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How to Get Hired, SXSW Style


In recent years, Austin’s SXSW has become a huge draw for tech recruiters. The conference’s range – interactive, music and film – lures a special mix of digital creatives that companies hope to tap. We scoured the floors at both the Tech Career Expo and the Digital Creative Job Market to give you a sense for what companies are looking for now – and how to ace the modern job fair, which is as likely to be held in a massive conference hall as it is in a Sunday brunch spot.

Do your research. The casual nature of SXSW -- or any job fair -- can make some candidates forget that first impressions matter. Don’t be the person who approaches a company’s booth and says, “So what do you do?” There's still no excuse for not downloading a company's app or looking them up before you make your approach. Says Scott Hall, head of human resources for interactive fitness app company MapMyFitness, not knowing what a company does put you at a huge disadvantage.

Bring and old-fashioned hard copy resume. Yes, we're in a digital age. Yes, everything a recruiter needs to know is on your LinkedIn profile. But the headhunters we talked to want a hard copy of your resume to take away. Recruiters still use old-school paper resumes to jot down notes about your background and why they liked you. Job seekers who don't bring them along might have trouble getting remembered. 

Do a full circuit.  Big companies don't always get booths in the front of these fairs. Sometimes, due to bad luck, late signups or limited space, even the choicest firms can find themselves in a back corner. In fact, at SXSW's Tech Career Expo, held in a restaurant and not an expo center, that's exactly where companies such as GM and Amazon were tucked away. Additionally, events held at non-traditional venues fit recruiters in around buffets, bars and servers, making it hard to see the lay of the land, so always make a point to go to the back of the room.  

Bring your brain. Companies at this fair stressed the importance of showing your gumption. Says John Dorhmann, director of CRM at Team One, a Los Angeles-based agency, “we’re not just looking for someone to come in and solve problems. We want someone to come in an find the problems.”

Make things easy. Sasha Sadrei, human resources partner at Globant, a software development firm, says she likes when candidates introduce themselves and explain what types of positions they are looking for. This helps her match candidates to any openings. However, she says, if there isn’t an easy match, don’t feel the need to draw out the conversation. Says Sadrei, “Know when to go.”

Tech is king. As if it’s a surprise, the hottest jobs were still in development. Most companies were looking for mobile developers, and experts in languages such as Python and JavaScript. Globant alone had more than 50 open positions it was looking to fill. 

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