Technical IT Interviews 101: Interview Prep and Sample Questions

Alexandra Kenney | Thursday, July 23, 2020

Technical IT Interviews 101: Interview Prep and Sample Questions

Tips for Preparing for a Technical Interview

Following these tips while preparing for your technical interview can help hold you in good stead and increase your chances of landing the job.

Know Your Stuff

While this may sound obvious, it is imperative to review everything you know and familiarize yourself with the tools, responsibilities and requirements listed in the job description before your interview. You may be an expert in certain aspects of IT, but do you also know the most common IT issues businesses face? Having a more comprehensive understanding of common IT issues not only expands your knowledge of the industry beyond your specialization, but can also set you on the path to be a greater contributor.

Knowing your stuff also includes knowing some basic questions that may come across in an IT interview. Later in this article, we cover seven popular questions you may be asked during your interview, but the best way to gain insight is to connect with an existing employee in your desired department and seek advice from them.

Ace the Phone Interview

While different companies have different procedures for technical interviews, most of them will include a phone interview as the first stage. Phone interviews can be challenging since you are less able to pick up on body language and other social cues. You need to be both concise and detailed with your answers, and you also need to make sure the interviewer can hear the enthusiasm in your voice since they won't be able to see it in your body language.

One great perk to phone interviews is that you can have notes in front of you. You’ll still want to remain fully engaged in the conversation — and not sound like you’re reading from a script — but it can help to have a few notes or questions written down as reminders of what you want to focus on or highlight during the interview.

Test Your Knowledge

After the phone interview, typically the next step is to test your knowledge.

In these stages, you may be given a homework assignment to complete before you can advance to the next stage of the interview. If this is what happens, make sure you thoroughly read and understand the directions and proofread your work as many times as possible before submitting it. Alternatively, you may be asked to complete an assignment on the spot — either in person or through a videoconferencing application such as Skype or Zoom.

Usually, the goal of this live test or homework assignment is to assess your basic coding and technical skills. Once you pass this portion of the interview, you will then proceed to the actual "technical" part of the interview, which will most likely be conducted in person and require you to complete complex coding and technical questions on a whiteboard.

Know Who You'll Be Talking To

At each stage of your technical interview, you'll speak to different team members within the company.

With a startup or small company, you may speak to your future colleagues on the IT team, senior developers and possibly the CTO and CEO. With a larger company, you may first speak to a recruiter or other HR employee and then members of the IT team. Depending on the size of the company, it is unlikely that you will speak to the CTO or CEO, but you should be prepared to do so just in case.

Practicing "mock" interviews with a trusted friend, colleague or relative for all of these situations can help put you in the mindset to succeed in each stage of the interview process. A chat with a recruiter or HR staff member may feel more relaxed, but this interview is just as important as the next stages because this individual determines whether or not you move forward. Then, the IT team will be more focused on scrutinizing your skills, and the CTO and CEO will want to make sure you are an excellent fit for the company. 

When possible, research the individuals who may be interviewing you by looking them up on LinkedIn to gain an understanding of their experience, expertise and work history. 

Dress to Impress

The tech industry is known to be one of the most relaxed industries in terms of clothing. However, we still advise to dress in professional business attire — it’s better to be a little overdressed than a little under dressed. This shows that you take yourself seriously and are dedicated to the position you’re interviewing for. The only exception to professional business attire should be if the application or interview instructions explicitly instruct you to dress in a particular way. 

In addition to dressing to impress, bring a few copies of your printed resume to your interview. You should also bring a notepad and a few pens to write down any notes — if your interviewer permits it. You may be asked to solve problems on the spot, and they may expect you to do so on your own notepad.

Understand the Technical Challenge

When you get to this stage of the interview, ensure you follow the correct protocol for the technical challenge and ask clarifying questions before you start solving the problem.

As you work through your solution to the problem, make sure you explain out loud what you are doing and how you are coming to a conclusion. Explain clearly, precisely and concisely, and don't hesitate to use technical jargon, as the interviewer will likely be someone from the IT team. Take your time and don't rush — the interviewer wants to make sure you know your stuff.

