Why Should I Hire You?

IT managers share their favorite interview questions and the thinking behind them.

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Tell me about a problem your company had and how you used technology to solve it. "You want to see how they use the knowledge, not just that they have the knowledge," says Robert Rosen, CIO at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases in Bethesda, Md. Rosen says he slightly alters that question for candidates applying for more customer-oriented IT positions, asking, "What business problem were you trying to solve, and how did you bring value to the customer using technology?"

What are your long-term goals? "I want people who have a vision and a goal," says Robert Moon, senior vice president and CIO at LeapFrog Enterprises Inc., a developer of technology-based learning products in Emeryville, Calif. Moon says he can also determine, based on the candidate's response, whether he can mentor or move the person through the organization to help him reach those goals.

Robert Rosen

Robert Rosen "My favorite answer is, I want your job,'" Moon says. What book is currently on your nightstand? "It gives me an idea about the type of person they are. Are they readers? Because that means they tend to be learners," says Brian L. Abeyta, second vice president in the project management office of the IT department at insurance provider Aflac Inc. in Columbus, Ga.

Robert Moon

Robert Moon Abeyta says he's not looking for specific reading material, but rather sincere answers. He says he suspects that people who tell him they're reading a project management methodology book are just trying to impress him. "I've had a few people say they don't have time to read, or they read magazines," Abeyta says, adding that he puts a premium on getting honest answers.

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How close are you to the technology, and how important is that to you? "I've found that most often, [the answer] I get is what's important to them as opposed to what they think I want to hear. It's a broad enough question that people start talking," says Joel D. Jacobs, acting CIO at The Mitre Corp., a not-for-profit company that provides research and development support to the government.

Brian L. Abeyta

Brian L. Abeyta Jacobs says he usually hires high-level IT workers, not hands-on developers. Yet various positions still require different levels of in-depth technical know-how. This question helps guarantee the right fit between the candidate and the position.

Joel D. Jacobs

Joel D. Jacobs Jacobs says one candidate initially responded with a "deer in the headlights" look and said he hadn't thought through a question like that. He then explained that he sometimes dug deep down into particular technologies to develop better understandings, although he didn't want to spend all his time working at that level.

Jacobs says the candidate's ability to so clearly articulate a response to the surprise question impressed him. Moreover, the candidate's response was consistent with the open position's work requirements, another bonus. Jacobs offered the candidate the job.

Pratt is a Computerworld contributing writer in Waltham, Mass. Contact her at marykpratt@verizon.net.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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