Article in Careers At Fueled category.

What Do Tech Companies Look For in Non-Tech Hires?

Recruiters in tech explain that non-tech applicants should focus on these key skills and strategies to get a job in tech.

Not all positions in tech require knowing how to code. Like any other type of organization, tech companies need to fill marketing, HR, communications, and other non-technical positions as well. But what do tech companies look for in a non-tech hire? And how does a non-tech applicant get noticed in a saturated, motivated pool of tech job seekers? We asked Christine Chung, Fueled’s Senior Talent Manager these questions, and here’s what we found out.

Getting Your Resume Noticed

I know what you’re thinking: “How on Earth is my resume going to get picked if I’ve never worked in tech before?” While having previous tech experience certainly helps, most junior-level candidates for non-tech positions have never worked for a tech company before. Recruiters are looking for two main things in non-tech hires: relevant education and work experience.

“I’m trying to piece together a story about how you started your journey.”

“I like to start at the bottom with the junior candidates from their graduation year up, just to see when they completed their degrees, and if their degree is relevant to the job they applied for,” said Christine. But you shouldn’t panic if you don’t have the exact degree to match the department you’re applying in. For example, if you went to a smaller school that didn’t offer a communications major so you opted for a BA in English, it’s not the end of the world. Christine assured, “it’s not that I really care about where you went to school or exactly what you did there. I’m just trying to piece together a story about how you started your journey.”

Your resume is also bound to stand out if you were deliberate about the kinds of jobs or internships you held in the past. Sure, your degree might not align with the job title. But if you consistently pursued relevant work opportunities, that lets the recruiter know that you’re passionate and have been working toward a career in that specific field.

Christine insisted, “I want to look at the type of environments they have been a part of.” When looking at resumes, she often asks herself, “were these candidates conscientious about where they decided to take their career?” Because although applicants are sure to bounce around different positions, especially if they are recent college grads, recruiters will be looking to see if there is a common thread and if you’ve had hands-on experience in the field.

How to Tackle a Recruitment Test

If your resume gets selected from the pool, you will move forward to the next stage. For non-tech hires especially, this is the stage in which the recruiter or HR representative aims to get more information about your character and background. Here at Fueled, non-tech applicants will often be given a recruitment test to see if they would be a good fit in the role, and at the company in general. “It consists of multiple choice questions and a few short essay questions,” said Christine. “There are no right or wrong answers. It just helps me get a better understanding of how a candidate thinks and who they are as a person. It tells me, for each department, what kind of skills they would bring to the table… The short essays will also help me figure out their work ethic, their business acumen, their logic and reasoning skills, their creativity, ingenuity, and analytical thinking.”

“There are no right or wrong answers. It just helps me get a better understanding of how a candidate thinks and who they are as a person.”

Here are some examples of multiple choice questions that a non-tech hire would find on a Fueled recruitment test:

specialist test, hiring, tech jobs, careers, job search, interview, startup
A sample specialist test

The short essay questions, as Christine mentioned, are little more in-depth. One question that is a favorite of our co-founders Rameet and Ryan is: “You have a trip coming up in a month. What does your packing process look like?” Seems like a pretty uncomplicated question, right? But it can actually reveal a lot about you as an applicant, according to Christine:

“Depending on the role, you can get a lot of information out of that question alone. For example, if someone says that they carefully plan out what they’re packing ahead of time… I know that they are very thoughtful, process-driven, and detail-oriented—making them a good candidate for project management or account management. On the other hand, if someone says that they’re a little all over the place and usually wait until the last minute because that’s when they know all the things they would need to bring, they can be great too. They can be great for roles like sales that require them to ride the momentum and are always on the run, but won’t cave under pressure and can always get things done.”

When completing a recruitment test, it’s important to be genuine and sincere, because your test will reflect your passion and interest. “The specialist test mainly tells me how bad you want this job and how much thought you put into it,” Christine said. “I can clearly tell the difference between a candidate who sends in one or two word answers on ill-formatted documents versus a candidate who will PDF their answers and have them be really well thought-out.”

“The specialist test mainly tells me how bad you want this job.”

So if you are thoughtful in your responses and conscientious about details such as formatting and editing, your specialist test will demonstrate not only that you’re a hard worker, but that you’re genuinely interested in the position.

Nailing the Interview

Let’s face it: job interviews will almost always be nerve-wracking. And going into an interview at a tech company as a non-tech person can be even scarier. So what can you expect, and what can you do to feel better prepared? “I always ask basic questions for non-technical candidates,” Christine assured. “I don’t want to make them feel bad by asking questions they wouldn’t know the answers to.”

While no interviewer (we hope) would ask a non-tech candidate about their knowledge of backend app development, you should come equipped with knowledge about the company and its functions so you can have an informed conversation. For example, in Fueled interviews, Christine often asks non-tech applicants what their favorite app is:

“There are some candidates who will only name a couple of basic social media apps with no substantial explanation about why they qualify as ‘favorites.’ To me, that’s super surface level. Whereas there are other candidates who will say, ‘OK, I really love Instagram and here’s why: I love the new stories feature, I love the analytics, I love the polling features, I love the stickers that move. They’re constantly re-innovating.’ And there, I can see how different and more compelling this person’s thought process was.”

So whether you’re addicted to tweeting GIFs, or heard this really great news story about AR on a podcast, come to the interview prepared to share a little about why a tech job appeals to you, no matter what level of knowledge you have about the industry.

“If you don’t have as much market expertise or technical expertise, what I expect is passion, fervor, hunger.”

There are tons of tech businesses out there, so as a non-tech hire, it’s a very good interview practice to clearly articulate why you seek a position at this particular company. Christine emphasized, “essentially, if you don’t have as much market expertise or technical expertise, what I expect is passion, fervor, hunger.”

Tips and General Guidelines for Job Seekers

There is no such thing as a perfect person, lest a perfect hire. But there are definitely basic things to avoid if you want to be considered for a position at a tech company, or any company for that matter. “We’ll have some candidates that are inconsiderate of our time,” Christine explained, which is something you should keep in mind when corresponding with a recruiter.

“Communication, validation, building trust...that’s really what I look for.”

Try to make sure you always respond to emails in a timely manner, be punctual for your interview, and express gratitude to the recruiter and interviewer for their time. Thank-you emails are a great, often-forgotten gesture, according to Christine. “I think there can be really sweet touches in follow-up correspondences that people naturally react to and are drawn to. Communication, validation, building trust...that’s really what I look for.”

It’s also important to be familiar with the personality and culture of the company you are applying to, and use that knowledge to clearly express why you would be a good fit there. For example, collaboration is a defining factor of our company culture here at Fueled. “We rely on collaboration and we believe in an open-source community. We believe in sharing ideas and being thought leaders amongst each other and learning from each other. So we’re always trying to check our non-tech applicants for good vibes,” explained Christine. While what classifies good and bad vibes is definitely subjective, keeping in mind that many tech recruiters are looking for a natural personality fit is essential. Be enthusiastic and well-educated about the culture and atmosphere of the tech company you’re applying to and you’ll definitely stand out.

After You Land that Tech Job

Making the leap into the tech world when you haven’t taken a single computer science class can be daunting, but it’s definitely rewarding. You’ll meet interesting people, learn a lot, and you may even start reading tech blogs. Don’t be afraid to build from the ground up, it takes continuous learning to grow and succeed in the tech world, even as a non-tech hire. So trust us, the destination is well worth the journey.

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