With the IT job market the strongest it’s been in years, you might want to use this growth as an opportunity to step into a leadership role. However, to do this, you need to show more than just a strong work history. In today’s digital world, employers need IT managers that not only possess the technical skills to adapt to evolving IT needs, but also employ the right leadership skills to effectively manage a team.
John Carey, a Director at ES Technology, a division of The Execu|Search Group, finds that candidates interviewing for managerial roles often face difficulty when emphasizing soft skills that would make them the right fit for the position. “It’s essential that aspiring IT managers highlight the methods they’ve developed throughout their career to manage teams and projects effectively,” says John. “If you can’t articulate them throughout the interview process, the hiring manager will not be able to visualize how you would fit in at the company as a manager.” To ensure you’re seen as the best fit for the job, consider emphasizing the following three soft skills throughout your interviews:
- Proven effective communication skills
Strong communication skills are often a prerequisite for many IT roles, however, IT managers should be able to articulate the ways in which they’ve practiced effective communication. As an IT manager, your role can be very hands-on with several different tech teams (i.e., help desk, server, development team, etc.), so it’s important to illustrate how you will be able to communicate effectively with a wide range of professionals. Hiring managers will be most interested in your ability to keep the IT infrastructure intact, while attending to your team’s individual needs appropriately.
For example, an interviewer might ask ‘when issues arise, what is your method for delegating responsibilities to your staff?’ This is a good opportunity to explain how critical communication was at a certain point in your career. “IT managers will often need to communicate with employees at all levels within an organization, and your ability to answer these types of questions will be indicative of how you would handle similar situations if hired,” notes John. In other words, being unable to give a direct answer that demonstrates how you’ve managed a particular team or project in the past, will make it harder for a hiring manger to see the value you could bring to the organization.
- Strong presentation skills
Over the past few years, there’s been a major shift in the way many companies utilize technology. “As emerging technologies have expanded companies’ reliance on technology to increase revenue, businesses are increasingly turning to their IT managers for advice on critical business decisions,” highlights John. As an IT manager, you may be tasked with presenting to a board of directors or business executives on what emerging technologies are impacting the business. “Possessing strong presentation skills go far beyond reciting PowerPoint slides to an audience,” says John. “You should be able to provide technical insight into why, for instance, implementing certain technologies would be financially beneficial to an organization.” The better you can show how your technical presentations persuade decision makers to follow your advice, the more likely a hiring manager will be to see the benefit you could bring to their organization.
- Prioritizing your time effectively
The information technology industry as a whole is highly unpredictable, and the responsibilities of an IT manager can vary greatly day to day. For example, a system server can go down or your company’s system can get hacked or compromised, and how you prioritize your time in handling these issues, while delegating responsibilities appropriately, is extremely important. “An IT manager should first understand the severity of the issue and how it will affect the business, but also be able to allocate the proper amount of time and staff to handle issues that take precedent,” says John. In such a fast-paced industry, demonstrating how you determine which projects are priorities over ones that can be solved over a period of time will speak to your time management and decision making skills.