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Interviewing Tips for Hiring Managers / Employers

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I thought I’d write a handy article from the other side as you’re often thrust into the interviewing situation when you're promoted, with little or no formal training on 'How to Interview' as a hiring manager.


So what are the best questions to ask? What is the optimum way to get the most out of that initial first 45 minutes with your potential new team member? How many interviews should you conduct? Potential candidates are likely being courted by 5 or more competing tech companies....So make it count!


Introduction
It’s always nice to offer a coffee, tea or even water.  It can get darn thirsty answering all those questions and it helps to break the ice before you kick things off.  This is also a chance to show off that champion espresso machine the boss was so proud of when they bought it for the team last Christmas…..


Making the candidate wait
A pet peeve of mine is being made to wait  typically  a candidate will arrive 10 minutes early so you can kick-off on time. The serial position effect tells us that the first and last impressions you make are the ones that make the most impact, so make them wait for 20/30 minutes and you’re giving the impression that you’re not interested and disorganised.   Let’s face it, we all hate being made to wait.  So print out their CV or have it ready to go on your iPad the day before, and give your colleagues a wee reminder to avoid the last minute rush.


The Icebreaker
To get the best out of your candidate, start with some context or clarification about how the meeting came about, and set the scene.  Something as simple as "Thanks for coming in and I understand you know so & so".  Give a brief overview of the process i.e.  we'll give you a quick intro about the company, how the role fits in, then there'll be some technical questions and a chance for you to ask us some questions towards the end.  Explain who the people are around the table "I look after X and this is  the ‘Line Manager of Digital’ etc….  Speaking of "around the table" do try to sit around the table, as opposed to everyone on one side which feels a bit like an inquisition...this is a two way meeting - welcome to the new school!


Types of questions

The most important questions you can ask are open, role specific questions.  When you're asking a question, make sure the answer you're expecting to receive is something you can learn something from rather than an "interesting but ultimately irrelevant" answer.  You're trying to find the person who can do this job for you - and the best way to do that is to put them in a position where they can answer to the best of their abilities.  

If the role is highly pressured, sure, ask them high pressure questions, and if it's creative, ask them a creative question.  Remember this is a 2 way street, candidates will want to be able to show you what they can do, rather than walking out with regrets that they forgot to mention something.

My favourite questions to ensure we elicit the forgotten information are - "Is there anything else you wish we had asked you?" and "Is there anything else we need to know?"

 

We put this out to Facebook & LinkedIn and here are some favourite questions we received back:

 

"How many petrol stations are there in the UK?" - Ollie (Recruiter - Google UK)

"Is there anything I didn't ask you that you wish I had?" Steve (UI/UX Manager/Consultant)

"What do you think the role will be like?" - Jason (Retail Manager)

"What extras do you bring to the workplace?" - Donna (Deputy Principal)

"What makes you want to work for us?" - Andy (Head Ski Instructor)

Best question I once got asked was, "How do you make a cream egg?" - Andrew (Head of IT Services)

"If it looked like you were going to miss an important (client) deadline on something, how would you handle this? And when would you do it?" - Steve (Web Architect/Managing Director)

"Describe yourself on a good day at work"... then ask "and what about a bad day?" - Duanne (Manager - Architecture)

"What would you achieve in your first three months in the job?" Jane - (Fundraising Manager)

"Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" - Jess (HR Manager)

"What is the biggest challenge in your life so far that you have had to overcome?" - Colleen (Recruiter/HR Manager)

"How do you think you did in this interview?" - Amy (Psychologist)

"What are your passions?" - Mikala (Consulting Manager)

 

And don’t forget to ask at the end - "Is there anything else I should be aware of with regards your application?"  I've been surprised on more than one occasion at what that can elicit...

Include your team
It’s always great if you can include one of your technical member of staff, not only to ‘suss out the candidate’ but to be able to sell to them the technology stack & exciting projects the team is working on.


To TEST or NOT to test in the first interview?
if it's a highly technical role it's great to test the candidate first - why waste an hour on a first meeting, then test them in a second to find they're not up to speed. You just need to make the candidate aware of the process - if it's online or in-house, what the expectations are and the instructions, and include a brief introduction to make them at ease & comfortable.

