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS QUALIFICATIONS OR IS THAT JUST SOMETHING THAT EMPLOYERS AND RECRUITERS SAY?

I would say that soft skills really are just as important as qualifications. While technical qualifications and expertise are crucial for performing specific job tasks, soft skills play a significant role in overall job performance, teamwork, collaboration, and professional growth.

As a recruiter, I am always looking for candidates who have a balance of technical expertise and strong soft skills. If you are able to evidence the following sorts of things during an interview, a Hiring Manager will be able to get a really good understanding of how you are likely to not only succeed in the role but also contribute to the culture and long-term success of the company.

● Effective communication – being able to explain things clearly and concisely is something that we really look out for as strong communication skills are essential for successful collaboration with colleagues and stakeholders.

● Teamwork and collaboration – are you able to demonstrate that you’ve collaborated with cross-functional teams?

● Adaptability and flexibility – adaptability, resilience, and a growth mindset are things we look out for as our engineers will enable individuals to thrive in a fast-paced environment.

● Problem-solving.

● Leadership potential (if relevant for the role you’re applying to).

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