The Three Best Qualities of a Five-Star Engineering Candidate

One of the most rewarding things an engineer can do for their company is to help bring in great new engineers. At Yelp, I’ve had the privilege of attending career fairs as a company representative, screening resumes, and engaging with potential candidates who are looking for their next internship or full-time job. From these experiences, I’ve noticed a pattern in the candidates who make the best impression on me, and I’d like to share some key qualities that help take these candidates from merely chatting with me at the career fair booth to snagging an interview and eventually landing a job. 

They are prepared.

Careers fairs can be huge and overwhelming, but if you’ve taken the time to do a little bit of research on who’s attending and what positions they’re recruiting in, that will not only help you focus your schedule at the fair but also helps me as a recruiter understand if you’re a fit for roles we’re hiring in. For example, if you were to approach me and tell me that you’re looking for a backend web developer role, a lightbulb will immediately go off above my head and I’ll dig deeper to see what kind of backend experience you have and why you’re interested in backend. However, if you tell me that you’re open to any position we have and don’t have a focus, I’ll need to spend more time and effort trying to figure out what role you could fill.

Preparedness doesn’t stop at knowing what you want; the best candidates are also prepared with a clear, concise, and solid introduction. In one or two sentences, they can tell me what they’re looking for (whether role or experience wise) and give me the opportunity to ask follow-up questions. (For more information on crafting an introduction, check out elevator pitches.)

Speaking of follow up questions, this leads me to the next quality of great candidates:

They are curious.

Finding a job is a two-way street; while I may be honing in to see if you’re a fit for my team, you may also be trying to see if this is an environment you’d enjoy working in. Your questions should relate the company’s vision and values to your own interests and goals as well as paint a picture of how you’d feel if you were actually there. Being able to speak with an engineer can give you great insight into the type of work, culture, and impact you could have at the company. Here are some good questions that past candidates have asked me:

  • What is the internship experience like?
  • What do you do with new hires when they first join?
  • What do you work on?

I’m the most excited when I speak to candidates who don’t just ask technical or work related questions; the best candidates are still improving themselves as engineers and will ask about mentorship and personal growth in the company, and it’s always fun to share my own Yelp story. You know what’s more fulfilling than being able to talk to lots of great engineers? Being able to help and watch them grow both technically and personally when they get here.

Finally, what’s the last thing that really stands out in a five-star candidate?

They are passionate.

Pretty much every single candidate I’ve ever spoken to has used Yelp (and why wouldn’t they?), so it’s rare to find someone who isn’t familiar with the product. However, being a regular user doesn’t indicate a sense of passion; having a strong opinion about your favorite feature or things that you’d want to change in the product really shows that a candidate genuinely cares about the product I work so hard on and is invested in its success. This passion translates into more than just wanting more cool features — a passionate engineer is also interested in how the underpinnings of Yelp work and is ready to make an impact on the company. Candidates who have attended our university tech talks, have read our engineering blog, or have tinkered with our Yelp Public API or Yelp DataSet Challenge have experienced a taste of what it’s like working on Yelp products and Yelp data and are craving more.

A lot of time and energy go into attending a career fair, whether you’re a student looking for a job or a recruiter looking to fill a role. The best candidates help make my life easier by streamlining the conversation to their goals and mapping them to mine. So, the next time you attend a career fair, make sure you’re prepared, loaded with great questions, and ready to bring some fiery passion!

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