[Executive Edge] What do tech companies look for in a candidate? Part 1

Tech companies in the Philippines – as they do in Silicon Valley or New York or Paris or Dubai – live and die by their talent. You will only get as far as your people can take you. 

A company’s biggest pipeline for talent has remained largely, well, seemingly forever. The point of contact usually begins when the candidate sends in a resume, and the company pulls out that resume out of a long, bottomless digital transom and evaluates it according to a hazy, almost touchy-feely rubric: Is this person the “right fit” for our company?

Despite the questionability of this system and the gravitas which it holds of our lives (decisions being all or nothing - a candidate is either herded along to the next stage or turned away for the immediate future), it is a game we must play, so it is a game we must learn to play well.

With these blind spots in mind, I thought to ask executives what they look for in the constellation of impressions that even the most bland resume will create and what they look for in a candidate in general. Do they, for instance, shoot a resume to the top of a pile if it has UPD, ADMU, La Salle, or UST stamped on it somewhere? Such information could help the discerning candidate their foot in the door at one of the top tech companies in the Philippines.

Here’s what they had to say:

Ben Wintle – co-founder, Booky / Scrambled Eggs

Red flags on resumes in the Philippines include poor English, job-hopping (not more than 2 years at a few companies) and bad presentation, i.e. inconsistent formatting or a really long resume. If a resume has any of these red flags, then they go straight into the trash. If not, I then look for positives. Other than obvious things like relevant experience, I prefer applicants who have spent time working overseas, have attached a cover letter that demonstrates genuine interest or who have started their own business (in the past or on the side). These positive indicators give me some hope they will be a better cultural fit. In addition, I also find the first few email or phone call interactions when scheduling an interview is important as this gives me my first impression of their communication skills.

Gabby Dizon - CEO, Altitude Games

In game development, a portfolio and a practical skill test are the most important parts getting a job. A good resume or referral can draw our interest, but we always look at a person's portfolio of past game development work (either as a hobbyist or professional) and submit all potential hires to an extensive interview and practical test. Apart from domain knowledge, we are also looking for good communication skills, willingness to receive feedback, and a positive attitude that can whether the ups and downs of game development.

David Bonifacio - managing director, New Leaf Ventures

We don’t have one set of requirements for all positions given the diversity of the group. We make sure that there’s fit in all levels, whether it’s a barista for our coffee shops or a web developer. In general though we are guided by these 3 points which I picked-up from an article I read: purpose driven (are they motivated, do they want to make significant impact), performance oriented (are they achievers, do they have growth disciplines, what are their past achievements), and principles led (do they live according to clearly defined values). These are very hard to identify in one interview, which is why we like having interns to select hires from. Also, since our teams are very young, we many times have to hire for potential: can they someday (sooner than later) exemplify these 3 characteristics?

Christopher Franks – co-founder, AutoDeal.com.ph

One of the most important qualities we look for in a prospective team member is attitude. As a country with a huge labor pool, it’s often difficult to filter through job applications based on education and professional experience alone. When it comes to resumes, a good cover letter is paramount as it provides insight on the applicant’s personality and interests. Academic institutes don’t rank too high in our priorities as we understand that not everyone is fortunate enough to get the opportunity to attend the country’s best universities. Instead we look for applicants who are motivated to better themselves and willing to learn. A good cover letter as well as some decent insights into non-academic or extracurricular activities are key factors we look for when selecting applicants for interview.

Agno Almario – co-founder, Adarna House Digital

When we look at resumes, we look for projects. Whether it is a design portfolio, a thesis, or a programmer’s contribution to an open source project, what matters to us is that the applicant has the passion and determination to pursue and finish a sizable project.

For us, the ability to publish projects supersedes your educational attainments. If you hold an art degree but show great interest in programming through the projects cited in your resume then we would be more than happy to consider you for a programming job.

How an applicant chooses and presents his projects reveals a lot about that person’s identity. It shows how the person thinks and what that person is passionate about.

In our business of creating interactive children’s products, we want to build a team culture that values the ability of a person to create and build things that matter. Projects show this.

Mina Singson – HR Supervisor, OLX Philippines

Our company’s mission is to provide win-win experiences to online buyers and sellers so we look for individuals who can help us make this happen – agility, creativity, and being online savvy can be plus points. Aside from an applicant’s education, work background, and skill set, we also give credit to their interests and extracurricular activities. At OLX Philippines, we don’t just look for resume rockstars, we want candidates who are passionate and have a good working attitude. We value and protect our culture so evaluation is equally based on one’s job competencies and the result of our culture fit interview.

Part 2 of this column – with more answers from technopreneurs – will appear tomorrow, November 17. – Rappler.com