What IT interviewers (and recruiters) want
Looking for a job can be strenuous, especially when you have to constantly talk to recruiters and other go-between entities who are not the people who will make the final call whether you get the job.
What are the best approaches to talk to these people? Do recruiters make a difference in the recruitment process and are they or other parts the difference makers? How much does your résumé affect the outcome, more with a recruiter? What makes or breaks a job interview? What skills actually matter and what should you assume or expect when asked to demonstrate them?
Let’s start by discussing what I believe is the biggest difference maker in an IT interview, and that is “fit.” Recruiters, whether they are a hired gun or executive search committee, whether they work for the company themselves, want to know that any job candidate is a good “fit.”
If you have done your homework and you are actually interviewing for this job — as opposed to just looking for any job — then you want to convey that this is the right job for you. A perfect job, a perfect fit. How you convey that to the recruiter will spell success or failure.
Know before you go
Knowing the company is the biggest game changer, but you need to let on about this subtly. Consider explaining that you “read quite a bit” but would love the recruiter to explain how they view the job, or asking about “the positive aspects of the position.”
In reality, your knowledge needs to be so in-depth, that you understand where the CEO goes to lunch — but only use this knowledge to steer the conversation. Most recruiters jump at the opportunity to show how much they know about the company, so let them. Interject occasionally with you own true and heartfelt positivity.
I think your first impression should be one of someone who did their homework, has demonstrable teamwork skills, and is an excellent listener. Never interrupt. Only slide in occasional affirmations. If the recruiter is talking about the company’s growth, interject (because you did your research) that 28 percent growth is amazing, or mentions that, yes, “Wow, I did see that quarterly earnings report.”
Figure out, beforehand if you can, who the position will report to and what that individual is like. Even though you may be talking to a go-between, assume that you are speaking directly to your new boss. The recruiter will always replay a movie-like scenario as if they witnessed the candidate talking to the boss. Get in good with the recruiter, but always be aware that they will report the scene as though you were talking to the boss all along.
The résumé problem
Accomplishment is a very enigmatic word. It means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. This is why your research before you talk to anyone at a company is very important. Don’t ever go in blind as to what accomplishment means to the company you’re applying to join. You should never fake or exaggerate your own accomplishments, but you can switch up what’s typically listed on your résumé to align with those expectations.
A résumé will trip you up if your accomplishments can’t be discerned on the first page. It will make a huge difference to prospective employers if you’ve expressed your qualifications incorrectly, and will make next to no difference when it is laid out perfectly. This is a bit counterintuitive, but if your résumé is spot-on, then most people will focus on your personality and “fit” rather than on what a piece of paper you.
When the résumé looks poor you may not even get to the interview stage. The actual paper résumé will be similarly dismissed even if it’s perfect, but you, the candidate, will not be. So, scope out the company. Find out whether teamwork is important. Figure out their core values and move those résumé blurbs higher.
Do they value a strong tech or certification potential? Put those at the top … beef your cover letter, refresh your references. With all of this, I will mention that these edits or changes need to come from you. If a recruiter says that you need to edit your résumé, then they are either blind submitting you or you haven’t done your research.
Politely decline the offer and keep looking or go back and find out what you missed. Résumé editing should ALWAYS come from you. It is a reflection of your potential and speaks when you haven’t yet. Let it speak in the best voice — your voice.
Talking the talk
During the job interview, your detective work should shine. In the past, I have missed a few job opportunities due to poor detective work. Like the time that I discussed a salary range that was half what was actually being offered for the position. This is a crazy thing to imagine but the quote I gave made it seem like I was “low-rent” and didn’t understand the position or its pay grade.
Likewise, you should practice the names and positions of people associated with the job you are inquiring about, as well as the name of the company itself, a LOT. Screwing one of these up only takes a moment’s mental misfire, but that moment is also all the time it takes to potentially sink your job interview. Take the time and practice required to get it right.
In recent years, I have started to shy away from sending notes before or after an interview; instead I have opted for a heartfelt “thank you” during the interview itself. These can make or break a high-valued interview like no one’s business.
Remember, if you master how you interact with the 16 personality types, then technology doesn’t really matter. If you can have a good conversation with a recruiter or hiring manager, this can lock up a job offer over a technical test, any day of the week.
The human touch
Never discount your soft skills, they can make or break an interview.
While I believe that technical tests and the like are currently of burgeoning importance in the interview landscape, I still think the skills that matter — the ones that will land you in your new job — are soft-skills.
If a prospective employers want to give you a technical test, or you suspect that such will be the case from your previous detective work, then by all means study for that and pass it will flying colors. Just don’t discount the personal connections that you will need to forge in order to land a job offer.
To prepare for any discussion with a potential employee, I find it best to role play — to have a trusted friend or colleague who can pretend to be your interviewer. I find it very fun to have that person pretend they had a bad day, to not give in to your kind gestures. The harder the role-play, the more you will be prepared for the real-life interview.
Along these lines, never discount a good friend who is willing to humor you. Buy them lunch as a reward when you land that great job!
Getting your mind right is a common theme that I also subscribe to. List to some jokes or your favorite funny podcast before the interview. You are a calm, decisive individual; get your mind and communication synced up with these parameters before you actually sit down to talk with anyone.
No matter what tips or tricks or approach that you employ to win your next role, never let anyone tell you that you are not the right fit. Only take and win jobs that match your fit, ones where you know you are the right person for the job. If the company turns you down, it will be their loss. I hope that you land the job of your dreams and — pass on to others (like me) any knowledge of how you achieved it.