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Trying to land a tech job? Consider these 6 dos and don’ts

A recruiting manager offers practical tips — including where you shouldn’t take a job interview.

While you needn't always dress this formally, your job interview attire can make a crucial difference. (Photo by Flickr user World Relief Spokane, used via a Creative Commons license)

This guest post is a part of How to Get a Tech Job Month of’s editorial calendar.

This is a guest post by Kelsey Champion, a recruitment and delivery manager at Think Systems. Champion’s employer is a Baltimore, Maryland-area advisory company focusing on technology and operations.

True or false: Participating in a phone interview for a tech job while driving is acceptable etiquette in the 21st century.

It’s not a trick question.

If your goal is a career in information technology, you’ll find that it will take more than good computer skills or a college degree to get you there. With Big Tech companies laying off thousands of workers in recent months, it’s more important than ever to polish your technical and personal skills so you can outshine the competition.

Here are some actionable do’s and don’ts that would-be candidates should follow to land an IT job.

Obtain hands-on experience

Take extra certification coursework. Take on a project or an internship. Work on building an app. Expand your knowledge even beyond the skillset that the position requires. Employers often prefer you acquire some extra applicable certifications through CompTIA on top of your education and skills. Certifications are very hot.

Sharpen your resume

If the position calls for ABCD skills, make sure your resume visibly says that you have ABCD skills. Don’t just list your technical skills: Paint a picture of your skills, the experience that helped you develop them and the impact they had on the project, internship or work.

Make it to the show

So, your resume caught someone’s eye and now you’re on the phone with a recruiter or human resources staffer who’s trying to suss out if you make it to the next round of interviews. Save the technical lingo for the experts. Showcase your personality and your problem-solving ability.

Again, paint a picture of who you are as an employee — in addition to your technical skills — so they can evaluate the full package. Interviewers want to know that you have applicable experience, are the right fit for the company and can slide into the internal culture.

Save the technical lingo for the experts

You’ve shown that you can communicate well and now you’re moving to the next step of the interview process. This is when you can dazzle the senior-level interviewer with your mad Python programming skills. Share how the solution you implemented solved a problem, how it increased your company’s organizational value or how it helps the company’s operations. Tie your technical skills into value adds.

In addition, don’t forget to show them you can play well with others. You can’t coach that. If they’re hiring for a team of four engineers to program and test code, they’re looking for someone who is both technically strong and a good fit for the team who is strong technically, but also a good fit for the ensemble. It’s a blend of both: You may boast very strong technical skills, but if you’re not the right cultural fit, you won’t get the job.

In other words: Super technical skills + cultural fit = job offer.

Curb your expectations

Of course, this is about landing an IT job, not your “dream job.” That’s not to say you can’t land your dream job. You want to be a network architect one day; that’s a long-term goal. Your immediate aim should be to get a foot in the door. Be open to all opportunities by taking a job that will help you learn a company’s systems, servers, tools and culture.

Perhaps that means applying for a position on the help desk, other network roles or taking a contracting position instead of a permanent job. Once you’re in a company’s environment and they see your work, you’ve got your foot in the door and can then work on climbing the career ladder. You’ve positioned yourself to see opportunities that you want to pursue.

Think about it this way: The company mitigates risk by promoting someone they know, instead of an unknown, into an important role.

Last but not least: Prepare, prepare, prepare

Be ready to talk about your technical skills. Stay aware of current industry issues and practices. Dress appropriately, whether you’re doing a virtual or in-person interview. Be professional. Find a nice quiet place where you can conduct the interview — maybe not that coffee shop where the cappuccino machine drowns everything out.

That also means that if you’re applying for a tech job — or any job for that matter — ensure your Zoom or Teams link works. Grappling with technical difficulties during a tech interview is not a good look.

And if you’re still not sure whether you should drive while interviewing for a job virtually, be prepared for a long road of job hunting ahead.

Series: How to Get a Tech Job Month 2023

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