Six Tips to Help You Nail Your Next IT Job Interview
So, you have a killer information technology (IT) interview coming up and it's for your dream job. What makes these interviews unique compared to other job interviews? What are the biggest things to focus on and what do you need to accomplish in order to land this dream job? Lucky for you, I know what you should know to convince any potential tech employer that they NEED to hire you, right away.
In my opinion, an IT job interview is not like any other job interview simply based on the fact that you can expect a competent technology assessment from the interviewing parties. In most cases they will test your knowledge of the chosen subject or field and make sure you are up to snuff with your tech abilities.
The assessment of your IT acumen is by far the smallest part of the interview, however — the overlap with a standard interview that you could expect from any other employer is quite broad. For that reason, it's especially important that, as a technology professional, you keep your soft skills sharp so you can draw on them when facing your next technology interview.
The most beneficial thing that you can do as a professional is to focus and prepare. There really is a formula for a successful job interview — and here are six tips that will really help you in your next technology interview.
1) Know Before You Go: You need to understand what the company does and how to apply your skillset to that mission. A lot of job advice gurus will tell you this, but for technology interviews, it goes beyond way beyond, say, simply knowing what the company's products are. You need to have a strong and well-informed sense of the role that you will play and how you skills apply to that role.
I know a CIO who recently landed a job by creating a slide deck that walked through how he would apply his knowledge to the team and to the department. He knew exactly how he was going to approach the job. Don't be afraid to print out your plan and go through it point-by-point with your employer. Show them how unique and valuable you are. For instance, if you have a software development job interview coming up, then don't be afraid to think of a new module you would implement.
2) Don't Flap Your Gums: A lot of technology professionals can talk at length, especially if they are passionate, about the details of their profession or job. You must not be one of these people. Your answers to all questions should be clear and concise. You need to convey competence without wading into the tall grasses of terminology.
Never be in a situation where you have to think of an answer on the spot. Instead, think through as many possible questions as you can beforehand. Always try to be the person who directs the conversation. You want to be engaging, but not pretentious.
No one likes to be on the receiving end of an overshare during a job interview, and no one likes being forced to parse rambling answers to short questions. Prepare for the interview by rehearsing concise, to-the-point answers to the usual questions: Tell me about yourself, what are your biggest accomplishments, your strengths and weaknesses, and so on.
Record yourself speaking so you can observe your delivery and make adjustments as needed. If you ramble, then you're not only telling the interviewer that you didn't prepare, you're also confessing that, "I have no idea how I can contribute." A thoughtful and prepare professional is who people want to hire.
3) Have a Plan, Stan (or Jan): My third tip for a successful technology interview is to have a plan of action. This is very similar to tip number one, but differs in that it involves a hard outline of tasks that you intend to accomplish in your first 30, 60, and 90 days. You don't have to go so far as to write this down and show it during the interview, but you should be able to speak to it.
A plan of action is a must. Knowing your employers brand and showing what you intend to accomplish is the hallmark of a competent employee. Another sub-tip here regards your attire. Your plan of action reflects your intelligence, but your outward appearance reflects your inward attitudes. You must care enough about yourself, and respect your future employer enough, to dress to impress.
4) Showcase Your Soft Skills: For anyone who follows my writing (my wife — thank you, baby), you may recall that I recently wrote an article for Certification Magazine about how important soft skills are to any information technology professional. Practice every single one of these skills for an easy "yes" from your interviewer.
Hone your salesmanship, or the ability to demonstrate your value. Practice effective communication — my dad always said a firm handshake and a look in the eye is better than a piece of paper any day. Sharpen your ability to translate tech jargon: You need to be able to talk at everyone's level because you don't know the level of competency your interviewer possesses.
Work on having collaborative mindset and on your ability to partner with others. As much as you can, build up your empathy, or your ability to feel and see where another person is coming from. Learn how to put things in relatable contexts, and develop a good "beside manner" for dealing with customers. Have good posture and strong body language. Any of these may come into play during an interview, and all of them will ultimately make you a better IT worker.
5) Practice Makes Perfect: Interviewing is a skill that you can improve. Recruit a friend, colleague or loved one to help you prepare. This is really the best advice I could give anyone. If you don't appear to have prepared, if you don't seem to have everything together, then you will simply look unprofessional.
Also, be polite. Good manners, a courteous demeanor, and a smile will take you over the finish line. Never talk unprofessionally about your previous employer or boss, and steer clear of such "hot topics" as religion and politics. Those have no place in determining your competences as a tech worker. Show up early, bring whatever materials have been requested or recommended, and be just eager enough.
6) To Thine Own Self Be True: Always be authentic. Experts have written countless books about this topic, but there are some basic principles that, if practiced outside the interview room, will make a good impression once you are in that room.
Be true to yourself. Being honesty and having a code of personal conduct that you follow to the letter is the absolute cornerstone of a great person. Look inward and be introspective. Don't wait to be asked in a job interview what your flaws are: Think about that question every day and work on improving areas that you know need improvement.
You need to know whether you are right for the position before anyone else does. Treat people well and be a good listener. The most valuable individuals in any workplace are open-minded and have a fairness about them that is unmatched at the ranks below. Every authentic person I've ever met is someone who is open to wonderful ideas, no matter where they come from.
You can live by your own set of values and morals that remain constant while still also valuing other opinions, other people, and other outcomes. You should always be willing to listen, no matter what choices you ultimately make. Authenticity asks that we judge free of bias, that we be honest brokers who are impartial in all affairs. Be yourself, be authentic, be of value, and be of service.
A life spent in service to others is a life well lived. To nail your next technology interview, weave these ideas into your personal playbook, stick to it, and in no time at all you will have that big corner office. I wish you a very successful and happy career.