Some interview questions are unique. "If you could have any superpower, what would it be?"
Some interview questions are routine. "Why did you leave your last job?"
Despite their being so different in form, both questions have a common purpose. They are meant to help the interviewer understand your motivations and desires and to help them judge whether you will fit in.
Questions like the first are hard to prepare for – they're so non-standard, they're unexpected, and it's hard to know how someone will react to anything you say – but there's no excuse for not being prepared for the second. Your answer has to be fact-based (because a potential employer can verify your answer), it needs to feel truthful to you (so you can state it with confidence), and it needs to reassure the interviewer that your rationale for leaving was appropriate.
No matter what your reason for leaving was, there are ways to shape your answer to this question that make it positive. Use the following examples as a guideline for answering this question:
• I was laid off. The company had layoffs, and unfortunately I was one of the people who were affected.
• I was bored. I went into the job hoping to accomplish A,B,C (or learn X,Y,Z), and I was able to do that. Now I'm looking for a role where I can achieve D,E,F (or work with technology Q,R,S).
• There was too much production support. The company had a lot of other issues that kept us from focusing on building the product.
• Politics got in the way. I'm really excited by the opportunity to develop and ship a product. Because of management changes at my former employer, we weren't able to focus on delivery.
• It was disappointing in every way imaginable and I escaped as fast as I could. I knew very quickly that the situation wasn't the right fit for me. I could have stayed but I wouldn't have been doing my best, which wasn't fair to either me or my employer. By moving on, I can find a position where I can contribute fully, and they can find an employee who will contribute what they need.
Code is important, but code is invisible. No matter how elegant the code, end users never see it. End users don't interact with code; they interact with buttons, images, links, lists, and menus. Those interface items and the sequence of clicks they have to make to accomplish something are how they judge their experience with a website or software application, and that's why the UI architect role is critical in developing successful software.
Although the UI Architect role is defined differently in different companies, you should expect to have the following abilities to fulfill job responsibilities:
Understand End Users
UI architects need to understand how software works, but it's more important that they understand how people work. By understanding how people want to work, they can design interfaces that streamline the processes and make them fun, instead of frustrating. Study psychology and human-computer interaction to understand how to achieve this.
Understand Interface Tools
UI architects never work alone; no software project consists solely of a UI. It's therefore important that the architect work well with teams. Creating the interface architecture requires communicating with both developers and users. It also requires the ability to meet short project deadlines, especially as most projects turn to agile development and deliver in two week sprints.
Today's applications need to run in multiple environments: desktop, web browser, mobile web, tablet, phone – even watch. Understanding the capabilities and limitations of each environment is key to designing an effective, enjoyable user experience.
Most of all, the UI architect role requires the ability to envision something that doesn't exist yet. UI architects use their understanding of users, developers, technology, and tools to design a brand new way of accomplishing a task. When done at its best, it's hard to imagine any other way of doing it.
The IT project manager role is a funny kind of job. You need to understand technology and be able to make technical decisions, but the job isn't about completing technical tasks. You need to understand people, but the job isn't about supervisory skills. You need to understand business needs, but the job isn't about completing business tasks. Being an IT project manager requires knowing how to work with people and help them work with technology to get a project completed and provide the functionality the business needs.
These seven skills will help you combine those traits to be a standout project manager:
Keep technically current.You need a strong technical team you can rely on with answers about technology, but you also need to be able to evaluate their answers. Developers are always over optimistic about how long it will be to complete a task and how easy it will be to integrate a new technology. You need to know enough about the technology to evaluate their input and weigh it against other business concerns like cost and schedule.
Be a leader.There's a difference between managing and leading, and both are part of this job. Managing requires paying attention to the details and ensuring the necessary work is completed. You also need to lead up, down, and sideways: you need to get buy-in from your team, your management, and your end users that the strategy you're using is the most effective one to deliver the project.
Be a communicator.One of the most common reasons projects fail is because people don't know what needs to be done. You need to communicate with your team about the work and its priorities. You also need to communicate with management and end users about their priorities and project status.
Multitask.As a project manager, you're never looking at a single moment in time. You need to be evaluating work that was done in the past, responding to crises in the present, and planning the work that needs to be done in the future. Being able to calmly juggle multiple demands for input is necessary to get through your day.
Negotiate for what your team needs.Management doesn't always know what it takes to get a project done. If the resources allocated to the project – people or hardware – aren't adequate, you may be able to negotiate beyond those limits.
Be proactive.Small problems grow into big problems. Don't micromanage your team, but pay close attention so you become aware as soon as an issue develops. Step in as soon as necessary to help your team overcome obstacles.
