8 ways interviewers turn off IT job seekers

8 ways interviewers turn off IT job seekers

Having trouble filling open positions in IT? You're certainly not alone - but the culprit may be a flawed or dated approach to interviews

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Recruiting the best IT talent is as challenging as ever. Companies are more willing to bend over backward to secure their favorite candidates – from offering more job flexibility to upping their salary offers, according to survey data from Robert Half. One software company recently made headlines for starting the recruiting process with middle school students. In India, more than 50,000 tech jobs are vacant due to a shortage of qualified candidates, especially for data science and AI roles.

When it comes to the hiring process, highly skilled technology professionals hold many of the cards, says Joe Kotlinski, partner and manager of IT search at talent acquisition firm WinterWyman. For companies, finding the right candidates is hard enough – convincing them to pick your organization over their other options proves even harder.

“With IT skills in high demand, job seekers have many opportunities from which to choose. In fact, chances are the person you are interviewing tomorrow is interviewing for similar roles at multiple companies – including your competition,” Kotlinski says. “To attract top talent, you need to critically plan out how your team approaches the interview and your interview process as a whole – and put your best foot forward.”

[ Which of today's IT roles are vanishing? Read  4 dying IT jobs. ]

Without a strategic approach, your current interview process may inadvertently send top candidates running in the opposite direction. If you are facing a talent shortage and having trouble filling open roles, make sure you are not guilty of any of the interview faux pas below.

1. Not making the candidate a priority

"In a competitive market, candidates want to feel that the company really wants them to be a part of their team and has done their research."

Dave Dybala, branch manager, IT, for Addison Group, a professional staffing and search firm: “Candidates often meet with several people at once or individually for a day of onsite interviews. When they get the feeling that an interviewer is seeing their resume for the first time, they might wonder why they were brought in for an interview in the first place. In a competitive market, candidates want to feel that the company really wants them to be a part of their team and has done their research – much like a company would expect a candidate to do their research on them. It’s a two-way street. Similarly, candidates catch on very quickly on if the interviewer is just going through the motions. Again, they want to feel like they are there for a purpose. They want to be sold on the opportunity. A lackadaisical approach by the interviewer can turn off a candidate.”

2. Showing up late and unprepared

Joe Kotlinski, partner/manager of IT search at WinterWyman: “Arrive to the interview on time. Everyone’s time is valuable so don’t keep the interviewee waiting unnecessarily. If for some reason you do show up late, explain the reason and apologize to the candidate. Make sure everyone on the interviewing team has the interviewee’s resume at least one day before the actual interview. Nothing makes a person feel more insignificant or unimportant than an interviewer who has never seen their resume.”

3. Waiting too long to consider personality fit 

Colleen Schlagel, chief talent officer at Sovos: “The majority of companies focus on a candidate’s education and experience. This is especially true when hiring IT talent since educational pedigree and certifications are so revered in the industry. But studies show us that the highest predictors of success are aptitude and personality fit, which most companies wait to assess until the tail end of the hiring process."

"At Sovos, we put candidates through a milestone gate assessment at the outset of the hiring process – before a phone interview even takes place. Our process includes personality and aptitude assessments that candidates take online. If people’s assessments indicate they would be a good fit for our company, then they proceed through the remainder of the process. As we’ve been using this model, over the last three years we’ve seen a dramatic lift in job-fit success. Anecdotally, our right-fit candidates express that they find the assessments interesting and challenging – which is exactly what those high-performing individuals want in a work environment."

"If your company is very large, slow-moving and highly matrixed, you probably need a patient employee."

"Behavioral-based questions truly assess how a candidate approaches situations. I recommend asking questions about a candidate’s preferred traits, and then determining if those traits match the role. For example, in order to gauge candidates’ level of patience, ask them about a time they had to be patient as well as a time they had to be urgent. If your company is high-growth and fast-paced, an impatient candidate is more likely a good mutual fit. Conversely, if your company is very large, slow-moving and highly matrixed, you probably need a patient employee to navigate processes and match existing culture.”

4. Asking the wrong questions

Dave Dybala: “The question, Why should we hire you?’ tends to catch the interviewee off guard, leaving them scrambling for an answer. Instead, ask a more targeted question like, ‘Based on what you know about the role, tell me how your experience and skill set would be a good fit for what we’re looking for.’ This will demonstrate how much the interviewee knows about the role and allow them to explain why they’d be a good fit based on actual experience."

"The question, What’s your biggest weakness?’ is too open-ended, and will most likely result in an answer unrelated to the job that person is applying for. It is much more effective to propose a question like, ‘Tell me about a time when you took it upon yourself to improve on an area in which you felt weak and how you went about achieving that goal.’ This will allow the candidate to give a specific example so the interviewer can identify a weakness and see how the candidate took it upon his/herself to improve on it. It will also give a clearer picture on how the candidate deals with adversity."

"Asking someone to rate their experience or knowledge on a scale of 1-10 is another common interviewer question. While this might give a good initial indication of how well someone thinks they know something, so much can get lost in translation here. For instance, if someone ranks their knowledge of .NET an eight out of 10, that sounds good, but consider what that doesn’t tell you. It doesn’t get at what version of .NET, how long ago they worked with it, what capacity they were working with it, and how quickly they would be able to hit the ground running."

"Instead, ask specific questions for each technology important to the role – ‘Where have you used it; how recent is the experience; what versions; to what capacity (how often and for what purpose); and how did your work with that technology tie into your day-to-day responsibilities.’ This approach will give a much clearer picture of how well someone knows a technology and bring validity to what’s on their resume.”


Carla Rudder is a writer and editor for The Enterprisers Project. As content manager, she enjoys bringing new authors into the community and helping them craft articles that showcase their voice and deliver novel, actionable insights for readers.  

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