5 Bizarre Psychological Drivers Candidates Look For In Your Company

Silhouette of businessman in lotus position surrounded by work, love and finance worries

As we usher in the new year still hungover from festive spirits, many people are going to be passively open to new job opportunities within and beyond their current industry. This means more people are going to have their eyes open at job listings.

How can you make your company stand out apart from the salary offered? Here are 5 bizarre psychological drivers to adopt in your company to impress candidates:

  1. A Generous CEO

Gravity Payments CEO Dan Price did it. Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, took the plunge. Even Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, proclaimed his headline-making decision last week. Mr. Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, MD, shared news that they would give 99 percent of their Facebook shares — which is worth approximately $45 billion — to philanthropy.

What was it that these CEOs did? They demonstrated an exceptional degree of generosity.

Stories of generous bosses are undoubtedly feel-good tales. As human beings, we want to receive positive, happy news. Evidence of this has been proven by professors at Philadelphia-based University of Pennsylvania. They analysed thousands of New York Times articles and found two characteristics that determined the popularity of a given company: “How positive the company is and how much it excited the employee.”

2. Joy!

It is important to embrace the idea that there’s value to experiencing joy at work. The work environment should be safe and playful, which energises and unleashes creativity. Employees can pick up on the joy others are experiencing and share in it. Customers can feel it and be attracted to joyful environments.

Joy, like love, can be taboo in the office. But there is undeniable value to having joy in the workplace – and life, in general!

3. Wellness-focused Interior Design 

Ergonomic furniture drives a fundamental shift from a negative to a positive mindset and it has had a profound effect on the way we design offices. It is the main reason why more and more organisations in the UK are specifying height adjustable desks as well as chairs. But it is also why so many office designs are focussed on improving the wellbeing of people in holistic ways.

This can range from the direct such as the provision of daylight and fresh air to the subtle, such as signs of a working culture that encourages movement, interaction and taking proper breaks. There is now “overwhelming evidence” for the ways in which office design significantly impacts the health, happiness, wellbeing and productivity of people.

4. Flexible Working Hours

Plenty of evidence suggests that cutting back on hours can have substantial benefits, and not just because people are usually happier when they work less. If done right, shortening the workday can also boost productivity.

People who work too much are more likely to gain weight, fall short on sleep, get in car accidents, suffer workplace injuries and develop stress-related illnesses. And as fatigue sets in at the end of a long day, risks go up for eyestrain, headaches and muscle pain, while mistakes become more common.

Work less, do more: It’s an appealing idea that’s becoming reality for a growing number of people in Sweden, where some companies are shortening their workdays from eight hours to six or even fewer.

5. Room For Mistakes

Perfectionism might sound like a positive attribute — but in reality, it can sabotage your chances of success. According to psychologist Alice Boyes, perfectionists often use up all their willpower until they’re psychologically and emotionally exhausted. Then it’s hard for them to continue working on a task.

If you notice perfectionistic tendencies in yourself, Boyes suggests coming up with specific warning signs that you’ve persisted too long on something and it’s time to take a break.

Content adapted from

  • http://workplaceinsight.net/essential-workplace-design-trends-to-keep-an-eye-on-in-2016/
  • http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/careers/the-case-for-optimism-in-the-workplace/article27942799/
  • http://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-management-administration/why-we-re-so-intrigued-by-generous-ceos.html
  • http://news.discovery.com/human/can-a-6-hour-workday-work-151009.htm
  • http://www.businessinsider.sg/how-we-sabotage-our-own-success-at-work-2015-8/?r=US&IR=T#.VoS_ycB96mE

Cover photo: fortune.com

3 Tips On How To Attract Gen Ys To Join Your Company

Generation Y (or the “Me Me Me Generation” as Time Magazine recently went with) has a reputation for being negative, lazy and selfish. Just about every generation has said this about their juniors – when times get tough, so do the critics. Let’s clarify exactly who we are talking about here and why you need a recruitment strategy for this specific group of candidates and fast.

