IT recruiters often hear from the candidates they work with that they have been practicing ‘selling themselves’ for IT job interviews. This is a pretty common tactic that many IT professionals have been told will land them the IT jobs they interview for. Unfortunately, many IT staffing agencies see this advice carried out in a way that actually hurts candidates in interviews. Here’s what you need to avoid:
- Don’t focus so hard on selling yourself that you sound scripted and/or don’t satisfactorily respond to the interviewer’s questions. Sometimes technical recruiters will see a candidate work hard to craft and memorize a monologue about their technical background, soft skills, and achievements. Don’t make this mistake. Your interview will go much better if you can really participate in the conversation. Of course you will highlight your abilities, communication skills, etc. However, you need to be ready to do that in response to the questions the interviewer asks. If you give interviewers something that feels like a sales pitch, it won’t feel like a comprehensive, thoughtful answer to their question. Relying on a pre-prepared sales pitch means that your interviewers will be very likely to tell your IT recruiting agencies ‘no thanks’!
- Don’t forget that it’s not just about you! Selling yourself too hard can mean that you totally exclude the other important party here: your potential employers. Unfortunately, IT staffing companies often hear about candidates blowing the interview this way. Your IT recruiting firms need you to showcase your own assets as an employee, but they also need you to show that you’ve thought about why this company, IT job, team, work, etc is a great fit for you. Take time to speak to why you’re interested in this role or this company. Explain why you think you’d be happy and succeed with this employer. Show off the research you’ve done on this company, its work, market, etc. If you don’t talk about the company you’re interviewing with, you can count on your IT staffing firms letting you know you didn’t get the job!
In a previous blog post, we mentioned two mistakes IT recruiters see candidates make in phone interviews. Today we’ll explore one more phone interview mistake that can ruin your candidacy for IT jobs. Especially if you’re working with IT staffing agencies, do not ask about benefits, vacation time, compensation, or flexible work schedules.
Why do IT recruiting companies strongly suggest you hold off on discussing these topics during the phone interview? Firstly, the time you spend on the phone with a hiring manager will be precious—phone interviews are often particularly short. Especially in the first phases of interviewing, you need to make sure every second is used to strengthen your candidacy for the IT jobs you’re interviewing for. When you’re working with IT recruiting firms, they’re likely negotiating these items for you anyways. Take advantage of this! It means that you get to target every statement and question towards showing your interest in the work, showing off your relevant experience, and showcasing your technical knowledge.
Secondly, it may appear that you’re out of touch with professional norms if you try to broach these topics so early in the hiring process. Technical recruiters find that often these topics aren’t discussed until an offer is made. Since the phone interview is usually the first interview (often more of a pre-interview), you’re really jumping the gun by asking about compensation, benefits, etc at that time. From here, it becomes too easy for interviewers to question how many other professional norms you’re not aware of. So play it safe—save your questions about pay, vacation days, etc for your IT staffing companies, not your phone interviews with hiring managers!
When your IT staffing firms set you up for phone interviews, you might feel like there’s less pressure or it’s less intimidating than an in-person interview. Don’t make this mistake! IT recruiting agencies see too many great IT candidates fail phone interviews because they’re too relaxed. In particular, here are two major mistakes that could lose you the IT jobs you’re interviewing for.
- Being ill-prepared. Your IT recruiters will likely give you a scheduled time and day for the interview. Plan to be in a quiet space with good reception (or better yet, use a landline). Research the company and familiarize yourself with any technologies your IT staffing companies note that you’ll be asked about. Practice with a family member or friend if it’s been a while since your last phone interview.
- Being unfocused. Sometimes technical recruiters find that candidates will give more rambling, chatty answers on phone interviews. Since the phone is usually a more social medium, it can be easy to fall into this pattern. Try to remember that on some level, your phone interview is just a more condensed version of your in-person interview. Your IT recruiting firms want you to give solid, comprehensive answers that don’t keep the interviewer on the phone for an excessively long time.
