Job Interview Mistakes

How to Decline a Job Offer

When you’re in the tech field, job searching can be easier because you’re more in demand.  You’ll often have IT staffing companies reaching out to you, even when you’re perfectly happy in your current job.  If you are searching, you may be juggling multiple interview processes at a time and even multiple job offers.  This means that at some point you’ll be put in the position of declining a job offer.  This can be a delicate task with lasting effects.  Here are some tips from IT recruiters on how to gracefully decline a job offer and avoid burning any bridges in the tech sphere.

  1. You must respond.  Do not under any circumstances just ignore the offer.  Reach out to the employer or technical recruiters and reject the offer if you don’t want it.  You’ll definitely torpedo your reputation with employers and IT recruiting companies if you don’t give any response to a job offer.  Putting out job offers is a labor-intensive process for employers that takes a lot of time.  To not even give a rejection is unthinkably rude and makes you look incredibly unprofessional.
  2. Keep it quick.  Don’t drag your feet on rejecting a job offer when you know it’s not right for you.  The sooner you can tell the employer no, the better the whole interaction will go.  It’s especially important not to do something like accepting a job offer, then waiting for something better.  Or dragging your feet to respond to a job offer while waiting for something better.  It can be tempting, or even feel completely logical to do this.  You’ve got to look out for yourself, right?  But pulling a move like this will likely hurt you in the future.  If you deceive an employer or reject it in a way that obstructs their hiring process, you’ll definitely frustrate them.  You’ll probably blackball yourself as an applicant at that company in the future.  You’ll also likely hurt your reputation with the people who work there.  Considering how small the tech sphere can be sometimes, that’s a big risk to take!
  3. Keep it respectful, gracious, and pleasant.  It’s entirely possible to reject a job offer without offending or frustrating a company.  If you adopt the right tone and thank the company warmly for their time and consideration, IT recruiting agencies find that you can still walk away with goodwill.  Find specific things you genuinely liked about the job, company and/or team and mention them.  Specifics will go a long way in proving that the company made a positive impression on you.  If you’d like to be able to apply to this employer in the future, say so.  It’s entirely possible that a job offer right now at company X isn’t a good fit, but 5 years from now, it will be!  Companies understand this and will appreciate it if you’re clear about it. There are cases where this won’t work, of course, but that’s a red flag in itself.  If a company responds to a gracious rejection of a job offer with hostility and animosity, then they may not be pleasant to work for anyways!
  4. Give a reason if you have one that is temporary and palatable to an employer.  In some cases, it can help to give employers a straightforward, honest reason why you’re rejecting their job offer.  It can be completely acceptable to say you’ve received an alternate job offer with a higher salary, better commute, or more flexible schedule.  It’s also fine to tell an employer if your personal circumstances have  changed and you’re not ready to make start a new job.  Maybe you have a sick relative, you need to move, etc.  As mentioned before, your aim should be to keep the whole conversation positive.  There are definitely reasons that you should NOT give to an employer for rejecting their job offer.  The most obvious is if you’re taking a counter-offer from your current employer.  While this is usually a bad move to make for yourself (check out this blog post here), it also looks terrible to employers.  It can make them feel like you’ve used their (extensive) time and effort just to get yourself a raise from your boss.  At the very least, it looks like you have bad judgement, which makes you seem pretty unhirable.
tech job offers
Rejecting a job offer isn’t as easy as saying ‘no.’ Photo credit: TayebMEZAHDIA via Pixabay.


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How to Deal With Negative Interview Feedback

One of the advantages of working with IT recruiters is that they can sometimes pass along feedback from interviewers who don’t hire you.  Even though it can sting a little to hear you didn’t land some IT jobs, the feedback can be golden.  Here’s what to do with it.

1. Stop and really listen.  If your IT staffing companies can provide feedback on why you didn’t land the job, take every word in.  Ask questions if you don’t understand.  The point is to get as much information as possible, because this is a window into a hiring manager’s view of you.

2. Don’t take it personally.  While this feedback is helpful and should be taken seriously, it doesn’t mean you’re an inadequate candidate.  IT recruiting firms work on thousands of jobs every day.  These jobs require different skills, different kinds of personality, a different work style, etc.  If you aren’t what the hiring manager wants, that’s ok.  You want to be hired for a job where you have what the hiring manager wants because you want to be hired for a job you will succeed in. Think about children’s puzzles where you fit shapes into the corresponding holes.  You would never shove a square peg into a round hole.  It would break the peg or puzzle over time.  You want to work with your IT staffing agencies until you find the kind of job that you’re a great fit for.  Find the square hole for your square peg.

