IT Employment

The Do's and Don'ts of successful interviewing


Robert Half Technology, a technology staffing organization, offers this simple list of what you should and shouldn't do in a job interview. My comments are in brackets.

Do:

  • Arrive on time.
  • Greet the interviewer by name. [Not his or her first name though until you are issued the invitation.]
  • Smile and shake hands firmly. [However, making a good impression is not dependent on how many knuckles you crush.]
  • Look alert and interested at all times. [Turn off the cell phone and PDA. Somebody's going to post in the discussion and ask who'd be stupid enough to leave those on in an interview. I've been a witness to it; they're out there.]
  • Speak firmly, clearly and loudly enough to be easily understood. [[A good suggestion but you just know someone reading it will go overboard, yelling and annunciating like a tourist in a foreign land.]
  • Look the interviewer in the eye while speaking. [If you're shy this can be hard to do, but it does help.]
  • Structure your comments in a positive manner. [If you're negative in a meeting in which you're supposed to impress someone, what does that tell the interviewer about how you'll be on the job?]

Don't:

  • Exhibit overbearing, overaggressive, or egotistical behavior. [You don't have to be brash or smug to come across as self-confident.]
  • Show a lack of interest or enthusiasm about the position or company. [Why even show up if you're not interested?]
  • Appear excessively nervous. [This is easier said than done if you are actually, well, nervous, as most of us are in interviews. Just try to take some deep breaths beforehand and prepare yourself for possible questions.]
  • Overemphasize your compensation. [It was always a red flag to me as a manager when a job candidate asked what the salary was in the first 15 minutes.]
  • Make excuses for unfavorable factors in your work history. [It's tempting, I know. But taking responsibility for yourself is the mature thing to do.]
  • Disparage past employers, managers, projects or technologies. [This would tell me that you're going to do the same thing as an employee working for me.]
  • Answer only "yes" or "no" to questions. [It's pretty awkward when you ask what you think is a probing question and get only a one-word answer in return. Don't rattle on and on but try to expound a little just to show the interviewer that the wheels up there are turning.]

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

27 comments
zanky_nour
zanky_nour

a good article, i think there are a couple of more points to be mentioned

halmk47
halmk47

I have been a headhunter for thirty years. I specialized in IT when it was DP. Your advice, while fine, has all the depth of a fortune cookie. Here are a few things to do in an interview that will separate you from the herd: 1.Take everything off of your resume that you are not prepared to defend in depth. 2. The night before your interview write down this formula for describing your projects: ....a)the problem to be solved, b)the tools available to solve the problem (include time)c) what you did (briefly) and the result. If the result can be framed as a metric, do so. For yourself, write down step by agonizing step exactly what you did to solve the problem (you and your team, there is no "I" in bonus. .... . Send a thank you email and never, never ever badmouth a past or current employer. And last but not least by any means, if you are going to interview with multiple people ask to use the rest room between interviews, if nothing else you get a few minutes to clear your head. Hal Klegman Roy Talman and Associates (My client base is 99.9% Chicago and 90% IT for financial) hal@roytalman.com

raj_bat
raj_bat

These are all good, but it works ONLY when the interviewer KNOWS what he wants out of the candidate and the interviewer TELLS the candidate exactly what his expectations are. Most of the time I meet interviewers who want to hire a Manager and ask questions about what the candidates' subordinates shall be doing - in this case, the manager doesn't really need to know (in depth) how his subordinates execute their work, instead he should know how to get the work done. So the candidate get's confused and the time spent on interview gets wasted for both parties !!

richmitch
richmitch

Excuse me but why is it stupid to use a PDA during an interview? I've always been told to have questions written down in advance and refer to them on a piece of paper. How stupid would you look using paper when you go for an IT job???

The Listed 'G MAN'
The Listed 'G MAN'

is thinking that using a PDA instead of paper would make a blind bit of difference to the interviewer.

too_old
too_old

I have not had to interview for jobs for 12 years. I have searched for the 'free' tips and even bought an interview guide. I usually get to the IP interview and usually a second interview but unfortunately my age is the problem. When you are in your fifties, it is assumed you are just not mentally capable of handling all the new techs. Trust me, even though they are not suppose to, the last manager actually told me this. It does not matter whether you use paper, PDA, or toilet paper. It does not matter if you have researched the company, have your list of questions, prepared for all the 'typical' questions asked, the behavioral question becoming popular, do the 'common sense' dos and donts, practiced with friends, and so on. A lot of the interviewers just go on their 'gut' feel and whether or not they like you. The best tip I have gleaned from all my research is to remember you are also interviewing them. Do you want to work for this company? Though I have been rejected, I can say without hestition every company I interviewed with was not a company I would enjoy going in to work every day even though I do need a paycheck. It is a subjective process.

