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What a Network Manager Wants to Hear You Say in an Interview

Bill Bouchard is a network manager and one of his responsibilities is screening potential applicants. Bill has taken the time to share what Will and Won't get you hired. Bill is not the only Network Manager that I have heard from with similar complaints about the expectations of new candidates freshly out of school. If you are going to graduate soon, or already have, you may want to read what Bill and other IT people are saying about you. 

Out of interviews and resumes that I have screened these are some characteristics of kids with NO work experience and fresh out of college.

1) They ask for a ridiculous amount of money. On resumes I've seen these kids ask for as much as $70K to start, the average they ask for I'd say is about $50K. These are kids with NO experience and they want that much, oh brother.

2) They love to stress their certifications above any other knowledge they may have. I am a Novell CNE. I've taken the tests, I know pretty much how worthless they are. When I ask "do you know anything about this" and they'll say "Well, I'm certified in this". Well, that's not what I asked, just answer the question.

3) They Lie. It's ok to not know everything. Whenever I ask an applicant do you know this, and they respond yes, I always follow up with a question about it. If they change their tune or try to fudge their way through, end of interview. I know these kids don't know much, I'm just trying to gauge what they do know.

4) They honestly think they are going to get Network admin spots right out of college. I hired one kid and explained it was for a help desk position. He quit after 3 days because I wouldn't let him near the servers. I explained to him, several times, that he would start out as a low level tech and with time and hard work, could make his way up to Network Operations. He didn't realize that you have to start somewhere. He called me up 6 months later begging for the job back, I denied him but he learned his lesson, nobody gets admin rights fresh out of college.

5) There's the get rich quick schools, like for instance Bob's computer school. They have these commercials on TV saying things like take our at home course and within 2 weeks you can have a degree in computers. People actually buy into this! Do they actually think, with the amount of competition out there that they stand a chance? (I'll get more into this later) Another reason I hate these things is because they make us look like morons. Oh look how smart computer guys are, I can learn everything they know in 2 weeks, and frankly that is not the case.

6) People actually have no idea what they are getting into. Teenagers today are growing up in the internet age. They think computer work is all about surfing the web and making little web pages and they get a smack in the face when they have to learn about Kernels and Btrieve. They think working with computers is all graphics and design and high-tech cutting- edge worlds. The fact is most of the work that we do is tedious and, well, petty.

So when you look at it people are going into It jobs because either
A) They were told to
B) They think it will be easy
C) They have no idea what they are in for

Scary, isn't it? Sorry, I got off on a tangent.

Back to what I was saying about college kids before. I believe I left off at number 5

7) You must have real credentials. Back to what I was saying about Bob's Computer School before, How can I really consider hiring someone who has no more education than a correspondence school? I'm sorry there are just too many college educated, experienced professionals out there right now to even take these people seriously. If these people want to take the easy way out at least go to a DeVry or a New England Tech where you learn with hands on experience. Also having your own computer and knowing how to use it does not make you qualified, not even as a help desk person. Do you have any idea how many people list I fix my families computer or I fix a friends computer as experience? A completely different ballpark.

8) Don't assume that knowing the latest and greatest software packages is always going to get you somewhere. Don't get me wrong, it's a great idea to learn the newest stuff but the bottom line is this, there are still a lot of companies that use let's say NT 3.51 servers and are running Win95 on the workstations. A lot of them. Of course it's great to learn the new stuff but don't disregard something strictly on the basis that it is a version behind the newest.

9) Experience means more than anything. If it means taking a $7 an hour job doing help desk work at a mom and pop establishment take it. Stay for a year and after that send your resume out again, you'll notice a lot more hits than before. That one year of experience means a lot.

10) Don't wait for us to come to you. Companies and Agencies do not know you are out there. I have talked to many recent college grads and I get the same response from almost all of them when I ask them how the job search is going. They always say something to the effect of "Yeah I put my resume on hotjobs.com and monster". Well there's a start, have you contacted any headhunters or recruiters? No. Well have you been searching the want ads and trades? No. Have you tried to network, maybe meet some people in the business? No. People, if that's the amount of effort you are going to put into your job search, what makes you think you deserve a job? How much effort will you put into keeping a job if you don't put any effort into finding one? Get out there and be aggressive. There's nothing I love more than when someone sends me a resume and they call a few days later and asked if I have received it and what I thought about it. Even if I wasn't going to interview them before, now I'm going to, because they just proved to me they want the job and they'll put in a little extra to get it.

11) Don't be afraid to learn new things. If you really wanna be an IT professional get used to the fact that you are always going to have to learn new things. I'll give a good example. At my previous jobs and experiences an MS Exchange server was always used for email, when I started the job I am at now, GroupWise is used. It took me a little while but I figured it out. Now I'm qualified for both. New things are always going to come up, you're just going to have to learn, if not, you are not long for the profession.

12) Don't take an interview for granted. Dress nice and speak appropriately. Try not to use slang and you are interviewing for a IT job so use the proper terminology. I once interviewed someone who referred to TCP/IP as "that internet protocol thingy", a complete turnoff as if I need to tell you. Always thank the interviewer for their time and the opportunity to interview. Attitude goes just as far as experience and education. I can't tell you how many times I made a close decision because one person may have been a bit more qualified but went with someone else because they had a better attitude. I emphasize the word bit, all the attitude in the world won't help you if you are not qualified.

13) Never debate philosophy with the person hiring you. Doug, I can't even count the times I interviewed someone and they tried to tell me a better way of doing things or that I should really use this program/manufacturer/OS/etc because it is better. I've been doing this for seven years now and I research everything to the hilt before a decision is made. Also financial, time, environment and platform restrictions also come into play, so never ever debate philosophy. There are better ways to use your knowledge in an interview.

If you would like to contact Bill, email him at BillBouchard@thenetworkadministrator.com






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