How to Answer This Tough Job Interview Question
Technical recruiters find that IT professionals are often stumped by one question in a job interview: how would you improve our company, product, website, etc? If this question stumps you, here are some interview tips IT staffing firms would suggest trying.
1. Practice answering this question. It might be obvious, but IT recruiting agencies would suggest that if a question truly intimidates you, practice. Practice responding with a family member, friend, or in front of the mirror. You’ll feel better prepared to answer it and may not even feel nervous if your interviewer asks it!
2. To answer the question, most IT staffing companies would suggest that you start with a compliment—the more specific, the better. Starting your answer on a positive note helps here. If you can make the compliment show off your own knowledge, all the better. Maybe the website has features you particularly admire since you’ve tried to create similar ones in previous roles. Perhaps the product is user-friendly in a way that competitors’ aren’t. Remember to keep this compliment efficient and on the shorter side so you have time to actually give your idea for improvement.
3. Now give the criticism or idea for improvement in the most positive way possible. This doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice confidence—IT staffing agencies often find that you’ll make a better impression on an interviewer if you give all your answers with confidence. The way to keep a positive spin on it is to focus on the advantage of the change you’re suggesting rather than the cons of the way the company/website/product/etc currently exists. Obviously IT recruiting companies would suggest you really need to avoid making negative comments about the company/website/whatever in its current state.
4. Finish your answer by actively bringing the interviewer into the conversation. Ask if your ideas have been considered, if the company has done something similar previously, or just try to get their feedback. Again, this isn’t about breaking confidence. You simply want to show your interviewer that you’re a collaborative person who’s capable of taking in criticism, new ideas, etc. IT recruiting firms often find that the best candidate is usually the one that has a great technical background, but is also easy to work with and has good communication skills.
2 Surprising Questions for Job Interviews
If you’ve worked with IT recruiting agencies to find new roles, you probably understand that interviewing for IT jobs is a two-way street. You probably ask a lot of interview questions to help you make sure the IT jobs you’re interviewing for are good fits for your needs and work habits. If you want to know about a company’s culture or pace of work, one thing IT recruiting firms suggest you ask about is lunch. Here are two questions IT staffing firms suggest you can ask about lunch that will actually reveal a lot about an employer’s workday.
1. Does your team often eat lunch together? IT recruiters would suggest you ask this question to get a general idea of how friendly and collegiate coworkers are in this company. It may be unlikely the whole team eats together every day, but if they grab lunch together a few times a week in pairs or small groups, this might say something positive about the culture. If the environment really is very friendly, this question will probably spur the interviewer to tell you about it.
2. Does your team usually eat lunch at their desks, or do they take time for a break? Technical recruiters would suggest this question if you’re concerned about the pace or workload. IT staffing companies can tell you a bit about the pace of a job as well, but this question will help round out your information. If employees are often too stressed and overworked to even take a quick walk or go grab food, you’ll know the workload and pressure at the company is high. That might be fine with you– and on some level that’s normal sometimes. Sometimes a team of programmers needs to get code ready in a tight deadline. Sometimes tech support will work through their lunch breaks to solve an important ticket. The key is to decide if the job’s usual pace is too hectic for you.
Is Your Resume in The Wrong Format?
Technical recruiters receive resumes from IT professionals that are built from all kinds of resume templates. Most resume templates are fine (even the free resume templates), but there is one type of format that IT recruiters usually cannot use: a functional format resume.
What is a functional format resume? It’s a resume that shows IT recruiting agencies and hiring managers your skills and duties and the top or bottom of the resume and lists your past IT jobs in a separate section. Sometimes IT staffing firms find that the candidate will list the years they held positions, sometimes not. Basically, this format seems like an easy way to write a resume if you’ve held similar positions for a while.
The problem is that the IT recruiting companies usually can’t submit you for IT jobs with this kind of resume. There are a few things hiring managers and recruiters hate about this resume template. Firstly, hiring managers tell IT staffing agencies that these templates don’t show the progression of your career very well. To truly understand how you’ve progressed in your career, a manager wants to see the variation in your duties at each job. That means you’ll need to list what you did at each job, not just give a general notion of what you did at all jobs in one spot at the top or bottom of the document.
