How to land an IT job: Showcase your adaptability

How to land an IT job: Showcase your adaptability

Hiring managers are moving candidates with this skill to the top of their list. Here are 4 ways to highlight your adaptability

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September 21, 2018
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Where do you see your career in 10 years? This classic interview question is getting harder to answer. It's likely that many of the jobs people will hold in the year 2028 haven't been invented yet. It's even more likely that all jobs, especially those in IT, will be different in some way – altered, improved, extinguished, or created as a result of technology.  

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

That's one reason why adaptability is becoming a must-have skill in IT. In a new report from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, CIOs stress that in this era of agile work styles and digital disruption, every single person in IT must be able to cope with changing roles and responsibilities, learn new skills, and work with a wider range of colleagues. 

How to win an IT job? Adaptability is becoming a must-have skill. Use these tips to demonstrate it in your next interview.

We are seeing this trend play out in more general IT job descriptions and employees being rewarded for going above and beyond their role, says Sanjay Malhotra, CTO of Clearbridge Mobile.

“The nature of work is changing,” says Malhotra. “Job descriptions are starting to become hybrid in nature, and the millennial workforce is taking on positions that require multiple skills from several disciplines. IT hires who are unable to make clever transitions will be at a distinct disadvantage.” 

It’s also playing a role in how hiring managers weed out candidates during the interview process. If you are currently job hunting, consider these tips from IT execs and other experts for showcasing your adaptability in your next interview.

1. Choose your anecdotes wisely

“Tell me about a time when you [insert prompt here].” It’s a classic interview trope. You will likely have many opportunities to tell a story about yourself throughout the course of your interview. Use them to your advantage. 

“Tell a story of a time when you faced an unexpected change in a high stakes situation,” suggests Halelly Azulay, CEO of TalentGrow and creator and host of The TalentGrow Show podcast. When you do, highlight how you saw the possibilities in the unknown and welcomed the change as a positive challenge, she says.

2. Highlight your extracurriculars

Hiring managers looking for adaptable job candidates might be just as interested in what you have done outside of your 9-5 as they are in your day-to-day responsibilities. Specifically, what are you doing to personally build your skills and advance your career? 

“In an interview, convey the value you find in building new skills,” says Malhotra. “Adaptable people are always learning, and you can only adapt as fast as you learn. Take the opportunity to talk about times when you expanded your knowledge, whether you attended a specialized workshop, enrolled in a part-time class, or any other educational resource that inspired new ways of thinking.” 

“The hikers and kayakers seem to be happier than those who are doing all IT, all the time.”

Brian Wilson, CISO at SAS, recently told us that when he meets with prospective hires, he asks about hobbies to get a picture of the whole person: “The hikers and kayakers seem to be happier than those who are doing all IT, all the time,” he notes. You can insert any other hobby here that you pursue.

The takeaway from Wilson: People with a wider range of interests and pursuits may be more likely to have the attitude, balance, and penchant for continuous learning that indicate they are likely to grow on the job if you give them the support and resources to do so.

3. Don’t focus only on yourself

Yes, you are in the interview to pitch yourself. But remember that leaders are looking for team players and change agents who can drive their business forward. For every personal accomplishment you highlight, try to map it back to its impact on business results, suggests Robert Reeves, CTO at Datical.

"Adaptability is not about responding to crisis; you must seek out ways to improve so those crises do not occur again."

“Detail in the interview where you have failed and improved. Follow that up with an example of how you have improved your company’s processes,” says Reeves. “Both show a willingness to evaluate the status quo and fix it. Adaptability is not about responding to crisis; you must seek out ways to improve so those crises do not occur again. If you just respond to change instead of being an agent of change, you are at best simply dressing a wound instead of avoiding injury in the first place.”

4. Pay attention to your reactions

As adaptability becomes increasingly important, hiring managers are developing different tactics for uncovering rigidity in candidates. One way Dr. Neeta Bhushan, emotional health educator and author of “Emotional GRIT,” suggests employers look for adaptable candidates is by giving them a scenario and seeing how attached they are to its outcome. 

“Are they ok with change? Are they able to adapt? How do they feel when something does not go their way? I would give them a scenario and see how they respond to a question,” she describes. “People who are process-driven like things to go according to plan. Employers need to see how they react when it does not.”

With this in mind, candidates should pay careful attention to their emotional response and verbal and non-verbal reactions to interview questions. Azulay says candidates can do this by adopting a “can-do attitude” and by carefully considering all angles in a particular scenario before rushing judgment or response.

[ For more tips on adaptability, see our related article: Are you too rigid at work? 5 questions to ask ]

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Carla Rudder is a writer and content manager on The Enterprisers Project.

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