Systems Personnel Inc.Systems Personnel Inc.


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".

You...On Paper

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.

Being There...

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.

Speak Up!...

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.

Follow Up...

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 errors.



In the early stages of your search understand objectively what you want to accomplish  as an outcome. There are four areas where all your thoughts will fall:

  • Company
  • Position
  • Location
  • Compensation

Determine which of these is your top priority then develop acceptable criteria in each area. Know which are non-negotiable and which are flexible. Build this "model of acceptability" so you can evaluate each opportunity as it arises and also to evaluate your current situation.

If your top priorities are compensation or location, your work is more comfort/convenience oriented for you. Where as, if your priorities are company and position your work concerns are more career oriented.

Taking this step early in the search process will help take the anxiety out of your journey and make your conclusions based more on objectivity and less emotion.

Talk with your SPI Consultant candidly and thoroughly as to what you want to accomplish in your search.