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!

NH Job Market – Lots to Be Thankful For…ish

TSP Managing Partner Dave Vigliotti shared a story from NHPR earlier this week that contains information that should make us all thankful.  Overall unemployment in New Hampshire is at 2.8%, the lowest in the nation, and that number is even lower in IT.  As a result compensation has gone up as well.  This is great information in that anyone who wants a job can generally find one here and be well paid for it.

While that is fantastic news, the article notes – and we can confirm – that it has a flip side as well.  Companies looking for help are having a hard time filling roles and companies looking to expand into NH are thinking twice due to the shallowness of the resource pool.

The article mentions some of the creative things and ads companies are running as their solution – but it does not cover agency support.  If you are a small to mid-sized business and have not, or typically will not, consider using an agency to fill your open IT role I urge you to add one to your “bucket of tools” this coming year.

Many companies of this size typically think the fee is prohibitive – but we can almost always illustrate a strong ROI on our services.  And when we can’t we are happy to explain why and help push you down the path to success finding someone on your own.  The outright plug here is to give us a call if you are stuck.  We are focused on finding permanent IT staff for our clients and our relationship based business model gives us visibility into potential new hires who are not actively searching in the market.

I also urge you to give the NHPR article a read.  It tells a very interesting story about the challenge NH businesses will face filling open roles over the next few years.

Finding IT Staff – A Barrier to Success?

I recently attended an event with an audience full of senior IT managers and staff.  The agenda largely included vendors and technologists discussing evolving technologies and challenges covering a broad spectrum of solutions.  At one point a speaker presented a Gartner slide to make a point about rapid changes in technology being a major barrier facing US based CIOs.  Being a staffing guy a different bullet on the slide jumped out at me so I took a picture with my phone for later reference.

Turns out I did not need the picture as a reminder since the first question at the end of that presentation had to do with the line item that had jumped out at me.  The person asked, based on the earlier slide, what the speaker saw as the answer to the bullet that had jumped out to me on the Gartner slide.  Based on the reaction of the room it was clear this question was on nearly everyone else’s mind as well.

And what was on this slide that had caught the attention of IT leaders from around the region?  Gartners annual survey of 910 US based CIOs indicated that they felt finding resources was the top barrier to their success.  In fact – 28% of them listed that as the top challenge.  To put it in perspective – the second highest challenge was budget and it came in at 15%.


In terms of breakdown – the areas that have the most resource need for these CIOs are led by Business Intelligence (BI) at 39% followed by Infrastructure/Data Center at 28% and Security is close behind at 25%.  The skills in those spaces very closely match the roles we see the most competition for in the market today.

Gartner reported that 71% of the US based CIOs believe the scarcity of talent is reaching crisis levels.  Here in our office this is a topic of conversation we have in some form on a daily basis.  When meeting with our clients we have a similar conversation – albeit from a “how do we solve this at our company” perspective.  If you look around a bit you will see many related issues and stories running in parallel.

H1 Visas

The H1B program needs a significant overhaul.  It is stopping companies from being able to make these hires – and many have given up trying.  Some companies end up partnering with the H1B clearing houses to try and find a match which often leads to a bad experience or a series of one contract resource after another trying to do a job.  This is frustrating for the company and the candidates.

The question of how many H1B Visas should be granted each year is at the forefront of this election cycle.  Many, possibly most, Americans do not understand this issue.  Being in the staffing business and hearing politicians discuss the topic (which we believe is an issue) makes it clear that very few of them understand it either.  While we agree that the program as designed could be very helpful for companies that need to add a skill not available in their market – however what we observe on a daily basis is a system that is poorly executed and managed.  A system that is being gamed by several large companies.

Late last year the NY Times ran a great article that featured a small US company in need of a specific IT skillset.  They identified a candidate from France and filed the paperwork to sponsor him for an H1 Visa.  The way the system is set up they had to compete with large consultancies submitting thousands of Visa applications into a lottery and hope his number got drawn.  It didn’t.