If you make a mistake, don't hesitate to say that you need to start over. If you absolutely cannot answer a question, don't hesitate to state that you don't — but do let the interviewer know what you do understand and how much you've been able to figure out.

Once the technical portion is over, you will likely receive feedback. Be receptive and show an eagerness to learn more and improve your skills.

Popular Interview Questions IT Tech Professionals Get Asked

To help you make the next move in your IT career and ace the interview, we've put a list together of the most popular questions your interviewer is likely to ask. It’s crucial to answer these questions with a mix of tech-related examples and hypothetical situations to help paint a picture of how you'd fit within the organization.

Which Online Resources Do You Use to Help You With Your Work? 

Typically, IT professionals use sites such as GitHub or StackExchange when they're looking for help. Serious IT professionals often have their own list of online communities, websites, social media channels and other resources that are specific to the job. Provide some examples of the IT communities you engage in and collaborate with.

Can You Explain [A Relevant Technology] to Me in Simple Terms?

IT plays an important part in practically every company out there, which means you’ll need to be able to communicate with employees (and maybe even customers) who aren't as tech-savvy as you.

When an interviewer asks this question, they want to know how you might explain something to someone who doesn't understand the technological area, so you should be able to expand on the technology in a way that helps various audience levels understand. Try not to use obscure jargon and acronyms, and instead break down complex processes into bite-sized nuggets of information. When possible, use real-world examples or analogies to explain how something works. Be prepared for follow-up questions from interviewers, too.

How Do You Keep Your Tech Skills Up to Date? 

The tech world is constantly changing — perhaps more than any other industry. Because of this, you need to stay relevant and up to date with your skills and knowledge. Be prepared to talk about how frequently you learn, your latest training course, IT projects you’re working on and any forums or blog posts you've read lately. This is an excellent opportunity to show your enthusiasm for IT. 

Additional reading:

What Are Your Favorite and Least Favorite Tech Products, and Why?

This question lets you identify what type of technologies you like and are passionate about, but try to personalize your answer to align with the company you are interviewing for as much as possible. For example, don't go into an interview for a software company and say you don't like the software they produce. Rather, highlight any aspects of their products that you do like. And make sure to do your research — if you mention their products, they’ll likely have follow-up questions, so you’ll need to be prepared.

You could also identify some of their competitors within the market and talk about additional features and benefits that could be an opportunity for the company you're interviewing for.

Be genuine and let your technology expertise shine through when you answer this question.

What Strengths Do You Think Are Most Important in an IT Professional?

A question like this gives you an opportunity to show that you’re the right fit. What can you bring to the job? Whatever your answer is for this question, make sure that the strengths you list are also ones you possess or are at least confident in.

It’s good to describe a mix of strengths, including IT certifications and tech abilities, however, also make sure to highlight key soft skills, such as communication, attention to detail, problem-solving and other typical skills. Aim to give a balanced answer.

Additional reading:

How Do You Feel Future Technology Advances Will Affect Your Job? 

Most IT positions continue to change as technology advances. Try to answer this question by highlighting some of the major technology trends — such as DevOps, machine learning or big data, all of which will change the way we work in years to come. More specifically, a great example is automated testing, which is a big part of DevOps. Maybe highlight some challenges you’ve experienced in working with big data or machine learning, or focus on examples of automation tools you use and how they’ve enabled you to bring even more value to your organization.

Additional reading:

Why Do You Want to Work Here? 

Firstly, make sure you’ve done your research. You should be able to talk about the products and services of the company, know the values of the company and have an idea of what the company’s technology does within the industry.  

Be authentic in your answer and express how you can help the organization grow by utilizing your strengths, certifications and skills. Show them that you've done your research for the role and prove that you are truly the best fit for the position.

Time to Rock the Interview

By absorbing these tips and recommendations, you'll be well on your way to impressing interviewers and making the next big move in your career.

No matter what stage of your IT career or the interview process you’re in right now, another great way to impress interviewers and show your enthusiasm for and dedication to the IT industry is by continuing to learn new skills and keeping your certifications up to date. Explore the variety of IT certifications available to you and enroll in your next course today! 

Once you’ve landed the job, learn how to future-proof your IT career and stay relevant as the industry continues to grow and change.

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