Pay attention.People don't like sharing bad news. The staff who report to you may hesitate to let you know how difficult they're finding the work. Your management may delay letting you know changes in budget, staffing or priorities. Watch for the subtle signs that let you know there's a problem, so you can address it even if no one explicitly tells you about it.
Information technology is a competitive business. Companies compete for funding, for sales, and for employees. Because top tech talent is in short supply, sometimes the best hire is working for your competition. If you do steal someone away, make sure your theft is legal.
Take the Employee's Talent, Not Their Employer's Trade Secrets
You should be aiming to gain competitive advantage from the employee's special skills and knowledge, not from their inside information about their former employer's business plans. Trade secrets are protected by law, even if the employee hasn't signed a nondisclosure agreement.
It's important to make sure any ideas the employee brings with them are original and can't be claimed by their current employer. Some employment contracts give ownership of ideas, even if they were developed on personal time or seem unrelated to the company's line of business.
Make Sure the Employee Can Work For You
Some employees are under noncompete agreements with their employer. While courts don't always uphold these agreements if they're challenged, you should consider the consequences of a potential fight before hiring the employee. Litigation can be expensive, even if you win. Court battles require time as well as money, so the employee's contributions may be limited until the case is settled.
Ask about any other agreements the employee signed. In addition to non compete agreements, nondisclosure, nonsolicitation, confidentiality, and other clauses may affect the ability of the employee to perform the services you want.
Make a Clean Break
Under some circumstances, it may be possible to work with the current employer to ensure that the employee doesn't bring over any materials. The current employer can designate a monitor to document that only personal items are removed from the premises and that all required corporate material was returned. This can eliminate the basis for claims of trade secret thefts later. If possible, you can structure the new employee's responsibilities to reduce the possibility of disclosing confidential information.
Consult Your Attorney
The best way to make sure your hiring the competitor's employee is within the law is to consult an attorney prior to offering a position to them. Make sure you and your legal advisor review all employment agreements signed by the employee with their current employer. Once you understand the commitments they've made, you'll be able to determine whether there are any risks in hiring them and if those risks are worth taking.
It used to be simple to decide what to wear to an interview. A business suit was appropriate for both men and women. Almost no technical jobs require wearing a suit at work, though; some offices are casual enough for jeans and sneakers, or even shorts in the summertime. And when you're interviewing with a recruiter, you aren't interviewing with the employer, anyway. So exactly how do you dress for meeting a recruiter?
The key is to remember you're trying to convince the recruiter to pass you up the hiring chain and get you an interview with the company. They'll ask about your technical skills, but recruiters aren't able to judge the depth of your knowledge. Instead (and this isn't disparaging their skills) they need to make judgments based on non-technical factors. Your ability to present yourself well, which includes your body language, speaking ability, and, yes, how you dress is key to succeeding at this meeting.
Dress to Impress Anywhere
Because the recruiter may have positions available at multiple companies, you can't easily tailor your outfit to match the norms at a specific employer. The best choice is to wear something that would be appropriate at almost any employer. This means smart business casual or a suit. The more senior the position you're aiming for, the more formal your outfit should be. You can use an accessory or two to show your personal style, but tilt conservative.
For any interview, whether with a recruiter or an employer, make sure everything is clean and neatly pressed. It's best not to wear something brand new, though. You want to be sure there won't be any problems, like the fabric making you itchy and uncomfortable. That physical discomfort can translate into odd mannerisms or facial expressions during the interview.
Ask the Recruiter's Advice
When you meet with the recruiter, it doesn't hurt to ask them about the dress code at the employer and how you should dress for your interview there. The recruiter wants you to succeed and get the job, and they'll give you the best advice to help make that happen.
If you aren't happy with the quality of the candidates responding to your job postings, it's time to take another look at how you're describing the position and your company. If you put a just a little more thought into how you're writing your postings, you can get a much better response rate which will lead to better hires.
Keep the purpose of the job posting in mind.
A job posting that just describes the job by listing all its responsibilities makes the job sound like work. While prospective hires are interested in the nature of the work, they also want to know about the company and the work environment. The posting needs to make the company sound like a place they want to spend eight hours a day.
Tell the candidate what's in it for them.
Let the candidates know the kind of contribution they'll be making to the company, the industry, or society. Describe the challenges they'll have to overcome and how they'll learn and grow from the experience.
Learn from the way your company markets its products.
Successful companies know that products sell by promoting their benefits, not by listing their features. When you describe your organization and the project you're staffing, think about the ways those qualities will impact the new employee's work experience.
Ask them to think about the kind of person they are.
