The ITAM Review

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ITAM Interview Techniques

ITAM Interview TechniquesThis article has been contributed by Kylie Fowler. Regular columnist and Analyst at The ITAM Review.

This article follows on from Kylie’s previous article ‘Writing a Great ITAM CV‘.

Unlike a CV, which has one aim – to get an interview, an interview can have many aims and interview technique is about understanding the needs of the interviewer and ensuring they get what they want so they can employ you.

The idea that an interview can have many aims might feel counter-intuitive – surely the interview is to select the right person for the job? – but in fact many organisations may ask you to go through several rounds of interviews with people who have different stakeholders in the role. Preparation for the interview is vital to ensure you understand who will be interviewing you and what they need to understand about you before they can offer you the job.

There are many sources of interview advice available on the internet, just as there is for CVs. The Impact Factory website is full of advice, while Max Eggert’s “Perfect Interview” is as helpful as his “Perfect CV” which I recommended in my previous article.

Rather than providing general advice, this article will focus on what is unique about interviews for ITAM positions, in particular interviews for positions that are newly created and being filled for the first time.

The ITAM job market is full of new positions

ITAM is relatively unusual because it is very common to attend an interview for a position that has just been created. The increase in vendor audits being experienced at this point of the economic lifecycle means many companies are being audited for the first time. They may have been hit with a fine, or identified a hefty license shortfall and have suddenly realized they need to bring someone on board who can manage future audits and identify and mitigate other compliance risks. Your interviewers are unlikely to have a clear idea of the detail of the role and the unique challenges that face an ITAM practitioner, for instance managing people and processes without direct line management authority. They will also interpret the ITAM role through the lens of their existing teams and processes and will interview you with their professional prejudices about ITAM firmly in place.

Understand the purpose of the interview and the point of view of the interviewer

No matter who is interviewing you, it is absolutely vital that you find out who is interviewing you and what their role is before you go into the interview.

If the interviewer is from HR, they will be more interested in your soft skills such as team work and what motivates you to do a good job. They will be less interested in the detailed skills and experience required to do the role.

If the interviewer is from IT, find out what their position is and how it relates to the job in question. For instance, if the interview is with your potential line manager who is also the Service Desk manager, they will be concerned about whether you will fit into the team without rocking the boat and your ability to reduce the administrative burden on the Service Desk while helping improve service levels.

If the interviewer is more senior, they will have a broader point of view and are more likely to appreciate the fact that ITAM supports all areas of IT, not just operations. Focus on concrete achievements (eg savings of £xxx over the last year through the implementation of a software harvesting program) and also your reporting skills and the useful management information that you will be able to provide them.

Solve the problem

Most companies decide to engage an ITAM practitioner because they have a problem. This problem may be a major software compliance risk, or it perhaps because they have been losing equipment – but no matter what it is, if you cannot solve the problem, you will not get the job.

The ‘problem effect’ can lead to some very strange conversations during an interview. For instance, I was once interviewed for an IT Asset Manager position by the director of IT of a large government agency. We went from discussing my understanding of SAM issues surrounding the pending break-up of the agency to a discussion of the detailed methods for locating lost laptops, which I haven’t done for years! As an IT Asset Manager my focus is on making sure the people, processes and tools are in place to make sure laptops don’t go missing in the first place!

But that wasn’t what this manager needed to hear. She had been hauled up in front of her own managers because of the number of laptops they had lost, and she wanted to be confident that I could find them for her.

I was caught out by the sudden change of pace, failed to convince her I would find the laptops, and I lost the job.

Try and identify the ITAM ‘problem’ that needs to be solved as soon as possible during the interview. Address it, reassure them that you can solve the problem, and then move on to your concrete achievements in other areas.

Interview the agent

Because ITAM roles are so niche it is very common that employers attempt to widen their net by sending the job descriptions to a wider selection of employment agents than normal.

And because ITAM practitioners are rare birds, most of those agents will jump on the internet, pick up your CV and contact you to see if you are interested.

It is therefore very common to be contacted by multiple agencies for one job.

This puts you in a position where you can pick and choose the best agent. Don’t just agree to be represented by the first agent that contacts you; interview the agent to make sure they are best placed to help you get the job.

What makes a good agent? First and foremost, a long term relationship with the employer. They should question you closely to make sure you are a good fit for the corporate culture, meet all the pre-requisites for the role, and have that ‘je ne se quoi’ that will make you stand out from the crowd.

A good agent will be not only be willing to modify your CV so it has the corporate look and feel, but when you get to interview stage they will coach you to ensure that, as much as possible, you look like you ‘belong’ in the organisation.

A good agent will also help you negotiate your salary – even if you are a contractor.

Know your worth

The niche nature of ITAM and the tight ITAM job market means that you are in a strong position to negotiate your salary. Never forget that salary negotiations are not about the job, the type of work involved or the skills required, but about your value to the organisation.

Because ITAM is niche, there is little information available about salaries in the industry – which means the organisation has no easy way of finding out your market value.  However, it is obvious to them that your value is high because they are desperate for you to solve their ITAM problem!

You also have unique skills and experience that is rare in the job market – this not only increases your value but increases the costs of finding a replacement should they lose you. These three factors mean you are in a strong position when you negotiate your remuneration package, whether you are a contractor or looking for a permanent role.

Preparing for interviews is vital – it’s important to understand the point of view of the interviewer so you can give them the information they need in order to give you the job. However because ITAM is so niche and ITAM roles are seen as a response to a problem, an ITAM interview has the potential to throw some ‘curve balls’ at you which can push you off your stride. On the other hand, the niche nature of ITAM and the general shortage of specialist practitioners means you are in a much stronger position than most job seekers to maximize your perceived value to the company and negotiate an excellent salary.

Good luck in your job hunting!

This article has been contributed by Kylie Fowler. Regular columnist and Analyst at The ITAM Review.

About Martin Thompson

Martin is owner and founder of The ITAM Review, an online resource for worldwide ITAM professionals. The ITAM Review is best known for its weekly newsletter of all the latest industry updates, LISA training platform, Excellence Awards and conferences in UK, USA and Australia.

Martin is also the founder of ITAM Forum, a not-for-profit trade body for the ITAM industry created to raise the profile of the profession and bring an organisational certification to market. On a voluntary basis Martin is a contributor to ISO WG21 which develops the ITAM International Standard ISO/IEC 19770.

He is also the author of the book "Practical ITAM - The essential guide for IT Asset Managers", a book that describes how to get started and make a difference in the field of IT Asset Management. In addition, Martin developed the PITAM training course and certification.

Prior to founding the ITAM Review in 2008 Martin worked for Centennial Software (Ivanti), Silicon Graphics, CA Technologies and Computer 2000 (Tech Data).

When not working, Martin likes to Ski, Hike, Motorbike and spend time with his young family.

Connect with Martin on LinkedIn.

One Comment

  1. One further thought which I have found useful, research your interviewer

    (s) on Linked IN. Who do they know that know you, ie, second generation connection (its becoming a small world). Then find out about

    them through your contact. Also see if they advertise their personal interests or a role in a former organisation where you know

    someone. It will give you something to discuss between reception and the interview room, rather than the weather or the difficulty of

    parking. They are more likely to have a good opinion of you before the interview starts and remember you over others once it finishes.

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