A recruiter’s FAQs

If you’ve got questions about finding the ideal job in tech, there are few better people to answer them than those who spend their days matching job seekers with the ideal employers. In the first installment of A Recruiter’s FAQs, Kate Sedgewick and Tshego Moroka of Recruit Digital do just that, breaking down what it takes to build an excellent CV, ace an interview, and ensure that you find a role that does as much for you as you do for your new company.

Cayleigh: Could you tell us a little about your own career journeys so far?
Tshego: Kate’s our Senior Tech Recruiter.
Kate: I studied at Rhodes University: did my BA, and then Honours in Psychology. Recruitment seemed like a nice starting point in dealing with people on a day-to-day basis. So here I am! I started off as a junior with absolutely no tech knowledge or tech experience, thrown into the deep end to pick up, learn… and I really enjoyed that process.
Tshego: I studied at UCT: Economics and Finance. I decided to go into finance, found a job, and really hated the work culture. I was fortunate that one of the recruiters here, JJ, found me in this mess and saved my life and brought me here! From there, I saw a different side of office culture. I specialise in the BI side, Business Intelligence, looking at a lot of BI and analyst roles.

C: Tshego, can you tell me a little more about what a career in business intelligence involves?
T: Basically, there are certain patterns that develop for each consumer as they move through a website and end up buying. So when all of that data comes out, you need someone to basically come in and analyse all that and make sense of it to the normal eye! It’s using tools such as Qlikview or Tableu, and then they’ll start seeing, and influencing, the patterns. They’ll start seeing that the people who click on this end up liking this, and then they can start seeing certain percentages and narrowing those margins down. Ideally, when it comes to BI, you might be looking for customer insights. At the end of the day, data is data: if you know how to manipulate it and work it well enough, you can put pretty much any data in there and find out the final conclusion when it comes to whatever factors you’re looking it. It’s really focusing on those specific factors, and then seeing how they affect the final product – making sense of all of that data.

C: What are the most in-demand skills and the most in-demand languages at the moment?
K: Everything is taking a big shift towards the JavaScript side of things, bringing in the more modern frameworks. It used to be JavaScript and jQuery that would cut it for developers. Now you need to be proficient in AngularJS, ReactJS, Vue.js, Knockout.js, Node.js – the whole lot. It’s on every spec at the moment, and it’s difficult because this sort of tech’s only been around for about two years now, and to get that senior experience is a bit of a tough one for some candidates, so they’re continuously upskilling – particularly in that area.

C: What are some of the soft skills that are needed to be a developer and to thrive in the industry?
K: I think you need to have that desire to continue learning – you can never think that you’ve got it, and “I’m a developer.” Tech is changing every single day, and unless you stay on top of it you’re going to be that desired candidate. You need to be willing to put in the extra hours – that’s what it takes to be a developer. And then to work under pressure, because that’s what these guys do, and that’s where the extra hours come in.

C: Do you feel that tech education gained at a university is less relevant because of how fast tech is changing?
K: They’re moving with it. You can see that the syllabus is changing, purely because it’s difficult to place guys that have just graduated, and this is my whole argument: you’ve got these guys who’ve been working with Angular for four years, but the client says that someone must have four years’ Angular experience but they must also be senior. So now you’ve got this senior guy who’s been working with Angular for a month, and a fresh graduate who’s been working with Angular for four years, but he’s not senior enough. So, it’s fantastic that the syllabus is moving with the times, because in a few years those guys will be sorted. Unless, of course, it all changes again – then we go full circle.

T: With BI, a lot of the candidates are coming from a statistics and maths background, and I’d say that the universities haven’t done enough yet to get to that next point. I think that it probably needs its own category in terms of a subject – a major, basically. When you come out into the real world, as good at manipulating data as you are, you don’t have that core coding skill so you can’t go into the BI developer roles. They go into the analytical roles, which is only interpreting the data. It’s getting there – but when it comes to BI, you need to take the initiative yourself, take those short courses… At the end of the day, that fundamental theory is there, and a lot of companies are willing to just guide you in that way of thinking. Looking at the junior roles now, they need to have a year or two of experience, just so that they can have that bridging stage covered, and get straight to it.

C: Do you think that there’s an added stage to that bridging that comes in when you’re going into a specialised field, such as online retail?
T: At the end of the day there’s a whole list of tech languages and programs, and you can’t be a jack of all trades and master of none. Specialise in what you’re doing, and then ideally find the one which is most relevant – and that way you’ll have as many opportunities as possible. But then you also get the people who do very well for themselves in the things that no-one else focuses on – they become that very niche person, of which there are only a handful in the country who’ve specialised in that program, and they have that much experience on it.

C: What are your views on internships, particularly in the tech industry?
K: I think it can depend a lot on which company you get that internship. Unfortunately “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” comes into it, because the company name holds a lot of power, and will speak a lot for that experience that you’ve gained. But experience is experience, and it’s a foot in the door: you’re going to network, and otherwise, trying to get in there without anything makes it so difficult to enter the industry. I think that to have that on your CV is great.

C: What makes job interviews in your industry unique?
K: I think it’s a pretty standard, three-step interview process. There’s the initial meet and greet, followed by a skills test, and then a team personality fit assessment. They’re probably a lot more skills-focused because they have to be.

C: What should every candidate ask in an interview?
T: I’d strongly recommend trying to find out a bit about the company culture and the company itself. At the end of the day, you’d like to know what you’re walking into, and if you really understand the company culture then you can see if you’re a proper fit. A lot of tech companies really look after their employees because they understand that it is really high-stress, so a lot of the ones we work with have a really great culture in terms of ‘work hard, play hard’ – they still want to see that personality factor kick in. You don’t want to be having these stressful deadlines and then still having a difficult personality to deal with. Personality holds a lot of weight. If someone has the right attitude and is willing to learn, they might not have been as great as another candidate on a test, but they’ll probably do a lot better in the long-term because of the right attitude – while the other candidate will remain stagnant.
K: It’s important to ask what kind of room for growth there is within the company: it shows that you’re going to stick around for longer than a year, which is what they’re wanting. To go with no questions is definitely a “no”. Look at the company’s achievements, look at the things they’ve done, show your interest, basically, and that you’re serious about it.

C: Are devs with specific skills in a good position to negotiate for their ideal salary and work conditions?
T: International companies really value diversity right now – because that’s their access to reach back into those emerging markets. Google, LinkedIn, Facebook… very diverse teams in terms of who they hire, and they want people who know that market to make things a lot easier as opposed to trying to get the very, very best but then they can’t even relate to those markets. They need people who they can send there, to their emerging markets, who can do the business development and business networking.

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