If you ask a question like "are you the kind of person who…?" you can either draw readers in or lose them at that first sentence. In the case of job ads, this means the prospective employees who read on and answer your ad are more likely to fit in with your organization.
Speak a language they'll understand.
Industry-standard acronyms are fine in tech ads. But using acronyms that refer to internal systems and processes doesn't tell candidates anything. Using language like that makes readers feel excluded and pushes them away.
Make the ad easy to read.
Dense rows of text are intimidating. Make the posting, and your company, appealing by making the listing easy to read. Use a clean font, plenty of whitespace, and bullet points to make details easy to grasp.
Make it easy to respond to the ad.
Online application systems are often very frustrating to candidates. Sometimes information is mandatory when it doesn't need to be. Other times, the candidate needs to upload their resume and then correct errors in how the automated system parsed its contents. Not every candidate will be motivated enough to work through these issues. Maybe you want to weed out unmotivated candidates, but it's usually better to simplify the application process.
You probably have specialists to do your product marketing; you can also use specialists to market your job openings. The cost will be far outweighed by the benefits of a more effective job posting that fills the position quickly.
When employees could collect a gold watch and a pension check at the end of their career, companies could count on employee loyalty. Now that those perks of longevity are gone, it's harder to find employees who won't chase after bigger rewards elsewhere. But because the impact of turnover on business is so significant, companies can benefit by trying to assess whether an interviewee will stick around to make a long-term contribution.
Review Their Employee History
If a candidate's held eight jobs in six years, that's a sure sign they're likely to move on rapidly from your company, too. On the other hand, if they've held six jobs in eight years, that may not indicate a lifetime commitment, but does means they've stayed in one place long enough to see a project through to completion.
Ask Why They Left Previous Jobs
Sometimes there are good reasons for leaving a previous job after a short time period. Moving on because a company failed is different than moving on because of boredom. It's also useful to note how they describe their previous employers. Speaking positively about former employers is a form of brand loyalty that can benefit you, even once they've moved on.
Discuss Why They're Interested In Your Company
If the interviewee has researched your business and can talk about the specifics of your company, that level of interest can mean they're emotionally invested in the idea of working for you. It also indicates they would be committed to the position.
Assess Whether the Candidate's Values Match Company Values
Keeping employees isn't only about tangible rewards like money, or offering them interesting projects. The employee also needs to feel comfortable about themselves after a day spent at the office. Ask about the candidate's personal values to see whether they mesh with the business's values. If the company operates in sensitive lines of business, ask the candidate whether they're comfortable working in those areas.
Discuss Their Long-Term Plans
Candidates who've thought about their career path are often motivated strivers. Ask them about their long-term goals, and discuss how they can achieve those objectives within your company. Help candidates envision themselves staying with your company before they start the job; once they begin working for you, be prepared to back up your interview talk and support them on their career journey. Company loyalty goes both ways, after all.
If you like taking the big view, working as a systems engineer may be the right career choice for you. Systems integration engineers focus on the entire system, not just a single piece of it in isolation. They're responsible for making sure the hardware, software, and network function together with appropriate performance and security.
Succeeding as a systems engineer means being well rounded technically, as well as having good interpersonal skills. Here are four skills essential to your success.
1. Understand computer hardware, software, and networking
Systems integration engineers typically have a degree in computer science, computer engineering, or other technical disciplines. Solving system integration problems requires the ability to understand all the different components of a deployed solution. Because integration issues often arise when older technology must be coupled with newer technology, systems integration engineers should enjoy constant learning.
2. Enjoy both analytical and hands-on work to solve problems
Systems integration engineers have to untangle difficult interoperability issues that arise when different application components are developed, at different times, by separate teams. This can require analysis of application and network logs, as well as writing middleware code to make components work together. Systems integration engineers often are involved with testing the system, including unit testing of middleware and complete end-to-end testing of the application.
3. Communicate well with customers and other engineers
Because they solve middleware issues, systems integration engineers should be able to participate in technical discussions with other systems integration engineers and their software engineering and network engineering colleagues, to discuss application and architectural issues. They should be able to develop technical documents to propose alternative solutions, document the implemented design, and define test cases.
4. Bring a focused attitude to work with a strong attention to detail
The solution to systems integration problems often is found by understanding the fine points of the application. Systems integration engineers should have the persistence to methodically work through a problem and multiple potential solutions to identify the best approach for resolving it. Systems integration engineers may need to switch focus from thinking about long-term design issues to solving an immediate application issue, so the ability to switch between tasks without losing focus is key.
As computer applications and the environments they run in become ever more complex, there's no end to the challenges systems integration engineers need to solve, making this an exciting career for technically oriented thinkers who thrive on variety.
