IT Job Interviews: 8 Tips To Avoid Disaster

IT job hunters, avoid foolish flubs in your next interview. Take this expert advice on manners, money and more.

Kevin Casey, Contributor

May 30, 2013

5 Min Read

5 New LinkedIn Tools

5 New LinkedIn Tools

5 New LinkedIn Tools(click image for slideshow)

So you scored an interview for that job you want. Congratulations. Now don't screw it up.

Not quite the words of encouragement you were looking for? IT pros with sought-after skills sometimes need a gentle -- or not-so-gentle -- reminder about job interview skills, according to Paul DeBettignes, head of the IT recruiting firm Minnesota Headhunter.

"There are a lot of ways to mess up an interview," DeBettignes said via email interview. "Even though IT folks are in demand, some things are difficult [for employers] to overlook."

Some interview missteps might seem like a failure of common sense, yet they occur regularly. DeBettignes took an informal poll of recruiters and HR pros -- not all focused on IT, mind you -- at a recent industry event: How many of their job candidates say or do something in an interview that left them thinking "What the heck?" The unscientific tally: 10%.

[ Don't ignore social networks in your search for a new job. Read 5 Social Strategies For Job Hunters. ]

"Last week, a friend at a Minneapolis startup interviewed a woman who brought her dog to the interview," DeBettignes said. "Her current company allows it and she did not want to bring the dog home before the interview."

Such WTH moments are not always deal breakers but they're not, uh, best practices, at least not if you want the job. "The best way to prepare for an interview is to ask: who would you want to talk to you?" DeBettignes said. He shared his top do's and don'ts for IT pros hoping to ace their next interview.

1. Do: Your Homework.

"Research who you will be interviewing with," DeBettignes said. "Surely they will have done this in advance and so should you." LinkedIn is a good place to start, as is the corporate website. Social media can be rich fodder for background research, provided you don't get weird. (See also: #2.) If the company or manager has been in the press, it can't hurt to bone up on the coverage.

2. Don't: Be Creepy.

Don't go overboard with your research, something all too easy to do in the social media age. Stay far away from personal comments based on, say, the hiring manager's Facebook photos. "Do not mention how cute 'Fido' is," DeBettignes said. 3. Do: Ask Questions, Rather Than Just Answering Them.

"Ask questions about career path, company culture, current projects, and what the future pipeline is like," DeBettignes said. "You want to show interest and you want to know what you are getting yourself into."

4. Do Not: Dress For The Beach.

It should sound like common sense, but proper interview attire is often anything but -- especially during warm weather. "With the summer months your current employer may have a casual policy -- think shorts and sandals -- but do not be that casual in an interview," DeBettignes said. If you're not sure what to wear, DeBettignes said it's perfectly OK to ask about company dress-code guidelines. Err on the dressier side, not vice versa. "Oh, and iron your shirt. Yes, you need to buy an iron," DeBettignes said. "Properly dressed bonus: take the sunglasses off of your head."

5. Do: Discuss Past Projects And Skills.

If you're rusty in certain coding languages or other skills required of the job, dust them off before sitting down to the interview table. "Be prepared to talk about code you have written," DeBettignes said. "The job could be a Ruby on Rails developer who has some past experience in Python. It would be wise to brush up a bit on Python coding. At some point there may be a code test."

Think beyond the job description, too: "The more skills you show the greater bargaining power you have."

6. Do Not: Be Late.

As with proper attire, this one should go without saying. Don't be the prima donna who waltzes in 20 minutes late to the interview. If you want the job, act like it. "Be on time, everyone is busy," DeBettignes said. "Yes, folks like you are in demand but that does not excuse bad behavior."

7. Do: Be Comfortable Talking Money.

Don't assume salary and other compensation are just the stuff of job offers. "It may come up in a first interview," DeBettignes said. "Be prepared to talk about your current salary, total compensation -- bonus, equity, healthcare, continuing education, [and other factors] -- and what it will take to get you to say yes to this new opportunity."

8. Do Not: Leave Your Phone On.

Seriously, don't be that person. That person is the worst. "Turn off your cell phone. Do not look at it, do not answer it and do not text during the interview," DeBettignes said. In fact, DeBettignes will do you one better: Don't even think about turning that phone back on until you've left the premises entirely. "Do not call anyone until you leave the property," he advised. "Calling your spouse, cube mate or best friend while in the elevator or lobby is just silly." Why? Just because the interview's done doesn't mean you can't hurt your cause blabbing away on the phone.

"You never know who is listening," DeBettignes said. "That fella who looks like he has not slept in two days or shaved in five days with the backwards hat? That could be the CIO."

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About the Author(s)

Kevin Casey


Kevin Casey is a writer based in North Carolina who writes about technology for small and mid-size businesses.

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