How to prepare for your interview
You probably have a pretty good idea of what to expect in a job interview. But the unknown combined with the pressure of interviews might leave you nervous or doubting whether you can make a good enough impression to land the role. But with the right preparation, you can take most of the stress out of the interview process and go in confident you’ll be showing them the absolute best version of yourself. The Ultimate Digital & IT Interview Guide will help you focus on what’s most important in your interview prep so the next role you want is the role you get.
Back to interview basics
There’s a few key preparation pointers that should never be overlooked. Because when it comes to interviews, you’re expected to look and act the part:
Over the years, workplaces have become less formal, especially in the tech sector. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still make a good impression by looking the part.
Use your own judgement here, and match your dress style to that of the company because it’s unlikely you’d wear the same thing to a small startup as you would to a large multinational or finance company. If you’re unsure of exactly what to wear, always err on the formal side or opt for neutral corporate attire. And make sure it’s neat, clean and ironed. And finally, get a haircut if you need it!
Do your research
Don’t underestimate how effective demonstrating a thorough knowledge of the role, company, and market the company serves can be in an interview. The more you know the better – and the interviewer will pick up on it.Try and develop a good understanding of the company and the people who work there. Thanks to the volume of information freely available on the internet this is a far easier process than in the past. What are the company’s main products or services? Who are their major clients? What is the company’s current focus and likely future direction? The company website, media reports, and LinkedIn are all great resources for this type of research. Take notes during your research, which helps you remember the information better and can also be used to quickly refer to during the interview if needed.
Practice replying to interview questions
You can’t always know exactly what you’ll be asked but you can usually predict the most likely questions that will come your way. Be prepared to answer questions about your experience, strengths, career goals, and interests. Make sure you know your resume inside out so if you put it together a while ago, give yourself a refresher so the details you’ve included are at the front of your mind for the interview. Be prepared to talk in detail about any aspect or detail of your resume.Check if there will be a technical component to the interview. These are increasingly common in IT roles where they want to be able to observe your approach to real-world tech problems you’re likely to need in your role. This is often led by someone different to the interviewer such as a software engineer. So if you’ll be required to do a technical interview, don’t forget to also find out their details and check out their LinkedIn profile so you understand their role and where they fit into the organisation.
Know the location
Make sure you have the right address details and any other directions you might need. It also helps to actually be familiar with the company and location. This doesn’t mean you have to go undercover and stake out the company beforehand. But if you’ve never been to that part of the city before or used the public transport option you’ll be taking to get there, then it’s a good idea to visit the location once before the interview so you’re familiar with everything and have a good idea exactly how long it will take to get there. There’s no worse feeling than misjudging the travel time and arriving late or stressed as you’ve had to rush at the last moment to get there on time.
Think about how you want to be received
Technical skills and experience are great but at the end of the day, people are looking for candidates they can work well with so make an extra effort to be friendly and personable. It’s important to try and build rapport and make a connection with everyone you speak with. This is easier in person but also important in a phone or video interview. You want to leave the interviewer or panel with the impression you’re someone they’d like to be working with and will fit well into the company culture.
How to prepare for an IT phone interview
Having your interview over the phone takes some of the stress out of the process as you don’t need to worry about hat you’re wearing or finding a new location on time. However there are still some factors you should prepare for:
Change out of your pyjamas
Although the interviewer won’t see you, it’s important to dress the part, or at least change out of your pyjamas before your interview. This will get you in the right frame of mind for your interview.
Have a quiet location decided on before time
Whether it’s a quiet booth in the library or your home office. You should also make sure you’re prepared for the call 5-10 minutes before the scheduled time. Put your phone away and use the extra time to clear your head.
Phone interviews remove the element of body language – one of the main elements of communication. This means you are relying on your voice to convey your personality and enthusiasm. People can hear your smile, which makes them smile and think positive thoughts about you on the other end of the line.
Make sure you’ve done your research
As you won’t have the opportunity to impress in person, this makes research even more important. Have the research of the interviewer and company sorted as well as covering your own resume and past experiences. Take some time to self reflect so you can build a compelling description or story of your experiences and aspirations – the skills you’ve developed, your professional achievements, and future goals. What is it about yourself that will best help you stand out from the other candidates the interviewer calls?
Have notes on hand
phone interview gives you the added benefit of being able to continually refer to pre-prepared notes during the interview. So have some key points prepared as responses to the most likely questions as well as having a few questions prepared of your own as you will often be asked at the conclusion of the interview if you have anything you’d like to ask the interviewer.
Have your resume ready
Have your resume, cover letter, and the job description handy, whether in paper form on your desk or on your computer. But don’t risk taking notes or Googleing answers – this will cause you yo seem distracted and make you loose track of the conversation. It’s important to stay present.