How can employers best meet the challenge of sourcing top IT and engineering talent? Professionals with the right skills and experience can be in short supply or tough to find, and making the wrong hire can be expensive. Improving your sourcing strategy can help you to identify and attract the best people.
Improve Your Job Postings
Craft job postings that will interest and intrigue the people you want to attract. Treat potential candidates like your customers and your postings as your sell sheet. Once you've created an attention-grabbing post, share it where top IT and engineering talent is likely to find it, including:
• Your company website
• Major job boards, like Monster and CareerBuilder
• Niche job boards like Dice or TechCareers
Leverage Social Media
Technical professionals tend to be connected on social media. In order to attract them, go where they are. Keep your company social media updated and engage with potential employees on platforms such as:
Access to top talent may be easier than you think. Search online or internal databases to identify likely candidates or look to your current employees for referrals. Start your search here:
• Resume databases
• Internal databases of past candidates/contractors
• Employee referrals
Reach out to Your Networks
If you're still not getting the results you need, cast your net wider to groups and organizations that cater to people with IT or engineering skills such as:
• User groups
• Alumni groups
• Professional networking
• Business schools/colleges/technical institutes
Enlist Third-Party Recruiters
Chances are, you have neither the time nor resources required to source top technical talent and still accomplish the rest of your goals. Consider enlisting these professionals to handle recruiting for you:
• Staffing firms
• Recruiters – contingent and retained
• Executive search firms
• RPO (recruitment process outsourcing) firms
Once you’ve determined the positions you need to fill and the qualifications of the ideal candidate, put a strategy in place to identify and attract them. Write compelling job descriptions, post them in the most strategic sites and platforms, optimize the use of your internal and external resources. Most importantly, don't hesitate to reach out to recruiting experts who can manage your search while you focus on other tasks.
Given the shortage of qualified IT candidates and the comparable wealth of open positions, many tech contractors find themselves moving quickly from one project to the next. A 2013 survey found that 32 percent of these IT and engineering specialists receive their next offer within two weeks of completing a project, while 84 percent received an offer for their next job or project within three months.
When searching for your next IT candidate, then, it’s important to remember that time is of the essence. While you should certainly never rush into a decision, hiring managers in the tech industry simply don’t have the leisure of others in less-competitive fields. You’re never going to find the perfect candidate (or, if you do, consider yourself very lucky), but there three things you can do to help narrow it down to your best possible option.
Shorten Your List of Desired Skills
If you’re searching for an IT candidate, there’s likely a very long list of skills that you’d like interviewees to possess. This long list can hurt you in several ways, however. On one hand, very qualified candidates are likely to skip over your job posting if they find that they lack two or three (or more) of your desired skills. Even if they’d do the job admirably, you may never even see their resume because of an over-ambitious job description. On the other hand, you may fail to consider talented candidates because they don’t perfectly align with your ideals.
To counteract these negative effects, you should narrow down your list of desired skills to three or four key competencies. This ultra-focused list will help you define your expectations and hone in on the skills that matter most for the position. You won’t be disappointed when each candidate falls short of the “dream candidate,” and they’ll be more likely to apply to a reasonable description.
Plan & Prioritize
An unorganized review can cause you to miss out on important aspects of a candidate’s qualifications or character, or it can result in a biased, subjective perception that can harm you and your company in the long run. Develop an objective, consistent system for gauging each interview. For instance, you can refer back to your list of desired skills and rate each candidate on their abilities in relation to your requirements. Based on the importance and priority of each skill, you can objectively choose the right person for the job based on your metric system.
Evaluate Your Needs & What You Can Offer
While it would be nice to have that Ivy League-educated, highly experienced engineer, those may not be the needs of your company, and you may not be able to pay the salary that caliber of candidate would require. Be fair to your interviewees and your company, and honestly evaluate your needs for each position. Do you need a full-time IT worker, or would a contractor better suit your needs? This will help you adjust the job description and accurately articulate the details of the position to each candidate.
IT and engineering specialists often command high salaries, so look into the market value of the position and offer something in a similar range. If you offer too low, it’s unlikely that you’ll attract a qualified candidate, while aiming too high may put a financial strain on your company. IT workers know what their skills are worth, so make sure your number is accurate if you want to attract talent to your business.
These three tips will help you seize the moment while you’re searching for the right IT candidate. If you make your job description concise and realistic, prioritize your interview to get an accurate picture of each interviewee, and create a sensible, attractive salary offering once you’ve chosen a candidate, you increase your likelihood of selecting the best person in a timely manner.