By the time hiring managers ask you in for an interview, they’ve already decided you’ve got the technical skills to do the job. Their purpose in meeting you is to decide whether you’ll fit with the team, gauge your soft skills and in general measure your level of enthusiasm for the position.
This last point is among the most critical. If there’s one thing you absolutely must get across during your meeting, it’s why you want the job. “Skills can be taught,” observes Jamie Shumway, Branch Manager for Ashley Ellis, an IT staffing firm in Naperville, Ill. “IT managers will keep interviewing until they find someone who can explain why they want the job and how it fits into their career goals.”
Take this to heart. Just applying for a job and showing up for the interview isn’t enough to show real interest. Employee turnover among Fortune 500 technology companies is the highest among all industries, according to a survey by PayScale, and rising turnover is making a lot of hiring managers skittish.
“IT managers are looking for committed, stable employees with a long-term vision,” says Tom Hart, COO of Wakefield, Mass., technology staffing and consulting firm Eliassen Group. “They don’t want to hire someone who has zero interest in working for the company and will jump ship the minute a better opportunity comes along.”
That’s a particularly acute fear now as many candidates receive multiple offers and counteroffers. A perceived sense of indifference on your part is going to give a hiring manager cold feet. Whatever you do, you need to prove that you’re ready to act if you want to score the offer.
One way to accomplish that is to flat-out ask for the job. If you’re not comfortable being that direct, at least explain why you’re interested. Don’t assume the manager knows your reasons just because you’re sitting there. Again, demonstrating interest goes beyond simply showing up.
“Going on an interview doesn’t automatically convey interest,” says Shumway. “You have to speak up if you really want the job.”
Show, Don’t Tell
Of course, you should do more than simply say that you really want the job. Demonstrate your interest by researching the employer and its business beforehand, then use what you learn to clearly illustrate how you can help both the company and the manager meet their technical and business goals. Don’t be afraid to reiterate your points throughout the meeting—that will show forethought and establish your sincere interest. It will also give you an edge during salary negotiations.
Finally, make the manager do a little bit of selling themselves. Commitment is a two-way street, notes Hart, so ask how your efforts will be rewarded. Pose this question: “If I do everything you ask and do it well, how will I be rewarded? How will my role and compensation change over the next two years?”
“The manager’s answer will reveal their sincerity and interest in hiring you,” Hart says. That’s an important thing for you to consider, especially if you’ve got several serious job prospects in front of you. Just as you need to make your real interest clear to the employer, they need to make their interest clear to you.
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