Monthly Archives: December 2013

How to Interview Your Next Boss in IT

Bosses have a surprising amount of power in IT contractors’ lives.  Having a good one can make your time at work pleasant.  Having a bad one can make your time at work terrible and possibly ruin your time out of work, too (perhaps too many off duty calls or just sleepless nights worrying about his or her next blowup).  It’s crucial to make sure that as you interview for IT jobs, you are honest with your IT recruiters about what kind of IT managers you work best under.  It’s also crucial that you interview your potential boss thoroughly on your next job interview.

Interviewing your potential boss as they interview you requires some nuance.  IT recruiters prefer not to work with IT consultants who are too demanding or difficult, because they don’t tend to come off well in interviews—no matter how impressive their resumes are.  It’s imperative to ask questions that will subtly reveal what you need to know about a potential manager. Your intention should be to gain the information you need without demanding it.

So what is the information you need to decide if a manager will be a good leader for you?  This will vary from person to person, but a few major categories are pretty universal. Asking about somebody’s management style will give you some good ideas about how they lead.  So will asking about the best and worst employees they’ve worked with.  It’s helpful to know what they think of as a successful employee and one worth firing.  Depending on how the conversation goes, you may feel comfortable enough to throw out your own expectations of a manager.  Try posing these expectations as your best case scenario. If your potential boss seems amenable to all or most of them, you may have found your perfect future boss.


How IT Managers Can Deliver Negative Feedback Effectively

One of the toughest duties managers in information technology take on is delivering negative feedback to the IT contractors who report to them.  IT jobs can be high stress and difficult in their own right, so the best IT professionals in management positions know how to give negative feedback in a way that does not exacerbate any existing stressful circumstances.  There are a couple of major things to seriously consider so that IT consultants receive negative feedback in a constructive way.

IT managers should start by making sure that negative feedback is given in a conversation full of positive feedback, as well.  Starting with an honest, genuine compliment will put the IT professional at ease.  Ending the conversation with one will also help keep the entire experience a positive, constructive one.  People tend to remember endings and beginnings better than any other part of a conversation.

The second thing to consider is how the negative feedback can be approached.  If you approach it as an issue that you as the manager and your report need to deal with together, things will be better.  Giving the report the feeling that you’re truly on their team will make them feel more open to finding solutions.  Speaking of solutions, it’s also important that the conversation revolve around those.  It’s important to identify the problem, but making sure it gets fixed and doesn’t happen in the future is far more important.  Note that both of these tips require a face-to-face interaction.  You can’t create a team and solution-oriented feeling over an email in the way that you could in person or on the phone (at the very least).


Unplugging from Your IT Job During Your Vacation

Information technology can be a 24/7 field, but there are ways for technical recruiters to tactfully unplug from their IT jobs during the holidays and vacations.  IT recruiters want their IT contractors to make sure they’re reliable and satisfy their IT manager’s needs.  Keeping this goal in mind as you make your plan to unplug for vacation or holiday time will make all the difference.

The first thing IT consultants can do to successfully leave work at work is to plan ahead.  Taking a survey of the projects and issues that may need attention during planned holiday or vacation time is key.  IT headhunters are looking for IT professionals that would not only get their work done, but make sure their team’s goals are not compromised if they’re off the clock.  If a project will come up when you’re off work, consider trying to get your part of it done ahead of time or leaving behind the resources your team will need to cover your part of it.  Making sure you have done everything you can to anticipate any major issues that come up while you’re gone will give you peace of mind and give your teammates and managers confidence in you—now and in the future.  Being a considerate team player is invaluable.

The second thing IT professionals should do is to set up a contingency plan for contact while they’re away.  Depending on the situation, you may need to set up an emergency contact protocol.  Without being obnoxious, get your manager and teammates on the same page with you about what constitutes an emergency.  This will save you from a lot of phone calls or emails you find unnecessary.

The last step is to stand by your own word.  If you draw boundaries, you need to make sure you don’t destroy them yourself.  Nobody will respect boundaries that you yourself don’t respect.

