I spent some time interviewing my husband about his experience as an IT hiring manager. He shed some light on what he looks for in a potential new hire, as well what will make you fail your interview without question. There were a lot of things I’d truly never thought about.
Meet Jimmy. He works for the IT department of a local organization. He does a lot of troubleshooting systems, answering phones, and most importantly, he hires new employees. He mentions some particularly bad stories sometimes, like when he couldn’t hire someone he wanted to because, despite them having plenty of experience in the field, they didn’t have the required degree to be offered the job. He couldn’t help but praise the applicant for going for the job, though. Other things that he spoke of:
Jimmy wanted to stress that nowadays having tattoos or extra piercings won’t always cost you a job, but you need to make sure that you are on the top of your game if you have them. While the stereotype is still there, having these features does not automatically mean you’re lazy or unethical. In fact, we have a mutual friend who has a Fleur De Lis tattooed on his face who is the exact opposite of that cliché: he's dedicated, honest, and deliberate with his work.
“Appearance matters – not just your outfit, but the way you carry yourself. You want to appear motivated. And most importantly, don’t overdress. If you’re uncomfortable it shows. I once had a guy come in wearing a full suit and tie and you could just feel how uncomfortable he was. He’d never worn one before in his life.”
Find out the dress code and dress for one level above that. Never be afraid to ask the hiring manager or recruiter for the dress code before the interview.
“If the dress code is casual, slacks and a button-up will do. Business casual, add a tie. Suits? Wear your finest tux,” He chuckled, referencing a scene from the movie Stepbrothers. For those of you who are seriously considering wearing a tuxedo to an interview: please don’t. You’ll only be embarrassing yourself.
Preparation is Key
Even if appearance is a substantial part of the interview, you can’t spend all of your time on it and expect to win the job. You need to be equipped with, at the bare minimum, these three critical things:
- A pen and paper, or a formal portfolio
- Side tip: despite the usefulness of tablets and connected devices, it may be best to leave them at home unless you’re using them for your presentation. Even if they excel at being handy in most instances, many seasoned interviewers will view it as abnormal.
- At least two copies of your resume
- A list of questions you intend to ask
Another comment on this front: leave the business cards at home! A lot of hiring managers will balk at it – they already have your contact information. Plus, you should only use your business card when you're representing your employer. Unless you own your own company, it’s best to keep them tucked away.
The Phone Screen is Still an Interview
One thing that Jimmy stressed quite heavily was that speaking on the phone is just as important as your face-to-face interview. Your phone screen is still technically an interview. If you weren’t respectful and prompt over the phone, you’re not going to get a follow-up. Even something as simple as your chosen voicemail message is critical in getting the job.
“Back when I had first started my job search, I had a less-than-professional voicemail message,” Jimmy said with a groan, “It was something along the lines of, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over how awesome I am.’ I had a recruiter leave a message asking if I could take a moment from being awesome to give him a call back. Needless to say, I didn’t get that job.”
The Most Important Interview Tip?
“Be yourself. Be human. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not – they’ll only find out you’re faking, anyways.” Jimmy was quite firm on this final sentiment. After all, he’s in the business of hiring people, not robots.
Managers, do you have any go-to tips you could offer to someone suiting up for their first interview? Any horror stories? Let us know in the comments below.