3. Don’t argue if you disagree with the feedback.  Even if you think the hiring manager is patently wrong, you shouldn’t argue with your technical recruiters.  There are a three reasons for this.

a. Firstly, you won’t be able to change a hiring manager’s mind.  Most hiring managers rely on their gut, and you simply can’t argue with this.  Even if the hiring manager is wrong, they will always think of you as having this deficiency.

b. The second reason you shouldn’t argue with the feedback is that it can provide a chance to better yourself.  Do you need to brush up on that technology?  Are your communication skills with higher level executives rusty?  Even if you didn’t initially think so, take this opportunity to do so now.  This is a chance to make yourself even more marketable to the next interviewer!

c. The third reason not to argue with feedback from a job interview is that you’ll want to continue to get this feedback!  You want IT recruiting companies to feel the feedback they give is appreciated and taken seriously.  When you argue with it, most IT recruiters will decide they never want to give you feedback again.  Why deny yourself this valuable tool in improving your candidacy?!

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job interview tips
Don’t argue with interview feedback. Listen to it! Photo credit: Hans via Pixabay.


Are You Ready for Your Technical Job Interview?

If you have some interviews for IT jobs coming up, try using this checklist to make sure that you’re ready.

1. Did you lay out, wash, and iron, a professional outfit? Even in the tech sphere, where many companies allow jeans and a t-shirt, IT recruiters still recommend wearing a suit to your interviews. Make things easy for yourself and make sure it’s ready to go right when you need it.

2. Did you talk to your technical recruiters about the commute? Did you look at your best routes on Google? Are you leaving yourself enough time for traffic, train trouble, bad weather, etc? Are you leaving early enough to meet your recruiter first (if they request it) or to do a security check if necessary? It’s also worth noting that if you’re unsure about doing this commute regularly, consider trying it out during a day and time with comparable traffic patterns. IT staffing firms see people quit jobs all the time because their commute is miserable.

3. Did you study up on relevant technologies? Sometimes IT recruiting firms find that candidates will just assume their ‘rusty’ skills are enough to get them through an interview. Be honest with yourself and study up on a technology if you need to before you go to your job interview.

4. Did you practice some basic interview questions? You’re going for a technical interview, but you’ll still be asked things like, ‘What’s your greatest weakness?’ Or ‘What’s your greatest strength?’ IT staffing companies suggest that you role play with a family member or friend just to be ready for these questions. If you put time into sharpening your technical skills, you should put time into sharpening your general interviewing skills, too! Don’t assume answering these questions is something you can do off the cuff.

5. Did you print out copies of your resume, or will your recruiters bring them for you? Figure this out so you can be prepared in case a hiring manager needs them. If you don’t have access to a printer before your interview, most IT recruiting agencies will bring you a few copies with no issue.

6. Did you prepare a few questions to ask the interviewer? IT staffing agencies find that the candidates who really impress interviewers are the ones who have a few great questions in their back pockets. If you don’t have any to ask, you’ll look disinterested or unprepared. Questions like ‘What would success look like in this role?’ aren’t just for you—they help the interviewer see what kind of employee you’re ready to be!

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job interview tips
Wear a suit to your interview, even if the daily dress code is casual. Photo credit: TeroVesalainen via Pixabay


2 Mistakes Not to Make with Your References

Good references are imperative to landing new IT jobs.  Here are two mistakes that IT recruiters see candidates make far too often.

Don’t give references that you haven’t spoken to recently.  When technical recruiters and potential employers call your references, you want them to be prepared to take the call.  Reach out to your references when you start you job hunt.  Ask them if they would vouch for you (or vouch for you again if they have before).  You’ll want to share all of the kinds of roles you’re interested in pursuing.  While this is a courtesy to your references, it will also make you look like you’re organized, prepared for the job search, and you understand professional norms.  Employers will know you didn’t follow the usual procedure most other candidates do if your references answer the phone and are confused—or worse yet, don’t remember you.  (It’s also worth noting that you want to look at least somewhat memorable to potential employers!  Who wants to hire the candidate who didn’t even make a dent on their reference’s radars?!)

