Improve Your Interview With These Questions

I have told candidates for years that you are sometimes judged by the questions you ask and not the answers you give.  With the improved IT job market candidates that have been dormant for the last ten years have decided to look around and see what’s available.  What they often discover when a company calls to schedule an interview is that ten years is a long time not be on the hot seat.

Whether you are looking for your first job after graduation or a seasoned vet who hasn’t interviewed in a long time,  asking the right questions plays a big role in having a successful interview.   Here is a list of questions specifically designed to further the discussion in your favor!

What challenges will I encounter in this role?

Is the challenge doable? Is it consistent with other discussions you had within the company?  Give specific examples on how you handled these challenges in the past.

What are the technical and non technical criteria are you using to hire for the role?

The hiring manager is telling you what skills and experiences they need.  This is a great opportunity for you to address any points you missed or reinforce topics that align with their hiring criteria.  No sense in talking oranges when the interviewer wants to talk apples.

What will my first 60 days look like and how will you know if I am successful?

Know what they want and how you will graded – it does get any more basic than this.

What is the reason for the opening?

Have they turned over this role 3 times this year? Is it due to growth or internal promotion or acquisition?

What keeps you from getting sleep at night?

This is your chance to share in the dilemma of the Interviewer and provide an answer that goes directly to their pain point.

Do you think I am a viable candidate for the role?

The best question you can ask at the end of the interview. It’s the chance to see where you stand. It also gives you the opportunity to immediately address any perceived deficiencies the interviewer has in your candidacy.

Potential employers will appreciate that you have thoughtful questions to ask about their company and the role which is something many candidates forget.  I have heard from many clients over the years that they often lead a candidate by asking if they have any questions as a specific measure – not just because they heard it is a good thing to ask.  If you have been waiting to follow up on a few specifics based on the conversation – great.  If not then reviewing this list ahead of time will be to your advantage.

That said – in my experience not every member of a hiring team is an experienced interviewer which can result in poor results and feedback.  In those cases you can inject some energy into the discussion by having some open ended yet relevant questions like these in mind.

No matter who you are interviewing with it is always a good practice to review these questions as part of your pre-interview prep!

Keeping an Eye on Mean Time to Hire

One report we keep an eye on here in the office is the DHI report on Hiring Indicators – and their “Mean Vacancy to Fill” open roles.  This is a look at how long it takes to fill open jobs in various industries and overall in the US.  You may be surprised to hear that the number has been very high over the past several years with unemployment such an issue and the economy a top story.

While the overall report is interesting – we are an IT company so our focus is on time to hire IT professionals.  In the early 2000s when companies were hiring as quickly as many of us recall the various sign on bonuses, stock grants, burrito carts, you name it that were used to lure talent to many growing companies.  Typically it took 25 – 35 business days to fill an IT role during that time.

Things changed in 2008 as the bottom fell out of the job market.  Time to fill IT roles in 2008 averaged 34.4 working days.  Curiously in 2009 – when things were even worse – the mean time to fill IT roles DROPPED to 23.8 days.  There were fewer jobs out there.  There were more professionals available due to companies closing doors and going through layoffs.  That essentially ended up being the transitional year where supply outpaced demand.

But what we saw in 2010 and over the following few years – and what was so frustrating to job seekers – was that companies who were hiring felt they had to be very careful with their budget.  This carried over into hiring where teams were very worried about hiring the wrong person and in effect wasting that funding.  They were hyper focused on finding people who could walk in and be fully functional and effective on day one.  The mean time to hire in those years hovered at over 40 days.


While that may have been “do-able” there was usually a wrinkle.  Somewhere in the mix companies came to the conclusion that with so many people out of work that the timing was right to reign in the “cost” of many roles.  These companies approved positions to be filled but what may have been a $100K IT job in 2006 was being posted as an $85K job in 2011.  Same skills and experience required.

Some unemployed folks were able to move on and find a job that kept them whole – same or similar salary and benefits.  Others took jobs similar to their last at reduced compensation.  All too many candidates were turned away at the door though when compensation was disclosed.  In the old world a $100K candidate would be passed over for an $85K job.  It was a simple qualifier that had been used for years.  Unfortunately the people reviewing the candidate were often unable to interview people with the right skills for that very reason.  Simultaneously they were not able to interview $85K candidates because they did not have the required amount of experience.  From our seat we observed a lot of spiraling as a result.

During this time our role really migrated toward consulting as we helped clients take a look at their open roles with a realistic eye toward the potential and available candidate pools.  It is no surprise that once the budget was cut we saw many IT Directors forced to look off-shore and to the large H1 shops to fill empty seats.  They were able to justify the missing skills and experience with the lower cost for someone who often was not an FTE.

The upside?  The past few years have been a learning experience for companies making IT hires.  While there is more funding available out there and the economy has improved we still see companies being cautious when it comes to pulling the trigger – they want to be sure they have the right person.  These companies, though, are coming into the process from a better position from a comp and benefits perspective.  We see fewer and fewer roles posted well under market compensation-wise.  We have not had a conversation with a hiring team about finding someone willing to take less because of the market in at least a year.

Here in 2016 we are seeing numbers I would call closer to normalized in the IT world.  From January through June the mean time to hire is 31 days.  When you look back to the .com era in the early 2000s where mean time to hire was around 25 days – and contrast it with the peak of 40 days during the downturn – a month seems about right on average.

