Joe Honey, Talent Manager at Searchlight Security

It’s no secret that tech skills are in high demand. Research released by TechNation just last week showed that there were two million UK job vacancies in tech last year.

This is good news for developers, who have a lot of exciting options open to them across a range of industries. However, from the applicant’s perspective, sometimes an overabundance of choice can make the final decision of what job to go for daunting. When you are going through the application process and meeting a number of people across different interviews, how can you tell which is the right role for you?

These are my top tips for what tech job applicants should be thinking about as they move through a company’s recruitment process:

1. How good is the company’s communication?

Applicants can learn a lot about a company’s ethos just based on the quality of communication during the hiring process.

Ask yourself:

- Are they getting back to you quickly?

- Have they adequately explained each step of the interview process?

- Are they giving you feedback and updates at each stage?

- Have they shared all the information you need about the role and the business?

If the answer to each of the questions above is “yes”, it’s definitely a good indication that the company is invested in hiring the right person for the role. If the answers are “no”, you need to question why the communication isn’t up to scratch. There aren’t many good reasons for a company not to keep you fully informed during the hiring process. At best it indicates that they are unorganized, at worst that they are deliberately trying to hold information back - neither of which indicate a great employer.

Also remember that communication goes both ways. You should be using the interview process to ask questions of the company and explain what you want out of the role. Remember, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you and having these conversations is vital to make sure the job is the right fit.

2. Are the company’s expectations reasonable?

Trying to find a new job is time consuming, requires a lot of effort, and can be quite stressful - which the best employers recognize. You can tell a lot about a company by how reasonable they are during the recruitment process. 

The salary they are offering for the job role is one obvious thing to look for (clearly it’s a red flag if a company is offering way under market value!) but there are also more subtle signs. For example, does the interview process match up to the seniority of the role - or are they making you jump through an inordinate amount of hoops? Are they being flexible around your schedule and existing work commitments?

These details are important because ultimately everyone wants to work at a company where they are valued by their co-workers. For more indicators of whether the company has a good working environment, you could ask to speak to other employees in the team.

3. Where is the company going?

Applicants should always ask about the company’s plans for growth as, if they join, this will have a big impact on their career progression. Jobs in high-growth industries are more desirable because the role will be more stable and, if the company is doing well and growing fast, there will be more opportunities for progression. You should ask your prospective employer about their projected growth, plans to increase the size of the team, and how the business has performed to date.

4. What is the company’s willingness to train and develop their employees?

One of the underlying factors behind the so-called “tech skills gap” is the high demand for “experienced” candidates, usually with a few years of work at a company under their belt. Of course, some roles do require a certain level of experience but candidates for more junior roles should be looking for organizations that are willing to invest in their training and development, rather than expecting them to arrive as the full package. 

Don’t forget to ask: 

- Is there internal training?

- Does the company fund external courses and certifications?

- Is training and development built into the company’s employee review process?

In fact, a willingness to learn and grow is one of the most important things we look for in a candidate. We understand that there are a lot of different paths into tech roles, that developers learn different ways to code, in different software languages. It’s very unlikely any candidate does things exactly the same way we do them, so their willingness to get stuck in and adapt is key. If the employee is willing to learn, we’re willing to teach them - and we strongly believe that approach is more desirable to candidates that relish a challenge and the chance to develop new skills.

5. How is the company set up to facilitate progression?

Your joining package is important but don’t forget to also think about your long term prospects at a company. This is where startups can be a more attractive option because - as a company grows - there is a huge amount of scope for employees to step up into new roles and progress in line with the business. While larger, more corporate companies might have more structure in place (which is definitely a bonus for some applicants) this can make team setups rigid, which slows down progression.

As a fast-growing company, we have seen this from our own experience. It is within our interest to promote from within - it saves us on recruitment, it means our senior positions are filled by people with experience in our business, and it’s great for staff morale. As a result, we have a number of team leads that have risen up the ranks from junior team members or even interns.

The important thing to remember, whether you’re applying for a job at a fast-growth startup or a huge multinational conglomerate, is to ask about their approach to promoting talent from within the company and how progression is managed internally.

Interested in a job at Searchlight Security? We’re always on the look out for promising talent. Visit our careers page to see our current openings and get in touch.