Not reaching out to your references is also a mistake because it’s a missed opportunity to help them  give you a really powerful recommendation.  Your references will do a better job if you share the kinds of experience or qualities you’d like them to highlight when they speak to your  IT staffing firms and potential employers.  Are you applying for jobs requiring customer service skills?  Ask your references to mention it if they have a positive impression of your customer service skills.  Need them to highlight your debugging abilities?  Let them know before any IT recruiting agencies call.  You can’t control what a reference says, but you can provide them the info to be as helpful to you as possible.

Don’t give a misleading or fake reference.  Sometimes IT recruiting firms find that candidates will give references who they haven’t actually ever work directly with.  Some candidates will go so far as to give the names and numbers of people who know them and pose as former coworkers or managers.  Giving deceitful or blatantly fake references is the worst mistake you could make as a candidate.  IT staffing companies usually decide never to work with a candidate again if they do this.  Employers will usually blacklist you.  Being anything less than truthful in your job search will definitely hurt you chances of landing your next role.


Job search references
Haven’t talked to your references recently? Fix that before your job search! Photo credit: bssmadeit via Pixabay.


Don’t Ask About This When You’re Interviewing

When you’re interviewing for IT jobs, it’s always important to have good questions for your interviewer.  Good questions not only help you make a more informed decision about whether a job would be a good fit for you.  They also help your interviewer see that you’re truly interested in the employer, the work, the project, etc.  IT staffing firms find there are such things as bad questions, though.  You may wind up completely blowing your interview if you ask questions that are irrelevant, too personal, or related to a controversial topic like religion or politics.  Here’s one more kind of question that IT recruiters find candidates too often (unfortunately) ask in an interview: anything that is exclusively about the perks of the job.

Especially in tech, perks can be a pretty common part of the decision-making process for candidates.  When major, trendy tech employers like Google are known for the perks they provide for their employees, why would it a bad idea to ask about them in the interview?  The problem is that it breaks professional norms and it can lead an employer to assume you’re not interested (or worse, perhaps prepared) for the work.  IT recruiting companies find that, as in most other fields, it’s very important for candidates to focus on the technical aspects of a job, as well as the corporate culture.  Employers want to hire candidates who are completely prepared to handle the technical work they need done, as well as somebody who fits well with their corporate culture.  Your job in an interview is to decide if that’s you.  And if it is, your job is to advocate for yourself as a good fit for the role.  Especially with rarer skills, a bad hire can be very costly for tech employers.  They really can’t afford to hire somebody who doesn’t have the skills or experience they need.  When you waste time talking about things like the free snacks or happy hours, you’ll turn off an interviewer quickly.

So if you actually do have questions about the perks of a job, who can you ask?  Your technical recruiters.  This is exactly what they’re there for.  Your IT recruiting firms are there to talk about all the elements of a job that you can’t or wouldn’t really want to discuss with an interviewer.  These include compensation, commute, and if a company has bad reviews on Glassdoor or elsewhere.  Basically, if a topic could make an interview awkward, your rule of thumb should be to discuss it first with your IT recruiters.  So don’t risk hurting your interview by asking about the perks of a job.  If they’re really that important to you, discuss them with your IT staffing companies.  They’ll be happy to look into it for you—and happy to have you focus on what’s important in your job interview.


Interview questions
Stop yourself before you make the mistake of asking about perks in a job interview. Photo credit: Activ-Michoko via Pixabay.


Tips for Exit Interviews

If you’ve been working with your IT recruiters to find a new position, the last step of your transition won’t be giving your notice.  Employers often want to conduct an exit interview before you leave.  These may seem like a time to vent with impunity, but the truth is that you could do some serious damage to your reputation if you handle one badly.  Here are a few tips that IT staffing firms suggest following as you go through exit interviews.

1. Approach an exit interview as seriously as you do a job interview.  Just like you would in a job interview, IT recruiting companies suggest you be professional, keep things positive, and be cooperative.  Especially with all the back-door references that LinkedIn enables, it’s important to perform exit interviews as the kind of IT professional you to be known as.  Check your emotions at the door, even if it’s tempting not to.  You never know if your words will make it back to other’s ears and burn bridges for you. (Some technical recruiters suggest venting to a trusted friend or family member before the exit interview so you get it out of your system.)

2. This isn’t a time to improve the company or give much feedback.  Even if exit interviews are sometimes presented this way, it’s often pretty ineffective to share criticism about an employer.  In fact, IT staffing agencies find that doing this will usually just hurt you.  If you’re leaving to seek out IT jobs that pay more, have a better work culture, let you do more interesting work, etc, now isn’t the time to say it.  The best time to ask for a raise, to give feedback about the workplace, or to ask for more interesting projects, was when you were actually an employee.  It’s often just going to be viewed as a slight if you detail all the reasons why you worked with IT recruiting agencies to get out of your current employer.  And as mentioned above, it’s always a bad idea to slight people.  You might unwittingly be burning an important bridge you need in the future.

