In the current job market, technology professionals are in high demand — but that doesn’t mean tech candidates get a pass when it comes to their interview conduct. Just like every other job search, IT pros need to leave a good impression and make every communication count.
So to find out more, I talked to John Reed, senior executive director of leading IT staffing company Robert Half Technology. He shed some light on the skills that get candidates hired, and he gave some of the most common (and avoidable) oversights.
According to John, the candidates who get the most positive feedback display these characteristics in addition to their technical skills:
1. Strong soft skills
The candidates who have honed their communication skills can demonstrate flexibility in different working environments and with various technologies. Those who showed they could toggle between being a team player and acting as a leader also set themselves apart during the job search.
2. Tailored résumés
Each position will have its own requirements, and a great candidate customizes his or her résumé and past experiences to demonstrate an ability to take on the job listed in the description. Taking the time to understand what an employer wants and presenting that on the résumé — your first point of contact — will certainly help a candidate rise to the top.
3. Maintain manners
A top candidate remembers their social graces during the interview. Remaining cordial throughout the interview, even if you’re not thrilled about a role, will leave a good impression regardless of whether or not you take the job.
4. Positivity about the past
Even when previous experiences weren’t ideal — maybe they were downright unpleasant — a good interviewee should never speak negatively about past employers. Instead, they should discuss their contributions and highlight the positive aspects of prior roles.
Now, my favorite part, or, as I like to say: Cut the Crap! There are some repeat blunders that impact how candidates are being perceived by hiring managers. Here are some of the usual suspects that Robert Half Technology sees and how to fix them:
1. Coming to grips with gaps
Lengthy spaces in employment history will not be brushed over by a hiring manager, but time and again candidates don’t have a strong answer for questions around the topic. This can trip up even the most qualified candidate.
Try this: Gaps in employment aren’t deal-breakers for hiring managers, but it’s important to be well-versed in the narrative around your work history. Were you taking classes? Doing freelance work that you didn’t document? Be sure to explain yourself and always be honest. Try role-playing with your recruiter or a friend to make sure you’ve got the explanation down.
2. Rambling Résumés
A common error among the tech set is not trimming down the skills and technologies they put on a résumé, meaning it’s not crafted for a specific position. And because it’s so innate for them, technology professionals tend to use industry jargon with a heavy hand, which will only confuse — not impress — the hiring manager.
Try this: Assess the requirements of the role and ensure that your résumé addresses those requirements. Only pick out the most relevant items to share for the position you’re applying to, and use your interview to get into further detail around your unlisted skills.
3. Clumsy Communication
Soft skills are often overlooked by candidates, yet highly valued by hiring managers. Interpersonal skills, problem-solving ability, and analytical savvy are increasingly important traits among technology professionals. Some repeat offenders only speak broadly about their experiences, leaving out key details that give color to their contributions. Employers aren’t looking for a laundry list of what you’ve done: they want a deeper understanding of your impact on a business.
Try this: Before an interview, think about specific projects you’ve worked on — focus on measurable results, and then include the technologies you leveraged to achieve those results. Use anecdotes to paint a picture of your contributions: these will be the memorable differentiators that make a meaningful impression with potential employers.
I met Diana Smith, division director at Robert Half Technology, who is always interfacing with candidates. I asked her what she would improve if she could wave a “magic wand” over a candidate prior to entering an interview. Smith said, “Given the power, I would make it easy for candidates to highlight the right skills, cite their best work without hesitation, and expel any nerves that may come with the interview process.”
There, readers. You have just heard from one of the top technology recruiting firms in the country! I hope you pause, review your job search efforts, and make significant adjustments wherever you need to.