We give here advice on how to do top interviews.
I wrote an article recently for ITContractor.com pointing out the contractors that I do not want. It is only fair now to say which IT contractors I want.
This will be a two-part article about successful interviews. The first part of the article will deal in the crucial lead up to the interview up till the very start of the interview, and the second one will deal with the interview itself.
They say that most interviews are decided in the first 90 seconds. Here is some advice on doing top interviews and how to make an impression during that crucial period.
It is important that an IT contractor gets there on time.
Any salesman will tell you that this is absolutely crucial. It shows the client that you want the business. It shows disrespect for the client, the company and the job offered if you can‘t even ensure that you are there on time.
How slack would you actually be if I did offer you the job?
In top interviews, the way you dress shows whether you want to fit in with the company or whether you think that the company should fit in with you. You should be smart, clean-looking and wearing a suit if you are a guy. Don‘t go over the top with a whole load of jewellery and a big flash tie. Clean and tidy are the messages that you want to give.
3. Waiting for the Boss
The greeting and the conversation before the IT interview starts is important in successful interviews. People like to work with people that they are comfortable with. If you are sitting in reception don‘t get all funny with the receptionist if you are made to wait.
So often when I‘ve been seeing someone out the receptionist has asked ‘are you taking him on?’ and will make a positive or negative comment about the person. I don‘t want to take people on who have difficulty getting on with current staff and who would be stupid enough to get uppity with the receptionist at an interview.
Expect to have to wait twenty minutes or so before being interviewed and spend the time reading the paper, preparing for the interview in your head or, better still, asking the receptionist what it is like to work there.
4. The Greeting
It is always awkward when you first greet the person you are interviewing and you take them up the stairs or the elevator to the interview.
You don‘t know the person and so conversation can be a bit stilted. When you first greet the person, you want to see that they are reasonably open and friendly without having a silly grin.
I‘m not too bothered about handshakes but it should be neither too hard nor too soft – the Baby Bear scenario.
5. The Walk to the IT Interview
In successful interviews, an interviewee should always have something prepared to say on the way up to the interview. Be prepared to have answers to the usual questions like ‘Did you have any trouble finding us?’.
This is just a way of striking up conversation. A straight ‘No’ will just lead to an awkward silence in the elevator going up. ‘Have you come far?’ might be another one asked.
Don‘t get too technical too early. The walk to the Interview Room is just for small talk.
If you can break the ice here that is a bonus for you and the interviewer(s) will be relaxed with you before the interview starts.
6. Positive Comment
Make some positive comment about the building you are in and what seems to be the office environment.
One question that you might want to ask would be ‘What is it like to work here?’ or ‘What sort of people work here and what kind of work environment is it?’.
That will get them talking as they are employees of the company too. It will also make them feel good being able to dispense some positive thoughts before the interview begins.
You could say something like ‘It seems to have a good atmosphere here’.
You are already giving them a positive signal here that you think you will fit in. That‘s one of the things they are looking for.
7. Entering the Room
Wait till the interviewer has chosen his chair before you sit down. I know that this may sound a bit funny but there is the chair I usually sit on when interviewing people. I feel comfortable interviewing from there.
In the past there are contractors who have just sat down there. I, of course, wouldn‘t judge them on that, but it just puts me off a bit, interviewing from another chair.
You don‘t have to wait to be asked to sit down, in top interviews, but at least wait till the interviewer is moving towards the chair where he or she wants to sit.
8. Don‘t be Smarmy
In the past I have been sharing the interviewing duties with a female interviewer. It has happened that male interviewees try to use what they see as their most charming lines to the female interviewer.
Keep these for chatting up an 18-year-old at a Disco or Night Club.
The female interviewers seldom like it as they see you as being condescending and I start to think ‘Oh, oh! What have we got here’!
You can get away with a larger smile than you have given me and perhaps a firmer handshake but leave it at that.
9. Do You Want a Cup of Coffee?
Always say Yes to that one. If you say No I may not be able to get one either and I could do with one.
All I‘ve had is machine coffee so far and here is an opportunity to have some properly made coffee.
I would rather have a cup of coffee and some more small talk before I start the serious business.
You also have a chance to interact with one of the more junior members of staff when they come in and ask what you would like.
Smile and be friendly to them. Look at them when you are ordering rather than concentrating on me whilst ordering your coffee to them.
When they come back in with the coffee thank them and if they provide something else, e.g. a plate of biscuits then say something positive about it.
In top interviews, if you can seem warm and friendly at this stage then we are starting the interview on a good note.
10. Starting the Interview
Hopefully I have already decided that you are the type of person who would fit in with our current staff at the company and even more importantly that I would like to work with myself.
Now I need to find out if you can do the job. Before that happens be prepared for the opening questions that join the gap after we sit down between the lead up to the interview and the serious part of it.
Before I start my spiel I may ask questions like ‘Have you heard about our company before?’, ‘Do you know what we do?’ or ‘What has you agent told you about the job?’
In top interviews, it is better if you have a positive answer to the first two. I prefer that you would have quizzed your agent a bit as regards the third question.
No, No and Nothing are not a good start to the interview although they are not crucial.
OK, I have formed an impression of you and whether we could work with you. Now it only remains to find out if you are going to benefit our project (and my career) or be a hindrance to it.
I will give advice on the actual interview itself in an article coming soon.