3. Leave your future employer out of it.  Your IT staffing companies wouldn’t suggest you spend much time talking about how excited you are to join your new employer.  Even if you don’t mean to, people may assume you’re belittling your soon-to-be employer by comparison.

4. Lastly, try to say a few positive things about your soon-to-be ex employer before you go.  While it’s not helpful to say something that feels fake or forced, you can probably find one or two positive things to genuinely note.  Perhaps you had the opportunity to learn more about a new technology, or got to work on an interesting project.  Taking a moment to mention these things you’re grateful for will make you look professional and gracious.


Take the exit interview as seriously as the job interview. Photo credit: multifacetedgirl via Pixabay.


One Easy Job Interview Mistake to Make– and Avoid!

IT recruiting agencies find that candidates make some mistakes in interviews that are pretty egregious.  Maybe they are particularly late, rude, or can’t answer technical questions.  However, IT recruiters also see candidates make subtler mistakes in interviews.  Here’s one mistake you may not even know you’re making as you interview for IT jobs:  not giving your interviewer a genuine weakness (if they ask for one).

What does this mean exactly?  IT staffing companies find that often, candidates are tempted to give a weakness that isn’t actually a weakness.  IT recruiting firms see candidates give weaknesses like “perfectionism”, that aren’t really weaknesses.  The problem with giving answers like this when an interviewer asks for a weakness is that it comes across as disingenuous. Interviewers actually do want to hear a weakness from you.  They need to see that you’re being open and honest with them in the interview. They also need to see that you’re a good fit for the job—so when you can’t list a weakness, it’s hard for them to ascertain if you’d do well in the role.

So how would IT recruiting companies suggest you tell an interviewer about a weakness in a genuine, effective way?  Start by thinking about a weakness that wouldn’t affect your ability to do the job you’re interviewing for.  For instance, for a job that doesn’t require you to manage anybody else, you could say you have a hard time sharing or delegating tasks.  For a programming job that doesn’t require any client interaction, you might mention that your customer service skills are lacking.

The next step is to briefly talk about steps you’ve taken to improve on this weakness.  You don’t want to go into excessive detail, but this part is important.  Technical recruiters find that what really impresses interviewers is evidence that you’re able to improve upon your performance as an employee.  This helps them to picture you as a self-motivated employee on their team, always striving to do better.

IT staffing firms suggest you wrap up your exchange about weaknesses by painting an optimistic picture of the future.  Just a sentence here would suffice.  You want to show your interviewer that you can see yourself continuing to improve on this weakness, perhaps using this improvement to enhance your performance at work.


Are you giving a fake weakness? It’s not going to land you the IT job. Photo credit: PeteLinforth via Pixabay.

Why You (Usually) Can’t Interview Outside of Work Hours

Sometimes IT recruiters will find that candidates are completely prepared for interviews and phone screens but there is one obstacle that makes it hard for them to land IT jobs: they can’t figure out how to schedule them.  IT staffing companies find that sometimes candidates think they think they can’t take time from their workday for a phone screen or take time off for the job interviews.  For most people in the tech field, though, this simply isn’t true.  Here’s why IT recruiting companies suggest that you rethink this if you have a hard time scheduling a phone or in-person interview during business hours.

1.     Sometimes candidates think that since technical recruiters are available to talk before work or after-hours, this means that employers will be, too.  The truth is that IT staffing agencies very often work around the clock to fill IT jobs.  Employers, however, usually don’t.  Most employers will fit a phone or in-person interview into the work day.  (Some will stay late or meet with candidates before the workday, but they are often in the minority.)  If you can’t step away to take a phone interview during business hours, or if you aren’t willing to take a day or part of a day off work for a job interview, you will miss all opportunities to interview.  IT recruiting firms find that other candidates usually are willing to do take time for their job search.   This means employers will interview and hire them instead of you.