Secondly, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage by using a functional format resume. This kind of resume format doesn’t really let you list your major professional achievements. IT recruiting firms find that the candidates who really impress employers are the ones who list their big contributions to each employer. This will require a little more work on your part and a more traditional format for a resume, but it’s worth it. This kind of resume lets hiring managers and IT staffing companies really see that you’ve been a valuable employee to each one of the places you’ve worked.
Lastly, resumes like this make hiring managers and IT recruiters feel like you’re trying to hide something. Particularly when you don’t give dates, it can look like you’re trying to quickly gloss over your professional history without giving much detail or information. This isn’t the first impression you want your resume to give anybody.
Don’t Do This When Working With IT Recruiters
Technical recruiters find that some candidates will make some desperate moves to ensure they land IT jobs. Sometimes this means being a bit too pushy and overbearing in the interview. Sometimes this means trying to reach out directly to the hiring manager too much after the interview. Probably the worst mistake you can make when working with IT staffing agencies, though, is to apply for the same jobs both with them and on your own.
Why would applying to the same job twice be a bad thing? Isn’t it just showing extra motivation and ensuring that you do the most comprehensive, best job search that you can? The truth is, when you apply for the same job both with IT recruiters and on your own, you usually wind up taking yourself out of the running for a job completely. Most hiring managers will actually nullify an application that comes from both IT staffing agencies and directly from the candidate. The reason they do this is that generally these candidates become too complicated to consider hiring from a legal standpoint. Since most employers have plenty of candidates to look at for the jobs in IT they’re trying to fill—ones that don’t come with legal complications—they’ll simply skip over your resume and move on to the others.
There’s also another reason this tactic is a bad idea: it reflects poorly on you as a professional. When you work with IT recruiting firms, you make a commitment to follow certain professional norms. Your IT staffing companies will handle certain elements of the hiring process (like negotiating salary, scheduling the interview, and getting your resume in front of the hiring manager). You will handle the interview, writing a thank you note, etc. When you apply to the same job on your own after IT staffing companies submit you, you’re not showing extra initiative. You’re showing a few negative qualities as a candidate. You’ll show an inability to follow directions, an inability to follow professional norms, and you’ll be creating extra work for the hiring manager. (Most hiring managers barely have time to read a resume once—never mind twice!) No hiring manager is pleased when you try to jump the line or do things against their usual hiring process. So when you apply to a job both with your IT recruiters and on your own, you’re not increasing your chances of landing the job. Truthfully, you’re hurting your chances– if not taking yourself out of the running entirely.
2 Seemingly Small Things That Hurt Your Job Search
Sometimes IT recruiters find that candidates make mistakes that seem small, but actually have a big impact on their job search. Here are two mistakes that seem pretty insignificant, but will likely make it hard to land IT jobs.
1. Your email signature has an inflammatory or unprofessional quote. IT recruiting companies do find that from time to time people will have quotes in their email signatures. This looks pretty innocuous, but it becomes a problem when the quote is about controversial things like politics, religion, or is just plain rude or unprofessional. When you email with IT recruiting agencies and hiring managers, they know very little about you. For this reason, your emails wind up making a big impression on the IT staffing firms and interviewers you send them to. So to make sure you’re doing your best job search: take out all the quotes in your email signature. Don’t risk either making technical recruiters uncomfortable or leading them to possibly conclude anything negative about you.
2. Did you leave track changes on the resume you sent to your IT recruiting firms? Some IT recruiters will look the other way. However, to some IT staffing agencies, this is a sign that you aren’t very detail-oriented or polished. Considering how important it is in the tech field to pay attention to little details, making this mistake could send a bad message about you. There’s also a chance that you’ll wind up leaving some unflattering, negative, or unprofessional material on your resume if you don’t turn off the track changes function. Maybe one of the comments on your resume suggests that you not add a certain technology because you’re weak in it. Perhaps a comment has a curse word in it. Double check to make sure that the track changes function is off and that you’ve made all the changes you need to for your resume to sparkle.