Rather than adding more H1 Visas – which many of our politicians support – we should require them to be for a real company with a specific job opening.  These visas should not go to consultancies that bring people over and then find work.  That is how people lose their jobs to a contractor with an H1 Visa.  The program was not intended to do that.

While these large companies are the sponsors for these thousands of Visas they do not in fact always have work waiting for them when the candidate arrives in the US.  We get calls and emails every day at TSP from these companies looking to match their people to any and all  job openings on our Jobs page.  Again, this is not how the program is supposed to work.

College Graduates

With the current demand for a solution to the cost of a college education – and the number of software developers who are taking alternative paths to learning – the timing is right for companies to come up with creative solutions at the local level.

The cost of college and the lack of employment opportunities for recent graduates receives regular media coverage.  While a variety of sources have shown that prospects have brightened a bit this year – like this Washington Post article from the spring – many graduates remain underemployed in the job market today.


When working with our clients – particularly small and mid-sized businesses – we often ask about how they are finding and developing new talent.  Obviously they have come to us which indicates they find it challenging.  But in the current environment companies need to be more creative and proactive than ever before.  In fact the Gartner recommendation is that businesses treat staff/resources as a technology platform in and of itself.  The approach we recommend and have seen several clients implement successfully is to hire a candidate with potential and train them in the required technologies.  Does it take longer?  Sure.

For mid-sized clients we have also seen some have success with Technology development programs.  While large enterprise companies have had this type of program in place for some time small and mid-sized companies must also consider this strategy.  Bringing someone on board who is willing and ready to learn technology in support of these companies is a very logical next step.  A smart approach to using senior, local consultative resources can make this a success story for professionals at varying stages of their careers as well which seems to me a huge potential win.


Underemployment plagues college students – but it is common up and down the seniority chart.  Waves of layoffs have left senior IT professionals contracting or working small consulting engagements.  Mid-level professionals have found themselves at the top of the salary range in their region and unable to move.  Junior technology candidates can’t find opportunities to move forward in their careers.

Which brings us back to a small or mid-size company hiring a junior candidate for a role.  What do these companies do while bringing someone up to speed?  Great question.  And for that we turn to another group of candidates who are often looking for more work.  In the contract community we find many experienced professionals who lean more consultant than contractor – and the one thing they lack is someone developing a pipeline of good opportunities for them.  We are often able to bring one of these resources on board to handle the heavy lifting and to mentor the more junior resource.  By approaching it as a consultative engagement this candidate is able to maintain their own client base while adding additional revenue to their bottom line.

We regularly monitor open jobs in the region to help our current clients and look for potential opportunities to work with new clients.  It is not uncommon to see tough to fill roles stay open for six to twelve months or more.  With our existing clients we always discuss the option of hiring someone who can grow into the role once it becomes clear the candidate they want is not available in the market.  In the year a role like this sits open they could have hired someone at a lower rate who was ready to grow into the role and had them trained.  By doing so they open that person’s prior role up to someone else who is looking to move forward – hopefully creating a ripple effect down the job chain if you will.


Finding IT resources is a challenge.  Our company would not exist if that were not true.  Gartner’s study is a great visualization of just how big a challenge the CIO community thinks it is.  We work every day with clients trying to solve their problems.  There are resources with great potential out there in the H1 Visa program, college campuses and underemployed professionals.  At the local level we can implement some of these programs today.  College hiring, technology development programs and working with experienced local consultants are all options available to small and mid-sized businesses right now.  By treating staff as an IT platform and looking at these and other options (internal staff development, partnerships, vendor management, etc.) I believe we have the existing resources to solve most of our nation’s IT staffing problems today.  Until the H1 program is run as it was intended it is not viable for small to mid-sized businesses which is a shame.  With some work at the national level we can make progress toward change in that arena as well.  With a properly functioning H1 program our ability to manage resource challenges will only improve.

What do you think?  I’d love to hear in the comments.