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Interview tips: How to stand out from the IT crowd

“It’s vital you present the real you,” says Maurice Duffy, former HR director at Nortel and author of  New Mindsets for New Times. “Most IT employers want to hire you, not your CV. So, while knowing what your skills are is important, interviewers now take this as given and, more often than not, they're assessing more important traits – such as how you ‘fit’ within a team, or what your IT skills can bring to the wider business.”

Doing your research is vital – it’s what makes employees spot who’s interested in them and who's not, but simply throwing facts back at interviewers shouldn’t be used purely to show off, argues Sundararajan Narayanan, senior VP and global head of HR at 9,000 strong IT services firm, Virtusa. He says he looks for people who have a broad awareness of what the organisation is, so that they can explain where they might slot into it.

“We hire for potential, so we look for people who can talk about Leadership Pipeline or Young Talent Development programmes and tell us how they think that suits them,” Narayanan explains. “We also see if people know and understand our ‘PIRL values’ – Pursuit of excellence; Integrity; Respect; and Leadership. This also shows they picture themselves with us.”

More than four-fifths of employers now use some form of aptitude test – including verbal & abstract reasoning and strength-based assessments – so candidates should also be prepared to talk about these results.

The old cliché that interviewers make assumptions about you in the first 30 seconds is still as true as ever, so looking and sounding professional is now the bare minimum. Candidates should actually practice their entrance, just to establish how to look calm and collected.

Also the bare minimum is rehearsing scenarios you know they’ll quiz you on. In fact, by focusing on this, you’ll probably be keeping the interview to ‘their’ agenda.

Today, being really stand-out also involves engaging with the interviewer to get them on your side – doing what Forbes magazine recently described as ‘getting the interviewer to think off-script’ and ‘asking smart questions about their business pain’. Interviewers need to be challenged too. Quizzing them is allowed. By obliging them to think about you differently, you stand a better chance they'll be left with the impression you alone can sort out their skills shortage need.

Can these things really make a definite difference? The answer is most definitely yes. Individually, they might be small details, but acted on together they can catapult you from so-so, to star interviewee.

To find out how you can stay competitive, check out our  outlining the challenges and opportunities facing 21st-century organisations.