Interviewing Techniques: Potential Employers

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An IT job isn’t like a lot of other professions: The typical workday doesn’t always fall between 9 and 5, needing a certification to maintain employment is the norm, and being available at a moment’s notice, even if that moment is 3 a.m., isn’t out of the question. So if should come as no surprise, then, that interviews for IT jobs don’t follow the mainstream either.

According to Allan Hoffman,’s tech jobs expert and author of the article “Tips for Technical Job Interviews,” interviews for technical positions often include challenges beyond the usual questions about career goals. Interviews might include everything from an informal meeting to an on-the-spot programming exercise. Candidates should be prepared for the unexpected.

To prepare for a technical interview, candidates should expect a test, prepare for hands-on exercises and demonstrate communication skills. For the test, potential employers might rely on tests or assessments, such as IKM’s TeckChek, rather than simply your certification status to gauge technical knowledge. To prepare, brush on up your skills and test yourself before the interview with sample exams. This could include reviewing old exams from your study guides or even buying new books and sample tests. Candidates should also be prepared to display their hands-on technical skills during the interview. So, if you’re interviewing for a programmer position and your resume states you have programming experience, don’t be surprised if your potential employer asks you to solve coding problems during the interview process.

In addition to displaying your technical knowledge, be prepared to demonstrate your communication skills as well. And don’t assume that because you’re interviewing for a technical position, your potential employer will be well versed in the subject area. An increasing number of IT jobs are in non-IT fields, such as health care and education. So you might need to prove to your potential employer that you can explain technical issues without using techie jargon. To prepare, enlist a not-so-technically inclined friend or relative (you know, the one who can’t program the VCR clock) to help you prepare for your interview. Explain a technical subject that might come up in the interview to that person, and do it without getting frustrated, fed up or, even worse, angry. Figure out how to speak to non-techies in a clear and logical way, and ask your friend for feedback on your demeanor.

Finally, rely on the old stand-bys to prepare for your interview. Arrive on time, use a firm handshake, make eye contact while speaking, bring extra copies of your resume and work samples or portfolio, and prepare a list of questions to ask, such as “What are the greatest challenges in this position?” or “What would the ideal candidate bring to this position?” Follow the interviewer’s responses with examples from your background and experience that fit the bill.

Make sure you research the company before you interview by visiting its Web site and reading its mission statement, annual report and any press releases. Also make sure you are up to date on industry news, events and trends.

Prepare responses to typical interview questions. These questions might include, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” “How would you describe your most recent job performance?” “What’s the most difficult part of your current job?” and “What do you like to do outside of work?” Make sure your responses are positive and refrain from ridiculing your former employers, co-workers or positions. Also, structure your responses so you don’t come across as arrogant or egotistical. Your technical experience might far exceed the company’s needs, but that doesn’t mean you have the right to act like a know-it-all. Show genuine enthusiasm and interest in the position and the company, and describe how your experience would benefit the company.

At the end of the interview, if you’re still interested in the position, make sure the interviewer knows it. Highlight some of the company’s assets and describe how you will add to or complement them.

After the interview, always send a thank-you note. According to a survey, nearly 15 percent of hiring managers said they would not hire someone who failed to send a thank-you letter after the interview, and 32 percent said they would still consider the candidate, but would think less of him or her, so don’t forget! Thank-you notes can be sent by mail or e-mail, depending on the situation. If the interviewer indicates that a decision will be made within less than 48 hours, send an e-mail immediately, followed by a mailed note. Otherwise, a note sent in the mail should do the trick as long as it’s sent as soon as possible after the interview. According to the survey, 26 percent of hiring managers expect to have the letter in-hand two days after the interview and 36 percent expect to have it within three to five days. Thank-you notes should be specific, not generic, and they should be free of grammatical errors or typos. Proofread it yourself and have someone else read it for you. After thanking the interviewer, the note should also express your interest in the position and include a sentence or two reiterating why you’d be perfect for the job.

–Sarah Stone,

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