Gen Y, sometimes referred to as millennial’s, are the fastest growing segment of today’s workforce. They were born from the mid-eighties onwards and are likely to be the employee group that will take your clients organisation forward this century. You need them in your company.

The internet has changed everyone’s lives; but especially this group, who has never known life without the ability to be ‘plugged’ into the World Wide Web 24/7.

During an interview with a Gen Y, here are 3 areas in which you can seriously get into the core of what they care about when it comes to their career prospects.

1. Money and Skills

The perception among the newest wave of candidates is that they can demand the highest salaries because they have the highest-quality skills. The only way to question this perception is to introduce doubt to this train of thought.

To turn it around, focus on skills versus dollars. Candidate-poor job markets can create prospects who demand unrealistic dollars for marketable skills. The only weapon you have for this scenario is “skills versus dollars.” It goes like this:

  • “I understand that $150,000 is your targeted salary for six years of experience, and that you arrived at $150,000 because a contractor is charging $75 an hour on your team. In your mind, you are better than a contractor. I get that.”
  • “If you could add a different skill set on your next project, how much more marketable would that make you?”
  • “Overall, you would consider a move for more skills and potentially less dollars if it was on a whole a better opportunity?”

2. Title and Promotion

The reason Gen-Y candidates feel they need promotions and raises is that they do not understand the downside to being promoted too quickly and given too much money. It is like a credit card; they will deal with the bill later. Your job is to explain to them explicitly what the repercussions will be of this form of career management.

  • “Do you think that you can be promoted to a level that would be hard to reproduce if you lost your job? For example, could you graduate from business school and start immediately managing 10 people with no management experience?”
  • “You know one of the things that I have noticed is that the last thing you want to be is overcompensated and under-qualified.”
  • “In other words, always be in the middle of the market and at the top of the competency in your peer group. It gives you a lot of options. The last thing you want is a big title and a big salary and nothing to back it up. (All hat and no cattle!).”

3. Quality of Life and Fun

To turn it around, focus on the fun. Generation Y candidates actually require a chance to have fun. They can’t imagine all work and no play because they don’t perceive that they need to work very hard. They have productivity tools, they are connected, and they are loaded with options that let them do whatever they please.

In order to convey your understanding of this, profile what they want to do with their free time. In other words, what do they consider fun and a good quality of life? Ask them:

  • “So you like to snowboard in Europe with your parents. That’s great.”
  • “Did you know about our company’s paid time-off policy? Oh well, we really do work hard and play hard here. This is our vacation policy.”
  • “Do you think you want to learn more about our work-life balance program? Great, let me send that to you.”

Content adapted from:

  • http://www.gsr2r.com/blog/how-to-convince-gen-y-candidates-to-choose-you/
  • http://www.eremedia.com/ere/whats-important-to-gen-y-candidates/

Cover Photo: Sheryl Teo for HackerTrail

Needle in a Tech Haystack: How you interview determines who you hire

In the tech industry, it may be difficult to differentiate between a mediocre coder and a great one just by a face-to-face interview.

Tech employers can agree on only wanting the best candidate to come on board, someone who actually has more than necessary skills to hack through the growth of a startup. But is this only something that time will tell, or can you actually test this ability from the first interview?

How should you separate that one needle from the haystack of coders?

Here are some (actually useful!) strategic questions for your interviewees, given the specific business model of your tech startup. We believe these sets of questions will be the key to separating sheep from goats, and finding that needle in the tech haystack.

Source Control
I’ve found that a candidates level of source control experience can be an early warning that someone might not be a good fit. If they aren’t familiar with good source control practices, I start to question a lot about their development skill in general. I want to know about what systems they’ve used, and how advanced their usage is.

  • What source control systems have you used? Which is your favourite?
  • Why do you think your favourite is the best?
  • What do you think the best practices are for branch management in a multi-developer project?

