8 Concepts to Strengthen Your Candidacy as an IT Professional
Understanding where time should be spent during the job search, application, interview, and “waiting” process (i.e. post interview while waiting for offer/hiring decision) is a challenge. Also, very few job seekers understand how to effectively brand and market themselves amongst other applicants and interviewees. Furthermore, even fewer know how to effectively interview the interviewer to get a true understanding of the job they’re interviewing for, which then would provide an opportunity to further showcase why you’d be a strong fit for the role!
Here are 8 key concepts you can apply to your job search process to help further differentiate yourself and gain an advantage amongst other applicants!
1. Trends Research. Are you currently spending some time researching trends on what technologies/tools clients are using or planning to implement, upgrade, migrate, etc.? Are you identifying any patterns in versions, tools, approaches, etc. from the job postings you're seeing? Are you asking recruiters about the key technologies their clients are using related to your primary skill set (side bonus: this can tell you if this person can truly be a credible recruiting partner)? If this “trends identification” piece isn’t already part of your process, it would be beneficial to add, especially if you want to increase your marketability!
2. Skills Strengthening. As a follow up to concept #1, take it a step further by investing time to increase knowledge with those “company hiring trends!” Identify the top 2-3 skills or technologies that are “trending” for your primary skill set, and then flush out a realistic Development Plan. For example, if you don’t have experience with Power BI or Tableau, and you determine that a lot of companies in your area are using those tools, investing 2+ hours a week in taking some online training and downloading to use in your home environment would be incredibly beneficial to increasing your marketability! Then when you’re interviewing for a role where you’ve taken training and/or have personal experience, you won’t answer with a simple “No, I don’t have experience with that” when an interviewer inquires about your experience with that technology. Rather, it’ll give you an opening to demonstrate your initiative and interest, which often impresses Managers more!
3. Customized Elevator Pitch. In an effort to deliver an exceptional professional elevator pitch when the Manager asks “Tell me about yourself” or “Why are you a fit for this job?” we recommend reviewing the job description, full list of requirements, and preferred qualifications a day or two before the interview, and write down why you are a fit. Then practice saying your Elevator Pitch with some of those key reasons embedded into your Pitch. It may sound great in your head, but ensure that it sounds just as compelling out loud!
4. Candidate Risk Management. As part of interview preparation, people spend time focusing on how they’ll communicate their background, strengths, etc. but most aren’t reflecting on “Why might I not get selected?” and then mitigating and strategizing how to overcome any of those potential hiring concerns/risks. Therefore, ask yourself questions such as “Are there any concerns a Manager could gleam from my resume? Am I missing any skills the position is asking for? Why else might I not get selected?” and then invest time and energy thinking through how to overcome those concerns or skills gaps!
5. Enhance Nonverbal Communication. Practicing and enhancing your body language/nonverbal communication is just as important, if not more than, ensuring you have great messaging for all the common interview questions and your elevator pitch! We recently learned from fellow MSSQLTips Author Jeff Baird, who is a Certified Body Language Expert, that over 800 nonverbal cues are given out during a 30-minute meeting. Additionally, your body language could be 12-13x more impactful than the words you’re using. Therefore, do a mock interview with someone you trust, and after ask targeted questions/solicit feedback specific to your body language. Did I seem interested? Nervous? Was anything I did distracting? How was my eye contact? Another best practice is to grab a mirror, put it near a table, and then sit at the table and practice common interview questions while watching yourself in the mirror. This is a great way to gauge your body language and verbal communication skills!
6.Develop Line of Questioning for “Role Clarification.” As an interviewee, never assume the job description is an accurate reflection of that opening or even what the Manager truly needs or is expecting. Put on your Business Analysis hat and do some requirements gathering and clarification. Ask questions that help you truly understand the expectations, priorities, goals, and success factors of the job. Ask questions such as:
- Tell me about your expectations for the first few months. What would you expect me to come in and accomplish in the first month, and then in the first 6 months?
- What skills do you truly need this person to walk in the door with vs. what skills could be developed?
- What are all the tools, technologies, etc. that I’d be utilizing? What’s the technology roadmap (i.e. any current plans for upgrades or implementing new tools or approaches)?
- What are the key projects/initiatives I’d be involved in?
- Who are the key customers I’d be supporting? The major teams or groups I’d be interfacing with?
7. Deliver a Strong Closing Argument. When you factor in “recency effect/bias,” thinking through and delivering a strong “closing argument” which highlights your interest and why you should get the job can be pretty powerful! Below is an example closing statement if you’re interviewing for a custom development role with heavy reporting using SSRS and Power BI.
EX. Closing Argument Statement
“I really appreciate you giving me your time today, ___ (insert Manager name)! As I mentioned, I’m incredibly excited about what you’re doing, and the technologies you’re working with! The majority of my development is custom, and I’ve been developing reports in my last two roles. While I don’t have professional experience with Power BI, I’ve worked a lot with SSRS and I’ve taken a few hours of training, and attended sessions at SQL Saturdays around Power BI. It’d be great to get the chance to work professionally with the tool! I’ll send you a few recommendations I have which speak to my custom development and reporting capabilities, and please let me know if there’s any other information I can provide you with. May I ask if you have a decision timeline on when you’ll be making an offer?”
8. Engage in Post-Interview Candidate Marketing. After each interview you’re excited about, ask yourself “what else do I have that I could provide that demonstrates my skills/strengths, especially the ones they’re seeking?” As a Developer, do you have code samples that aren’t proprietary that you could send? Do you have relevant recommendations on LinkedIn or elsewhere that you could send? If you don’t have any relevant recommendations, think about who could speak to contributions/impact you’ve made that would be relevant for the job you’re interviewing for, and reach out to ask for a brief recommendation! Do you have awards you’ve won that you could share? Try to identify at least one piece of additional credibility to provide as a follow up, and include in your follow up thank you letter/email!
Keep these 8 concepts in mind during your search and interviews:
- Identify 2-3 hiring trends around what companies are using from job postings, Recruiters, user groups, etc.
- Engage in 2+ hours a week of “skills strengthening/development” with those 2-3 trends
- Prepare a customized elevator pitch, using the job description as a guide, the day+ before an interview
- Ask yourself “Why might I not get hired?” and mitigate those risk/s
- Prepare for the nonverbal communication, along with verbal messaging
- Flush out 2-3+ questions that will help paint an accurate picture of the purpose, priorities, and projects of the job
- Prepare and practice a “closing argument” where you leave the Manager with a lasting impression of why you’re the right person for the job
- Provide 1+ piece of credibility that communicates your relevant skills and include as part of your follow up thank you letter/email
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