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Ask a Hiring Manager: Adam Retter of Evolved Binary

Ask a Hiring Manager Evolved Binary
Adam Retter

“We want individuals that will take ownership of their tasks, work hard, and see them through to completion at a high-level of quality. In exchange, we offer a great deal of flexibility for our employees and tend to promote individuals publicly first rather than the company.”

Adam Retter

Director, Evolved Binary

In the October installment of the Virtual Vocations “Ask a Hiring Manager” series, we sit down with Adam Retter, Director of Evolved Binary. Founded in 2014, Evolved Binary specializes in information storage and retrieval and tech consulting.

In the booming tech industry, Retter provides his insight as a hiring manager on how to draft a great resume and cover letter, as well as ace the interview in a highly competitive field.

How Important Is It to Have All of the Requirements Listed in the Job Listing? Should Applicants Still Apply Even If I Only Have 75% of the Requirements?

Probably not! The roles that we have are honestly quite niche roles, which are challenging to recruit for. Therefore when describing our roles, we have been careful to separate the essential skills we are looking for from any additional skills that we consider to be a bonus. We tend to keep the essential skills that we are looking for very slim, maybe just one or two things, as such we really are only looking for candidates that have close to 100% of the essential skills and experience that we have described.

As a Hiring Manager, What Are You Searching for in Candidates in Terms of Culture Fit With Your Organization?

We work on hard problems, and as such, one of the key skills we look for is perseverance. Often it can take a lot of personal resilience to keep fighting with a hard problem until solved. We want individuals that will take ownership of their tasks, work hard, and see them through to completion at a high-level of quality. In exchange, we offer a great deal of flexibility for our employees and tend to promote individuals publicly first rather than the company. We want to help our employees celebrate and publicize their achievements.

What Are You Looking for in a Cover Letter That You Can’t Get From My Resume?

Often I find that a well-written cover letter can be more instructive than the resume. Likewise, a poorly written or missing cover letter has a huge negative impact. Ideally from a cover letter, I want to learn two things:

  1. Why do you want the job? What is it about this specific role and our company that appeals to you?
  2. Why do you think you are a good fit for the role? Just answering that you are a good fit because you have all the skills is good. But it’s not enough. We also want to get a feel for your personality as well.

Experts Say That You Only Have a Matter of Seconds to Make an Impression With Your Cover Letter. What Are Some Things You See on Cover Letters That Will Cause You to Immediately Reject an Application?

Retter offered two reasons why he would reject an application:

  1. Spelling and grammar mistakes are more common than they should be. We understand that written English may not be everyone’s strength or first or even second language. However, our roles are highly technical and require attention to detail. As such, we expect candidates to have at least made use of the spelling and grammar checker built into their word processor. Not doing so shows us a lack of interest in the role.
  2. Copy-paste style cover letters that have not been tailored to the specific application. If you just want to send the same cover letter to many roles, you will not have much luck with us. We want people that are genuinely interested in the role and can bring their own personality to the company. As such you need to use the cover letter to show us that you are genuinely interested.

When It Comes Down to It, How Do You Decide Who Gets the Job Offer?

A combination of factors that we measure. Obviously having the technical skills is very important, however, we also want someone that we can rely on, someone who will become a technical leader, insofar as they will take responsibility for their projects, and that they can contribute to the company as a whole by helping others in the company and bringing new and interesting ideas to our notice.

What Do You Wish Applicants Would Pay More Attention to in the Application Process? Cover Letters? Resumes? Social Media Profiles? Interviewing Skills?

Applying for the right position. We have had many applications for what is a highly technical senior software engineering role, who themselves were either not software engineers, or specialized in a completely different area to what we are asked for. I think there must be many applicants who have not read the job description before they send over their application. Frankly, such an approach is a waste of time for both the applicant and employer.

As a Hiring Manager, What Answers From Interviewees Do You Never Want to Hear Again?

Some things that we would prefer not to entertain when asking about their previous employment are being told either: “I was frustrated in my last job because I wasn’t told what to do” or “I wasn’t given enough direction.” We are a small company with large ambitions; we need people that will think for themselves, can be self-directed, and within reason will create their own destinies within our company. If you can see that something needs doing then please do it. Similarly, if you don’t know what to do, then it’s time to start learning and asking questions.

Likewise, anyone that claims to be perfect at estimating software projects probably doesn’t have as much experience as they are claiming.

What Makes You Want to Learn More About a Candidate Enough to Ask Them for the Interview?

When a candidate has strongly held opinions whether positive or negative about a specific technology, we often want to dig deeper. We want to make sure that these opinions are evidence-based rather than subjective because of their personality. We are always excited to discover strongly held opinions, but a candidate had better be able to back them up through experience and evidence-based arguments. Likewise, they must demonstrate that they have the flexibility to re-evaluate their opinions should the landscape change.

What Do You Consider Potential Red Flags in a Candidate During the Hiring Process?

Any engineer that demonstrates complacency during an interview is an issue. We understand that you may be technically excellent, and that is what we are looking for, but complacency and arrogance towards problem-solving is a big red flag for us. We want team members that are excellent but humble. Otherwise, such complacency or arrogance can become a problem later if there are technical hurdles that were unanticipated by the candidate.

How Do You Feel About the Use of Pre-Interview Assessments on Job Boards? Are You for or Against? Why or Why Not?

I think they have value if they are conducted in the right way. Assessing someone for a highly technical role is a challenge, such candidates can likely only be correctly evaluated by their peers.

As Retter illustrates, hiring managers and companies such as Evolved Binary aren’t just searching for a candidate that looks great on paper. Instead, their hiring process revolves around applicants that have a zest and fervor for the position; it’s not just another job. If you’re a tech professional, take these suggestions to heart. That just might be the best way to find an exciting remote position in the competitive tech industry.

Are you a hiring manager who’s interested in appearing in our “Ask a Hiring Manager” monthly segment? Connect with Virtual Vocations on FacebookTwitterLinkedInInstagram, and YouTube  to set something up with the team. We’d love to hear from you!

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