Continuous Integration
Although I’ve come to consider CI a best practice, implementation is still unevenly distributed in the development world. It’s not a deal-killer if they haven’t worked with CI, but I want to know that they’re aware of it.

  • Have you worked in a CI environment?
  • If yes, what was the workflow? Positives and negatives?
  • If no, what do you know about CI? How would you go about setting it up?

I love having the ability to refactor major assemblies in HiringThing, and the only reason we can do that painlessly is our great test coverage. Experience with disciplined test development is a must.

  • Have you worked on projects where writing tests was as integral part of the development process?
  • Describe your workflow when writing tests and features?
  • What kind of test coverage did your last project have?
  • How do you test Javascript/UI elements, vs. backend logic?

Javascript and UI Development
When someone calls themselves a Web Developer, it can cover a broad range of skills. Javascript and UI development is a specialty in its own right.

  • Are you familiar with any Javascript UI frameworks? Tell me how it works.
  • What’s the most complex UI feature you’ve ever built?
  • What do you think the most effective way to work with designers is?

Hiring a Rails developer, I’ve pre-validated with an initial conversation that the candidate has the required level of experience with Rails before even undertaking a technical interview. That said, I want to ensure that they’re not misrepresenting their level of experience.

  • Pretend I’m another programmer who has never used Rails – explain to me how a Rails app is structured, and why it’s a good framework for web apps.
  • How do you decide what logic should reside in the models vs. controllers?
  • Tell me about the most complex Rails app you’ve worked on.

API Design
I tend to regularly pick an architecture design question that’s relevant to where we’re going as a company, and something with no “right” answer to help understand how the candidate thinks.

  • We’re working on adding an API to our system. How would you go about designing a brand new API?
  • Discuss best practices and pros and cons of popular approaches.
  • How would you go about securing an API?

Infrastructure and Deployment
In a small team, we don’t have the kind of IT support that large companies have. Our developers need to keep deployment and hosting issues in mind as they’re developing and take responsibility for helping to maintain our stellar uptime record.

  • What operating systems are you familiar developing on?
  • Describe an ideal web application deployment process? What tools are used? What is the workflow?
  • Do you have experience using Amazon Web Services?

Questions curated from:

Cover Photo: hbguides.com

How To Keep Yourself Tech-Savvy In 2016

While digital news should be seamlessly coming to us as the daily newspaper once arrived at our doorsteps each morning, the reality is not as we hoped. The fact is, being in the know takes time and effort.

How can you keep yourself tech-savvy and up-to-date in the area of tech news? Our answer is simple: Just follow the right social media channels, plug into their daily feed of content and you’re good to go.

Here are some tech news sites HackerTrail recommends for every person interested in the IT sector:

Hacker NewsStartup accelerator Y Combinator created Hacker News, a community inspired by Reddit, where users contribute news and up-vote them. Since 2007, programmers, entrepreneurs and computer science enthusiasts have made Hacker News a must-visit destination.

RedditNearly-ten-year-old Reddit has become well known as a source of cultural memes, but its Technology subreddit is also a great source for tech news and discussion. The simplicity of Reddit and its strong sense of community has made it endure the test of time.

CrunchBase: CrunchBase is the world’s most comprehensive dataset of startup activity. Founded by Michael Arrington as a crowd sourced database for TechCrunch, the site now contains over 500,000 profiles for companies and people. CrunchBase showcases daily trends, acquisitions and top funding rounds on its homepage.

Coursera: Coursera provides free online educational courses based on focused programs created by great universities, and tailored so you can master applied skills. From Data Science to Cybersecurity, Coursera’s courses provide a glimpse of the latest and greatest in tech education.

SlideShareSlideShare is a slide hosting service where anyone can upload and showcase presentation decks. Launched in 2006 and acquired by LinkedIn in 2012, SlideShare features popular presentations for topics like technology, and it’s a good way to gauge the popularity of trends like growth hacking, the Internet of things and the sharing economy.

