The interview is the heart of the job finding process. We have included
advice that will result in a successful interview and increase the probability of a
subsequent offer of employment.
The objective of interviewing is to get an offer of employment. There are
two sub-objectives which are also important: learning about the company - both the general
range of opportunities available and the specific job being offered, and determining the
chemistry between yourself, the company's working environment and the personnel you will
report to. Interviews will take place on two levels: the factual level represented by an
exchange of information between you and the company and the subliminal level - often
referred to as "chemistry".
Your resume must be factual and clear. It does not have to be limited to
one page, but three is excessive. Most resume readers will give a ten second reading
each to a pile of resumes, so summarizing your objective, hardware/software skills and
applications experience is a good idea. If you have a good educational background, put it
at the top - if not, leave it to the end. Don't use words like "involved in",
"participated in" or "familiar with" when discussing experience. Give
specifics: "wrote specifications for", "programmed extensively in",
and "designed". Your last job should be listed first and should take up most of
the room on page 1 (unless of course you did nothing in your last job). If you've had many
jobs or several quick changes, do not yield to temptation and forget to list one or two.
If you misstate something and are caught you may blow the one job you really wanted. The
truth will always surface.
You must show up for an interview or call ahead in time to cancel. It is
unforgivably rude and unprofessional to no-show without calling. Dress up more than you
would on an average work day. This could tip off your current boss but if you do it
several days in a row you may put everyone off the track and get promoted.
Close Encounters Of The Personnel Kind...
The first interview to contend with is most likely to be with a
representative of the Personnel Department. Personnel departments usually consist of two
classes of interviewers: the intelligent professional whose opinions are both solicited
and listened to by the technical department and the hack. Unless your consultant tells
you, you won't know in advance, so be polite. The personnel interviewer usually won't know
COBOL from FOOTBOL, so be prepared with answers to the following types of questions:
"Tell us about yourself; describe your ideal job; why are you considering leaving
your current employer?; what do you like most/least about your current job?; what are your
short/long term goals." The output of the personnel interview from the company side
is to place you in one of three categories: 1) "Looks good and also would be an asset
to our softball team", 2) "Marginal employee - check references carefully"
and 3) "Turkey". From your side you might learn about benefits but not much
more. Ask for an annual report. The personnel department won't make the hiring decision
but they can make the no-hire decision.
You can't and shouldn't try to change your basic personality. But you must
try to present yourself in the best light possible. The biggest K.O. factor, aside from
lack of specific skills, is poor communication. The hiring manager is thinking of two
things: can you do the job technically and does he want you working for him? No one enjoys
communicating with a slug. You must make a special effort to maintain a dialog in a
professional manner. If you relax, the interviewer is likely to relax and feel better
about the interview. It's true you may be more nervous but try to achieve the state we
call "professional/natural". If it helps, think of the interviewer as a user
you're interviewing. Be friendly but not familiar. Smile but don't crack jokes. Sit up but
don't be stiff.
Who's In Command Here?
Try to control the interview without letting the interview know it. Here
are possible ways to do it. Qualify the interview questions. If a question requires a
direct application of technical knowledge "what languages are you best in and how
would you rate your strengths?" answer concisely. However, if the question is more
general "describe your analysis experience". answer the question in summary then
ask for areas in which amplification is needed. Before you blurt out your entire work
history to a bored audience, ask questions about particular areas of company interest.
TARGET YOUR ANSWERS.
Sorry, Time's Up
Ask about the structure of the interview. "How many people am I
scheduled to see?" "How much time do we have?" In some companies interviews
are structured. Even if you don't seem to fit, you may still end up talking with four or
more people. In other firms, the one manager you speak with may be it. The time spent may
be related to how well you seem to fit. Regardless of how many people you see, you must
know how much time you have with each to ensure you get all your good points across.
(When To) Tell The Truth
Always tell the truth, period! However, you are not required to show all
your battle scars or warts. For example, if you alienated several users in your last job
(something may come out in a reference check) develop a brief reference to this which
illustrates what you learned from the experience. Be positive. There are always two sides
to every story. One of the trickiest problems to handle is describing a personality clash
with your boss. An interviewer will most likely cast him/her self in the role of your
current employer. So tread carefully. Even if you view your current employer as a
@Y$#(&, saying so on an interview will probably be fatal. Illustrating verifiably good
relationships with others in your current company may help. Describing attempts you have
made to deal with the problem is also positive. Never run down your current employer. In
general, accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.
As an IT professional, you have a technical skill that makes you
unique.You may be able to design or program a super system in record time, but getting
this across is another matter. You must be able to capsulize your experience and that
means preparation. Here are some ideas for presenting your technical background. Know what
type of position is offered. If you're not sure say, "Before I go into detail, could
you describe what you need so I can relate specifics?". Verbally summarize your
hardware/software/applications experience by skill level. Any standard will do such as
"on a scale of 1-10, I am an 11." Describe the kind of work that has
been most interesting or most challenging to date. Do not start at the chronological
beginning. Qualify questions about your experience enough to be able to pinpoint your
answers without rambling on. If it helps, write answers to possible difficult questions
such as: "why were you let go?" or "what were you doing during this three
month gap in your resume?". Don't let yourself stumble over questions you know for
sure will be asked.
Things To Think About And Ask
Is this a good company generally in which to grow? Is the job offered
interesting and challenging? (You don't look at your paycheck nearly as much as you do
your work assignment). Will employment at this company look good on my resume? (Although
we don't like to think of leaving a job before we get there, in the IT field keeping
current with technology is vital for a viable career.) Specific leading questions that
must be diplomatically broached include: 1. Is this position opened through growth,
transfer or replacement? 2. Has current management been hired from the outside? 3. How
long has this position been open? 4. What is the current reputation of the IT shop? (Your
consultant will be able to answer this, not the company.) Do not ask about benefits in the
technical interview. If you feel rusty in interview, try role playing with a friend in the
know or with your consultant.
Ask your consultant or the personnel department interviewer about the
salary range for the position. Companies do not like to hire above the mid-point of the
salary range. You can also ask about the hiring range. Bear in mind that you may not
qualify for the maximum given your years of experience. Do not expect more than a 10-15%
increase. Most companies have policies prohibiting larger increases. Above all, do not let
salary considerations stand in the way of a good job. Let the company know this up front.
If they are a good outfit they won't try to take advantage of you but will come up with
their best offer. Don't exaggerate your current salary. Some companies will ask you to
sign a paper giving them authorization to check. Or they may ask for a recent payroll
check stub. And don't worry. Every company knows you're just about to get an increase. You
are in a competitive marketplace when you vie for a spot with a good company. Companies
often wait until they see Mr/Ms Perfect before making an offer. Don't behave as if you're
God's gift to the IT world - even if you are.
It's a good idea to follow up every interview with a brief call or note to
the technical interviewers thanking them for the opportunity to interview. If you liked
the job, tell them. Be sure that any letter you send has no misspellings or grammatical
BE PROFESSIONAL, BE COMMUNICATIVE, BE PREPARED!