It's a great time to be an IT professional. As companies now rely on more technology every day, the demand for technical skills has never been higher.
According to research conducted by CompTIA, 198,200 new jobs were added to the technology market in the United States last year, with IT services providing the most new jobs of any other sector. It was also revealed that the IT services segment held the top spot for highest payroll in 2015, accumulating a total of over $232 billion.
Considering that the acceleration of the tech job openings isn't expected to slow down anytime soon, right now would be a good time to further your career. But, as you've probably already learned, finding open IT positions available isn't the hard part. The real problem is with actually getting the job. You may have a stellar resume, but when it comes to the interview and hiring process, it isn't just about technical qualifications; it's also about leadership skills.
What makes a great IT leader?
It is important that job-seeking IT pros understand leadership qualities are not just relevant for those seeking manager-level positions. In an article for Entrepreneur, Matt Mayberry gives a thoughtful explanation of what being a leader actually entails.
"True leadership is much more than authority and recognition from the outside world," he wrote. "Instead, leadership is all about developing people and helping others reach their full potential. It's about equipping others with the right tools and strategies to not only maximize the success of an organization but also the lives of individuals. It's about breaking down barriers and leading others through the uncertainty of the future."
And, in the technology industry, there are many uncertainties. IT pros need to use more than their college diploma to stand out as a top applicant, especially in this evolving field where technological innovations are constantly being developed and explored.
Not only are businesses ruthlessly competing for top IT talent, but they are also beginning to let them take the reins on directing the company. As Accenture Technology Strategy Managing Director Andrew Marks told ZDNet, "Being recognized as the person that is going to drive innovation and help the company be more successful than it is today is a great way to show the important role you play."
Tips for demonstrating leadership skills
IT leaders must be capable of handling a wide range of roles and responsibilities, deliver measurable results and make quick decisions under pressure. They must also be able to understand the scope of a problem and solve it in the way that is best for all aspects of the organization.
- Confidence (and courage) is key: Everything from the amount of eye contact you make to how confident you sound answering questions can influence the interviewer's perception of you. Ditch any insecurity you have about what IT skills you lack. Before the interview, determine what gap the company is trying to fill with the open position, and during it, spell out the specific experience and knowledge you have that can fill it.
- Emphasize your desire to learn and grow: You know the IT field is constantly changing, and many companies are looking for experts that can stay up to date on the latest best practices and skills. Make sure you read up on emerging market trends and topics so you can clearly demonstrate that you know what you are talking about.
- Take initiative: Don't spend too much time showering the hiring manager with compliments about their business. Sure, it might help to praise something you noticed about the way the organization runs or a particular system it uses, but a true IT leader isn't afraid to challenge the norm and question how things might be done another way. There's a difference between being interested and being insulting, though. Show that you are curious about a particular IT problem the company has experienced and suggest possible solutions.
- Demonstrate that the work is more about passion than a paycheck: Not all the responses you give necessarily have to be about previous jobs. Talk about what projects you have started on the side or just for fun. Even if it is not a grand accomplishment, finding a way to tie in that your IT-related experience expands beyond professional obligations indicates a genuine interest. Business managers understand that people who are the most committed and successful in their roles are often the ones who care about the work on a personal level.
Remember that interviewers are often reading between the lines. You don't have to have a long list of examples of technology-related projects you've completed for top companies (though that certainly wouldn't hurt your chances). The important thing is that you are able to identify the qualities of a leader and clearly articulate how you possess them.