While you can’t predict every question that you’ll be asked in your interview, if you’re well prepared you can have a very good idea of what to expect. This helps you remain composed and confident, which goes a long way to making a strong impression.
What is the standard structure of an IT interview?
One area you will always be asked about is your background, education, and experience. The most important point here is to make sure you’re really familiar and up to date with the information you’ve included in your CV. Make sure you know your CV inside and out so that all the details included in it are easy to recall and you’re comfortable talking about previous roles and experience.
General background – you’ll be asked about your general professional and personal background to help gauge your suitability for the role.
Qualifications, certifications and skills – you’ll likely be asked about your education as well as the skills you may have acquired outside of formal education as many people in IT develop coding and other technical skills via informal training.
Experience – the interviewer will be interested in your past roles and experience. The more recent the role, the more you should be prepared to talk about it and the challenges and successes during that time.
Reasons for applying and career objectives – try and be as upfront and honest here as possible rather than just telling them what you think they’d want to hear. Tell them exactly what it is about the role or the company that interests you. Try to think about the near term and longer term goals that you’re working towards and how you’d like your career path to play out.
The technical interview
While a technical interview (also known as technical testing) isn’t part of every IT interview, it is increasingly being seen as a highly valuable part of the interview process. Especially in IT roles, it can be an important way of separating two candidates with a similar level of experience and similar computer science degrees.
It’s also an opportunity for companies to identify a really talented individual who may not necessarily have the strongest looking education or skill set on paper but has very strong technical skills, many of which they may have developed informally. Sometimes it is used with all shortlisted candidates as a key factor in deciding who to invite to interview.
The technical interview is usually undertaken as a separate part of the standard recruitment process. It may occur as part of the initial interview or as a separate interview shortly after the initial interview. It is commonly conducted by a different person than the short form interview. So if you’re interviewing for a software developer role, the technical interview would commonly be led by a senior software engineer or maybe the CTO.
Technical testing normally involves asking the candidate to work through a series of problems or puzzles similar to the types of challenges they may face in their role. Often, the aim of the technical interview is not so much just about arriving at an answer as quickly as possible. Instead, it is more likely focused on watching on as the candidate explains how they would approach a coding or other problem and observing them working through it in real time to demonstrate their knowledge and approach to technical challenges.
Technical interviews are a far more relevant and accurate way of testing real world skills and assessing how up to date candidates are on the latest technical knowledge, which in IT can change rapidly. if you’re a developer or software engineer, whether you’re interested in a junior or senior role, you should expect that some form of technical testing will likely form a part of the recruitment process.
What type of questions should I expect?
You can never know for sure what you will be asked, and interviewers usually like to put in one or two really unique questions too, but in general there are many standard types of questions you can expect. The following gives a breakdown of some really common questions that you should be prepared to answer on the day:
- Tell me a little bit about yourself?
- What do you like to do in your spare time?
- Why are you leaving your current job?
- Why do you want this role?
What behavioural questions can I expect?
- Describe a time when you disagreed with a team member. How did you resolve the problem?
- Tell me about a time when you failed and how you responded to it.
- Give me an example of when you had to assume a leadership role for a team.
- What is the most difficult/challenging situation you’ve ever had to help resolve in the workplace?
- Tell me about a time when you disagreed with a supervisor.
- How do you approach difficult problems? Do you have a process you follow?
What situational questions can I expect?
- Tell me about a time you had to choose something else over doing a good job.
- Describe a situation where you weren’t satisfied with your role. What could have made it better?
- Tell me about a time your workload was really high. How did you work through it?
- Can you outline a long-term project you were involved in? How did you manage your time during the project to meet your deadlines?
What skills-based questions can I expect for my particular IT role?
- What are the main error types in PHP and how do they differ?
- How can you enable error reporting in PHP?
- How can you find the number of elements in an array?
- Explain the differences between Java 7 and 8.
- What type of collections do you know about?
- What methods does the object class have?
- Why Is the string object immutable in Java?
- How do you ensure that your website design or web application is accessible and user-friendly?
- What are your favourite features of HTML5, and how have you implemented them in your front-end development projects?
- Can you explain the concept of a CSS float and provide an example of its usage?
- Can you describe the software lifecycle at your previous position? What did you like most and what would you have liked to change?
- What is your favourite programming language and why?
- Describe your understanding and experience with object-oriented programming (OOP)?
- What is the largest web application you have worked on and what coding were you responsible for?
- What are the success factors for Continuous Integration?
- What are some ways that you can optimise a website to be as efficient and scalable as possible?
- What key things do you need to consider when coding with SEO in mind?
- How would you prevent a bot from scraping your publicly accessible API?
What type of questions can I expect at a technical interview?
In terms of being prepared for technical testing, you should expect a whiteboard test as these are very commonly used. A great tip is to practise writing code on a whiteboard at home so that it feels natural to you. There are also many great online resources for practising coding challenges to hone your skills. HackerRank and CodeSignal are two examples of great, free resources.
What questions should I ask in my IT interview?
It’s also a great idea to prepare a few questions to ask of your own. It demonstrates interest and helps you find out more about the role or company culture to see if its the right fit for you. As a general guide, you should try and ask each person interviewing you at least one question. So if you know it will be a panel interview with three people, have at least three questions planned.
There are numerous questions you can ask but some good ones could include:
- Could you give me an example of one of the first projects I will be working on?
- What are the day-to-day responsibilities of the role?
- Could you describe what the core values of the company are?
- What scope for career progression is there in the role?
You will likely also come up with more questions as the interview progresses so feel free to note anything down quickly in a notebook and you can revisit them towards the end of the interview if you don’t get an opportunity during the interview to ask them.
How to practice active listening in an interview?
Active listening is an important communication skill in general but is particularly important during an interview. It demonstrates that you are engaged, helps you retain information better, and is also just more polite and will be noticed and appreciated.
Some of the points you should remember to demonstrate that you are a good active listener are:
- Be responsive and don’t be afraid to ask questions where appropriate.
- Don’t be afraid to clarify points.
- Relate your answers to specific questions rather than using blanket answers directly from your resume.
- Remember that communication doesn’t begin and end with the ears and mouth. You should also use body language and expression to show that you’re actively listening while not speaking.