A few weeks ago, I had a local cable company’s technician at my house installing my cable. He mentioned that he wanted to switch to a computer technician job. He said that the only way to get a job like that is to know someone in that business.
I was intrigued because he should have been qualified. He was installing my cable and cable modem after all. I was wrong. I asked him a few more questions about what he had done to learn about networking and computers. He had not done anything.
That brings me to my point. Getting a job requires initiative. One shows this initiative before, during, and after the interview process. My cable installer showed no initiative before the interview and probably would not get the job. Simple interview questions would show he had not put the time and effort into learning what he needed.
What about during and after the interview? Taking initiative during an interview is more difficult. I have found it is more a matter of paying attention. If there is a technology that you do not know about or have not checked out, make a mental or written note of it.
There is often a disconnect between what the engineers doing the interview and what the job posting said. Along the way, things are added in or taken out that made the job description stray from what the job really is. This often prevents you from knowing or researching the technologies they are using or are interested in. I have been in interviews where the job posting was for a regular software engineer. What they really wanted was a software engineer who knew distributed systems and needed to know about specific Java concurrency packages.
After the interview, take the initiative to research those technologies. Once you have, E-mail back and say that you checked them out. I was hired another time because I did this. I did not know about the specific packages they wanted (java.nio and java.util.concurrent). I took the initiative to learn them and create a non-blocking client and server. I E-mailed back talking about how I read more about it and wrote a client/server.
Throughout my career, I have found that taking initiative is one of the most important ways of getting hired. It shows you know what you are talking about. It shows you can get work done. More importantly, I think it shows you can pick up a book and learn about a technology.