jmarkovic32
jmarkovic32

1. I arrived 5 minutes late: I know the rules--Early is on time, on time is late and late is unacceptable. Being late is usually what happens when you don't take off that day. I went in to work because I had to take care of some last minute thing. Being late snowballed the rest of the interview because I had no time to mentally prepare. 2. My cellphone went off. Forgot to turn it off because I had it on for work. Didn't remember to turn it off because I had no time to prepare. 3. I talked too much when I should have been concise and I was too consise when I should have explained a bit. Needless to say, a month later I got a letter back a rejection letter from the company. I learned my lesson. For my second interview, I corrected all those issues (it was a recruiter, and it went well). I took these things to heart because it really resonates, but I leanred the hard way. I'll do much better the next time.

msipu
msipu

it is brilliant stuff

SkatingZebra
SkatingZebra

I ALWAYS talk about compensation up-front, even before getting to an in-person interview. In the past I've gone through two or three in-person interviews for a particular job (which usually forces me to take a couple of personal days from my current job) only to find out in the end that the salary range is way below what I'd be willing to accept. Talking about a salary range up front prevents you from wasting your time and the prospective company's time.

ManiacMan
ManiacMan

For me, it's virtually impossible to find work in IT without them because I have no way of getting insider information on who is hiring and what they're paying. The recruiters know what the positions pay and will be upfront with the candidate about it. Also, they stress that discussions of money should be avoided because the employer already knows what the candidate is seeking by way of the prospective candidate. I do agree with you that time wasted is time and money lost, but a good candidate and good recruiter will not be wasting each other's time if the issue of money has not been settled before the first interview is even conducted.

techrepublic
techrepublic

It's way past time to destroy some of these idiotic myths still shored up by yet another list of "do's and don't." We can do that by returning to honesty and leaving the "self-serving management perspective" on the floor mats to our houses where it belongs with the other things that cling to shoes. Why do we get a job? Using the 80/20 Rule, for most all of us it's primarily for the money (in whatever forms it's delivered). In my 30 years of management, it is NOT A RED FLAG AT ALL to discuss any reasonable topic, let alone the #1 concern of most people--total compensation. Why waste time further in questions if we're not in the same ballpark with the consideration that will flow BACK TO A PROSPECTIVE EMPLOYEE? Fact is, it's the prospective employer who I'm going to dismiss if, in an interview, they don't want to talk about what's in it for me, too. Did some of you wince when you read, "What's in it for me?" Better examine your premises and logic before you go ballistic. Because guess what? That's the #1 concern of the prospective employer! The easy way to spot the Big Lie is to ask who is pushing for us to sacrifice our values--it's typically the ones who stand to benefit from our getting less. I've also found that the only managers who don't like to hear some negative stuff about why employees left prior employment are typically the ones who count on getting a free pass when THEY screw up. This is management telling us the only way to live with them is via the old moronic advice of, "Judge not, lest ye be judged." Nonsense! The correct approach is always to, "Judge! But prepare to be judged yourself." That dynamic is what improves relationships. Thus, I DELIBERATELY elicit issues that the prospective employee considers negative in prior situations as yet another way to further inform me fully, if for no other reason than to see how they handle the story. I'm not afraid of listening to such concerns any more than listening to their glowing, positive reports. And as for not "making excuses" being the, um, "mature thing to do" that sounds just like an excuse to me for poor interviewing skills. You know, the old "suck it up, son" no matter what the context and "it's your fault you got cancer" attitude so prevalent in the New Age mind-over-matter insanity. Again, it speaks volumes about a lazy interviewer who is guided by these rules, one who isn't mature enough yet to have learned that honesty and a full context of whatever situation is being reported is what truly can support informed decisions--both from the employer's AND EMPLOYEE'S perspective. I could go on, up and down these half-baked lists of, let's call it what it is: "What Bad Managers Want for Xmas." Of course, I'm not proposing that it's normal if someone ONLY wants to talk about compensation during the first 15 minutes, or who only talks about negative experiences--so let's not go there with any strawman arguments. What I want you to get is that real interviewers--not lazy clueless HR peg fitters--effective interviewers put their little rule lists away and learn how to listen first. Then, they DO LISTEN and GUIDE the conversation no matter where the paths lead. That's how you actually learn about a prospective employee and, conversely, how one learns about your organization, too, rather than both of you doing some one-off kind of strange fiction-to-fiction dance. There must be something in the air with Tech Republic today--I just got finished wasting my life (for the 2nd time in 10 minutes) reading an "article" in my inbox essentially about how to set the XP default screensaver and timeout value. So in the interests of ending on a positive note, I'll add my own item to Robert Half's list: "You get what you pay for." I'll be chatting about this laughable excuse of a Tech Republic post with other online tech purveyors when I look around to see what else is available this weekend. I don't need a plethora of inbox entries every morning to read, only to find I'm constantly sorting through what amounts to some 13-year old's perspectives on life. Oh, and sensibly, it will be after I've determined if they intend to charge me for their "advice" first. Well, maybe not first. But certainly in the first 15 minutes. It's a rule, ya know?

