What it takes to get ahead
What hiring managers are looking for is beyond technical know-how. It's many things, actually, and even though no one will fully meet all of the requirements I list below, that doesn't stop CIOs from seeking them.
1. A business perspective
Interviewers want to know whether you are oriented toward the business or toward "cool" technologies. They will lean toward the candidate who has both an interest in and an understanding of how the business acquires its customers and keeps them. An awareness of critical success factors and what role IT plays, as well as a disposition to continuously avoid cost, improve service and increase revenue are also important business perspectives. Without that, your interest in cool technology is out of step with the business's needs.
Strategic orientation--For some positions, interviewers will want to know whether you can look beyond business value (as important as that is) to such matters as positioning the enterprise for industry leadership, achieving operational excellence and improving business intelligence and customer intimacy, and whether you have the disposition to initiate exploratory strategic discussions around emerging technologies.
An awareness of technological trends--More than technical competence, what is being sought here is someone who knows enough about current technologies to estimate their life cycles, who can identify which emerging technologies should be watched and explain why, and who can outline some of the likely next new things in business terms.
2. Success in challenging situations
Can you describe difficult events from your past career with objectivity? Interviewers aren't necessarily interested in hearing about an unending string of successes; be open about failures, while emphasizing the lessons learned. Also of interest will be how you went about recognizing any special contributions from team members who helped you through a tough time.
Superb communication skills--This one is likely to be sought no matter what position is at stake. Communication of all forms (written, spoken, in presentation) will be evaluated, so you need to be able to demonstrate these skills on your CV, in your cover letter and, of course, during the interview itself. The reason this skill is given so much weight is that IT must be a proactive partner--not a reactive bystander--to the business. Here's a clue for you: The effective IT communicator does not use IT jargon: speak the language of the business.
Proven leadership capability--This is characterized by vision, exemplary standards of behavior, the ability to inspire others, experience in introducing change, a track record of being entrusted with complex tasks of wide scope, the facility of being at ease handling broad responsibility areas, the knack for achieving stellar team performance and a willingness to share credit, among other things. Are you someone to trust with significant enterprise resources?
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