Office Tour
While you have them in the office, show them around and introduce them to some of the team.  It gives the candidate a better feel for your culture, it also gives you a chance to again show off your great team, what you do and some of the neat people in it, the nice new hardware you’re using, some of the quirkier stuff in your office - the office dog or goldfish, the cafe, or the fact you have a shower or a ping pong table.  We forget that some of these small things really catch the attention of a candidate and allows them to start to visualise themselves working in your company & often will set a strong memory when they’re comparing job offers later.  


Half or Full day Work with the team session
I did a lot of internal hiring for one of the consultancies I worked for in the UK and when we snagged a good potential candidate we’d get them back for a 2nd full day in our office to show them warts & all, what the job really entailed.  

We were also really proud of our great culture, everyone knew the drill and would go up to them and introduce themselves, ask them where they worked, if they wanted to know anything about the company and what it was like.

It was very powerful to build on the great culture we already had.  You don't need to do a full day but maybe consider a half-day, take them for lunch, have them work through some problems that are similar to the job they’ll be performing. Yes it's sometimes hard to make the time available but taking some time up front to get the right new team member on board will cause a lot fewer headaches later on. This is also a career move for the candidate and will test their commitment - if they aren't interested in making the time to come in and spend some quality time with your team they're probably not the right fit for you.

You have to sell your company
I think one thing that has changed is the culture of job interviews. Back in the 80’s/90's it was the employer with all the power, you had to impress them to ‘win the job’. Now it goes both ways with skills shortages for great talent, especially within IT.  It really is up to you to ‘sell the job’ because there’s 5 other companies doing just that, competing for that talent in the market. Counter offers and competing offers are typical for good people these days.  Don't forget to run through your full list of benefits!

So go on, include lots of your team, have a bit of fun with it, spend a little more time at the front-end and you'll have your next star joining you soon…..

Paul is founder of sunstonetalent.com an IT Recruitment company based in Christchurch, New Zealand. To see what our clients say about us please go to:

http://www.sunstonetalent.com/clients/

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What is the difference between an IT Account Manager & an IT Business Development Manager?

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Well first we need to make the distinction between what the roles of an IT Account Manager and an IT BDM actually do.

Loosely we can describe these as:

 

An IT Account Manager is a ‘Farmer’

The Farmer or IT Account Manager looks after current accounts and ‘farms’ the opportunities. They manage the relationship, ensuring the solution is solving their client’s problems and are often incentivised to spot sales opportunities and 'up sell' as they arise.

 

and….

 

An IT Business Development Manager (BDM) is a ‘Hunter’

The Hunter, or IT Business Development Manager blazes the trail often looking into new markets, untapped potential researching opportunities, strategically targeting new areas or areas already known by building new relationships with key decision makers by networking, ‘getting in front’ face-to-face and understanding if their product & service can solve that problem for a potential customer / prospect.

 

Both roles share similar attributes in that candidates have:

 

Great communication skills

Excellent people skills / understanding of how to influence

Well presented / in-line with their customers

Positive attitudes

Self-motivation

Excellent listeners

Responsive & Proactive

Well organised & experts at time management

Excellent presentation & face-to-face skills

Good rapport & relationship builders

Good product or service knowledge of their solution

Customer-centric focused

‘Knowledge workers’ - excellent understanding of their market / industry 

 

 

So what are the killer attributes needed specifically for the two roles…..

 

Farmers need to have patience and can often be involved in training, implementation & support aspects (depending on the role / company). They need to have a ‘long game perspective’ with the ultimate goal to keep the client happy but also keep abreast of contact changes within an organisation, being aware of these & ensuring they can utilise these successfully through times of organisational change. They have superb influencing skills, are able to think on their feet and come up with win / win situations to always keep the customer relationship positive and moving it forward.