AngelList: AngelList is a community of startups and investors who make fund-raising efficient. AngelList is transforming how startups fundraise and has become a destination for startups, investors and syndicate fundings. The site showcases trending startups, jobs and syndicates on its homepage.

Apart from taking in news from social / news sites, some of the top leaders in the world in the IT industry also take time and effort to study the current tech trends and KPIs on a regular basis.

This infographic by Daily Genius accurately summarises their day-to-day exercise:

Just like the acceleration of technology over the past few years, it seems like the technology industry is continuing to explode, with innovation not stopping at anything.

The only way to keep up with this exponential growth in technology, is to let technology do it for you.

Site explanations taken from: http://www.coca-colacompany.com/stories/5-tools-for-staying-tech-savvy-in-a-hyper-connected-world/

Understanding The Gen Y Candidate: Who Are They, What Do They Want?

Picture this: Young adult, full of ambition and creativity, with their nose constantly glued to a smartphone. Boom – you’ve got yourself a typical Generation Y person.

Gen Ys are the millennials of our society. They are born after 1980, and most of them are recent college graduates. Though they may be more individualistic than previous generations, this translates into Gen Y employees as being highly innovative and self-driven. They take pride in what they do, and they do it fast – which is why they are so attractive in the IT scene!

However, to understand how to talk to and work with these special group of people, we at HackerTrail think that it is important to first understand what is going on in their head. In this article, we dissect the Gen Y brain.

What MOTIVATES them?
Technical assignments, for they are extremely tech-savvy. Technology becomes a platform for them to show off their skills and competence in the digital sphere.

The feeling of importance drives them. If you let them feel like they are contributing significant works to your company, they are more likely to understand and love what they do and perform accordingly.

Day-to-day excitement. This refers to anything wacky your company might be able to pull up within the office, conveniently: For example, checkered shirt day, or bring-your-own-beer day!

(Adapted from – http://www.thinkenergygroup.com/think.nsf/InfoNFR/HowtoHireandManageGenXandGenYEmployees?Opendocument)

WHAT do they want?
Flexibility within the working environment. To the Gen Y, flexibility does not immediately translate into performance, and sometimes they do prefer to work from home or in a nearby Starbucks just for the sake of breathing new air.

Fast career progression. Gen Ys are unabashedly selfish and self-absorbed — they were told from a young age that they were the cream of the crop and were born for greatness. In this fast-paced world, slowness and stagnancy in the workplace is a sure sign for them that they are set for failure.

Opportunities for growth, development and travel. Given their ambitious personality, Gen Ys are constantly looking out for the next big thing, and this includes classic training programmes which they consider self-evident as a form of reward in return for good performance.

(Adapted from — https://www.smartrecruiters.com/blog/decoding-gen-y-job-interview-questions/)

WHERE are they?
Gen Ys live and breathe social media. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, Google+, YouTube… You get the drift. A great way to recruit good candidates most suitable for your job is to scout on social media as a pre-interview round to access their personality and professionalism.

In the office, they’re probably beside the ping-pong table or by the pantry. They would be willing to take their laptops to these fun-loving areas, just for the sake of feeling closer to a state of leisure. The line between work and play does not exist for Gen Ys! Make sure that your workspace is attractive to them, one that they can thrive in.

(Adapted from – http://relentless.taketheinterview.com/secrets-to-recruiting-generation-y-job-seekers/)

5 Types of Developer Stress & How You Can Cope

Developer Stress #1: Decision Fatigue

Developers have to make dozens of choices, both small and large, every day. These can range from setting up a new product’s tech stack to naming a function. All of these small little actions take time and mental energy. They eventually wear on your brain’s ability to make decisions, leading to burnout. This stress further cripples your ability to make decisions, and you can get caught in a downward spiral of decision fatigue. How can we overcome this particular stress?