Red Flags to Watch for in IT Job Hunting

Good IT recruiters want to put their IT contractors in IT jobs where they fit both in terms of the skills on their resumes and the workplace culture.  While IT headhunters can do their best to try to make good matches for workplace culture, IT consultants can do the most to make sure they wind up in a job with a great boss and good coworkers.  There are two kinds of red flags to watch out for in interviews: Red flags that indicate your boss will be difficult to work for and red flags that indicate the company culture is too toxic for you.

Though a single red flag isn’t really enough to avoid a job on its own, a few or more of these signs will show you that you may not be compatible with this boss.  If your interviewer comes in very late, hasn’t read your resume at all previous to the interviewer, or checks email and/or takes calls during the interview, it’s worth considering how much guidance you need from a boss.  If you rely heavily on a boss who is organized and provides pretty frequent direction, this isn’t the boss for you.  Their inability to be prepared and focus on the interview at hand shows quite a bit about how they’ll act during the regular work day.  On the other hand, if you prefer to work as autonomously as possible, these signs aren’t necessarily a problem.

Another major red flag to notice is how your interviewer/potential boss  speaks of the person who holds or previously held the position.  If he or she is warm and commends the person, this is a great sign.  However, if your potential boss skirts the issue of the previous person who held the role, or trashes them outright, take time to consider how you deal with difficult personalities.  If they don’t bother you, it’s not an issue.  If you need to have a positive, friendly relationship with your boss to be productive, however, this may not the job for you.

The last red flag that IT staffing agencies would want their IT professionals to watch out for is how the workplace culture looks.  If you find reviews of the workplace culture on glassdoor or other similar websites that terrify you, try to confirm or disprove these for yourself when you go on the interview.  You might also consider checking around with professional contacts in your field.  Word can travel fast, particularly when a work environment is toxic.  Better to know before you take a job if you’d like the workplace culture there or not.


Why Taking a Counteroffer in IT isn’t Your Best Bet

Information technology’s shorter, project-driven timelines tend to make it more common for IT professionals to find themselves with counteroffers from their IT jobs.  IT recruiters of course often tend to vehemently argue against taking counteroffers.  There are some solid reasons IT contractors should stop and consider this point of view.

The first reason IT staffing companies tend to recommend that IT consultants not take a counteroffer from their employer is that the outcome may not be particularly rosy.  By indicating that you’re ready to leave, you’ve already demonstrated a breach of loyalty and trust.  This won’t be forgotten, no matter how desperately your employer fights to keep you.  Additionally, your counteroffer will certainly make its way around the office, so you may not only lose fans in your managers, but also your co-workers.  Coworkers may resent your heightened compensation and the way you got it.  Research suggests that over 90% of those who took counteroffers wound up leaving their employer anyways after less than a year.  You may also wind up having to leave of your own accord.  Even if your employer fights to keep you and your coworkers are not upset with you, the floor may fall out from under you when they find a new, more loyal replacement for you.

The second reason IT recruiting companies discourage taking counteroffers is that the change you’re seeking won’t likely come with a counteroffer.  If you’ve been hunting for a new job, chances are that money isn’t your only concern.  If your IT managers truly valued you, they’d respond with money or some other arrangement if you voiced concerns.  Or perhaps you’re looking for growth that simply isn’t possible in your role or company.  You may even simply be seeking a change.  No matter the reasons, both the ones that are obvious to you and are more subconscious, you aren’t likely to find them back at your old employer, even with more money or a promotion.  You started your job search because you couldn’t find something(s) at your current position.  It’s time to go pursue those things elsewhere.

Searching For a New IT Job During Holidays

Many people might advise IT consultants looking for new IT jobs to just hold off on their search during the holiday season.  Though it often seems as though the holidays are a slow time for business and hiring, this just isn’t true in information technology.  No matter how close it is to Christmas or New Years, IT recruiters have a full list of jobs they are actively seeking to fill with IT contractors.  Beyond making sure you’re in touch and checking in with IT headhunters, there are a few other things you can be doing to make sure your job search is still productive during the holidays.

