Becoming a successful engineer: navigating the application process

In part 2 of our ‘becoming a successful engineer’ series, Kevin Lester (Head of Engineering) and Manor Lev-Tov (VP of Data Science)provide insight on application and interviewing best practices for engineering roles.

Bring your story to life in the application

When it comes to a resume, it’s “less about the list of hard skills and more about the story your resume tells” that shows the hiring manager that an applicant loves what they do, says Kevin. “I look to see how applicants are using their time. I look for side projects, clubs, etc. to see proof of passion.” As you build your resume, ask yourself, ‘What am I passionate about and how can I successfully bring that to the forefront for the hiring manager? If they put my resume down and begin to tell the person next to them about me, what do I want them to say?”

“When I graduated, my resume simply said ‘Degree in Software Engineering”, Kevin adds. Now people are packing their resumes with demonstrations of their passion for engineering, and taking extracurricular measures to be well equipped to enter the job market. While this means the market is more competitive, it also means there’s an opportunity for people to showcase what makes them different and how that passion fits into the role in which they’re applying.

Know your audience

Understanding your audience is key to finding the balance between showcasing your hard skills and soft skills in your application. Engineers work with a wide array of stakeholder groups, each of whom look for different qualities in new hires. “If you’re interviewing with business leaders, then speaking to your entrepreneurial spirit, self-starter mentality, and ability to take risks is worth discussing,” says Manor. These kinds of stakeholders — product managers, marketers — will want to gauge your vision around identifying an existing problem or untapping additional value.

On the other hand, when your interviewer audience consists of technical leaders — CTOs, VPs/Directors— it’s more important to provide evidence of technical ownership, Manor says. For example,

  • “Have you built a service or subsystem?
  • What errors did you see?
  • How did you address those technical issues?
  • Were you a reliable owner of a technical initiative?

The questions above cover many areas that Manor wants to learn when speaking to a candidate.

Most technical organizations are set up to build, scale, and improve the solutions that other employees have already proactively come up with. I want to see an applicant work with the product team in a forward-thinking way and successfully interpret the desired solution. — Manor Lev-Tov

Once you are opposite your interviewer, it’s important to not only convince them of the value you add but to also confirm that the company’s environment would add value to your career goals.

Kevin recommends asking questions like:

  • “How long have people on the team been here?
  • What are the success criteria of your team?
  • How often do you revisit the success criteria of this specific role?
  • What frameworks do you have in place to help engineers learn new skills?

Manor also recommends speaking with current engineers:

  • “How did your career grow at this firm?
  • Where did previous engineers work after leaving the company?
  • What does the career ladder look like?
  • What resources and support are engineers given?

Kevin also suggests, “meet your manager during the interview process — people don’t leave companies, they leave managers”. Learn why your potential manager joined the company and what has kept them there. Kevin joined AlphaSights 17 years into his career because of the sense he got from his future managers, the company’s founders. “The thing that sticks with me as I look back at my interview with Max and Andrew is how much passion they felt for their business. I could tell that they truly loved what they did, and that the value the company provided for their clients brought them joy. When I walked out of my interview, I knew AlphaSights was the place for me and I couldn’t wait to get going. After my first few weeks, it struck me just how much their happiness permeated the entire organization and the positive intent that it instilled in everyone I was working with.” The feeling you get from your interviewers should play a role in your decision to join, even if that feeling is not easy to articulate.

“When determining whether a role is right for you, give a lot of thought to what exactly you’re looking for and the key elements you seek”, adds Manor. Once you have a sense, he recommends speaking to one of the stakeholders that you’ll work with in your role — for example, the head of product or a sales person. This connection will help you better understand what the product is, who its end users are, how it’s currently marketed, and more.

New graduates and established engineers alike are seeing new technologies, companies, and career opportunities pop up on a daily basis. It’s a gallery of transformational business technology and it’s important to be prepared to jump at an opportunity that’s in line with your passion and career goals.

In the first blog post of our ‘becoming a successful engineer’ series, Kevin and Manor shared the most valuable attributes for individuals to develop. In the third and final installment of this blog series, we will take a look at Kevin and Manor’s transition from individual contributors into leadership. Stay tuned!

Interested in more questions to ask your interviewer? Check out our blog on vetting your employer from AlphaSights’ global recruitment team.

If you’re interested in joining the AlphaSights engineering team, apply here.

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