Resume Too Long? 3 Easy Cuts to Make
Most IT staffing firms will concur that IT professionals don’t really need to adhere to the 1 or 2 page rule for their resumes. IT recruiters routinely work with candidates who have very long resumes, sometimes over 5 or 6 pages. However, IT staffing agencies’ best candidates aren’t always the ones with novel-length resumes. Technical recruiters find that busy hiring managers tend to respond much better to concise, efficient resumes. If your resume could use some trimming, here are a few things IT staffing companies suggest you consider cutting.
1. Objectives. You don’t need to spell out the kind of IT jobs you’re looking for in an objective, so it’s really just wasted space. This is true for two reasons. Firstly, IT recruiting companies are trained to read technical resumes, even complicated ones. They will be able to figure out what kind of role you’re seeking or what kinds of roles you’d succeed in. If you have an objective because you’re looking for a particular type of work environment or certain accommodations, this is better said in conversation with IT staffing agencies or interviewers. Putting a detailed description of what you want in your next role doesn’t really do anything– other than possibly make you look demanding.
2. The words ‘responsibilities,’ ‘responsible for,’ or headings for internal jobs bullets like ‘duties’, etc. IT recruiters see a lot of resume examples or resume templates that spell out the obvious. Again, this is wasted space. Use the bullets under your jobs to note major professional achievements, as well as some of your duties. You don’t need to indicate that this is what you’re listing, though. Recruiters and hiring managers will already know.
3. Your references or their contact info. Technical recruiters do find that some candidates will actually put references and their contact info directly on a resume. Don’t do this! For one thing, it wastes space because people tend to want to see this info on a separate email or document later. For another, it makes you look a bit unprofessional. You are breaking norms by adding this info to your resume. You’re also making people’s information public if you’re posting this resume on Monster, Indeed, etc. Cut this section of your resume—it’s more likely harming you than helping you.
Are You Making This Huge Job Interview Mistake?
Technical recruiters see plenty of candidates who are perfectly suited for IT jobs but still don’t get them. Perhaps they don’t interview well, got nervous, or arrived very late. The most egregious mistake though, the one that makes IT staffing firms never want to work with a candidate, is when they act arrogant in job interviews. No matter how amazing your technical experience is or how impressive your digital portfolio, IT recruiting agencies will not want to work with you if the hiring manager finds you arrogant.
What does this mean exactly? IT staffing agencies find that today’s hiring managers want people with both technical acumen and great communication/people skills. Things like a deep knowledge of C# may be important to some jobs in IT, but it’s likely IT staffing companies also need the person in that role to be easy to work with, too! Arrogance is a strong mark of somebody that nobody will want to work with. If you go to an interview and seem arrogant, you’re essentially showing that you’re missing a very key skill, even if it’s not technical.
It seems like avoiding appearing arrogant would be pretty straightforward. Here are a couple easy tips that IT recruiting companies would suggest you consider, though. Firstly, let the interviewers, their coworkers, even receptionists that you encounter, be in control and show them respect. Don’t try to lead the interview. Don’t ask the receptionist for coffee. Don’t mention it if you’re inconvenienced or have to wait for anyone.
Secondly, if you don’t feel you’re treated well or are frustrated by something, wait to go back and talk about this with your IT recruiters. They’ll help you decide if it’s a toxic work environment, the interviewer was acting out of character. This is the advantage of working with IT recruiting firms. They can help you figure these things out, without you having to risk appearing rude or arrogant to your interviewer. IT recruiters want you to land in the best IT job for you– and that includes a job that you’ll be happy in.
Tips for Responding to Counter-offers
From time to time, IT recruiters do work with candidates who receive counter-offers from their employers. While counter-offers seem pretty flattering, the truth is that IT staffing agencies would suggest you proceed with caution. The promise of more money is always exciting, but there are 2 major cons to consider.
Con 1: Accepting a counter-offer may mean that you burn a lot of bridges. Firstly, obviously the IT recruiting firms you’re working with will terminate your relationship if you take a counter-offer. All IT staffing companies have is your word. If you break their trust and negate all their work in searching for your new IT job, they’ll likely never work with you again.
Secondly, you’ll also ruin your reputation with your potential new employer and perhaps other companies in the same industry. IT staffing firms never find that employers are ok with it when a candidate takes a counter-offer. In fact, that candidate is usually blacklisted at that employer. Sometimes, this reputation carries on to companies that are connected to this employer, too. Social media and LinkedIn make it especially easy for word to spread when you do something like accept a counter-offer. In the age of a quick LinkedIn check for unofficial references, taking a counter-offer could seriously damage your professional reputation and hold you back from getting top IT jobs later on.