  1. Polish your materials, both online and off.  Make sure your LinkedIn profile is fresh and up to date, as are all versions of your resumes.
  2. Send holiday cards.  Send them to your technical recruiters, possible professional contacts who might be able to help you out, and to your references.  Mention that you’re on the hunt to the appropriate recipients.
  3. Go to holiday gatherings, both personal and professional.  Again, mention to the appropriate people that you’re looking for a new IT job.  Get the word out and network.  Holiday gatherings are generally happy and people will be in a good mood and more likely than usual to be helpful.

Career U-Turns in IT

Information technology requires IT professionals to move IT jobs a bit more often than the average professional for a number of reasons.  But even IT contractors haven’t really considered going back to the previous employers a generally acceptable career move until somewhat recently.  Now, it is far more acceptable for IT consultants to consider jobs from IT recruiters that are at a previous employer.

Should you consider going back to a previous employer if IT headhunters approach you with a job there?  Only if you can honestly say yes to a few criteria:

1. You didn’t leave because of things that are likely still true of this employer.  If you left because a contract ended and things were on good terms, this is an opportunity worth considering.  If you left because the workplace culture was a bad fit and you can’t definitively, without a doubt decide if it’s changed, this is not a good place to return to.

2. You aren’t looking to go back because you don’t like your current employer.  Going back to a previous employer, unless you loved them, is not the best way to remedy your unhappiness with a new job.  IT recruiters would rather you find a job you are happy in and want to stay at and work hard at for your entire contract.  If you were only mildly satisfied at this workplace, it’s best to look elsewhere for a better fit.

3. This job will help you continue moving your career forward, or at the very least won’t move it backwards.  Don’t step back just because it’s comfortable.  You’ll regret it later when you are ready to move forwards in your career.  Change and new challenges can be scary, but it’s best to push through them rather than take a step back.


Boost Your Career: Offering and Asking for Help in IT

Asking for help can often be perceived as a last resort in information technology, as can offering help.  These actions might either make IT managers and any other IT contractors you work with perceive you as incompetent, or overly confident and having a workload that is unsuitably small.  However, when strategically done,

IT professionals can make a big impression in their IT jobs by offering or asking for some help.

Ask for some help: IT consultants can create a positive impression with their managers and IT recruiters by seeking out feedback and opportunities for growth.  If you ask for help from a manager in making sure you’re meeting expectations or perhaps figuring out how to take on a bigger role in your team, you’ll earn their devotion.  Another way to ask for help and boost your career is to seek out feedback and learning opportunities from very strong coworkers in your field.  Without impinging on their time and expectations, ask a coworker who is great at a skill you’d like to sharpen or acquire to let you watch them or learn from them.  Your ambition to get better at what you do or add to your skill-set will really impress the people you work with.

Offer some help: This one is far easier to implement with a higher impact.  Without impinging upon your own responsibilities, etc, try to identify a few specific things that you can help coworkers or managers with.  Offering to help with specific projects that you’re confident you can contribute effectively to will make a big impression on managers and coworkers.  It’s easy for them to say yes to your offer, and the results will exceed expectations (that you wouldn’t have participated in this project at all).

Giving Gifts in Your IT Job

As the holidays swiftly approach, some IT professionals may be trying to figure out how to give gifts within their office.  IT contractors should exercise some caution before bringing in presents for people at their IT jobs.  There are a few guidelines IT consultants should consider before they purchase gifts for their IT managers or coworkers.

Cost: Don’t spend above $20 on any one person and try to spend the same amount on everybody.

Rank: When it comes to higher ranks, it’s best for gifts to flow downward.  There are instances when it does make sense to buy a boss or manager a gift, but there are a lot of possible issues with this, so it’s better to avoid it or buy one with a your team.

Appropriateness: As with any other instance in the office, jokes are dangerous territory.  Giving gag gifts or things that might be offensive to the recipient (or somebody else) aren’t worth the risk.

Don’t make people feel left out: If you’re only giving gifts to a few people, be discreet.  Some would advise giving gifts to everyone or nobody, and you may choose to heed that advice.  If you don’t, at least try to make it seem as though you did (so don’t give your selected few gifts in front of everyone).