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4 Soft Skills to Stand Out in an IT Job Interview

Use Soft Skills to Stand Out

As your graduation approaches and you begin to apply for positions, the process of landing that first job can seem intimidating.

As a hiring manager of entry-level Application Developers, I understand your dilemma – “I can’t get hired without job experience, but I can’t get experience without the job!”

While it may be true that you will be competing with others similar job or intern experience, you can quickly break away from the group by differentiating yourself in other ways.

Focus on Your Soft Skills

What are soft skills?

Soft Skills are character traits and interpersonal skills that characterize a person’s relationships with other people.

While having the technical skills is a requirement for your job, soft skills can demonstrate your overall fit into the organization and culture. It can also help interviewers determine how well can you communicate or work with others.

Here are four tips to help you showcase your soft skills.

Soft Skill of Be Prepared:

Think through a list or projects or assignments that you have worked on and be able to apply your knowledge of those projects to the questions asked. As a new graduate, it is okay if you only have one or two projects that you keep referring to – using them shows me that you can apply your knowledge to the questions.

If you cannot articulate any projects or assignments that you have worked on, your technical skills will not stand out and you will not demonstrate that you can think on your feet.

Be Creative in Interview
Be Creative in Interview | Image Source: Pexels

Be Creative:

I know that your experience is limited, so think outside the box! If a question does not relate to a project you’ve worked on in school, but maybe a personal or non-technical experience demonstrates the quality they are looking for, so feel free to use it!

For example, if asked to describe a scenario where you managed to complete a project on time while presented with conflicting priorities, you may not have an IT assignment that relates directly. Instead you could speak to how you managed your course load during finals when everything is due at the same time. How did you work through that process? Did you succeed?

Be Flexible:

One of the latest employees I hired demonstrated to me how easily he could adapt within a changing environment. I accidentally listed his phone interview 30 minutes earlier on my calendar than it was scheduled. Upon calling him I immediately realized my error, apologized and offered to call him back at the agreed upon time. He pleasantly laughed it off and agreed to complete the interview early. While I certainly would not have held it against him to call back at the scheduled time, to see that he could “roll with the punches,” was one example to help him differentiate himself.

Try to find an example of a time you showed flexibility or the ability to adapt in a changing environment and you will stand out from the crowd.

Be Interested in Interview
Be Interested in Interview | Image Source Pexels

Be Interested:

As a new IT graduate, you may not even know what questions to ask your prospective employer. You can gain self-confidence by doing a little research on the company you are applying for and you can show interest by asking probing questions related to the questions being asked of you.

For example, if asked to share a time that you’ve had to explain a technical problem to a non-technical person, you could follow-up your answer with a question such as:

“Based upon your question, is this a situation that occurs frequently within the role? Will I be working with clients or other stakeholders on a regular basis?”

This demonstrates that you are interested in the role, are able to interpret information presented to you and think through it without specific instruction.

Wrap Up

There you have it! As you move towards getting hired at your first IT job, keep these tips in mind as you interview and you will quickly rise above the others. Just remember, it is just as much about who you are as a person and how you can fit within the organization as it is about your technical skills. Best of luck to you!

Do you have any other interviewing or job hunting tips that work to give job hunters an advantage?

Thanks for reading!

-Tracy

Looking for other career articles?

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Why Passion is the Key to Productivity and Success

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How Can Your Failures Lead to Success?

Can Failures Lead to Success

I have a confession to make.

I am a failure.

Financially and professionally I am a complete and utter failure. I was naive and foolish and things did not go as planned for me, that’s for sure.

Let me tell you why.

Can you relate to the dream where you want to be financially free? To make your own rules and live life on your own terms? I had that dream – big time. I had been laid off for the third time from my job, we were broke and I definitely wanted a change. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my online business, I just needed someone to help me build it.

I thought I did my homework.  I put my heart and soul into writing an air tight business plan and once I had all the details in place, I hired a highly recommended overseas web development company to build me that dream.

Can you imagine the excitement and anticipation I was feeling! I could hardly sleep those first few months.

… But then there was the waiting.

And the delays.

And the missed deadlines or requirements.

And the pulling out of hair in utter frustration.

Don’t get me wrong, the project was complicated but going well enough for me to continue to pay them. Unfortunately, it never was exactly what I wanted. They would rework it and try to fix it, but it just led to more and more delays. They clearly did not understand the requirements, I was in way over my heard and the project started to feel like a money pit.

Then disaster struck. They “lost” all the files in a server crash and had to start over. To say I was devastated was an understatement. While I found it difficult to believe they had no backups, I helplessly allowed them to start over.

It didn’t go well the second time.

Eventually the project just collapsed. After they were running 18 months past the launch date and no longer showing a solid commitment to the project, I made the gut wrenching decision to just walk away. I just couldn’t afford to stick any more money into it and trying to get money back from an overseas provider wasn’t a mountain I knew how to climb. I understood how naive I had been, and I was emotionally spent.

The emotional toll was bad enough. What I didn’t mention was that in order to pay this web development company, I had put a second mortgage on our home. A big one for us, and now I had nothing to show for it – except a hefty monthly payment.

Imagine the shame I felt each month when I had to write a loan check for three more years to pay off this failed business venture. Imagine trying to look my husband in the eye when we were barely making ends meet. I was still out of a job and this extra mortgage was the reason we couldn’t move to be closer to job opportunities.

