Interviewing has never been a problem for me. In fact, I’ve gotten nearly every IT job I’ve ever applied for, even at the beginning of my career when my skills were green and guts were a large portion of what I had to rely on.
After interviewing many candidates for IT positions over the years, however, it’s clear to me that many engineering professionals' interviewing aptitude is less than stellar. I’d compare the interviewing skills of many of these candidates to the sucking power of a black hole as opposed to the rising star they would like to be seen as.
Here are three interview mistakes I've seen network engineers commonly make:
1. Failure to make eye contact. Yes, I know you are likely an introvert with substandard communication skills. This does not come as a surprise. If you were a person who loved the spotlight and thrived off interaction with people, you probably wouldn’t be interested in my slightly less glamorous network engineering role.
However, direct eye contact tells me you have the emotional maturity to overcome your hermit tendencies when required. The interviewer needs to know you can handle yourself even outside your comfort zone, and you only have one opportunity to prove it. So stop looking down at your papers, up at the ceiling, or over all the walls. Shake off the social awkwardness and look your interviewer in the eyes if you want to get the job.
2. Faking your skill set. This one will earn you major penalty points, so just don’t do it. If it’s on your application and you don’t know it, you are wasting the interviewer’s time and earning his/her resentment. Claiming skills you don’t have calls into question your integrity, and for that alone I wouldn’t hire you.
Does this mean you can’t try for a job you don’t have the strongest skill set in? Absolutely not; just be honest about it. Be ready to make a case for your learning aptitude and present the experience you do have. Will you get the job without the BS? Maybe not. But some chance is better than no chance if you compromise your integrity.
[Learn two key steps that can help make the difference between a short, unhappy stint and a long, successful career in networking in "Advice To New Network Engineers."]
3. Talking too much. I am often surprised at how often I encounter this one, but if you are a chatty pants, you need to learn when to zip it. Yes, as an interviewer, I want more than yes or no answers from you, the candidate. However, I am definitely not looking for a dissertation on your philosophy of life, nor am I particularly interested in a recollection of every moment you deemed significant since birth.
Give the interviewer a two- to three-minute response to a question. See if he/she prompts you to continue. If not, consider your answer sufficient and let the process move along. Being unaware of your own prattling tells me that you have no idea of your impact on others and that’s just not IT team material.
In addition to avoiding the mistakes listed above, here's something else to keep in mind in order to improve your odds of winning the job: IT managers are looking for quality thinkers. While you need to bring technical skills to the table, showing that you are an organized problem solver gives you the edge. Every answer you give in an interview should reinforce that quality. If you do that, you’ll find you get many more offers than rejections.