How to land your Austin tech job: 6 tips from actual recruiters

October 6, 2015

The panel, from left to right: Moderator Mario Espindola from Betts Recruiting; Michelle Davey from Favor; Kelsey Press from TrendKite; and Nicole Brooks from OwnLocal.

Looking for Austin tech jobs? Advice doesn’t get more straightforward than this. We've rounded up the top tips this Austin Startup Week panel gave us, including a few gaffes to avoid:

1. Engage people at the companies you like.

Michelle Davey, talent manager at Favor (pictured left), says social media is actually a major recruiting tool.
“We find a lot of people through Indeed, LinkedIn and Built In,” she said. “But we look for people who engage with our brand on Twitter and Instagram, too.”
And while you’re at it, don’t limit yourself to recruiters. They’re inundated with applicants aggressively trying to network their way into a company through HR. Think about the job you want and find the people who are already on those teams at the companies you target. Developers, product managers and sales and marketing teams are all reachable, and might have more time to talk with you than recruiters.
“Get out there and go to all those networking events,” Davey said. “Offer to get coffee with employees in your discipline at the companies you engage with on social media—don’t just stalk recruiters!”

2. Culture matters, so try to meet people in person.

All three panelists agreed culture is a huge component in their hiring. Nicole Brooks, marketing coordinator at OwnLocal (pictured right), said an hours-long cultural interview is about 50 percent of the hiring process at OwnLocal, and helps them gauge how you’ll work with everyone from other new hires.

“You can be very talented and qualified, but if you fail this, you won’t be hired,” she said. “I used to think it was kind of ridiculous to take everyone’s time to do this, especially people not in HR. But now I see how important it is.”
Turns out this isn’t uncommon.
Davey said Favor throws in questions to find out what candidates are doing outside work and what they’re like personally. They even invite candidates to happy hours on Fridays to get to know a side of them that wouldn’t normally come out in an interview.
Kelsey Press, a recruiter at TrendKite (pictured right), takes the same approach.
“You’re interviewing us too,” she said. “So that’s your opportunity to come in and find out if we’re a bunch of people you want to work with.”

3. Know what matters to you, and why you want the job

Brooks said lots of people want to work at a startup. You need a more compelling reason for wanting the job.
“When we ask people why they want to work here, ‘Because I want to work at a startup’ is a red flag,” she said. “It’s not an automatic ‘no,’ but we want people who want to grow in their role and grow with the company.”
Davey agreed.
“There’s a million startups,” she said. “Why do you want to work at this one? Why the sharing economy? Why Favor over Postmates? Why Uber overy Lyft?”
That’s not to say you shouldn’t try new things, Brooks added.
“It’s OK to shoot a little outside your wheelhouse, but have a path in mind,” she said. “Read the job descriptions, know what you’re getting into and try to only interview for jobs you know you want to do.”

4. Be realistic about compensation

They’re called startups for a reason. Davey said that if you can’t live on less than $100,000 per year, you may not be ready to work for a company that just moved out of the proverbial garage. 
That’s not to say those opportunities aren’t out there, but don’t be surprised if they’re scarce. Remember, startups are high risk, high reward.
Brooks used her own career path to demonstrate the right approach.
“I came to OwnLocal with the attitude of wanting to be their CMO,” she said. “But I knew I was coming into a young company, and that path started with being marketing coordinator with a CMO attitude.”

5. Don’t get ahead of yourself

And then there’s the delicate matter of when to bring up compensation at all. It’s fair and normal to want to know what’s in it for you, but when it comes to asking about salary, benefits and equity, our panelists said you should mind your timing and watch for social cues.
“You shouldn’t come into an interview drilling us about pay and benefits,” Davey said. “We can talk about that once we decide to make you an offer.”
Press agreed. “It’s a turnoff,” she said.
“There’s nothing wrong with managing expectations and saying ‘I want to make sure I’m not wasting your time,” Brooks said, “but maybe save it for the end of the interview.”

6. We have to say it: Don’t show up without a resume.

Everyone ought to know this, but it bears repeating: Always bring a couple copies of your resume.
But I already sent it to them, you say.
Here’s the deal. Recruiters and managers have to interview a lot of candidates, and you should be doing everything you can to make their job easy. Don’t expect them to memorize your information, even if you’ve interviewed with them before. And since you’ll probably be interviewed by more than one person, bring a couple copies for them to reference and take notes on during the interview.
“It usually makes the interview smoother,” Brooks said, “because we can ask better questions.”
So there you have it, Austin. It's Startup Week. Get out there and start meeting people!

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