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Explaining Your Technical Job to Recruiters


Saying that today’s tech pro needs a solid handle on multiple skill sets is a bit of an understatement. It’s not just a matter of knowing a half-dozen programming languages; your average tech pro needs a full suite of “soft skills” in order to navigate the whitewater of modern business life.

And as researcher and writer Danny Crichton put it on TechCrunch the other day, it can be difficult to explain just how skilled you are to recruiters, especially if the recruiters in question don’t understand much about the highly technical stuff you do.

“When we combine the increasing ambiguity of our jobs with the increasing distance of HR recruiters from the actual work taking place, you get everything that is wrong with modern recruiting,” he wrote.

Some recruiters will view Crichton’s words as a bit harsh. He suggests that company founders take more control of the hiring process, establishing the “qualities and qualifications desired in different roles,” and then letting recruiters do the piecework of actually finding the right candidates. He believes that founders can handle that sort of added responsibility—after all, Google CEO Larry Page (reportedly) has time to vet every candidate before hiring, right? Right?

In reality, many founders don’t necessarily have time (or the inclination) to give recruiters the sort of granular hiring advice they need, which means it falls to the tech pro to explain their job(s) in detail. That’s a difficult proposition, to say the least: How do you begin to explain the process of building an iOS app to someone who’s never heard of Objective-C, much less Swift?

Focus on the Endpoint

While many recruiters are technologically inclined, others don’t have quite as much of a knowledge base. With the latter, it can help if you focus on describing the end result of what you do, rather than get bogged down in the technical details. Do you use all of your tools and skills in service of an app’s user interface, or does your workload revolve around keeping the backend running? Painting the “big picture” can help a recruiter get a good grasp on what you actually do.

Don’t Plunge Into Detail… at Least Initially

Whenever speaking with a recruiter about your technical skills and background, take a “top level” approach, explaining things in as broad a way as possible; don’t plunge into details unless asked. You can always geek out with the hiring manager who actually knows the intricacies of systems administration.

Comprehensiveness Is Key

Whatever the job, the recruiter is (usually) looking for a well-rounded candidate. When you explain your qualifications, make sure to include your “soft skills.” It’s easy to forget that candidates who can effectively interact with others are especially valued by most organizations.

Tailor Your Resume and Online Profiles

Listing too many skills and certifications can backfire by confusing recruiters. Delete outdated skill sets and irrelevant experience from your materials; the “everything plus the kitchen sink” approach rarely works, anyway.

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