I’m a lead technical consultant at Perficient, and I work with our Talent Acquisition department to find the right people to fill positions with my team, primarily software consultants who will work typically within the Microsoft platform. My support in this effort involves a 30-minute consultant phone interview with candidates to evaluate their skills and experience. When my recruiter sends me a calendar invite to speak with a junior candidate, the first thing I look at is the prospect’s resume.
Prior to this, I never believed it when people would say that no one is going to look at a resume for more than a minute. After a few years of practice, however, I understand. I make quick assumptions at first glance.
To prepare for a consultant phone interview, I put together a list of points I want to focus on and how they form assumptions I have to prove or disprove when challenging a resume.
Disclaimer: In no way can I rule out a candidate entirely by scanning a resume.
Five main questions I ask myself before a consultant phone interview:
1. Has the candidate coded professionally?
It sounds painfully obvious: has the candidate coded? You’d be surprised how often inexperienced interviewers can forget to get the answer to this question. If you are talking to the nicest, most genuine sounding person in the world, and they’ve never coded, they aren’t going to succeed in a job that first and foremost requires them to code.
If it’s a recent or soon-to-be college graduate, do they have an internship? How long have they been working there, and does it cross over into the school year? I don’t rule out summer-only internships, but I’m especially excited about candidates who have carried their work into the fall and beyond. It could take eight weeks to realize that a summer intern doesn’t have the right aptitude. By the time August rolls around, a company never has to see them again. This negative assumption is why I love when a candidate works at the same place multiple summers in a row. They’re probably past the mindless data entry phase at that point. I look for explicit contributions to a software project with at least a high-level description of the application.
I emphasize professionally because I don’t put a ton of stock in college experience; it’s easy for candidates to list impressive-sounding group projects that they might not have extensively contributed to. Sure, that sounds pessimistic, but I’m sure any experienced interviewer can tell you a horror story of the time they assumed too many good things about a candidate and never challenged their rosy expectations.
Alternatively, if a candidate has their GitHub profile linked, that’s extra credit if it’s strong. They’re brave enough to have their code analyzed and all of their commits are available for your review. A candidate who includes a dormant GitHub profile may not be very self-aware.
2. Has the candidate been exposed to multiple programming disciplines?
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Here’s where I may peek into the coursework a little more. I like to see a smattering of web development, app development, and/or database experience. I question the “full-stack developer” buzzword, but it’s still nice to see front end, middleware, and back end all represented on the page.
If a candidate learned C or C++ for school, that will translate well to the more relevant C# we commonly use in my department. Coursework in databases gives a hint that they may understand how to construct maintainable object relationships. It’s also a layup that I’m going to ask my phone-pen-and-paper friendly Person-Dog-Pet relational data model question during the screen itself.
Front-end experience is valuable as well – 30% of your score is presentation. If you write a clean data model and efficient middleware code and the web application to interact with it looks like garbage, non-technical clients will assume it’s garbage. First impressions matter.
3. Can the candidate write in a professional context to a discerning audience?
Typos are a pet peeve of mine. When you have an audience that is trying to find any reason to save their time and not have to call you (or call you and then have five people interview you and take you out to lunch), why wouldn’t you be absolutely certain you’re putting your best foot forward? Hit F7. Those red squiggly lines you see? Each one is a mark against you. It’s especially unforgivable if the attached resume is a Word document and not a PDF or paper copy where the interviewer sees them first.
If a candidate’s resume is sloppy, I’m going to assume they hit “select all” and “submit” on their career center’s website and didn’t make the effort to learn what software consulting or Perficient are all about. Even worse is when the candidate sounds like a high-school basketball coach in their objective line: “My objective is to give 110% as a team player and achieve greatness.” Be more specific and demonstrate what you can bring to the position.
4. Does the candidate have consulting-like experience that will apply regardless of project assignment?
I love seeing a candidate who has worked at a company named “[Something] Consulting” for any period of time, as an internship or first job out of college. Someone who has gotten a taste for consulting and wants more is a special breed. I always ask what a candidate likes and doesn’t like about consulting once we get on the phone.
Outside of the obvious bonus of working at a consulting company, I like to see any project experience where a candidate had to participate in a requirements-gathering phase. Independent projects, hackathons, extracurricular group projects, even self-founded companies can be great opportunities to learn the discipline of finding out what business problem you’re trying to solve.
Of course, if they worked at “[Something] Consulting” for two months and their tenure came to an abrupt end, I’m less excited. Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors. Even if a new hire got lucky and was on their dream project for their first year, projects end and new projects have to be staffed. Someone with a consulting mindset will see those challenges as opportunities; someone without it is just going to quit.
5. Does the candidate try to hide any red flags?
A resume is always going to be a bit polished. However, if a candidate leaves out information I’m looking for, I will grow suspicious and will follow up during our consultant phone interview.
A candidate who lists a computer science major under education and lists no graduation date or GPA is aware that those are negatives, if it’s a junior candidate. Senior candidates have their work experience to stand on. Junior candidates will require more specifics in their college education to set them apart. No one less than two years removed from graduating summa cum laude is going to omit that from their resume.
I will always follow up when I see gaps in work experience. If the candidate left under non-ideal circumstances, they may not list that experience. From the time the candidate graduated from college until present, I will look for uninterrupted work and ask about any gaps.
Questions for me? Please leave a comment below.