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Tips to Help You Have Your Best Interview

With more demand for Information Technology professionals it seems like everyone we know is interviewing for some role at the moment.  As a result we are consulting with our candidates more and more often on making them as successful as possible.  With that in mind I wanted to share some of the building blocks for a great interview.

Be Prepared

The Boy Scout motto  continues to be a key theme when preparing for an interview.  Do you have a good understanding of the size of the company, where are they located, what is their market?  Beyond those basics have you researched their products and/or service offerings?  How closely does your background match up with the technologies and methodologies they use every day?  If you have  a list of the people you will be meeting with you should take a good look at their background – they are doing the same to you.  What do you have in common?

This is also a great time to look and see who you know that may already work at the company.  If a friend did not refer you to this opportunity this is the time to reach out to someone you know at the company to get an overview and ask some questions.  A job specification on Indeed can not possibly prepare you better for the interview than a friend or former colleague who is on the ground there today.

PS – don’t forget to do this before every round.  The deeper you get into the process and closer you come to an offer the more important it is to have a great grasp of the team and company.  It will help you in the interview and help you decide if this is the job for you.

Check Yourself Out

Use your prep to take a look at yourself as a candidate for this job.  Where do you see relevance in your experience that can be used to drive conversations.  It is important that you are able to speak in detail about items on your resume – but it is equally important to have examples beyond what is on paper to show depth.  Review those experiences in detail and be ready to speak to them clearly.  Carefully consider any of the negatives associated with the projects and be able to speak to them without coming across as disparaging of former colleagues, vendors, companies.  That sort of commentary does not work well in an interview setting.

While you should – and hopefully did – do this before applying, take a look at your online profiles.  Be aware that more and more interviewers – not just HR teams – look at your LinkedIN and other profiles in addition to and sometimes rather than your resume.  Is yours up to speed?

Many interviewers are not skilled at the art and will fall back on some of the oldest lines in the interview book.  One of those continues to be a potential stumbling block – “What is your greatest weakness?”  You may not get hired based on your answer but you could very well not get hired because of it.  I advise you give some thought to this and be ready to respond with a skill you are actively working to improve.  If your professional development plan has classes or mentoring as part of it I typically recommend you use that as your weakness.  It shows you take your development seriously and that you give regular thought to this topic.  If you aren’t doing that – what classes/training/skill might you want to improve on?  That should give you a topic for this question.

Testing, Testing

With technology roles companies want to know the person they hire actually brings the skill they require to the table.  As a result we see testing more and more often.  It helps remove some of the subjectivity from the process and gives the hiring team confidence they can focus on fit and let the test determine technical aptitude.  Should your potential employer assign you a test this should become your top priority.  Be sure you understand the directions very clearly.  Do not be afraid to ask questions about the test to help you gain that understanding.  Complete the work in a timely fashion and be sure it is done not just correctly but with a high level of thought and skill applied.  When candidates approach these tests in a casual manner they nearly always (actually it may in fact be always) fail.  For technical roles I don’t think I can overstate the importance of this tip!

Why Do I Want This Job?

Compensation.  Commute.  Advancement or opportunity.  Technology.  If you have a clear idea of what it is that you want in a new role it will make the process so much smoother.  Knowing what you want increases your ability to engage fully in the process, to know what questions need asking and to make a good decision about the job.  Candidates who are actively searching typically have a sense for why they are looking but for candidates who have been contacted out of the blue that is often not the case.  In both instances putting some careful thought into why you would leave your current role, what you need from a current role and whether this is the right timing to consider a move is very important.

Let’s Wrap This Up

As the interview approaches a close you want to be upbeat.  Express your interest in the opportunity and ask about next steps for them in the process.  Is there anything they need from you (ala the test!).  Be sure to follow up with a thank you email at a minimum to each person you met.  If you meet with several people it is important to wrap each one of them up with an upbeat message on your part.  Each person may have some unique perspective into the process – or what they are looking for from a candidate – that will help you.

While there are many tips I could share the overarching tip is to be ready for the interview.  Do your homework, know your skills, know what it will take for you to move and be yourself.  It is a great time to be in the market for a new IT role.  Even if you don’t draw the offer – or you decide the role isn’t for you – the process and network building are also invaluable.  But that is another blog entry!

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How We Provide Project Management Value

As the project management practice grows at TSP we are often asked what it is and what makes it different versus a PM posting at a typical staffing agency.  These questions come from both the candidate and client perspective.  We have found that these themes make our offering unique in the project management space.

We are not a contract shop first.  Over 80% of our project management placements are permanent.  Of the remaining 20% the majority are contract or consultative roles with a client who needs a specific project or program handled by an experienced professional.  These are not typically stop gap or short term positions but are tied to the scope and schedule of the client initiative.  Within the project management practice those engagements last an average of over a year.

We work with PMs who are looking to accomplish specific objectives in their career.

  • Continue growth as a PM or PgM
  • PMs are often looking to increase scope of responsibility with projects and programs
  • Trying to make a move into new technologies or verticals
  • Ability to work remotely, closer to home or to get off the road.

Whatever the career goal we appreciate the needs of each PM individually.  That doesn’t mean we won’t share a variety of options but it does mean we know an option we present may not be “perfect” when we make the call to someone for a discussion.

It has taken years for this practice to grow – and that growth has come largely organically.  We don’t spend all day every day reaching out to PMs to add them to our database.  We started by offering project managers a partner they could leverage who understands their skillset and uses that knowledge to develop stronger client relationships.  While we still actively recruit project managers as necessary we meet more via referral than we do via recruiting.

Experienced and flexible candidates.  We also work with a group of highly experienced professionals who can truly call themselves consultants.  They often have several clients of their own and are looking for smaller engagements to fill their available capacity.  We are able to provide a potential pipeline of work to these senior level professionals and they provide us with a level of expertise that helps us better service our clients as well.

We are a long term partner.  A great illustration of this is when we do recruit a candidate for a specific opening.  If it turns out not to be “the job for you” our intent is to form a partnership with each PM keeping an eye toward future opportunities.  We check in regularly depending on each PMs circumstances to strengthen our relationship, to understand any changes to their experience and skills and to have an understanding of what might be of interest to them in a new engagement.  We also are happy to leverage our network to help candidates make connections in the region.  One way or another we believe we can be of assistance to everyone at some point in their career.

To be clear – if we say we are not a contract shop it does not mean we don’t work with contract project managers.  It means we don’t tend to plug short term gaps with PMs.  We find full time staff PMs and  work with clients looking to staff specific projects or statements of work.

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Marina Torri Joins TSP

We are very excited to announce the addition of Marina Torri to the TSP team.  Marina has recently returned to the area and brings experience in the IT recruiting field having spent the past few years recruiting developers and technology professionals.  We know you will have a great experience working with Marina and look forward to our clients and candidates getting a chance to interact with her over the coming months!