2.     On a similar note, it’s important to understand how it looks to employers when you refuse to interview during normal business hours.  There are two very bad messages you might send to potential new employers when you try to insist they meet you outside of business hours.  Firstly, IT recruiting agencies find that when you demand this kind of scheduling, you can wind up looking like you don’t understand professional norms and are unprofessional.  As mentioned above, doing interviews or phone interviews during the work day is pretty normal.  True professionals know how to gracefully and discreetly accommodate interview requests into their normal schedule.  Secondly, if you insist that employers interview you outside of normal business hours, you’re also possibly suggesting you’re a difficult person to work with.  No matter how technically adept you are, this will really hurt your candidacy.  More and more, IT recruiters find that having great communication skills and being pleasant to work with are important in IT jobs.  This is due to many factors, including the fact that tech departments now work with end users, clients, and other departments more than they used to.  So be flexible about scheduling your interview—it just might help land you the job.

3.     Lastly, taking time away from work for your job search is a normal, acceptable activity if done with discretion.  Sometimes candidates think they’re doing something wrong or disloyal if they take time away from their job to do an interview.  This simply isn’t true.  You certainly don’t want to make it obvious to your current employer that you’re looking for a new job.  However, most decent employers know that people do job search.  If you are taking time off from your job it’s either sick/vacation time that you’ve earned.  It’s your time.  You are allowed to do what you want with it—including going to the interviews your IT staffing firms set up for you.  It’s also worth noting that the technical recruiters you work with and the employers you interview with will also be discreet.  They will not bring it to your current employers’ attention that you’re job searching.  Unless you are indiscreet about it, going on interviews doesn’t carry much risk of alerting your employer that you’re considering leaving.


Taking time off for job interviews isn’t wrong or bad. Photo credit: SplitShire via Pixabay.



Avoid Asking Illegal Interview Questions

IT recruiters find that even when employers are experienced at interviewing to fill IT jobs, they may still wind up mistakenly asking illegal questions.  In fact, a recent study shows that 1 in 5 employers asks illegal questions when they’re interviewing.  While asking these questions doesn’t automatically mean you’ll get sued, IT staffing agencies would strongly suggest you take time to make sure your interviewers are fully versed on what they can and can’t legally ask.  It may save you a great deal of trouble (and money) in the future.  Here are some basic guidelines IT recruiting firms would suggest you follow in formulating your questions.

1.    Don’t ask about their family structure.  Asking whether a candidate is married, has children, expecting, etc may lead you into muddy waters.  Often interviewers aren’t asking these kinds of questions with bad intentions.  However, IT recruiters would suggest you choose other topics for friendly chit chat instead.

2.    Don’t ask about their religion, gender, or sexual orientation.  These are some of the most important areas IT staffing firms would suggest you avoid.  Even if you’re just trying to make a connection with the candidate, these areas are the most dangerous in terms of potential lawsuits.

3.    Don’t ask if English is a candidate’s first language or if they’re a US citizen.  The IT recruiting agencies your company works with will be able to let you know if a candidate needs sponsorship or is authorized to work in the US.  Let your IT staffing companies protect you here—let them look into this information for you.


Interview Questions IT Jobs
Don’t risk asking illegal interview questions. A lawsuit is too expensive. Photo credit: OpenRoadPR via Pixabay.


2 Ways Candidates Blow Job Interviews

IT recruiting agencies have heard some interviewing horror stories from IT professionals and interviewers alike.  Sometimes even when candidates have prepped and studied the technologies their IT recruiters recommended, things can still happen that make it hard (or impossible) to land the job.  The worst stories technical recruiters hear are about the times candidates blow interviews for IT jobs by saying something controversial or talk about compensation in a counterproductive way.

How can you avoid making either of these mistakes?  IT staffing agencies would suggest you start by making sure you don’t talk about politics, religion, or make any remarks that could be construed as intolerant of a particular group.  You never know how your interviewer feels about any of these topics– and thus whether you may be offending them.  Even if you don’t personally offend the interviewer, you may still lose your chance at landing the job.  The interviewer might still tell your IT recruiting firms that they find you deeply unprofessional (and thus unemployable).  Don’t take any risks in what you say—it’s simply not worth it.

When it comes to money, hold off on discussing it in the interview.  The truth is, this part is really your IT staffing companies’ responsibility.  Since interviewers often don’t want to discuss compensation, benefits, etc until they extend an offer, you’ll be breaking professional norms if you broach the topic during the interview.  IT recruiting companies also find that since candidates take their compensation so personally (as they should), they have a hard time discussing the topic in a productive, professional way.  Letting your IT staffing firms handle the negotiation for your compensation package is the best way to ensure that you don’t risk putting off your interviewer.


These mistakes can send even the best interview performance up in flames. Photo credit: stones via pixabay.