Companies of all sizes run their businesses on information technology, but not all are equally equipped to deal with the subject. Large companies have abundant resources, but many small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) don’t have the experience or background to understand what type of technical people they need to hire.
If an SMB might be a good match for your career goals, then give yourself an edge. Think about what a potential employer doesn’t know about hiring the right IT staff and then act like a temporary consultant who can help them make smarter employee choices.
That doesn’t mean that you mention your plans to them. Instead, you talk to them, understand their business, and use what you know about IT to help them determine exactly what they need. For example, would a given company be better off sacrificing some degree of networking knowledge to get greater expertise in security, or exactly the opposite?
In the process of talking to a prospective employer, ask questions that will help you understand its business objectives. A company’s strategic goals will have implications for what it needs from IT, and that will determine the most appropriate personnel. For example, someone with an information systems degree might be necessary if advanced computer networking will be the biggest responsibility of the new employee. If, instead, the company needs heavy Web programming to design an online ordering system, a computer science degree might be more appropriate.
Companies should use open-ended questions to determine how well someone’s experience matches their needs. Even if they don’t, you can. Ask about topics like some common problems the company faces and what it aims to gain from technology. Then you can offer your observations and suggestions, not only demonstrating interest in their issues, but your ability to solve their problems.
Most importantly, be a fair consultant. Research each potential employer. Use conversations to better uncover its strengths, weaknesses and challenges. Don’t superimpose what you want upon the discussion. Focus on what type of person might best suit the company, not whether the description matches your resume.
By the time you are done, you know far more about a potential employer than most prospective employees ever will. The developing picture helps you form an honest evaluation of whether you and the organization are a good match. If you aren’t, then politely let them know and suggest the type of background and experience that might give them what they need. If you are, then you have just demonstrated a rare degree of business knowledge and shown yourself to be a superior candidate.