 

Hunters often need to have that killer instinct to ‘put themselves’ out there & take a few risks.  It can be a real art for strong BDMs to turn what look like ‘cold calls’ into ‘warm calls’ through strong market knowledge & influencing skills, contacts they know from a large network often built up over many years. These experts know people - and lots of them. Hunters look at opportunities short, medium & long-term knowing that some of the large clients / big deals can take years to develop, win the business & close. They also give themselves the opportunity to make revenue from ‘low hanging fruit’ in the short & medium term by having strong market knowledge and are sometimes referred to as ‘knowledge workers’ adding value to clients and becoming trusted partners & expert advisors within their speciality or industry. They are brave, tenacious & extremely motivated.

 

Again, what both roles have in common is the understanding of revenue targets and ‘making their number’. Some account management roles can be incentivised more on a referral basis, passing qualified leads to the ‘sales person’ to follow up. BDMs have clear targets that need to be met being a more pure sales role to bring in significant revenue with their remuneration often structured with a large commission component.

 

You can see some of our current live IT sales opportunities for Christchurch here:

 

IT Business Development Manager (Virtual Reality)

 

IT Account Manager / Implementation Consultant

 

I'm Founder & Principal Consultant of Sunstone, an IT Recruitment & HR company specialising in recruiting IT roles within IT Sales (Account Management / BDM), Data Science, Data Engineering, Software, Web, Mobile, Development & Networks in Christchurch & South Island of New Zealand.

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What is the difference between Data Scientists V Data Engineers?

Albert Einstein one of the greatest Mathematicians & Physicists of all time

Albert Einstein one of the greatest Mathematicians & Physicists of all time

Data Scientist V Data Engineer? As these roles have become particularly sexy in the IT industry we ask what are the real differences? 

Since I’ve been recruiting in the Big Data space for the past 4 years I’ve noticed Big Data product development shops & the IT industry in general creating this differentiation...

 

So what do these two roles actually do?

 

Data Scientist 

Basically a mathematician who uses a lot of mathematical & statistical modelling to work out what they want the data to do. They’re not hardcore developers so tend to use scripting languages (Python) & statistical tooling like MatLab & R Shiny.

 

Data Engineer 

This is a software developer who works with the data to put the rigour & engineering around it to create a robust software product. They’ll code in native languages like Scala for Spark, C++, Java or C#.Net & work with the Big Data platform technologies like Hadoop, HDFS, Spark, TenserFlow etc interacting with tools like Git, Docker and creating UIs for users to interact with BIG Data building these in web - JavaScript, React, Node etc.

 

So let's check out a few infographics to highlight the differences....

 

Source: Data Camp blog https://www.datacamp.com/community/blog/data-scientist-vs-data-engineer

Source: Data Camp blog https://www.datacamp.com/community/blog/data-scientist-vs-data-engineer

Source: Data Camp blog https://www.datacamp.com/community/blog/data-scientist-vs-data-engineer

Source: Data Camp blog https://www.datacamp.com/community/blog/data-scientist-vs-data-engineer

 

So I hope that helps explain the differences and no doubt as this fascinating area continues to grow (or should I say scale ;-) other roles will continue to morph.

 

We currently have a variety of Data Science & Data Engineering roles live in Christchurch, New Zealand please check out:

 

Data Scientist

 

Senior Data Scientist

 

Data Analytics Engineer

 

Data Engineer

 

Senior Data Engineer

 

I'm Founder & Principal Consultant of Sunstone, an IT Recruitment & HR company specialising in recruiting IT roles within data science, data engineering, software, web, mobile, development & networks in Christchurch & South Island of New Zealand.

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What are the latest IT jobs, the future IT jobs and the ones that are dead & gone?

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A lot of people get freaked out about the robots taking our jobs but the reality is that these current IT jobs never even existed 10 years ago:

 

Data Scientist

Big Data Engineer

Analytics Engineer

Digital Marketer

Social Media Consultant

SEO Specialist

Blogger

DevOps Engineer

Cloud (Azure or AWS) SysAdmin

Test Automation Engineer

Cloud Architect

BI Architect 

UX Designer

UI Applications Developer (React or Angular)

Mobile Apps Developer (iOS or Android) and so on…..

 

The reality is that these IT roles are just extensions of similar roles using newer technologies and new platforms as technology is further derived or matures.

 

Were you a Web Master or maybe a Web Mistress?