The IT professionals who perform best at interviews for IT jobs are often the ones who ask great questions. IT recruiters understand why you want to ask some of the basic questions. You shouldn’t hesitate to ask the (appropriate) questions that you are genuinely interested in answers to. However, technical recruiters would absolutely recommend that you ask some questions that go beyond this information. Here’s one that will make a great impression on your interviewer: Do you have a busy season or seasons? Are there any major deadlines coming up that you can anticipate for projects, etc?
Why do IT staffing agencies recommend you ask questions like this? Firstly, it shows that you’re considering the role in a more comprehensive way. IT recruiting companies have the best luck placing candidates who are thinking about every aspect of the role and if/how they could succeed in it. Asking about busy times and deadlines shows a more detailed consideration of the expectations for this role.
Secondly, IT staffing companies would suggest that asking a version of this question shows foresight and an ability to plan. It helps your candidacy to show that you’re the kind of person who is organized, plans things out, and pays attention to other people’s schedules. IT recruiting firms find that candidates who can show initiative and manage their own time are especially valuable, as they can do things like meet deadlines in big projects or respond to client or end user inquiries quickly with minimal oversight.
IT recruiters want to know that their candidates are prepared with some questions to ask in job interviews. There are plenty of questions IT staffing firms would be happy with their candidates asking, but here’s one that might really impress your interviewers and technical recruiters: What skills, beyond the technical skills and experience we’ve already discussed, would be crucial to succeeding in this role?
Why would IT staffing agencies want you to ask this question (or some form of it)? IT recruiting companies have an easier time placing candidates who possess more than just the concrete, technical skills needed for a role. Since many IT jobs may require contact with clients, end users, or even heavy customer service, soft skills are becoming more and more imperative. When you ask about other skills that an IT role may require, you’re signaling to your interviewer that you understand this.
To make the question even stronger, consider trying to identify a few soft skills that could be relevant in the role. Perhaps patience, written and verbal communication skills, or the ability to calm down upset users might be imperative in the role. You might ask your interviewer if they believe any of these kinds of skills will be important to success in the job. Your IT recruiting agencies are much more likely to hear positive feedback about your interview if you can show that you understand the role may be more than just the technically-oriented responsibilities.
The questions you’ll ask your interviewers at the end of interviews need them to accomplish a couple things. Obviously they should inform you. IT staffing agencies would never recommend you ask a question you don’t really care about the answer to. It will always come across as fake and make a bad impression on your interviewer. Yet while you don’t want your interviewer to feel like you’re working hard to impress them, you do want your questions to impress your interviewer and IT recruiting companies. This question will achieve both of these goals: What do you think will be the biggest challenges in this role and why?
Why will this question impress your interviewer and IT recruiters? Your IT staffing companies will be glad you asked this question is because it shows that you’re really considering what it will be like to take on this role. Technical recruiters see plenty of candidates who spend interviews focusing on selling themselves. This is only part of what you need to do to succeed. To impress hiring managers, you need to show them that you’d be a great fit for the role, but also that this role would be a good fit for you. When you ask questions like this one, you show potential employers and IT recruiting firms that you’re really trying to suss out if this role will be a great fit for you, too!
If your IT recruiters set you up for IT job interviews, you’ve probably spent plenty of time preparing. You probably studied relevant technologies and practiced answering the questions your technical recruiters told you to be prepared for. You probably got background info on the company, both via your own research and from your IT staffing agencies. But there’s one thing you may not have done that can really make a difference: practice getting yourself to the office you’ll be interviewing at.
Why would IT recruiting firms suggest that you do this, especially if you already know where that office is? Firstly, you want to do everything you can to ensure you’re on time for your interview—not too early, not too late. IT staffing firms would suggest you practice making your way to the interview site around the same time you’d do the interview, if you can. (A commute that takes 30 minutes in the middle of the morning may take an hour in rush hour traffic!) If you practice getting to the interview site, you’ll have a better idea of how much time it will take. This means you can be able to guarantee that you show up just on time– and make a good first impression on your interviewer!
Secondly, IT recruiting agencies would suggest you practicing getting to the interview site in order to make it easier for you to relax the day of the interview. If you’ve practiced, you can be confident and familiar in your route to get there. This will leave you free to mentally prepare to ace your interview. If you don’t practice, you may have unforeseen issues (perhaps a certain road has construction, the train is never on time etc). You could wind up feeling stressed and panicked before you even start interviewing. Your IT recruiting companies want you to be ready to do your best in your interviews for IT jobs. Don’t let your journey to the interview site get in the way of that!
