my musings on technology

Interview Advice: Stepping up into Management

Posted by on Mar 22, 2010 in Musings | 0 comments

Interview Advice: Stepping up into Management

InterviewI recently received an email from an employee at a previous job asking for some interview advice. He is a very strong technical resource and wants to step up into a management role and wants to know the best way to tackle this. This is my advice:

Be Business Focused

Generally speaking, you will be interviewed by a broad spectrum of people when being interviewed for a management position in IT. The type of people you will typically talk to will vary by company size, but expect the major stakeholders to be involved.

If I were hiring for an IT Manager I would involve my business power users as much as possible. These power users are the people from outside of IT that regularly engage IT services as part of their day to day work. While the power user may not be able to grill the candidate technically, I would expect them to be able to tell me if the candidate is someone they would want to interact with on a daily basis.

From the candidate side, this means you need to present yourself as a problem solver. Someone who understands and can empathize with that user regarding their specific business problems and how you, as an IT Leader, can help solve them. Also, make sure you don’t ramble on with too much technical jargon – you don’t want them glassing over!

Listen for themes when interviewing.

Here’s another trick I’ve learned from many years of interviewing. Generally, (yes I am generalizing all the way through this) an interviewer will draw their interview questions from one of two sources:

a) Google – there is an endless supply of interview questions on the Internet. As a candidate, make sure you have gone through all the basic questions and are ready to answer them

b) Current or Past Situations – these are usually the most enlightening as they can reveal a lot about the current state of affairs at the company.

Are a lot of the people asking about your experience with solving problem X. If so, then that probably means that problem X is a current problem and you would be expected to solve it. Make sure you focus on these issues and the techniques you would use to steer the company away from these issues.

These themes can also make it clear as to whether this is the right company for you to work at. Is everyone asking about your willingness to work around the clock? This probably means that will be required of you – is this what you want?

Cost Savings

This is a very important topic in today’s economy. Even if the questions are not asked directly, make sure you highlight ways you can save the company money. You will need to do some research on the company and come prepared with some ways you think you can save them money. Renegotiation of telco contracts is always a great place where you can offer cost savings. Telcos are very eager for business at the moment and are willing to make some concessions and offer more aggressive discounts in order to keep or win new business.

Be prepared to wear many hats!

This is another function of today’s economy. Companies are often looking for new (and current) employees to step up and be willing to take on tasks that they may perceive to be outside of their domain (or job description).

I ran into this in a previous company where an employee was completely unwilling to perform any task that was not written in the job description when he was hired.  I firmly believe this type of behaviour is unacceptable and that you need to make it clear during the interview that you are prepared to step up where necessary.

When stepping up to management positions in IT this may require you to be more hands on than you expected – be prepared to do this in addition to your ‘management responsibilities’.  Make sure you shine in both domains.

These are a few techniques I have used in the past and will continue to use.  Make sure you separate yourself from the rest of the candidate pool by highlighting what problems you can solve for the hiring company.

Most importantly, be yourself and be confident.

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