Lastly, with your current employer, you’re likely to have seriously damaged their trust in you as a loyal, reliable employee. They may try to replace you quickly with somebody cheaper, they may retaliate in small ways, or you might find that you’re held back from future raises, promotions, training opportunities, transfers, etc. All of this makes it hard to be happy in your current IT role long term, which leads to con number 2.
Con 2: You’re likely just be delaying the inevitable and creating more work for yourself. You reached out to IT recruiting companies for a reason: to find new IT jobs. Technical recruiters rarely see a candidate who wants to leave their job solely for more money. There are usually other things at play like work environment, maybe a bad boss, or an unreasonable work load. You might feel ok with a pay bump now, but it won’t change any of the other factors for you long term. Nobody loves job searching and all the work that comes with it. Accepting a counter-offer will really just mean you have to search for jobs in IT all over again later when you realize you’re still unhappy at your current job (even with the pay bump).
Don’t Say This When You’re Interviewing
IT recruiters see candidates say unfortunate things in interviews for IT jobs all the time. Mistakes happen and IT staffing companies rarely come across candidates who can give a perfect interview. (In fact, perfect interviews are so rare that some hiring managers will tell IT recruiting agencies they’re rejecting a candidate because their interviewing felt suspiciously perfect!) Here’s one mistake that is very easy to avoid, though: saying you’re a hard worker (especially when you say it’s one of your strengths or selling points).
Why do hiring managers and IT staffing agencies think this is a mistake in a job interview? What if you actually are a hard worker? The problem is that this phrase isn’t easily proven. While it’s easy for you to prove that you have experience with particular programming languages, or understand what great customer service for an end user requires, it’s not easy to prove that you are a hard worker. It’s something that others must decide about you, particularly because it’s such a subjective thing. So when you list being a hard worker as one of your main strengths as a candidate, you’re basically wasting your time to sell yourself in an interview.
What would IT recruiting firms suggest that you say instead of this? As mentioned before, it’s better to point to things you can prove. Especially in the tech field, being able to quantify your professional achievements can really go far with an interviewer. Maybe you consistently deliver code ahead of the deadlines. Maybe you regularly get feedback from end users that you provide excellent and efficient service. These are the kinds of things that IT staffing firms suggest you talk about with hiring managers. Clichés that are hard to prove (like saying you’re a hard worker) are just a waste of your time and the hiring manager’s time. So avoid this easy mistake the next time your IT recruiting companies set you up for an interview!
How to Interview for Your Dream Job
When your IT recruiters set you up for an interview for your dream job, your first instinct is to probably to tell your interviewer that. You probably just want to gush to your interviewer about why this job is everything you told your IT staffing firms that you wanted. Some IT professionals even say this their dream job– even if it isn’t. Plenty of technical recruiters have had candidates say this in hopes of landing a job. The problem is that this phrase is pretty meaningless to interviewers. If the job you’re interviewing for is your dream job, or it just sounds good, here’s what you should do:
1. Strike a balance. Talk about why you’d be a great fit for the role and why the role is something you think would be ideal for your strengths, work style, technical skills, etc. The candidates that IT recruiting firms place in IT jobs are the ones that can show how hiring them will be great for both sides. Don’t just say the job is your dream job—show them why you’ll be a great hire too!
2. Get specific in talking about why you’re ideally suited for a job. When you say a job is your dream job without much elaboration, you’re just drawing on a meaningless cliché. (IT staffing agencies suggest you avoid any and all clichés in job interviews anyways!). Give specifics that will help interviewers easily picture you in the role. Tell your interviewer that you’ve tackled similar projects before, or you have a deep familiarity with the technologies they use. IT recruiting companies find that the candidates who get hired can present hard evidence that they’ve had successes similar to the job description. Can you say you’ve provided support for end users 50% faster? Can you point to a specific project in which you successfully used a certain technology? This is what interviewers care about. They don’t care if you dream about the job, they care if you can prove you’re prepared to take it on and knock your goals out of the park!