By: Cate Murray | Last Updated: 2018-11-16 | Comments | Professional Development Interviewing
If a project, responsibility, accomplishment or technology is listed on your resume OR on the job description or list of requirements, you should be prepared to answer open-ended or pointed questions on it, such as:
- "Tell me about a time when you used Power BI."
- "We're looking to complete a major server migration within 6 months. It looks like you led something similar at XYZ Company. How did you tackle that? What was your initial timeline and objectives, and how did you fare?"
- "What's your experience or exposure with the newest version of SQL Server?"
Yet, many candidates aren't prepared. Many of the Technology Managers we have supported from a staffing standpoint will ask at least one technical question about some of the technologies listed in a candidate's 'Technical Skills Summary.' Nevertheless, candidates often cannot answer even basic questions, which will rule them out.
How can this be avoided? One helpful exercise is to review your resume, then review the job description and list of requirements, and then re-review your resume against that job description and requirements list.
Many job seekers will review their resume, especially earlier positions, but will not compare and analyze their resume and accomplishments against the position they are interviewing for. This is a helpful step in both refreshing yourself on past experience and career highlights, identifying skills/technologies the position is requesting, determining how your experience relates, and how to frame a really strong 'Professional Elevator Pitch' to share during the "Tell me about yourself" or "Why do you think you're qualified" type questions.
At least one day prior to an interview, re-read your resume and job description, and identify these four major aspects of your experience:
What are your core competencies that are relevant to the position you are interviewing for? Review the list of requirements and write out the skills and technologies you are knowledgeable in. During the 'Tell me about yourself' or 'Why are you qualified or interested' questions, embed your core strengths the position mentions into your answer.
What relevant achievements are you most proud of? Think through all the major projects you've contributed to, and/or how you performed with the major responsibilities you've been assigned, and write out a 'Top Achievements' type list. Then star or highlight the ones that are most relevant to communicate for the role you are interviewing for.
Keeping a running 'Top Achievements' list throughout your career and updating real-time (i.e. after each major deliverable, as you get an award or high praise/recognition) is a best practice we highly recommend! It can be as simple as having as a Word or Excel document on your personal desktop. Here are some columns or pieces of data/information to capture via this List if you decide to do this:
Project/Responsibility Summary, Date/Timeline, Skills Gained, Technologies Used, Business Need Served, Outcome/Results, and/or Lessons Learned
"One of the programs I'm most proud of is the formal 'Peer Mentorship' program I helped launch. After sharing with my boss the struggles I saw many of our new team members go through, especially with understanding and navigating our complex system, I suggested that each new team member would benefit from having a dedicated mentor that could both learn from and lean on with any questions. My Manager agreed and asked me to flush out a proposed mentorship program. I created and then rolled out to our entire team. I took ownership of pairing new team members with mentors, had a monthly checkpoint with both mentee and mentor separately for their first three months, captured feedback and made program improvements as needed. Not only have we seen an increase in productivity, but there's been a noticeable change in morale of both mentees and mentors and a 12% decline in employee turnover! Sam, one of our mentors, told me directly how much he's enjoyed working with his mentee, and how it's helped him refresh himself on best practices and learn more as he sought answers for the questions he had!"
Take your successes a step further by sharing via a story-telling format. What career stories can you tell to paint the picture of your successes related to what the position objectives are? Make it a goal to identify at least two relevant stories to share with a Manager! Remember, a major way to stand out in a positive light is through effectively telling your "story" on what makes you a strong candidate! Help them visualize your successes through effective career storytelling!
As you're reviewing the job description, identify any requirement or preferred qualification you don't have experience or knowledge with (including versions of a technology). Then, prior to an interview, take it a step further to learn a bit about that skill or technology. We recently had a Web Developer get an offer for a position that had React.JS on the requirements list. Although he lacked this skill, he beat out other candidates who did have React.JS. While it was a mixture of traits and other things that helped him secure the offer, one comment the Manager made was"I liked that he took the time to take some courses on React.JS prior to the interview."
When the average Manager is interviewing at least 5-10 candidates for any role, you need to pay attention to the reasons why you might not be selected, and then take additional interview preparation measures with those! In many cases, you're not going to have every qualification the job description lists. However, that should just signal you to write that down on your 'Need to Learn List' so you can wow the Manager with your initiative and desire to learn!
This is an essential reflection to do, i.e. the 'Resume vs. Job Description' analysis!
- Start by re-reading the job description.
- Then re-read your resume and focus on any relevant experience and highlights that relate back to the job description and what it seems the role is trying to accomplish!
- Remember the 4 core S's you want to identify for each role you're interviewing for – i.e. what are your relevant strengths, successes, stories and skills gaps?
- Get into practice mode. Verbalize some of your key skills and successes. Outline a few relevant stories to share, again relating that back to the position somehow, and then share aloud.
- For skills gaps, consider any actions that may help you get up to speed. Are their available articles to read about the technology/concept? Is there a relevant User Group or MeetUp that you could join and then attend some meetings? Are there any trainings available? Do you know anyone who has worked with that technology that you could ask for a quick overview and a recommendation on training?
Last Updated: 2018-11-16
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