Don’t forget – the average includes everything from an entry level analyst through your most senior and diverse technical architect.  We see junior level one support roles filled in 10 business days and we see specialized security roles take months to fill.  What we see that is much more encouraging – and what we hear from the people we work with – is that more often than not the hiring process is not bogging down in the manner we have seen in the recent past.

While finding the right IT person for an opening can still be challenging it really is great to be having conversations about how we can be flexible and partner with our clients along the way.  And it doesn’t hurt to have candidates interviewing for roles that give them the opportunity for career growth either!

Should a Recent Grad Use a Recruiter?

It’s been nearly one year since I graduated and took my first look at the real world. What I remember most is not how sad I was to be leaving the people and place that had become my home, but how scared I was to be leaving without a job offer in hand. Everybody has a few friends that received a full time offer from their internship or knew they’d go right back to school to get ready for the CPA Exam, or whatever it is people that aren’t burnt out after 16 years of school do. While it feels like you’re the only one without a plan just remember that this is never the case.

If you’re looking to speed things up, consider working with a recruiter. Before you make a face or write them off as overbearing and not able to offer you a ‘good’ job that matches your interests, take note that recruiting is undergoing some change as an industry. With so many companies that focus on a niche field and/or region, getting to know a recruiter now could benefit your career path for years to come, simply because:

  • Recruiters want to find you a job you’ll love and get an offer for
  • The assistance from a recruiter is like having a mentor, networking advisor, and cheerleader wrapped up into one
  • Most of the time, a recruiter will have a contact within companies you may be interested in and can access information that stalking their LinkedIn page won’t yield
    • For example, some companies work very closely with an agency and will share new jobs with them in hopes that good candidates are brought in for the role instead of having every nervous person on the job hunt submit their strangely formatted resume through
  • Recruiters will know if a job is going to be available soon and what the hiring team is searching for (other than a Bachelor’s and long list of skills that make you feel as though you aren’t even qualified enough to be the intern’s part time assistant)
  • Feeling like you’re “in” with a company is a great confidence boost, too
    • Your new friend that helped schedule the interview for you is brimming with tips on how to dress for the office culture, who you will be meeting and what they will most likely want to talk to you about,
  • Recruiters will build your self-assurance much more than generic meetings with your university’s career center could

If these small bits of what a recruiter will do for you isn’t enough of a reason to connect with one, then maybe the bad news of job searching will convince you that it could be a good idea.

Job Application (2)

There are plenty of statistics out there to remind you that no matter how many times you revise your resume, how carefully you craft your emails, what GPA you received, and how many clubs you held a leadership position in, you will apply to more jobs than you care to count and hear back from just a handful – and that’s if you’re lucky. The entry level job market might have a lower unemployment rate compared to five years ago, but the number of new grads fighting for those spots is only going up. If you choose to work with a recruiter it will not magically make these obstacles disappear but it will be able to help you break some down. Recruiters will be honest with you no matter the situation:

  • Really wanted to apply to a certain job? Your recruiter will tell you if you could even bring something to the table at this point in time.
  • Applied and got presented but were not asked to set up an interview? Recruiters will share with you why that choice was made.
  • Did manage to score an interview but are not advancing in the process? Any feedback from the person who interviewed you will now be made for sharing with you.

While it’s not always comfortable to have somebody tell you that you weren’t impressive or skilled enough, at least you know how to improve next time and are not left wondering what happened. Feeling passionate about a role that just didn’t play out as you anticipated? Your recruiter will understand that and begin working harder to find something even more exciting and help you get back on track. These are situations that nobody wants to go through, but wouldn’t going through them with some guidance be preferable to by yourself and feeling even more lost or confused? If you think yes, then it is definitely a good idea to consider a new search for recruiters near you or the city that you want to work in.


I know what you’re thinking by this point, “she is insisting on working with a recruiter because it’s her job,” to which I would say not exactly. Back to where I was a year ago I wish that I had been more open to the idea of reaching out to somebody.  I thought that I could do it all on my own, as independence throughout my undergrad years was something I had become proud of. Not to mention that I was pretty sure I wanted to find a job that matched my degree. But even going off of that I had no idea where to start or what skills of mine to focus on. Particularly for students in IT, finance, and other business concentrations, recruiters are constantly looking for the best new jobs and for somebody talented to place there for the most money possible. Somebody that actually considers your skills, what you want to do, AND wants to make sure you are paid well? Crazy, I know. But like I mentioned before, times have changed and recruiting methods have as well. With a quality recruiter, long gone are the spam emails that incorrectly add your name to the message that has been seen by half of your graduating class. Instead, a person that makes you feel as smart as you should after earning that ridiculously priced piece of paper is just trying to form a relationship that could turn out to be mutually beneficial for years to come.

So, think that at least testing the waters with a recruiter might be a decent option? Go for it! Remember that they’re people too and they’re in the business of helping people. Meaning it is more likely than not that they would love to hear from you! Even if you want to continue seeing what is out there on your own or the firm that you reach out to doesn’t have anything that matches your background right now, you never know what the future holds. If like many new grads you wind up in a 9-5 cubicle job just for the dreaded paycheck-to-loan-payment security, your new recruiter friend could give you a buzz at any time with a great new opportunity that is actually enjoyable. You made it through at least four years of college and that itself is arguably some of the most unpredictable times of your life. Don’t let your professional life be unpredictable as well.