Interview with an IT Talent Acquisition Specialist

For Arnaud Kermouche, Manager talent Acquisition at Uni-Select, and previously Head of recruiting for Rogers Communications in Québec, the hiring interview is an opportunity for mutual discovery. Here are some of his tips for successfully getting through this crucial step (interview made in 2010).

What are recruiters looking for in a job interview? 

You need to check and get more detailed information on what was read in the resume and cover letter, or specified in the telephone interview, in some cases. Since a resume doesn’t spell everything out, certain things may not be clear. The interview is also the best time to ascertain a candidate’s soft skills: is the chemistry between the candidate and us (the company, its values and the person’s work team) right? If a number of equally qualified candidates are in the running, this last point may make the difference.

Specifically, how does the recruiter proceed? 

Generally speaking, he or she reviews the candidate’s previous work experience. The candidate will have to show how his or her past experience is relevant for the job.

Secondly, the recruiter will ask questions based on scenarios. For instance: On Monday, your manager asks you for X lines of code by Wednesday, but the time allotted for the task doesn’t seem long enough. How do you react? This type of question lets you know whether the person has ever found him or herself in a similar situation, and whether the applicant’s behavioural approach matches the company’s style.

Finally, the recruiter will explore the candidate’s in-depth interests. Above and beyond the candidate’s suitability for the position at time T, the recruiter wants to know whether the relationship is a sustainable one. For instance, what skills does the candidate want to develop? Will other potential challenges offered by the company appeal to him or her? This is one of the reasons for the problem with being over-qualified: a senior programmer-analyst seeking a junior position is likely to get bored very quickly.

Preparing for an interview 

The main thing is to do your homework on the company and the people you will be meeting. The better you prepare at this stage, the better you will know if the match between what you are looking for and the proposed job is good.

In addition, the first part of the recruiting process needs to be treated seriously. Your resume, cover letter as well as the website questions when you apply will play a role in the interview—you need to be able to support and clarify your answers.

What is appropriate interview behavior? 

I would say that the exercise should be treated like a dialogue. Do not be passive and content yourself with merely answering questions. Personally, I always try to get a good exchange going, so that the candidate has a lot of opportunities to talk.

Furthermore, keep in mind that the purpose of the interview is mutual discovery. The applicant also needs to ask questions, and ideally would show up prepared with a small list of questions at hand.

Communication is very important, especially in the IT field. You need to use words that are readily understandable by everyone, especially when meeting the HR manager. . . it’s pointless to talk about “binary mode”—he or she may not even grasp what you are saying! After that, it’s all a matter of degree: you need to appear determined, but not haughty; friendly, but not too relaxed, etc.

My last tip: sending a little thank-you e-mail always leaves a good impression.

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