Stress Solution: Reduce Options

Consider this comic from xkcd.

In many cases this chart is an exaggeration, but consider what happens when you add a Strategy C to the Time Cost. You have to compare Strategy C to both Strategy A and Strategy B. If you consider a Strategy D then you have to compare it to the three previous strategies. Clearly, comparing a large number of strategies is not a winning strategy.

Consequently, our first tip is to reduce the number of options or variables you are considering in your decision-making process. For each option you eliminate, you save yourself the effort of comparing that option to each of the remaining options.

For example, perhaps you want to introduce a JavaScript Templating framework into your application. A quick search might show that there four major contenders. If you can quickly rule out even one of them (perhaps the one option no one on your team has even heard of), then you will save yourself the time and brainpower of comparing it to three other libraries.

Developer Stress #2: Disagreements

A second major source of stress is disagreement. Most developers don’t work alone. There are weeks where we spend more time with our coworkers than with our families. This constant interaction may result (intentionally or not) in reduced professionalism. This and other factors result in disagreements. Some tips for overcoming this stress include:

Solution: Choose Your Battles Wisely

It’s easy to find yourself arguing semantics. Does it really matter if the function is called ‘getUserId’ or ‘getUserID’? Probably not. But too often, people become wrapped up in these tiny details (there’s a term for this too: bikeshedding!). The discussion becomes counter-productive and time gets more wasted than college kids on St. Patrick’s Day. Even if your idea or choice is more correct, it won’t always win. Make peace with it. Sometimes you have to cut your losses in order to keep going.

Developer Stress #3: Overloaded

Working nights and weekends? This third stress is a bummer. Check out these savvy solutions to save your personal life from the black hole of time that work can sometimes be.

Solution: Know Before You Go

A developer should never be caught by surprise by the expectations of the workplace they’ve chosen. Have the foresight to ask those questions during the interview phase and make sure that expectations match up to the work-life balance you want to have. Don’t just ask about a “typical day” either. Specifically ask how often crunch times happen and whether there is an on-call rotation.
If you’re already at a job and struggling with spending too much time at work and not enough time living the rest of your life, talk to your manager! You might be surprised to discover that your boss doesn’t want you burning out either.

Developer Stress #4: Feeling Stagnant or Bored

There will be times in your career when you won’t always get to work on what you enjoy most. That’s the job part of it. These tips will help you power through those phases.

Solution: Get Involved

Look at this problem from a career perspective: we chose software development because we love it right? Often enough, the most enjoyable aspect of my career is something I’m doing for fun, not money. Writing a tech blog, attending/presenting at a meetup, or coding a fun side project is a great way to get involved with something new. Mixing fun extracurricular items in with the dull makes those dull tasks more tolerable.
You might even get the opportunity to incorporate something new in at work. Trying new things outside of your day job is a great source of creativity and inspiration. Bringing that to work is a good way to get noticed and start working on newer or more rewarding projects.

Going Forward…

Regardless of what the problem is, you are not the first person to have it. Do your due diligence and try to figure it out, but don’t bang your head on the keyboard all day. Talk to another developer or your manager to get help! No one likes a workplace martyr (“look how hard I’m trying to find a solution on my own!”) – do your best to find a solution, but call for help when too much time is passing.

Now that we’ve covered some common developers challenges, remember to step back and try to tackle the cause of a problem. We covered some tips that have worked for us, but if you have a tip that helps you manage stress and focus on productivity, be sure to let us know in the comments!

This article was originally featured on AirPair and can be viewed here.

Day in the Life of an IT Startup Intern – HackerTrail Interview

Technology is rising faster than anything, and they are shaping up the economy. We are witnessing the third industrial revolution – the digital revolution. And the main driver behind this revolution? The startups.

According to the renowned venture capitalist and PayPal co-founder Paul Graham, a startup is a company designed for fast growth. Being newly founded does not in itself make a company a startup. To maintain growth, you’ll need to solve a big problem for many people. Therefore, many startups are either in technology sector or technology-enabled companies.

