Field NotesThe Job Candidate’s Job

Glenn Wasserman

I’m trying to hire you. I manage a big team of IT consultants at Microsoft that needs to get bigger. Our business is growing and we need experienced professionals who are passionate about technology and can make our team better. One of my key responsibilities is growing my team as our business grows, but my recruiting efforts have been frustrated by a problem that keeps cropping up.

My problem is this: I can’t find you. Oh, I’m sure you’re out there, and I may have even interviewed you. But ask yourself: did you effectively communicate your skills, your passion for technology, and how you would make my team better? Did you leave the interview confident that you did your job as a candidate, which is to make the interviewer understand why you are the best candidate for the job?

As a hiring manager, I view a job interview as a great opportunity to get to know a candidate who ostensibly is motivated to work for me. The problem occurs when I see people who don’t appear to be motivated to work here. If they have that kind of passion about my team, it doesn’t come across during the interview. This happens all too frequently.

Folks, you need to keep this in mind: after my team grills all the candidates, we frequently discuss them at length and debate the pros and cons of each one. And you can bet we discuss who wants the job more. It is only logical to assume that those who want the job the most are the ones who will be the most committed to success after they get hired. I haven’t regretted walking away from a candidate who didn’t appear to really want the job, and those who wanted it the most have given the most of themselves after coming on board.

Giving something of yourself during the interview is another important point. Some people are so guarded and so professional in their communication style that few elements of their personality are communicated to the interviewer. This is a huge problem. Ask yourself, what kind of person do I want to work with? You can bet that the interviewer has an idea of what she values in a coworker. If you don’t offer some insight into your personality, then the interviewer can’t determine if you will mesh well with the team and if you’ll work well with customers.

As an interviewer, it is my job to evaluate what I see and to probe for the qualities I value in an employee. As a candidate, it is your job to make sure the interviewer understands why you are an excellent choice for the position. Do your job! If you believe in yourself, then the act of communicating your strengths comes down to an effective job of selling.

Ah, there’s that word that always seems to come up: selling. Chances are there is a selling component to whatever job you seek. Even if you are developer locked in a datacenter in a corner, at some point you need to sell your results to the people who’ve requested the work. Since the selling process generally involves an understanding of what the buyer is looking for, it stands to reason that you may have questions about the specifics of the position. This is not a bad thing! In fact, asking questions about the position is a good way to show that you are very interested in the job. Most interviewers see this as a positive point of the interview. It’s another component of being open and sharing some of your personality—what you are asking can be a clear indication of what you are interested in.

Looking at the situation from another angle, keep in mind that a good IT professional needs to have more than just strong technical skills. She needs to communicate effectively with a wide range of people and personalities, think strategically, influence others in order to drive consensus, and possess sales skills as well.

The quietest candidates leave all kinds of judgments open to interpretation. If an interviewer doesn’t hear your opinion on something important, then he is forced to guess and, in that case, the guess is generally a conservative one. Remember, hiring managers are usually averse to taking what they perceive to be risks when they make a hire. The more that manager knows about you, the better chance you have of getting a job offer.

In summary, remember what your job is as a candidate. You need to make sure that the interviewer knows what you are capable of and why you are a great candidate for the job. The person interviewing you could be looking for someone just like you with exactly your skills. Don’t lose the opportunity because another candidate appears to want the job more than you do!

Glenn Wasserman is a consulting manager for Microsoft Services in the New York/New Jersey area. He has been working in the consulting field for over 10 years and in IT for over 15 years.

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