A Silicon Valley headhunter reveals the precise formula he uses


As partner and head of consumer practice at True Talent Advisory, a leading executive recruiting firm for the world’s fastest growing startups, Todd Zangrillo has spent his 16-year recruitment career personally making matches between top candidates and jobs at the biggest tech companies, including Jet, HelloFresh, Casper, SoulCycle, Chewy.com and Glossier. True Talent has also placed talent at Spotify, Lyft, Jet WeWork, Box, and Square.

To make these placements a success, Zangrillo says his approach includes being laser-focused on building dynamic relationships with entrepreneurs and investors to build top leadership teams.

“We develop a rapport with our clients who are founders of these tech companies,” Zangrillo told Business Insider. “That’s a key part of how we find them the best people for these positions.”

Zangrillo, who served as the human resources business partner with eBay’s ecommerce technology organization before joining True, has led over 300 searches. Here he shares insider tips on what tech companies are looking for when they’re filling positions, from entry level to executive.

Todd Zangrillo of True Talent Advisory.
Courtesy of Todd Zangrillo

Headhunters will assess your skill set and fit

When placing tech professionals, Zangrillo follows a precise formula that integrates two kinds of fit.

“In today’s market, companies are looking for people who are humble and confident and have about 70 percent of the required job skill sets,” he says. “There’s no room for error and, if you don’t have that 70-percent requisite skills, you won’t get the attention of our client.”

These skill sets could include things like domain expertise, leadership ability, vision and strategy, operational excellence, and consumer-driven digital experience.

What Zangrillo sees as the remaining 30 percent is just as important.

“That’s the number we attach to personality and culture fit,” he says. “While CEOs want to see you bringing certain quantifiable skills to the company, you won’t make it to the second level unless there’s a strong chemistry fit.”

Conveying passion is more important than ever

These days, since it’s more common than ever for people to bond around missions, causes, and passions, you should convey that passion during the entire hiring process, Zangrillo says.

“In any position I fill, I need to see an aligned passion for the business, the business model, the brand, or the category,” he says. “This makes a big difference to the company’s hiring managers. This gets them excited about you as a candidate and turns this into a successful hire.”

Make sure your resume speaks on your behalf

Zangrillo encourages job seekers angling for competitive jobs in the tech sector to treat their resumes as living, breathing documents conveying more than just the facts.

“Hiring managers are looking for people who stand out and one way to show this is in your resume,” he says. “It’s more than just that you went to the best school. You should show that you’re a juggler, a leader, and have a knack for humanity.”

Just like a product in any other market, you want your resume to be clearly differentiated.

“When you share specific ways you took leadership roles or did something outside the box, you’ll connect to a potential hiring manager in a unique way, beyond which companies you worked for and when,” Zangrillo says.

Resumes are also a great conversation-starter, especially if a hiring manager has a similar trajectory, he adds. Organizational psychology research finds that hiring managers want to hire people that remind them of themselves.

Read more: A major healthcare startup’s HR chief was ‘taken aback’ when a hiring manager asked her this probing question. Now she asks job candidates the same thing

Show that you’ve gone the extra mile

No matter how much job experience you’ve had, you’re going to be more of a standout candidate for a tech job if you’ve done everything you can to gain every experience you can that’s related to the position.

“Executives at Google and Facebook want to hire people with specific pedigrees that are based around your accomplishments,” Zangrillo says. “If you’re eager to show your entrepreneurial bent, during interviews with me, share what you did during your internships. If you created a product, explain it clearly and tell me what makes you passionate about it.”

Engage with the company

It’s easier than ever to access information about any tech company you’re applying to, but you want to be strategic.

“While a Facebook hiring manager isn’t going to decide whether or not to hire you depending on how many (social media) followers you have, he or she will want to know that you’re passionate about the product and category and that you’ve studied the technology the company has built its products on,” he says.

“You should know the business model of Facebook inside and out and understand the user experience. If you don’t do that, it won’t matter that you have 50,000 followers, you will still be less attractive as a candidate.”

Avoid these missteps

If you want a job at a top tech company, the worst thing you can do is be arrogant, aggressive, and unprepared, Zangrillo says.

“A combination of these three things can flat-line candidates,” he says. “It’s the fastest way I’ve seen a candidate eliminated.”

Instead, consider that there’s an art to presenting yourself in the best way to these companies.

“When you have hot jobs and great people going for them, you have to be sure you don’t alienate anyone,” he says.

In the end, the best candidates are “extraordinarily truthful,” Zangrillo says. “When a job placement comes down to two candidates where one is truthful and the other one is exaggerating, the gut feeling of the hiring manager is that, in the end, the people who are more authentic win.”



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