Photo: Teoh ZeTong


HackerTrail interviews Teoh Ze Tong, a graduating Marketing Major in the Business School at the National University of Singapore who has done more than a year’s worth of internships in both MNCs and tech startups.

Here is Ze Tong’s Story:

When I was working for my edtech company, I wore different hats each day. One day I could be writing for social media, another day I would be handling three million data points using MS Excel, and on another I would be at a strategy meeting giving my opinions on the decisions.

The things you will learn in an internship with a good startup will far exceed the structured, one-person-fits-one-task position in a large MNC. In my case, I was able to learn why they made certain strategic decisions like why they chose to retain a product when they are supposed to drop it. These are things not taught in MBAs and can only picked up in real-life. In order for a startup to succeed and progress quickly, many projects they take on often require a cross-functional team. There is great autonomy to work on things you perceive to be the best for the company under the guidance of a mentor.

Significance of start-ups in the 21st century

It took the Internet twelve years to gather its first billion users, but only one-third of that time to gather its third billion. The explosive growth of the Internet has led to the maturity of infrastructure and made it easier for startups to emerge.

When you intern at a startup, you put a time limit on the job commitment. Even if a company is failing, you are gaining real-world experience observing what mistakes is the company making because you would know what went wrong. Was it the team dynamics, office culture or a management issue?

NUS Enterprise Blk 71 Launch Pad Office: Singapore’s Startup Hotspot


Why now, why Singapore?

Singapore has one of the best ecosystems in the world for startups. We are right now, so conveniently located in the 10th best startup ecosystem in the world, as reported in the Startup Ecosystem Ranking 2015. This means in terms of funding, startup experience and readability of startups, Singapore is one of the hotspots for startups.

However, Singapore’s startup scene is still in its nascent stage. Only 21 startups made it to the series A funding round, which often represents maturity of a company poised for growth. So, by joining a startup now, you are at the forefront of witnessing the emergence of startups in Singapore.

Not a tech person? No problem.

Startups are not just about technology, they are a form of business unit. So you will definitely find a startup in a sector that interests you. Startups can be found across different industries and sectors: In education, PlayMoolah! teaches young kids the importance of money and savings; MotionMath engages with students in Mathematics through interesting games. In healthcare, MyDoc Singapore is streamlining the doctor’s communication process and reduce patient’s waiting time. In the real estate area, 99.co is enabling realtors and agents to list their properties easily on an online platform.

What To Expect As A Start Up Intern

When you start to work at a startup, it is not as crazy as portrayed the by the media where there will be posh, lavish product launch parties. But you still will most likely find yourself working with a bunch of intelligent people who are geeks, but fun to hang out with and driven. They show up at the office each day because they are motivated by the startup’s belief in making an impact on society. You will find people who left the high-paying jobs to work at the new, young company.

Ze Tong Against A Board Of Start Up Companies

Day-To-Day Office Culture

The office culture often revolves around having fun and celebrations. Because the lifespan of a startup is so short, and every day is another day of fire-fighting. People in the startups embrace fun and never fail to find a reason to celebrate. You don’t see that bureaucracy in big corporations, only flat hierarchies and standing tables. You work alongside your CEO and your manager, and are able to present your opinion on company decisions and be heard by the CEO directly.


Every undergraduate should intern at a startup at least once before graduation, for all the valuable experiences and novel insights as above. If you are an undergraduate with a hunger for more, the one thing that you should do now is to source for an internship at a startup.

Apply for an internship at a startup of your choice, one that you really feel for, and gain important life skills and experience that will benefit your career in a path less taken.

Cover Photo: Ze Tong in California, USA for NUS Overseas College (NOC) Internship Programme
This article does not represent HackerTrail in any way, and is entirely the opinions and insights of our interviewee Ze Tong.