Your recruiter’s told you you’re the perfect fit for the role, you’ve got all the qualifications and have arrived bang on time. The interview should be smooth sailing from now on, right? Unfortunately not. Tech candidates for roles at all levels tend to make similar, all too common interview mistakes that can cost them dearly. We’ve identified those most regularly highlighted by employers and recruiters:
Failure to research
There’s absolutely no excuse for being anything but ultra-informed about the company you’re applying to. The strongest candidates are not only aware of what a firm does, but will also have thought through where it’s going, where it sits compared to its competitors and what contribution you could make to its future success. It’s a good idea to come up with a few considered, company-specific questions to ask at the end of the interview, if not at another appropriate moment.
Bad communication skills
If you’re the shy type, try to prepare and rehearse answers to some likely questions. A common blunder is to answer a query about, say, your expertise in SAP with a blunt yes or no. A panel will likely be expecting more and you’ll end up sitting in awkward silence. Instead, try to imagine each question is the start of a conversation rather than simply offering closed replies. Employers want to see whether you’ll work effectively with other and are able to communicate accordingly.
Think about your whole outfit, not just your top half. The days when you’d be judged badly for dressing too formally for a tech interview are long gone. For management and other senior positions, think suit and smart shoes over khakis and crinkled shirt and remember it’s better to err on the side of too smart over too casual.
Seeming arrogant rather than confident
The desire to come across as confident and able can sometimes tip into arrogance and egocentricity – two qualities that are certain to repel potential employers. They’re looking for someone who’ll be a positive team player rather than an employee who is rather too keen on the sound of their own voice. It’s very possible to highlight your achievements believably and without coming off as a show off, an attitude that will earn you far more brownie points.
Negativity about your current employer
This is a very easy trap to fall into. You might think your present CEO is the devil incarnate, but an interview for a new position is not the place to air your grievances. Think of a succinct, tactful way to express why you’re leaving your current role if there have been choppy waters. The key is to come across as excited by the new job rather than worn out by your old one.
Making the transition from technical employee to CTO is notoriously challenging. Many newbies find the process of moving from technologist to business executive extremely stressful. If you’re struggling in, or just moving into, your first CTO role, we’ve sourced some invaluable tips to give you the best chance of success:
Pay attention to the ‘C’ as well as the ‘T’
This won’t be the case for everyone of course, but for the high proportion of CTOs who’ve come from purely technical backgrounds, getting to grips with the business side of the role can be more difficult than expected. A core skill that new CTOs need to cultivate is to be able to communicate complex technical ideas in a simple way to a less specialised business audience, verbally and in presentations. They also need to thoroughly understand how the core business operates in order to appreciate which new technology solutions might genuinely be of help.
All too often, the CTO’s role is still shrouded in mystery. Expectations can differ hugely from one company to the next, leading to confusion, frustration and a CTO who feels undervalued or at sea. Don’t be afraid to ask for a chat with the CEO and other senior players to really define what your responsibilities are if you’re unsure. You want to get the balance between strategy, technology design, development and system maintenance right from day one.
Keep on top of industry trends
Once you’re starting to feel established in your role, it’s easy to get bogged down in company politics and existing legacy systems. The most successful CTOs, though, make sure they stay ahead of the game by keeping track of industry trends and monitoring those that could affect their company.
If you’ve progressed from a technical role, you’ll be used to handling every small problem yourself. A CTO has a much larger task that requires a shift in mindset – to make other people solve problems more quickly and to a high standard. It’s very likely you’ll be responsible for a number of teams working on a diverse range of projects, something that can prove quite the challenge if you’re the hands-on type.
Don’t get seduced by buzz
As a new CTO, it’s worth regularly reminding yourself that lots of technologies start out seeming cutting edge and attracting heavy press attention, only to quickly fall out of favour. Beware of getting stuck with fly by night technologies on a legacy system in an effort to innovate. Instead, select only those that have proven their worth, at least until your judgement is honed by more experience.
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