How to seduce your (potential) computer forensics employer

by David Sullivan

We all over-complicate things and this is certainly true when seeking a new job. Essentially, to be successful at a Computer Forensics interview you just need to demonstrate two things:1. You have the technical skills needed to perform to a high standard;

2. You are a likeable person. This is described in numerous ways such as interpersonal skills, company fit etc, etc, but when it comes down to it I would argue strongly that essentially it comes down to whether the interviewer likes you. This is especially important in CF where you are likely to be working long hours, maybe in a hostile environment and often in stressful situations where personality clashes can cause real problems.

In this article we are going to focus on the second point – making sure we are as likeable as possible as, after all, if two people have very similar technical skills guess who gets the job? Think about it like this – when you have contacted a company or a recruiter, or when you have sat in an interview, how much have you thought about helping the potential employer to actually like you?

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This whole process starts way before you get to the interview room which I will demonstrate with the example of a CV I received a couple of months ago with the following cover note:

‘I have just finish my degree in BSc (Hons) Forensic Computing with Third Class Honours awarded and I am seeking employment. I heard of your agency when one of your reps who I think was called David Herron or David Sullivan came into our university 2 years ago to give a talk on your agency.’

Who is David Herron?!! I thought he was a line-backer at Kansas – I am David Sullivan. Agency?! We aren’t an agency, we are a Professional Search firm! Although my initial reaction was to laugh out loud that somebody had taken so little care in their cover note my next thought was that I was not going to make any effort at all to help this person. Maybe I just have issues about needing to be loved due to being ignored by my parents when I was five, but I bet that you too can remember a time when you bristled due to somebody having made no effort to know anything about you before they made contact.

On the other hand I do occasionally (very occasionally I should add) receive an email from a prospective jobseeker saying how much they have enjoyed my articles. OK, so having read my articles we both know that is unlikely to be strictly true but it doesn’t really matter – straight away I am keen to help this person purely as they have made me feel good about myself. Even if I can’t help them I am happy to spare the time to talk about the market and help them improve their CV – it is just human nature.

Love Letters

So, how do we apply our seduction techniques to our job search?

Well, when we email any recruiter or company we make the recipient feel wanted and important by ensuring we address our email to the correct, named contact within a company. We keep our cover note short and to the point but we make it clear in two/three concise paragraphs that we have done our research on the company and the person we are contacting – this really isn’t difficult to do with all the information available on social networking sites. We then make it easy for our person to contact us by leaving our telephone number on the cover note so they can just pick up the phone and call us without even looking at our excellent CV (how to write a winning a CV for both experienced CF people and new graduates are covered by my previous articles on Forensic Focus).

First Date

Great news – you have been invited to an interview!

For excellent guidance about technical preparation ahead of an interview look at this forum topic. In this article we are going to focus on the non-technical areas which can influence your success.

Have you ever been on a date where you really liked the person but there was one big issue that stopped you seeing them again? Well, it is the same with interviews. I am not going to state all the basics of general interview technique here as these are all covered in numerous other articles but the three most common I have come across in CF interviews are:

1. No personality

In my experience recruiting in this sector, the reason most CF people fail to be successful at interview is because their personality goes out of the window and they become a boring robot just answering technical questions in a tedious manner. Fight this and let your personality come through and make it easy for the interviewer to like you.

How can you do this? Well, you can smile, make lots of eye contact, sit up and focus on the interviewer – enthusiasm is what they want to see! Oh yes, and on a related point please try to keep your answers concise and to the point so that the interviewer doesn’t completely switch off and lose the will to live.

I appreciate that in a profession such as Computer Forensics where the interview often has a strong technical bias it is usually the case that if you don’t have the technical skills you are unlikely to be successful but even in this case if the interviewer likes you enough they may offer you the job just based on your attitude and potential (again, just another way of saying that they really like you).

2. Not researching the interviewer(s) or the organisation

How thoroughly did you research the interviewer before your last interview? Did you quiz people in your network and find other people who had been interviewed to gain insight into this person’s interview technique? We all like to feel important so if your interviewer knows you have done some research this will increase your chances of success.

I recall one very proactive CF graduate in 2009 who applied for a role where the large, corporate employer was asking for two years CF experience and yet he was offered the role – at a basic salary of £35k. This person had outstanding interpersonal skills, incredible enthusiasm and had thoroughly researched the interviewer via LinkedIn and published articles, discovering that they both supported the same football team and attended the same University. The interviewer was very chatty and at the interview they spent a fair amount of time talking about these two subjects. He was offered the role ahead of experienced candidates. However, you have to be careful about being too overly-friendly and take your cue from the interviewer. Be pleasant and warm but keep interview banter professional as after all this is not a new best friend but someone who is interviewing you for a position, i.e. if you are talking about Thai restaurants in London recommend your favourite as opposed to suggesting you treat your interviewer to dinner there later that evening….

As for the organisation, do proper research and know what is truly distinctive about each organisation you interview with. As a rule, if you can substitute the name of the organisation for another in the industry, then you have not done your research. For instance, communicating that you are interested in them because they are an “industry leader” is not good enough. I could substitute the names of any of the top players into that slot. If you say you’re interested in working there because of something that is only true of that organisation then it’s clear that you understand and have a good reason for wanting the role.

3. Too much self-promotion

This year we have successfully recruited a number of CF positions for a large financial organisation and the feedback from their extensive interview process was both fascinating and very common for CF interviews. Too many of the (unsuccessful) candidates came across as arrogant and self-promoting. Sure, at interview you need to be sell yourself but this should be with some humility, mild bewilderment and where possible giving credit to others, e.g.: ‘I am not quite sure how it happened but as head of my outstanding team I was then awarded the Nobel Prize!’

If instead you answer each question with: ‘I am THE technical guru in my company which is why I blew away the competition for the manager role when it arose. I then smashed all the targets making the other manager look a real turkey – yeah, it is fair to say I am the Daddy’ you will not need to finish as the interviewer will be sketching little voodoo dolls on their pad of paper and you will have impressed the interviewer as much as an average contestant on ‘The Apprentice’. No-one likes a smart arse!

So, in conclusion, when you are looking for a new role in CF don’t just focus on the technical aspects. Make it easy for employers to like you and increase your chances of securing that dream job!

Read David’s previous columns

David can be contacted as follows:

Tel: +44 (0)1376 339222/+44 (0)7789 633926 (evenings and weekends)

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