jmarkovic32
jmarkovic32

You could always ask HR what the pay range is for the job before you submit your resume. Hell, when I was called for my interview, the HR person said, "The pay range for this position starts at $51,000 and the midpoint is $64,000, is that okay?" It won't hurt to ask before hand. If you know what the pay band or pay range is for the job, it's easier to negotiate compensation.

hash1024
hash1024

Finally! Somebody from management did admit it! Seriously, people, do you really go to work to make your company bigger and better and your customers happy forever? Make some buck for the shareholders? Don't get me wrong, I do love my job and I really like my company and I won't quit if I hit a jackpot. But I'm selling my skills, experience, enthusiasm, work ethics and I would really, really prefer to be compensated fairly. Just like the rest of us. I could never understood why interview has certain do's or dont's, I just learned to live with them. I'm afraid you are in the minority, Mr./Mrs./Ms techrepublic@... Great post though, thank you!

davidpowell
davidpowell

Good advice. Asa consultant, I would also likle to add the following. 1) By arrive on time, you should be there before hand, and give yourself time to relax and get a feel for the workplace. Also, if you are driving, make allowances for traffic and parking! 2) Emapthise. I cannot express this strongly enough. Whether it is a permanent or contract role, you are being hired to come and join a team to help out and deliver a requirement. Always ask yourself how you could do this based on the information you have and try to work it into your answers. But never, ever, suggest they are currently doing it wrong.... :)

Strategon
Strategon

You know what is funny, I have an interview coming up next week, and it's been a while since I have had to interview for a job, so I thought I was would read up and get refreshed on interviewing. Out of all the stuff I have read, the tips and lists, etc.. no one ever recommends the most common sense tip of all and I have found it to be the silver Bullet in all of the interviews I have ever done. When all of the interview banter is done and the interviewer(s) ask , "do you have any further questions, etc.." I always look them straight in the eyes and say "yes, will give you give me this job?" I can't tell you how many times I have gotten the job only to have the interviewer tell me later out of all the candidates I was the only one who ever actually asked for the job. It leaves an impression!

GAbdullah
GAbdullah

I would add two more points on the "Do" side: - Dress correctly for the interview - Try to find out enough about the institution interviewing you beforehand and ask questions about it

toni.bowers_b
toni.bowers_b

There's nothing more disappointing for an interviewer than when a candidate asks, "Now, just what do you all do here?"

IT Generalist
IT Generalist

Ask about the upcoming projects and weaknesses that they would like you to address and provide some solutions and show intrest in solving those issues in your follow-up email or letter.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Same employer actually. Having contacted him a little while ago, same offer, more money but now on hold again. Never gets enough time before I've moved on, oh well, maybe it's for the best then.

JamesRL
JamesRL

He shared very openly his issues, and I spent two hours offering my thoughts and sharing my perspectives. I'd like to think I helped him. Unfortuately he hadn't gotten approval from the US parent when interviewing, and because they just acquired another company the timing wasn't good. I couldn't afford to wait for something to change so I had to accept another offer. James

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

I always take time to research a potential employer and look for ways I can offer them solutions or enhance enxisting systems. It's usually pretty easy to identify business needs, even from a basic website. By going ot the employer and selling your ideas on how you see yourself offering benefit to them, you get more clout as someone with a keen eye for solutions. Even if they don't feel your offering is really not needed, it shows a strong ability to identify and seek to resolve issues.

JamesRL
JamesRL

Its all in how you say it. You might start off by recounting something you know about the challenges facing the industry. This is from all that research you did the night before and the hours you spent googling them. Then you ask them, are these your only challenges? What do you see coming as as challenges etc. This is your opportunity to listen, analyze and give them information back on what your knowledge and skills and experience can help them overcome some of those challenges. If you answer this correctly, expect an offer. James

bsolo
bsolo

Common sense things, but it's all in the delivery. Good tips though

kailash.snc
kailash.snc

This is really good stuff. We all know this and have gone through this. But listing of all things in the order you presented not done.

aard
aard

I agree with the do's and don't, and I have followed them in interviews and still not landed the position. I think I try too hard to please everyone that I meet with. One interview I went on there were 4 key people I had to meet with in 2 hours. It was long but fast paced. I exited the interview exhausted and I answered many of the same questions 4 times. I know that by the time I came to the last person I sounded like a answering machine programmed with the responses. There were also questions that I felt were silly, it's like they picked up a book the night before with 101 interview questions. I know some questions are geared to make you think and respond in certain terms or to mark personality type, but lets not get silly. My husband is a manager and conducts job interviews, and his boss came to him last year and presented him with a few questions to ask interviewees. He asked them, but he felt awkard asking them. After the employee was hired they approached him and asked why he asked those certain questions. He did not know what to say, you see he thought they were unrevealing and un-necessary also, and the answers he received meant nothing to him. He only did what he was told. Of course he did not say this, but thought it.