 

Some jobs have even come and gone...like video store or record shop assistant...internet cafe manager (about to disappear)...But really the ones that are truly dead & gone are computer programming jobs with punch cards in the early IBM & Burroughs days….Switchboard, Telegraph & Dictaphone operators…word processors / typists, filing clerks, business machine operators (i.e. photocopiers) hahaha yes this made me laugh - you actually had someone in a corporate office to ‘operate’ the photocopier, although let’s face it that paper was always hard to find and when that bleedin’ photocopier started spraying out reams of paper Noooooooo…and as for fax machines don't get me started...computer operators…the list goes on…

 

Roles for the next 10 years are already starting to appear:

 

AI (Artificial Intelligence) / Machine Learning Engineers 

Algorithm Engineers

Web Scientist (there’s a new degree in the UK in Web Science)

WebOps

Blockchain Developer

Drone Operator

Uber driver

Marijuana Farmer (not new but now legal in Colorado & other states in the US)

Grocery Personal Shopper (the way your internet order actually gets picked is by someone in the supermarket pushing around a trolley collecting your items) until robots get smarter…..

 

AI is rapidly expanding and will majorly impact our lives but that's another story.....

 

The new roles are already coming apparent but really what it really boils down to is CODING SKILLS & the ability to PROBLEM SOLVE. Employers are always lookIng for strong technical skills and the ability to communicate within technical discussions. In saying that some languages like C++ that were predicted to be gone by now, have not due to their fast performance abilities in gaming, hardware & development & High Performance Computing they live on. There’s always legacy issues that have even seen Cobol programmers still in demand by many of the large banks & insurance companies. 

 

It’s exciting times within the IT industry but it always pays to keep your skills current and continue to enjoy learning new ways of improving efficiency & performance with new technology, platforms, frameworks & tooling. Being a continuous ‘LIFE LEARNER’ will always hold you in good stead and ensure a long & fulfilling career in IT.

 

I'm Founder & Principal Consultant of Sunstone, an IT Recruitment & HR company specialising in recruiting IT roles within software, web, mobile, development & networks in Christchurch & South Island of New Zealand.

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Canterbury Tech Summit 2017

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Another amazing event this year with a record crowd of 700 attending the Canterbury Tech Summit in Christchurch!

It’s a fantastic gathering of the Christchurch tech community meeting up with old faces & new.

I think what inspires me the most is the gathering of a common ethic to work together building great IT companies & products in software & hardware. 

It makes me proud of such a gathering of talented people and getting pumped on inspirational speakers really gets the motivational juices flowing reminding me of the grit, determination & resilience whether you’re in a start-up, software house, technology company or corporate striving to be the best you can.

 

Here's a great video re-cap of this awesome IT conference in Christchurch that has become an annual showpiece of the South Island IT community

 

 

 

Keynote speaker & marketing guru Andy Cunningham was fired 5 times by Steve Jobs ...amazing war stories & presentation!

 

Andy Cunningham delivering a great opening keynote at the 2017 photo by Canterbury Tech

Andy Cunningham delivering a great opening keynote at the 2017 photo by Canterbury Tech

 

Digital Marketing guru Andy Cunningham on companies - 'Know your Super Power' your 'Onlyness'! The thing you do better than anyone else.

 

Once again a very well attended event & a highlight of the Christchurch tech calendar photo by Canterbury Tech

Once again a very well attended event & a highlight of the Christchurch tech calendar photo by Canterbury Tech

 

There was a variety of topics & speakers from AI, Machine Learning, BIg Data, Security, Digital Disruption, Design Thinking, Cloud, Bitcoin & the Blockchain....

 

AI Forum of NZ photo by Canterbury Tech 

AI Forum of NZ photo by Canterbury Tech 

Here's to another great software summit and I'm already looking forward to the next one in 2018! Thanks again to the Canterbury Tech committee for another superbly organised event and to all those who attended.

 

I'm Founder & Principal Consultant of Sunstone, an IT Recruitment & HR company specialising in recruiting IT roles within software, web, mobile, development & networks in Christchurch & South Island of New Zealand.

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