Weekly Word on the Street: Nail That Tech Job Interview

by Jim Staats | Apr 20, 2012

Takeaway of the week is a nice, tidy set of helpful advice, suggestions and positive statistics for the IT job seeker. The possibility of a technical position is better than ever, especially for those with skills and experience in cybersecurity and Linux.

Shining Advice for the Technical Job Interview
That stress test known as the job interview can be daunting, regardless of the industry. Technical professionals being put through the ringer by prospective employers often find themselves in unique situations, however, which is why special assistance is essential.

To the rescue comes great advice and tips from a number of career coaches in a recent IT World article.

First piece of advice, courtesy of career coach Bud Bilanich, is not to enter the interview with the assumption that a good skill set match means there’s no need to demonstrate a sense of eagerness during the process.

“Come to the interview prepared with three or four solid reasons why you want the job, not just why you have the perfect tech skills for the position,” Bilanich said, suggesting as examples, “I am really happy to be here speaking with you today. I’m a big fan of your company. Or, I want to work here because I’m a creative person who will flourish in your environment.”

Another suggestion is to understand the specific role of the interviewer in demonstrating how your skill set and track record can fill a specific position. For example, a manager who is interviewing you will look for culture fit while an engineer doing the interviewing will test skills and problem-solving ability.

Tech pros tend to work in team environments and should be expected to go through a series of interviews to test the interaction with other team members, experts note.
Programmers and developers can be expected to demonstrate their ability to write code, so coaches suggest jotting down some code by hand on paper the night before the interview to be more prepared for all occasions when/if the time comes to step up to the white board.

It should go without saying to properly research the company with whom you interview, but go the extra mile and make sure to demonstrate that knowledge.

Also helpful is to be prepared to answer questions about projects that weren’t successful in addition to those that went smoothly.

Gartner: IT Spending Boost Good for Business
CEOs are leaning toward increased IT spending, by more than a two-to-one margin, this year to spur overall growth. That’s the essence of a recent survey done by the analyst group, Gartner, of 229 CEOs with an eye towards growth in a difficult economic climate.

Technology, apparently, is the key to remaining resilient during these times, according to a recent ComputerWeekly article discussing the findings of the firm’s CEO Survey 2012.
Gartner analysts are advising CIOs to improve IT-related competitor intelligence to help businesses get through the economic tumult.

“CIOs and CEOs should discuss with each other what new information would help them manage the business better through uncertain economic times,” said Gartner analyst Mark Raskino. “We know most companies have weak management formalism over information strategy and governance; however, information variety, complexity and volume are rising exponentially.”

Raskino added: “CIOs should spearhead the development of an information strategy for their firms, concentrating, in particular, on new kinds of information that might lead to industry disruptions and transformations.”

He noted that many CEOs have trouble seeing the benefits of IT in their own industry, but have no problem rattling off the impressive success of companies seen as IT innovators, including Apple, Google and Amazon.

The survey pointed out an interesting trend in that many CIOs do not report directly to their CEOs, thus making implementation of innovative programs difficult for the former to achieve.

“When six of the world’s 10 most powerful brands are technology firms, we are left wondering why the CIO role remains so under-invested,” Raskino said.

A Call for the Cybersecurity Workforce Initiative
The increased effort to combat cybersecurity threats signals job opportunities for IT pros with the right skills, so said an influential Obama administration official during a recent speech in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Speaking at an engagement at San Jose State University, Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of Homeland Security, noted efforts are being made to hire cybersecurity professionals to help secure the nation’s digital assets, infrastructure and resources through her department’s Cybersecurity Workforce Initiative.

In her remarks, found on the DHS website, Napolitano said President Obama has asked Congress for a 74 percent increase in the department’s cyber budget for Fiscal Year 2013, on top of the more than 600 percent growth that division of the department has experience since Fiscal Year 2008.

She said hiring focuses include computer engineers, scientists, analysts and IT specialists.

Napolitano said efforts are being made to build strong cybersecurity career paths within the department, including the creation of a number of competitive scholarship, fellowship and internship programs to attract talented individuals.

And before making an outright sales pitch as a great place to work, she said DHS is supporting the Centers of Academic Excellence across the country to help cultivate professionals in disciplines including cybersecurity.

CompTIA offers two security certifications to help you move up the cybersecurity career path: CompTIA Security+ and CompTIA Advanced Security Professional.

U.S. Tech Jobs on the Rebound....or Not?
A new federal survey shows that tech-related jobs in the U.S. are back up to the levels of the good-ole’ days of just a few years ago. Caution still remains, however.
The number of people employed in IT has topped four million for the first time since 2008, according to data in the Bureau of Labor Statistics survey of U.S. households.

IT unemployment, however, is estimated at 4.3 percent for the first quarter of this year, an increase from 3.9 percent last quarter despite recent growth, an InformationWeek article on the findings notes.

Survey data considers a dozen IT job categories in compiling its findings, a definition some critics consider too narrow given today’s crucial role it plays in business, the article states.
InformationWeek did its own survey of IT executives and found a more cautious IT hiring vision, with some staffing cuts and hiring freezes remaining in place.

In the survey, 18 percent of executives will be ramping up staffing, while a little over a third expressed staffing increases geared only for specialized tech or business skills, numbers similar to 2011.

Linux Demand Stays Hot
The need for Linux skills has been trending for some time now, but new findings suggest an increased level of urgency.

Data supplied by tech careers site, Dice.com, in conjunction with a recent report from the Linux Foundation, shows the number of job postings for Linux-related positions reached a peak in early April, a PCWorld article noted.

Jobs posted on Dice.com seeking Linux skills topped out at 12,007 postings, an increase of 17 percent from a year ago, a Dice representative said.
Some of the postings listed: Red Hat Linux System Engineer for IBM, Linux Systems Administrator for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and roles at Barnes & Noble, Google and Warner Brothers.

Basically, for the lucky ones with Linux skills and experience, you’re in an excellent position to snap up a job - or upgrade to something better. 

Need certification to prove your Linux skills? CompTIA Linux+ Powered by LPI is a high-stakes, vendor-neutral certification that validates the fundamental knowledge and skills required of junior Linux administrators.

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