No Prima Donnas, Please: Make-Or-Break Traits To Getting Hired

Do You Have The Skills Recruiters Want?

With the competition to find top IT talent on the rise, the need to make your resume stand out has never been greater. According to the experts at VAR Staffing, a Richardson, Texas-based VAR consultant agency that specializes in IT channel staffing and recruitment, the best way to do so is to go beyond your technical skills and highlight additional skill sets.

"Any competent employer will be able to determine you don't know the technology in five minutes. With engineering, you've either got it or you don't. So, it's about moving beyond that, the soft skills," said Mark Bier, founding principal. "The VARs, the solution providers themselves, not all of them are large public companies, some of them are small integrators that aren't a big conglomerate. There's so much competition between them, and what separates them is the people who are actually out there designing and implementing the solutions."

With that in mind, here's a look at the top job skills that employers want to see on your IT resume.

Multiple Skill Sets

Make certain to highlight multiple skill sets, said Todd Billiar, VAR Staffing's director of channel development. "In our smaller to midsize VARs, they want engineers who have multiple skill sets," he said. "They don't want folks who are siloed."

In addition to having a primary technical skill set, employers want to see that an applicant is "comfortable with a secondary or even third technology," Billiar said, in a previous interview with CRN.

Quick Learner

But, what if you don't have multiple technical skill sets? Not to worry. If you're a quick learner who takes a proactive approach to learning new technologies, leverage that.

Employers want candidates who "possess an inclination for learning new technologies quickly. A lot of our clients want candidates that want to learn; they're always looking to expand that skill set," Bier said. "[Many employers] are motivated to get the engineers certified, and they want employees that are willing to do that."

Leadership Skills

If you're working as an engineer, chances are you're going to have to play the leadership role. "Some of these senior engineers act as team leader, and they should have leadership abilities," Bier said. But, just because you don't have experience managing a team doesn't mean you don't have leadership skills. "It doesn't have to mean I've led a team of four people, just a leadership mentality," Bier said.

One way to demonstrate a leadership mentality is by highlighting times you've taken ownership of a situation and/or gone above and beyond for the team or a client. "You can show leadership by taking initiative," Billiar said. For example, he said, let's say you're a virtualization service delivery engineer working on a data center virtual desktop, but the client needed someone to troubleshoot a printer issue. "Satisfy the client," he said. Leadership comes from "not having to be told what to do."

Time Management Skills

Hiring managers want to see demonstrable time management skills. You want to be able to highlight experiences in which you've managed a project or, as is usually the case, multiple projects and were able to deliver on time. "For field-based [positions] and engineers today, they need to be self-motivated and self-managed, being able to self-manage, being organized, being a self-starter. They need to know when to say, 'OK, this is above my head,' and when to pull someone in," Bier said. "You have to be able to collaborate well, but you also have to be a self-starter, be able to pace yourself appropriately. You don't want someone who's a complete maverick," he said. But, employers also don't want someone who needs to be told "exactly what to do and when to do it. You need to have a good relationship between those halves," Bier said.

Collaboration Skills

Although good leadership skills are a must, employers also are looking for candidates who can collaborate effectively, "being able to work together as a team, not a lone wolf," Billiar said.

There are a number of technical positions that will require candidates to work well with others. "You get an electrical engineering degree, you'd be well served to learn collaboration. These are technical people who are required to work as an administrator or system desktop [technician] or whatever and they can't relate well to the people they're servicing," he said.

Open-Mindedness: No Prima Donnas

Be open-minded not only about new technologies but also about helping outside your own area of expertise. "Basically you don't want to hire a prima donna," Billiar said. To make this point, Bier pointed to an example of a high-level engineer a company let go because whenever new ideas were brought to the table, the engineer "wouldn't even hear of it."

"All of this technology is constantly evolving, and the solutions are constantly evolving ... so you need someone who is smart enough to be able to grasp everything but also [someone who understands] that there's an evolution going on with these solutions, and you can't close your mind to any thinking," Bier said. When it comes down to it, you want someone who's open-minded and ultimately proactive. "There's going to be a time when you're going to have to sit down and unfreeze an Exchange account. And, you'll have these candidates say, 'I'm above that; that's not me.' "


Written Communication Skills

"Writing is key. It's very important to be able to communicate effectively and concisely," Bier said, "The CCIE [Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert] cert for Cisco, that's their highest-level architect," Bier said as an example. "Nine times out of 10, the majority of your work [as an architect] is going to be spent in front of IT principals mapping out and showing exactly how you're going to architect the environment. In some cases, in most cases, the person who's actually mapping out and designing that picture will not be the same person that is going to be implementing it. So that means someone had better be able to communicate appropriately and effectively. You don't need to be a formal technical writer, but you have to be able to communicate effectively what is in your head and what's on the dry erase board to effectively deliver. ... If you have the title of architect you're going to have to be able to communicate effectively in writing."

Oral Communication Skills

Communication skills don't stop at writing, Bier said. Employers are looking for candidates who can verbalize their ideas effectively. "If you're architecting using a data center environment ... you can't just rely on the guy at Cisco to create the scope and pass it along. The scope of work is very important. In some cases, the person who's actually writing the scope of work is not the same person who's going to read that and deliver and implement that solution. So, there is some standard way of communicating the environment that you architect," he said. For example, Bier said, let's say you're a solution architect who proposes an idea to the CIO, who gives the green light to move forward on the project. "You have to be able to fully communicate that to the entire solution service delivery team in an effective manner, or they're going to implement and deliver a solution that isn't exactly what the IT principal on the other end was looking for."


Presentation Skills

In addition to being able to clearly write and verbalize your ideas, employers want to hire someone who can take those ideas and present them effectively, both externally to clients as well as internally to staff members. "For the integrators out there ... they want someone they can trust to put in front of a client to have an articulate, informative consultative [presence]," Bier said. Likewise, internally, employers want candidates who can present their ideas to colleagues as well. "There's a lot of white-boarding. There's a lot of, 'let's map this out,' and you've got to be able to articulate that. Your presales activity, you're going to have to make it all pretty for the CIO."

Professional Appearance

Yes, that's right. Despite it seeming cliche, it apparently still needs to be said: Employers are looking for candidates that look professional. "You'd be shocked at how many times we've heard, 'I can't hire that guy, he's got a ponytail,'" Bier said. First impressions matter, and having a professional appearance will not only show a potential employer that you are professional but also make the employer feel comfortable with the idea of putting you in front of clients. And, more often than not, if you look professional, you're more likely to present yourself in a professional manner.