What attracted you to start a career in IT?
I love problem solving and working with people, so IT was a no-brainer for me. Over the last twenty years, I have had the pleasure of working for some amazing companies including GXS, Open Text, Fujitsu Services and General Electric.
How did you first enter into the IT industry?
After working as an Office Junior for six months, I applied to the Modern Apprenticeship Scheme, jointly supported by a local company – Provend Services and West Thames College in West London. Looking back, it was an amazing opportunity. I was doing what I loved, training and being paid for it too!
When hiring junior candidates who have the same level of experience, what makes them stand out?
Beyond technical, I always look at the candidate’s customer and communication skills. A significant part of succeeding in an IT role is working with people and having the ability to forge strong and effective relationships. Empathising with a customer is an important quality to have, as we know, things do go wrong and it’s how we deal with the situation, whilst focusing on the customer’s experience that matters.
If an applicant doesn’t have IT experience would you still consider them?
Absolutely. When reviewing applicants, I look for those who have demonstrated the ability to add value to a team and the company, through strong interpersonal skills and a willingness to learn. Good Leaders will mentor and develop their people and IT is just another skill to hone.
What advice would you give a junior candidate the night before an interview?
Remember that everyone gets nervous at and in the lead up to an interview. Make sure you are prepared the night before in terms of what to bring with you (do you need to offer identification, references etc.), what you are going to wear and your travel plan, to ensure you arrive a few minutes early. Being late will never create a good first impression.
What traits do you look for when you are interviewing?
I look for people that are diligent and meticulous, with great customer and organisational skills and who display integrity and honesty during the interview.
Do you look for different traits depending on whether the candidate has IT experience or not?
You generally don’t differentiate, although those candidates with previous IT experience should be able to demonstrate the technical skills they have stated on their CV. All good interviewers and leaders will tell you that being the best IT person is not solely about how technical you are. If you cannot work effectively with your customers, team and stakeholders, then you will face a real uphill struggle.
What should a candidate do if they don’t know the answer to the question?
Ask the interviewer to rephrase the question – be honest and don’t be embarrassed. This behaviour is positive and demonstrates a willingness to engage with those you will be working with.
What types of questions would you look to ask a junior candidate with no Commercial IT experience?
Some of the questions that I pose are:
• Why do you want a career in IT and specifically with my company? – establish motivation.
• How would you ‘deal’ with a frustrated customer? – communication skills.
• How do you plan your day? – organisational skills.
• What did you enjoy most / least about your last role? – looking for honesty, whilst remaining professional.
• What do you know about this job? What would you like to know about this job? – determine engagement level of the candidate.
The first question is incredibly important, as the field you choose should be a career (path), not just a job. As leaders, we want to develop our people and ensure they have a vested interest in their growth and that of the business.
In addition, I would have the candidate undertake a short role-play exercise to ascertain their logical thinking when problem solving or establishing a plan of action for an upcoming task.
What questions should a candidate ask during the interview?
Do ask for more details about the role itself and whom you will be working with. Remember to ask how this position came about – was it the promotion of another employee or a new position? Both of which are positive.
In your eyes, what makes a candidate stand out both on a CV and being interviewed?
Strong communication skills and an understanding of the role are very important. The candidate should tailor their CV to the role, to ensure the Manager can identify qualities that align with the role and the business.
Last but not least, what advice would you give a junior candidate looking to land their first IT role?
Over the last twenty years, IT has gone from being a support and infrastructure function, to a stakeholder in transforming an organisation. Make a positive impression, think outside the box and specifically consider how you can add value to a company and its customers.
And don’t forget to follow up after the interview, as this is an important indicator for the interviewer that you are interested. If you are unsuccessful, ask for feedback and regard it as constructive, to help you with the next interview.
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