How to prepare for an IT video interview
Video interviews are an increasingly popular choice for tech interviews. This is especially the case for companies searching nationally and internationally for tech talent that is in high demand with only limited supply.
Many of the same principles apply as in an IT phone interview, but there’s a few key points you shouldn’t ignore:
Get the tech setup right
The tech required for a phone interview is straightforward but with a video interview you have a few more options and things to double check to make sure everything goes smoothly. Choose the device you will be most comfortable with, ideally a PC or tablet with a good, stable WiFi connection. Make sure your microphone is working properly and you can be clearly heard as well as seen. You should setup your equipment and do a test run by video calling a friend to make sure everything is working well ahead of time.
Choose a suitable location
Not only does your interview location need to be quiet, it also needs to be well lit. In indoor areas, you need either good natural light or bright lights to allow the webcam to show you clearly. If possible, set up next to a window in a quiet room somewhere. You don’t want the window to be behind you as your face will appear dark against the background so having the window in front or beside you is much more preferable.
Look the part
Don’t forget to dress well as your appearance on a small screen is still important. Clear the background behind you and anything else within view so you are the focus of attention and the interviewer won’t be distracted by surrounding clutter.
Frame yourself on the video
Spend some time working out the right angle and frame. Ideally, try to angle yourself so you’re looking directly at the camera, and frame from the shoulders up.
Ensure you’re engaging in eye-contact
It can be very easy to get distracted on a video interview, either looking around the room or looking the video showing yourself. Make a point of making eye-contact with your interviewer by looking at their video on your screen or the camera.
How to prepare for a panel interview
Your preparation for a panel interview will be slightly different to a traditional interview as there are some additional areas it pays to focus on:
Research every panel member
As there will be multiple people on the panel, you should spend time researching each of them individually. Find out exactly how many people will be on the panel, their names, and job titles. Are they in technical roles or non-technical areas such as HR? Does anyone on the panel have the job title you’re interviewing for? You can find out this type of information from the person who scheduled the interview for you as well as from LinkedIn research.
Bring a resume for every person in the room
Bring enough copies of your most up to date resume so you can give one to every interviewer. This applies whether its a single person or a multi-person panel
Be sure to divide your attention evenly
And at the end of the interview, don’t forget to thank each person individually and by name and shake each person by the hand.
Prepare extra questions
You should prepare a series of questions so that ideally you can ask every panel member at least one question. Also have prepared answers for the most likely questions they may ask you but try and avoid any robot-like answers so you don’t come across as just reading from a written script.
Find out who to follow-up
By asking what the next steps are and who will be in touch, you glean the information about who you should follow-up after your interview.
What to expect on the day of your IT interview
The initial impression you make on a potential employer is an important one. It will be formed based on how you act and how personable you come across, as well as how you look and dress. So don’t overlook that you should dress to impress.
What to wear to an IT interview
Even though workplaces have become more casual over the years, you should look to wear business attire no matter what role you’re interviewing for. While generally aiming to dress for the job you want, you also want to dress slightly more formally or professionally than a person in that role might wear day to day. You’re trying to stand out so you want to look good.
Think professional, business attire and avoid anything too casual. For men, this could be a suit jacket and pants with a shirt and optional tie. For women, this might be a blouse and dress pants or a business suit.
What not to wear to an IT interview
Whatever you do, don’t dress down. It is much better to be overdressed rather than underdressed. Avoid t-shirts, shorts, hats, and sneakers. Its ok to show a bit of character but avoid overdoing it by wearing anything that is so bright or flashy that it just becomes distracting to the interviewer.
Who will interview me at my IT interview?
This can vary depending on the role, with the most likely personnel being a hiring manager, human resources staff, head of IT, or the CIO. If you’re asked to do a technical interview as well as the standard interview, this might be led by a senior software developer or engineer.
It’s a good idea to find out exactly who will be interviewing you before you arrive. You can ask the person who scheduled the interview for the names, titles, and roles of the person or persons who will be in the interview. You can then do a little research on each person so you are clear on their role. This also gives you a better idea of the questions they’re likely to ask you, as someone from HR will ask you a different set of questions than the head of IT or a software engineer for example.
How many people will interview me?
This largely depends on the type of role that you’re applying for. If you’re applying for an entry level position, it’s most likely that you will be interviewed by one person. If you’re applying for a middle management position, it’s more likely that you will also have a second person in the interview. If you’re applying for a more senior role, then it’s likely that you will have a panel of interviewers.
Download our IT Interview Guide here for an easy to follow guide for your next IT interview or view our current vacancies here
What to expect during an IT Interview
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.
In this section, we look at how IT interviews are normally structured, the types of questions you should be prepared to answer, as well as some other general tips that will help you impress on the day.
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 favorite 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.
