This week, we’re giving you some insights from one of our team members who used to work for an app development company and was involved in a fair amount of hiring. She’ll give some insight into the lessons she learned about the screening and interview processes that could help you land your dream job in IT.
1. HR is only there for screening – but they’re a hurdle you must pass
As good as any HR professional is, he or she won’t be 100% in touch with exactly what’s going on in any department. Usually, all they’ve got to work with is the job description and a basic reason why the company is hiring: someone left or the company is growing.
But your resume must get past them before it gets in front of the eyes of the person actually responsible for hiring you. To do this, (and I can’t stress this enough) study the job description intensely to pull out the most highly relevant keywords of that job listing. Weave them into your resume and cover letter, and you’re essentially golden.
Note: Some companies also use an ATS (applicant tracking system) before an HR person sees the resumes. This is a software tool that “reads” your documents to make sure they’re relevant enough based on the words you’ve used—all the more reason to integrate relevant keywords. Also, an ATS reads a word document much easier than a PDF.
2. Present the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth
You don’t meet a job description 100%?
Don’t worry. Most people don’t. (Truth be told, if they did, they’d probably be over-qualified.)
So don’t try to fabricate your experience to look good on paper. It’s something your potential managers will see through immediately once you get into the interview, and will kill your chances of landing the job.
Go ahead and be honest and upfront about your shortcomings; it’s less of a big deal than you think it is. But if you do have to tell your interviewer that you don’t have experience with something the job description requests, think of a time when you had to learn something new and adapt really quickly. Back up your shortcoming with that story to illustrate that you’re smart enough to learn and adapt quickly.
3. We do remember good candidates we couldn’t hire – so be nice
If you’ve had a stellar interview up until the point you and your interviewer realized you are really skilled in one programming language and not so much in the one they’re looking for, don’t try to stammer through a half-hearted recovery in a desperate attempt to land the job. And definitely don’t get defensive or insulting.
For people who are trying to fill a position, a good interview is a relief.
And based on the basic human principle of reciprocity (link), if you were honest the entire time, we’ll want to do something for you if we can. This could mean keeping your resume on file, referring you to a position at another company we think you’d be good for, asking you do some contract work while your job search is still going on, or calling you three weeks down the line when we have another opening.
4. Have confidence & show your personality
More often than not, job applicants (especially first-timers in the IT industry) act like scared little squirrels than over-confident jerks.
Acting insecure isn’t a sign of humility—it just shows us that you’re not sure if you can take on this position.
We want to see confidence.
We also don’t want to spend our days staring into computer screens of code alongside robots, so show a little bit of your personality. Smile and laugh a little when recounting your experiences—bring some light into the room.
5. Previous failure isn’t a huge deal
I still remember one of my favorite candidates I interviewed: a guy who failed at founding a startup.
Rather than trying to cover it up or brush it under the rug, he was very upfront about why he failed, the lessons he learned, and why he was giving up on his company and looking for employment elsewhere.
He had confidence in himself, and even though he wasn’t successful in his previous venture, I knew he would be able to handle the position really well. It didn’t matter whether he failed or succeeded—what mattered was the fact that he learned a lot of valuable lessons that would transfer to his new role really well.
6. Schedule an informational interview
I see advice all over the place online from HR professionals practically begging job applicants to schedule informational interviews with the companies they’d like to work for and/or people who are in positions they’d eventually like to work up to.
But NO ONE does this.
If you ask me, it’s a golden ticket to get yourself to stand out from the sea of job applicants—especially if you’re vying for an entry-level position.
You can get valuable information on what your favorite companies are looking for, create a great network for yourself, and get your foot in the door to the company you want (or at least to some nice referrals).
7. Be serious about your career
Don’t go into an interview because “you know man, I just need a job to pay the bills.”
If you want to land a great position, use your resume, your cover letter and your interview discussions to show you’re serious about your career and advancing in the IT space.
If you’ve gone to an IT conference hosted by a local university, mention it and talk about some cool things you learned. If your goal is to eventually move up to a position beyond the one you’re applying for, talk about a class you’ve enrolled in to expand your skill set. Or bring up a cool article you recently read about IT in your job interview and ask how it applies to the company.
In Conclusion: Be Human
To sum it up, your managers are people too—not some scary entity in whose hands rests the fate of your future career.
Be ready to show them that you’d be a good fit for the job, will make their job easier, and that you’d be a good person to get along with during the work day. To be honest, any candidate that shows those three characteristics (you’d be surprised how many don’t) stands a good chance of landing the position.