These were certainly not my happiest days. I felt like my dream had died and my family was paying a big price for it.

I felt like a total failure.

But was my dream truly dead?

Thankfully, during my many months of frustrating work with the web development company, I did not just sit idle. In trying to learn why the project was failing, I took coding classes. I read tutorials on databases and I took on practice projects on my own. After my project failed epically, I realized I had learned enough to land a few contracting jobs as a web developer!

I also started networking and interviewing – a lot. I needed a foot in the door. While I had a college degree, it certainly was not in IT or web development, so having zero experience in this field was a bit of a hurdle. I just didn’t let that stop me. I swallowed my pride and kept at it.

During one memorable interview I recall saying “I don’t know” so many times that once I left the building I promptly broke into tears of embarrassment.

But something very, very interesting happened.

They offered me that job the very next day.

I still remember taking the call. For privacy, I was standing in the rain outside an office building when the offer came in. I literally felt like I was being blessed at that moment. Suddenly I had a full time position that paid me more than any job I held previously. Suddenly our fears of losing our home vanished. Suddenly I could breath.

Why was I offered this amazing opportunity?

They told me I was given the job because I was honest enough to tell them what I didn’t know, I was eager enough to tell them I would learn whatever it took to be successful and they had seen the hard work I had put in to get as far as I did.

I was simply amazed how it had all worked out! … Can my failures lead to success?

The funny part is, that isn’t even my happy ending.

Shortly thereafter, My self-confidence grew. I met an amazing mentor who encouraged me to get my MBA due to my strong desire to be a leader and entrepreneur. “Knowledge is power,” he always said. Never. Stop. Learning.

So I did that too. I went on and earned my Master’s Degree and within a short time, I obtained a high level IT leadership position. I have also had the great opportunity to run my own successful online retail business since 2012. (Who needs sleep, right?)

While it didn’t happen in the timeline I expected, my dream did not die with my failure. It came true because of it. I am living my happy ending because of the risks I took and the lessons I learned. I guess being a total professional failure has its benefits!

Want to hear another confession?

I am nothing special. I am not a “one in a million” success story. You are just as entitled to have your happy ending as well and can achieve it by following these simple steps:

How Failures Lead to Success:

  1. Push Your Boundaries. Follow that dream, even if it is scary! Do your homework to try and reduce as much risk as possible, but you will never grow if you don’t try new things.
  2. Embrace Your Failures. If it doesn’t turn out as planned, take an honest look at what you can learn from it. Don’t let it defeat you – use failure to your advantage.
  3. Put Yourself Out There. Build a network and share your skills. Never give in to rejection.
  4. Work Your Butt Off. Work harder than anyone you know. Learn from every interaction and remember: never stop learning.

Are you ready to let your failures lead to success?

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One Fatal Flaw in Your Ecommerce Marketing

Fatal Flaw in Your Ecommerce Marketing
Fatal Flaw in Your Ecommerce Marketing
Fatal Flaw in Your Ecommerce Marketing

You just launched your online store and are anxious to bring visitors to your store. Visitors = Sales, right? With so many options to drive traffic to your store and no real benefit for ad sellers to teach you the insider secrets of ecommerce marketing, it can be easy to market in a less-than-effective manner, which will cost you dearly!

I have worked in the Ecommerce industry for over 10 years, and have had the pleasure to work with some large marketing budgets and stellar IT departments. One of the biggest reasons I went into business for myself was because many of these companies do not implement this important traffic-driving concept. I was so surprised at how much advertising dollars they would just throw away!

So what is the most efficient ecommerce marketing approach you can take in driving traffic to your online store?

Drive traffic with the intent to generate leads, not direct sales.

Confused?

Look at this example:

Scenario 1:

Let’s say you agree to spend $0.60 per click on a keyword that directs customers to your bestselling product.

Your potential customer clicks the ad while they are researching your product. They land on your page and learn if they are interested or not. 9 times out of 10, they will not purchase on the first visit. Now they are gone and you are out $0.60. Hopefully they will be back!

Scenario 2:

You agree to spend $0.60 per click on a keyword that directs customers to a highly optimized landing page offering a free “something” such as a discount for signing up for your online catalog which sells the product(s) they are looking for. They sign up and continue to research the product they want.

They have not bought anything from you today, but you’ve collected something just as valuable (if not more) – their email address! You have just gained an ongoing connection with that future customer. This allows you to build your brand awareness and a relationship with your customers by sending them valuable content and promotions. When the time is right to buy, they will think of you … not just once, but over and over. Well worth the $0.60!

Now you may be thinking that the lead generation link in Scenario 2 will not convert 100% and you will lose some ad dollars there as well. That may be true, but your conversion rate on offering a free “something” in return for an email will be significantly higher than a direct purchase conversion rate.

To put it in perspective, my direct buy conversions ranked in the 3% rate. When I switched my method to my catalog signups, my Adwords conversion rate was as high as 39%. (That made my cost-per-click rate drop way down as well.)

Adwords Success Certificate
Adwords Success Certificate

In the course of an ad campaign the lead generating approach can significantly lower your ad expenses, create a growing list of potential customers and increase your brand awareness. This will improve your online business’s gross profit.

With an online store and ad retailers contacting you from all directions you can now feel more confident in your ecommerce marketing strategy if you know you are collecting leads for an ongoing relationship versus a one-and-done sale.

Have you had luck with the lead generation approach for your online store? Please let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading,

-Tracy

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