I’ve had several requests recently to write about the art of interviewing. What follows is not job interview theory, it is the hard reality of what it takes to be successful in today’s market. Over the years I’ve sent candidates to thousands of IT interviews, and this article is based on feedback from hiring managers and HR representatives.
It is perfectly normal for even the most experienced IT professional to feel nervous during a interview or phone screen. It’s tough to pass a technical test and attempt to appeal to a perfect stranger while wearing what feels like a Halloween costume, a suit you haven’t worn in years! Here is sure way to take away the jitters and gain total confidence.
Ask your IT recruiter (or HR rep) for an itinerary for your interview, but don’t rely solely on their description of your interviewers even if they give you one. “Google” them, the more you know about their academic and professional paths the easier it would be to relate to them. You may even know some of the same people but be careful with name-dropping, check to see that your contact is worth mentioning.
Your IT Recruiter (or HR rep) can tell you about the company’s dress code which would help you prepare a freshly pressed outfit just tad bit dressier, then their daily attire. Good news – you don’t always need to wear a suit. Another great indicator is the interviewer’s Linked In pics, you can simply mirror those.
Learn as much as you can about the company and their initiatives. Read up on any requisitions, mergers or awards as well as lawsuits and scandal’s (the later just for fun). This information will help you understand business objectives behind IT initiatives that may come up in the interview. This knowledge would also enable you to ask intelligent questions to gauge your potential future with their organization.
Find out what they want
Ask your IT Recruiter (or HR rep) for an official job description and let it be your guide. Highlight all the skills on the description that you DO have and make sure you can elaborate on having experience with each by providing concise examples out of your past. Note all the technology used in each case, so it sounds legit. Practice talking about each “bullet point”, while staying away from fluff or going off on tangents.
Now, “Google” the requirements you DON’T have, once you look up what these technical tools are, you will realize that you most likely worked with a similar tools that perform the same function. Now you can address their concerns and your familiarity will give the interviewer confidence in your abilities to get up to speed quickly.
Aside from a list of required skills and experience, job description will also tell you “job responsibilities”. With that information, you can tailor your story about what you’ve been doing, to make yourself sound like a perfect fit!
Find out what they know
Hiring managers are always afraid of making a bad decision and get stuck with a poor performer that would be a struggle to manage. Prepare to put them at ease by eliminating inconsistency (which creates doubt) and sounding positive and supportive.
What do they know about you? The answer is – they know what your resume tells them plus the story from your IT recruiter (if you are using one) Take a look at your resume (make sure it’s the version you submitted) and put yourself in their shoes. What on there may present concerns? Do you live too far from their office, or do your last 3 jobs as a contractor made your resume look choppy?
WARNING: If you are using a recruiter, chances are, they already told a story about all of the above and it worked, that is why you have an interview. Recruiter has likely submitted your “current” and” desired” compensation at this point. Rather then creating inconsistencies, ask them what they said about you so far, so you can stick with that plot.
If you are representing yourself, then prepare to address all this. Remember that being positive is half the battle. Example: “When I decided on this location for my home, I pretty much accepted this type of commute to any job, I’ve been doing it for years and getting up a little early doesn’t bother me one bit”. Or “I did some consulting which made me more adaptable and added new skills to my portfolio. However I realized that I am a lot happier in full time position, where I can take ownership and stick around to see the fruits of my labor.”
Be ready to tell them your salary current (or most recent) and desired. You won’t have to negotiate until after a potential offer but they will ask for some guidelines. Take a look at our Salary Negotiating Nitty-Gritty article to set the stage right. http://www.mmdtech.com/articles/salary-the-negotiating-nitty-gritty/
You are ready
Now, based on your preparation create a list of your strongest points that are relevant for this job. You should take it with you along with a few copies of your resume and a notepad. When in front of the decision maker(s) or on the phone with one, keep crossing out items as you cover them. Make every effort to work them all in during the course of the interview. Be ready to tell them why you want to work there and always use reasoning that doesn’t meet your personal, but professional needs. Avoid reasons like shorter commute or a better paycheck, stick with higher visibility (good for smaller teams), or larger scale projects (good for large companies) or simply interesting technology. Just like a first date – make it about them.
After the preparation is done, nothing is left to chance. With each interview you get better, perfecting the key aspect in your career development – your sales skills.