This economy blows. Let's be clear about that. Nationwide unemployment rose to nearly 9% in April and IT is not immune. I've had the first hand experience of letting people go who I would love to work with again and I cannot describe how painful that experience is. We've had a number of clients cut projects short, shelve them completely, or force a reduction in rates regardless of their contract. IT and consulting jobs specifically have become extremely competitive as a result.
This post (and some subsequent ones) will be targeted to anyone who is currently out of work or in a consulting role, interviewing for one of the precious few jobs out there. Please don't kid yourself, you will be one of many potential candidates who are vying for jobs and a lot of candidates are out of work and willing to come in at a lower salary/bill rate. Separating yourself from the masses is even more critical in this environment.
I have the unique position of sitting on both sides of the interview desk. I interview about 50 people per year and also compete as a candidate for some consulting engagements. I'm going to try to let people know mistakes that I, my consultants, or my candidates have made and areas where we've excelled.
Tip #1 - Become the Interviewer
As an interviewer, if I don't feel like I want to work with you, I probably won't hire you. More importantly, if I don't feel that you want to work with us, I definitely won't hire you. I've worked with people who have no passion to come in on a day to day basis and help me solve problems, and they are a huge anchor to our team's productivity. They create tension and animosity among teammates, they slow the overall velocity of our team down, and generally do more harm than good.
If you want to dispel that feeling in your interviewer, then you need to let them know that you are eager to work in the position in front of you. I end every interview by asking a candidate if I can answer any questions that they have. If the candidate has not asked any questions to that point and still has nothing to ask me, I'm pretty much assured that they have no real interest in building a career at our organization. They are looking to fill a monetary gap in their life and I have no interest in helping them out.
Conversely, if the candidate responds with questions about the team, the environment, the projects, the challenges, the organizational structure, the benefits, the strategic direction, the color of the walls, the quality of the seats, the use of Lotus Notes, etc... then I know that they have a genuine interest in working with QSI and they are doing their homework. Further, they obviously are looking at making an educated decision on their career and not just getting a job. The interview should always be bi-directional, don't just get peppered by the interviewer.
Also, please recognize that the astute interviewer will draw some conclusions about you based on the questions you are asking. Candidates need to focus on asking the questions that are most important and critical in determining whether they want to work on this project. If you are only asking me about money, vacation time, health benefits, and the like I am pretty confident that your deciding factor is strictly based on compensation. I personally get much more excited when I'm interviewing someone and they are asking about the team makeup, type of project, challenges, technologies in use, and opportunity for career growth. Just please, don't ask me about our use of Lotus Notes, I don't want to scare you away.