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Looking for a senior role? Here are some things to think about.

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Looking for a senior role? Here are some things to think about.

ellendilmw
I've read a lot of good posts recently regarding employment in the IT field but most of them seem to focus on getting into the field, or getting "that next job". I've decided to look at advice for people looking to move into more senior roles, and how the approach to these roles can differ to earlier career moves.

Some background: I've been in an IT management/consultant role since the mid-90s and have both interviewed and been interviewed for senior roles on numerous occasions. Of the two, I have to say that being interviewing a senior is much harder than being interviewed.

I'll handle that last comment first. When you are interviewing for a mid-level or junior staff member, they will generally be entering a role where even poor performance will likely have little impact on the business. When you are interviewing a senior (i.e. manager, team leader, product leader, senior consultant, etc.) you have to be aware that their performance will likely be able to materially affect your business and so it can be very stressful. Conversely, if you are being interviewed for a senior role, you should be aware of your inverviewer's concerns and make sure you answer their questions within that context.

Research your potential employer! This advice is for everyone but juniors can be forgiven for not doing their homework; if I interview a senior that doesn't know anything about my company despite all the information available on the web, etc. (maybe half my recent candidates) then things aren't going too well for them.

Stop talking about what you can achieve, start talking about what you can bring to the business. As a junior, or mid-level staffer it's a given that you are building your career and employers will generally want to know what direction you want to head to see if it aligns with the role they are offering. When you are looking for a senior position, you should be at a point where you have established your career direction and don't need to go into that. Instead, as a senior you should be focussing on what you can contribute to the business; how they will benefit from employing you. In this area, be detailed without bragging; use a few choice anecdotes from previous successes if you need to illustrate your successes. When interviewing someone, I want to know WHY they think they so good for this role? HOW will they contribute to our success?

Experience becomes more important, certification becomes less important, education becomes irrelevant. There have been numerous debates about the relative importance of education and certification with respect to getting an IT role. Once you start building good (i.e. referenceable) experience, your certifications take a backseat to your experience and you might as well not mention your education on your resume as - at that level - no one really cares anymore.

Remember your network of contacts and never, EVER, burn any bridges. Whilst this is also advice I give to people entering the field, it becomes far more relevant entering a senior position. The higher up the food chain you go, the less peers you have and the more likely people are to know each other (and talk to each other). When I go to an event put on by HP or Microsoft, I am certain to know or recognise between 30-50% of the people in the room. When you are looking for a senior position, you can be certain that your interviewer will check not just the references you supply but will also look at your previous employment and talk to people they know in those organisations to discover "the real you". One burnt bridge can hurt a whole lot.

I may throw some more in here if people feel this topic is interesting; I look forward to hearing what others have to say.
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    Tony Hopkinson

    Not sure the recruitment industry does though...
    Mind you I'm not sure they can recognise a senior technical person except through longevity which is far from the same thing. One mob were looking at me (twenty + years in) and wanted to know what 'O' levels I'd got ( school qualification at 16 in the UK).

    Senior roles are much rarer not just because there's less of us and them, but because retention tends to be very good. When a firm gets it's hands on an proven has done and can do type, generally they try to keep hold of them. Need someone to get the next set of newbies squared up.
    My tip for those looking for a senior technical person.
    Do your best in terms of picking for interviews, then look for people who challenge you at an interview. Don't be scared of it, welcome it. If I ask you how your devs work with the testers, and you say we do this and that. I'll want to know why you've chosen that way, how that fits with your business.. How do you pick lifecycles, and why. What was the reasoning behind your choices of tools. If you don't get those questions, you've already done something to put yourself out of the frame (perhaps asked them what O levels they have), or they aren't a senior.
    When you realise they are interviewing you as much as you are them, then you know you've got the real thing, not just somebody who's spent ten years + doing the same thing.
    And it's not never burn bridges, it's think about it first. Don't do it out of pique, don't do it because the business no longer requires your particular mix of skills and experinece and you found that irritating, do it because you want to keep those damn muppets on that side of the bank. Never burn bridges assumes, that you'll want to go back, my question would be why would you want to? I've only done it twice with proven incompetents, as for those who would value the opinion of an incompetent....

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    keith.wilson

    I'm currently transitioning from Mid Level to Sr. and this was a great read!

  • +
    0 Votes
    Tony Hopkinson

    Not sure the recruitment industry does though...
    Mind you I'm not sure they can recognise a senior technical person except through longevity which is far from the same thing. One mob were looking at me (twenty + years in) and wanted to know what 'O' levels I'd got ( school qualification at 16 in the UK).

    Senior roles are much rarer not just because there's less of us and them, but because retention tends to be very good. When a firm gets it's hands on an proven has done and can do type, generally they try to keep hold of them. Need someone to get the next set of newbies squared up.
    My tip for those looking for a senior technical person.
    Do your best in terms of picking for interviews, then look for people who challenge you at an interview. Don't be scared of it, welcome it. If I ask you how your devs work with the testers, and you say we do this and that. I'll want to know why you've chosen that way, how that fits with your business.. How do you pick lifecycles, and why. What was the reasoning behind your choices of tools. If you don't get those questions, you've already done something to put yourself out of the frame (perhaps asked them what O levels they have), or they aren't a senior.
    When you realise they are interviewing you as much as you are them, then you know you've got the real thing, not just somebody who's spent ten years + doing the same thing.
    And it's not never burn bridges, it's think about it first. Don't do it out of pique, don't do it because the business no longer requires your particular mix of skills and experinece and you found that irritating, do it because you want to keep those damn muppets on that side of the bank. Never burn bridges assumes, that you'll want to go back, my question would be why would you want to? I've only done it twice with proven incompetents, as for those who would value the opinion of an incompetent....

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    0 Votes
    keith.wilson

    I'm currently transitioning from Mid Level to Sr. and this was a great read!