IT Career & Job Search Advice
TechNET IT deals in the business of supply and demand; every day we work with clients and candidates who are searching for the perfect applicant, or the perfect role. We understand the intricacies of the process, from CV Writing to short listing, interviewing to role fulfilment.
The following is a guide intended to offer professional insight and career advice to all potential candidates. While some of it may seem elementary, it is practical and useful information that is always worth revisiting prior to any job search.
Your CV is your first introduction to the employer. It must accurately reflect your achievements, both professionally and academically, and present you as a viable contender for the role. Your CV must be;
- Concise and structured – paragraphs of description are superfluous and will not always get read. Keep the information limited, but sufficient.
- Adapted for each job – understand the position you are applying for, and tailor your CV to reflect your abilities that are best suited to that role.
- Formatted correctly – with your last academic achievement listed first, followed by professional experience, and finally a personal note about yourself. Be conscious of what to allow here; anything that displays a strong team or work ethic is a valuable inclusion.
You can find more advice on our CV writing tips page.
While it seems like an obvious statement, it is surprising how many people fail at the initial step. Understanding the role and company you are applying for is the best form of preparation; being confident in these areas will enable you to ask the right questions once in the interview.
Before you go to the interview gather information about the company through:
- The internet
- Careers Service
- Company Brochures
- Press exposure
- Commercial Library
- Financial Information
Coming to your interview with knowledge of the company will set you apart from other applicants.
There are standard questions that all interviewers will ask. It is important to have well reasoned responses ready. The list below identifies common areas of questioning, so formulate answers to show how, in past experience, you have displayed:
- Ability to deal with rejection
As well as preparing answers, you must have a stock of questions for the employer
- Open questions: these are more generalised questions intended to gather information (who, what, when, why, which, how, where)
- Closed questions: these are specific questions intended to qualify a specific point.
Areas of questioning to approach
- Role – what will the role entail?
- Progression – Where do you see me in 6 months?
- Training and Support – What training is provided?
- Company and culture – How would you describe the culture of the company?
- Package – What additional benefits would I receive?
At the interview
Once you are at the interview, it is all down to presentation and performance. How you present yourself, and the impression you make on the employer, is the single most crucial factor to you securing the position.
How you dress for the interview gives an indication of the person you are, and how you will fit in to the organisation. Remember:
- Dress for business not fashion
- Traditional rather than avant-garde
- Dark coloured suits are more powerful
- Smart haircut
- Polished shoes
- Minimal jewellery
- Shirts and ties in neutral colours (blue/grey)
First impressions are lasting impressions, so to ensure that you make a good one:
- Have a firm and deliberate handshake
- Use his or her name – be polite but not overly familiar
- Make eye contact and smile
- Engage with them by building a rapport
- Your body language in the interview will say almost as much about you as your CV and your oral presentation. Remember that an interview is a mutual exchange of information, not an inquisition. You are there on merit, so present yourself confidently and professionally, but be relaxed.
- Your posture should reflect a confident and open manner – do not slouch, or cross your legs or arms, as these gestures can be perceived as disinterest or defensiveness.
- Sit sideways, with your torso facing towards the interview panel – this is a relaxed and non-confrontational pose, yet remains professional.
- Use open gesticulation to emphasise when speaking, but avoid pointing or stabbing motions, as they can appear aggressive.
- Keep hands below elbows – too much gesticulation can signal a lack of control.
- Speak clearly and concisely, and be sure to answer the question you have been asked.
- Keep you facial expressions open and interested – smiling and answering enthusiastically when appropriate.
- Make consistent eye contact with all members of the interview panel – it shows sincerity and a willingness to learn, but be sure not to stare or ‘eyeball’ an interviewer.
What to expect at the Interview
The interviewer’s job is to determine
- Can this person do the job?
- Will this person do the job?
- Will this person fit in?
For you to distinguish yourself, it is crucial to prepare answers to the most common interview questions. The following is a list of questions you should be expecting:
- Why did you choose your degree?
- Why that university?
- What have you contributed to university life?
- What did you enjoy most?
- What did you do in holiday time and why?
- What are your career aspirations?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- What do you want from a career?
- Describe your ideal employer and why?
- Are you interested in management? If so, why?
- What management style do you respond best to?
- How would your friends describe you?
- What would your last employer say about you?
- What are your strengths/weaknesses?
- What motivates/de-motivates you?
- What stresses you?
- What are your interests outside of work/studies?
- How do you spend your spare time?
- What do you spend your disposable income on?
- What sporting achievements do you have?
- What newspapers do you read and why?
- If I gave you £1000 what would you do with it?
- What other companies have you applied for? (Make relevant!)
- Why do you want to work for us?
The MOST frequently asked question at an interview is: Have you got any questions?
You must ensure that you have relevant questions to ask the employer. Do not ask things that have already been covered, make your questions specific to you and the role; you will appear intelligent and engaged, and have a higher chance of securing the role. The following is a list of suggested areas of questioning:
- What will my daily activities include?
- What will my typical targets be?
- What targets will I be working towards?
- Who is your best IT person? What makes them special?
You may also wish to ask:
- How would you describe your company culture?
- How do you see me fitting in at ……..?
- What types of activities do you together as a company?
Your priority should be to make a good impression, and leave a lasting one. Ensure that you stay fresh in the employers mind, and ask for feedback on your interview to determine how successful you were. Types of questions you can ask include:
- What is the next stage?
- Have you got any reservations?
- Where do we go from here?
- What reasons would there be for not offering me the position?
Five points to avoid in an interview
In the current economic climate, the power lies with the employer. With so many applicants vying for the same position, it is vital to understand what the employer is looking for, how you can set yourself apart, and what to avoid in the interview process.
The five most common reasons for failure at a job interview can be summarized as the following:
- Lack of enthusiasm for the job – negative body language, lack of eye contact and disengagement will signal that the applicant is not interested.
- Arrogance – demonstrating an attitude of entitlement could be fatal. Instead of what the organisation can do for you, you need to focus on what you can do for them; convince the interviewer that you are the solution to their recruitment needs.
- Unclear and unspecific career goals – being vague about your future aspirations signifies a lack of ambition. Be clear about the job you are seeking, and summarise into three key points why you are specifically suited to the role.
- Assuming that employers hire candidates based purely on credentials and experience. This is not the case; credentials are only one of the factors. Surveys show that interviewers look for team fit, personality, confidence, communication and appearance.
- Lack of confidence – an interview is where you sell yourself, so downplaying your achievements and underselling yourself will not advance your career. Remember to smile, be open and honest, and be confident in your abilities.
Most people can now expect 14-16 jobs in their lifetime. However, many jobseekers fail to develop good interview skills, costing them potential job offers. A recent survey asked 5000 HR Managers: “what do you look for most in a candidate?”
2756 replied in total, and of them 2322 ranked enthusiasm at the top of their list. The remaining rated body language, tonality, and lastly, the actual words spoken at interview.
To conclude, while the power lies with the interviewer, the possibility to progress comes from you. Being prepared, asking relevant questions, presenting yourself as professional and capable, and crucially, approaching the interview with vigour and enthusiasm will put you in the best position to secure the job of your dreams.
Visit our interview tips page for further information.