Hiring outside of the box: Why these Colorado companies care more about what's not on your resume

by April Bohnert
September 13, 2018

Being the perfect person for a job isn’t always about having the perfect skill set. In fact, it’s often what’s not on your resume that stands out most to hiring managers. But if it’s not just your hard skills recruiters are interested in, what else are they taking into account?

We talked to three local companies that hire outside of the job description to see what qualities they look for in candidates and how jobseekers can prove they’re the right fit — even if they may not appear so on paper.
 

AdAction Interactive hiring tips Colorado tech
Photo via AdAction Interactive.

AdAction Interactive’s full-service ad platform helps businesses accelerate user acquisition and drive the performance of mobile marketing campaigns on iOS and Android platforms. Director of Data Science Pat Shively — who happens to be part of the hiring team for the open roles of senior product manager, data analyst and junior data scientist — shared his own first-hand experience of being hired without all of the requisite skills, as well as what he looks for in others who may be in the same boat.

 

Give us an example of a time you hired outside of the job skill set. What was missing from the person's resume with regards to job skills? What made you want to hire them anyway?

I was actually hired outside of the skill sets defined in the job description for my current role. AdAction was looking for someone with technical experience using specific software, and I didn’t fit the bill. However, it’s my personal motto that you sell people on what they didn’t know they wanted. To deliver on that from a director level, we’ve since reshaped the department to better fit what the business needs as it relates to data and analytics and how our team can engage with these new challenges and provide solutions.

 

What personal qualities do you look for in a candidate? How are these traits weighted against the technical skills required for a role?

Something that I really value is a candidate’s intellectual curiosity and how they are able to engage with a problem statement. I'm looking for candidates who are practiced at critical thinking and conversing specifically about abstract or unfamiliar problems. They should also be willing to work with others to outline solutions for how to arrive at them. I would say that these qualities are as important to me as any technical skill, and are more difficult to learn than most.

 

What advice do you have for candidates who want to stand out and prove they'd be a great fit for a role — even if they don't check all of the boxes under the desired skill set?

The biggest disqualifier I experience is when candidates aren't open about their skill gaps. In most cases, candidates aren’t going to check all of the boxes, and as a hiring manager, I’m aware of that as I work to assemble my team. If you’re honest about what you don't know, but demonstrate skills in other areas, it’s often easy to restructure what that specific role looks like or plan their training appropriately during onboarding.

 

Alteryx hiring tips Colorado tech
Photo via Alteryx.

Alteryx’s self-service analytics platform helps data scientists and analysts harness the power of their data, gather valuable insights and share their findings with their teams. Manager of Visualytics Lauren Glogiewicz weighed in on the qualities that matter most to her in a candidate.

 

Give us an example of a time in which you hired outside of the job skill set. What was missing from the person's resume with regards to job skills? What made you want to hire them anyway?

I had been looking for someone with three-to-four years of experience in software development who could jump in on a hard project and be effective immediately. The person I ended up hiring had a degree in something completely unrelated to software development and had recently graduated from a code school.

During the interview process, it became apparent that the candidate was an extremely motivated and hardworking individual who had a passion for learning. The candidate came up-to-speed very quickly on the project and contributes every day. Today, no one on the team works harder on improving themselves and their technical abilities every day than this employee. Though the employee had no professional software experience and only group projects to demonstrate coding skills, he had the attitude and motivation I was looking for.

 

What personal qualities do you look for in a candidate? How are these traits weighted against the technical skills required for a role?

I look for someone who is motivated, has a passion for learning and wants to come to work to both work hard and have fun along the way. If the candidate is smart, motivated and their personality will gel with the team, they will be considered.

 

What advice do you have for candidates who want to stand out and prove they'd be a great fit for a role — even if they don't check all of the boxes under the desired skill set?

Demonstrate continued learning and express an interest to learn more. If you do not check all of the boxes, own the fact that you don’t and identify a plan to get them checked. If you do not have professional experience in a particular area, bring a project that you worked on that demonstrates your skills.

 

Pax8 hiring tips Colorado tech
Photo via Pax8

Pax8 aggregates and distributes cloud services for managed service providers, making it easier for their SMB customers to bundle and customize cloud services to meet their needs. Senior Regional Sales Manager Kipp Johnson explained why his conversations with candidates matter much more than the contents of their resumes.

 

Give us an example of a time in which you hired outside of the job skill set. What was missing from the person's resume with regards to job skills? What made you want to hire them anyway?

There was a woman we recently hired who had zero experience with cold calling, sales or tech. The reason I hired her was largely due to her personality and her ability to keep the conversation relaxed and easy.

Many times, I’m thinking about how the conversation is going rather than their knowledge on a topic. How did they break the ice? Are they answering questions out of the box and with enthusiasm? Or are they just trying to have the “correct” answer or say what they think I want to hear?

 

What personal qualities do you look for in a candidate? How are these traits weighted against the technical skills required for a role?

I want to know how they make me feel. They are interviewing for a sales position, and to be able to sell in the channel, you need to make people like you. I also look for honesty. If I ask them something about themselves, will they tell me the typical, “I like hiking and snowboarding” or will they open up a bit and allow me to see their true selves? I think a lot about how they listen. Are they actually listening to my questions in full and then coming up with an educated answer? Or are they simply finding the answer as I ask and blurting out the first thing they think of? I also look at the effort they put in. How well did you study our company? Did you dress nicely? Is your hair messy?

 

What advice do you have for candidates who want to stand out and prove they'd be a great fit for a role — even if they don't check all of the boxes under the desired skill set?

Come very well prepared, know the company you are applying for and be yourself! If you mask who you are, you will likely end up in a job that isn’t a great fit and end up leaving anyway. Come prepared to speak to what differentiates you and how you will make up for your lack of experience. Treat any interview like it’s the most important interview of your life. Dress well and, again, come prepared.

 

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