If you’re ready to start working with IT recruiters to find a new IT role, you’ve probably already started doing the usual things in preparation. You’ve polished your IT resume, you’ve updated your LinkedIn profile with any new IT jobs, and you’ve started reaching out to IT staffing firms. There might be one step you’re skipping though: Creating an email address to use for your job search.
Of course, not everybody needs to create a new email address before reaching out to IT recruiting agencies to start their job search. Plenty of people have email addresses that are unique and professional enough that technical recruiters wouldn’t bat an eye at them. How do you know if you need a new email address for your job search? Ask yourself these questions.
Would your email address be better on a dating site? If it’s too flirty or gives information that belongs in a dating profile (you love dogs, you’re an avid skier, a single woman, etc) don’t use it. This is too distracting for IT staffing agencies and hiring managers. It’s also not the most professional way to present yourself, especially when you are presenting so little about yourself. Little things like this make a big impact.
Is your email address entirely yours? Don’t give an email address you share with your spouse or partner. You also shouldn’t give an email address that has your work domain. If you don’t have an email address that is entirely yours, create one! Your IT recruiting firms need to be able to easily communicate with you alone about your search. Your don’t want anybody else involved in the conversation, even if you think your spouse or company wouldn’t read these emails.
Make sure your email address doesn’t trigger spam filters. Extra punctuation or characters and certain words will make it more likely that IT recruiting companies never see your emails. Don’t derail your job search for a few characters. Create a new email address and get cracking on your job search with your IT staffing companies.
2016 is in full swing and so is the job hunting season. If you plan to look for new IT jobs this year, IT recruiters and IT staffing companies are seeing a plethora of new jobs. If you’re still polishing up your resume and skills before you start working with IT recruiting firms, plenty of sites have put out predictions for the skills that will be most in demand. For programmers, these are projected to be top languages in demand 2016 (as predicted by Coding Dojo’s blog):
Ruby on Rails
The top programming language isn’t much of a surprise to IT staffing agencies or IT professionals. SQL is ubiquitous for a few reasons, but the explosion in the need for mobile apps could be a big factor. Whatever the reason, most IT recruiting agencies are working on a job that requires it at any given time.
What is a bit of a surprise is how far in popularity Ruby on Rails has slipped in the last few years. This is apparently due to an over saturation in the market of qualified programmers who can confidently tell IT staffing firms they’ve got the language under their belt.
If you’re looking to increase your technical skills, consider adding a few of these languages — it just might help widen your options for IT roles in 2016!
More and more nonprofits are hiring IT professionals. While the nonprofit sector may not be the first place you’d think of for IT jobs, there are plenty of benefits to working with these organizations. IT recruiters fill jobs like this with benefits that include a more comprehensive health insurance package, increased vacation and PTO time, and flexible hours or work from home policies. If your IT staffing agencies offer you an opportunity to interview for nonprofit roles, here is one important tip to consider: remember to emphasize your connection with their mission.
While technical recruiters will always want you to show enthusiasm for the mission of a company—nonprofit or for profit—it’s especially imperative for nonprofits. These organizations are mission-driven. Thus they are counting on IT recruiting companies to help them hire people who are not only able to do the job, but also care deeply about its goals and values. How do you make sure you convey this?
Consider this the second part of your interview preparations (in addition to your usual interview preparation and practice). Ask your IT recruiting firms for as much information about the nonprofits mission as they have. Google their website and research it extensively. Become well-informed enough on the work they do that you can easily talk about it with your interviewer. Next, try to think about your personal connection to this work. If you’ve volunteered for similar organizations or have some other connection, this is something to bring up in your interview. Don’t reach for answers here or make something up. Neither will impress hiring managers.
Lastly, pull all of this work together and practice talking about why you’d want to work for this organization. Focus on being sincere and well-informed. You don’t want to give a completely rehearsed monologue, but you’ll increase your odds of success if you can genuinely speak to an interest and familiarity with the organization. Take these steps, and your IT staffing companies will be more likely to tell you that you got the job!