It’s a given that companies will carefully check candidates’ job history and education. But increasingly, hiring managers are drilling further down into applicants’ skills to determine if they're  the right match for the company. “Companies are very cautious about the type of candidate they’re going to bring on in a full-time role,” says Robert Byron, principal IT consultant for WinterWyman Search in Boston. But before we get to the offer stage, they’re ensuring that this person has the credentials they’re putting on their resume… They’re really getting under the hood of what candidates can bring to the table.”

Searching for a bull's-eye

Thorough technical screens, written tests and whiteboard exercises are just a few of the options employers are using to check out potential staff. Per Byron, if a company says it seeks 10 skills, it often only wants to see candidates with eight they can perform well. “It’s probably a little better than 2010 or 2011, but they’re still not saying, ‘Bring us a solid engineer with the fundamentals and we’ll train them,'" he says. "That’s not happening. Ninety percent of our clients are telling us they don’t have time to invest in ramping them up to get them up to speed. Our clients are looking for a bull’s-eye.” Other factors are at play as well, according to David Chie, CEO at Palo Alto Staffing Services.“Part of it is that there are junior people trying to sell themselves very high. We see that in a lot of the Java technologies,” he says. “One of the hiring managers I talked to told me, ‘They don’t know how to code. They’re a drag-and-drop developer. I need someone who can get up on the whiteboard and write out code.’ With so many of the modules, some of the core abilities aren’t there, and that’s why hiring managers are saying they can’t just use prebuilt modules.” Sheila Robinson, technical recruiter for staffing firm Agile in Atlanta, noticed a similar demand for .NET developers. “Everybody’s looking for .NET software engineers and they’re not just looking for maintenance and bug fixes. They’re looking for build-from-scratch software engineers."

But Can They Code?

Chie said sometimes candidates put certain keywords on their resume because they might have touched a specific technology but they really haven’t coded in it. Then they hope someone will be desperate enough to take them. The deception creates an atmosphere where hiring managers are far more strict in their requirements. Chie also mentioned a bizarre event he’d recently encountered and hopes he doesn't see again. “We had a situation where we interviewed and screened a candidate and then presented the candidate to the hiring manager," he says. "It turned out that the person we interviewed was not the same individual that the hiring manager interviewed. So for some of the higher-level salaries and opportunities, there could be more job seekers with questionable ethics out there.”