After the Interview
Now that your interview is over you can breathe a sigh of relief. But don’t completely switch off just yet. While the interview itself is the most important part of the recruitment process, there’s still a few small steps you can take to really cement the impression you made and boost your chances of landing the role.
In this section we go through a few tips on what to do once you’ve walked out the door of the interview.
What to do straight after your interview?
While its a nice relief to have finished the interview, especially if you participated in a short form interview as well as a technical interview on the same day, try to remember to take a little time to process it before you completely relax.
You may want to jot down some crucial points to follow up on or things you might want to include in the thank you letter. And its best to do that straight away while the conversations are still fresh in your mind. If you have any more questions about the position that you weren’t able to clarify in the interview, make notes so you can ask them at a later time.
Should you write a thank you note?
Although you might think this seems a bit old fashioned, sending a thankyou note is very much appreciated by hiring managers. In fact, sending a thank you note has been known to be a defining factor in the hiring process for some managers.
You should send a thank you note to whoever conducted your interview, whether that be the hiring manager, head of HR, or the CEO. If you were interviewed by more than one person, send it to the most senior person/the primary interviewer but be sure to ask that the thank you be passed to the other people present in the interview also.
If you are wondering how the thank you note should be sent, 95% of the time the most appropriate method is simply an email. The exception to this may be if you are applying for a role with a very traditional business where a typed letter may be more appropriate.
You should begin by thanking the interviewers for their time and giving you the opportunity to interview for the position. From there you can briefly touch on some of the responsibilities of the role and why you are the right candidate to fill the position and execute those responsibilities.
When should you follow up after the interview?
Your thank you note should be sent within 24 hours of you leaving the interview. Not only will the hiring manager know that you respect their time and are grateful for the opportunity, but it also means you will be getting your name and skills in front of them one more time. And that can never hurt, especially when competing for sought after roles where there may be dozens of candidates.
Download our IT Interview Guide here for an easy to follow guide for your next IT interview or view our current vacancies here
The Second Interview
So you clearly made a good impression at your initial interview because you’ve just been asked for a second interview. Congratulations are in order because it means they’re definitely interested in you.
But you can’t just go into the second interview without some additional preparation. That’s because there’s a few key differences worth pointing out on how the structure and style differ from a first interview.
What is the difference between a first and second interview?
Many first interviews are conducted by a hiring manager or someone from the HR department. They are commonly used to confirm that a candidate’s track record is in line with what they’ve detailed in their resume and that they have the hard skills and communication skills to suit the role.
Second interviews however are almost always conducted by someone who will be working closely with the role being hired for. They also often include multiple other people such as department heads or other team members.
The second interview provides an opportunity to explore the candidate further and see whether they will be a good team and cultural fit with the people they’ll be working with day to day. It may also be used to further test or clarify your technical skills.
What should I expect at my second interview?
The first thing you should do to help in your preparation for a second interview is to take some time to reflect on the initial interview. What do you think you did well? Where do you think you could have said or done things better? Try to be aware of how you could have explained your skill set or experience more fully or if you forgot to tell your initial interviewer about a particular attribute or reason why you think you’re ideal for the role.
You should expect to be speaking with people who weren’t present at the first interview and the interview may also be held at a different location. Even if your first interview was conducted by the manager for that position and the primary interviewer is the same, the addition of new people in the interview means that you may have to rehash some of the questions and answers you gave previously. You also need to be prepared to go into greater depth on your skills and previous work history if necessary.
The best way to know exactly what to expect at the interview is to ask. Make sure you ask the person who informs you that you’ve been selected for a second interview to give you a quick rundown of what will be involved and who exactly will be interviewing you. Then you’ll be fully prepared to do additional testing or if you’ll be interviewed by a panel rather than an individual.
What questions will they ask at my second IT interview?
It’s likely that your experience will be questioned a little more extensively in the second interview. So be prepared and have relevant examples ready. Try to anticipate possible new questions by considering the titles and positions of the people who will be present in the interview. For example, if you know the senior software engineer will be part of the interview panel then you should be prepared to answer questions about your technical experience and expertise.
If you have technical skills that are relevant to the role, you may be asked to give specific examples of when you best utilised them. You can also anticipate the likely focus areas of the second interview based on what was emphasised in the first interview. If you were initially interviewed by someone from the HR department, you should expect that the second interview will focus more on your technical skill set. Similarly, if you’ve already done a technical interview in the first round of interviews, then the focus of the second interview may shift more onto your soft skills and cultural fit.
In your second interview you may have to undertake more behavioural questions such as being asked to elaborate on your preferred methods for workflow and time management. Depending on the role and the company, part of the second interview may also include being asked to undergo psychometric assessments such as a Myers Briggs test or a similar test that helps gauge your personality type and working style.
Download our IT Interview Guide here for an easy to follow guide for your next IT interview or view our current vacancies here