Preparing for Your IT Interview

Andiamo Partner's Interview Preparation Guide

Interview Objective

An interviewer has just one objective: to decide whether or not to make you a job offer.  While the interviewer will examine your work history and educational background, your strengths and accomplishments will also be important criterion. He or she is also interested in evaluating your level of motivation, values, attitude and personality. In other words, to find out if you are the right person for the job, what your potential is for promotion and whether or not you will fit into the company environment.

While it is true that an interview is an important screening tool for companies, it also allows you, the candidate, to learn those things you need to know about the position and the company so that you can make an intelligent decision about the job. Always approach an interview focused on your objective: getting a job offer.

As with many situations, preparation is the key to success. The job market is very competitive and you probably will not be the only qualified candidate for a position.  This is true in virtually every industry and for virtually every position – even, and especially, in Information Technology.  The deciding factor may simply be the way you present your skills and qualifications relevant to the position and how well you conduct yourself during the interview.

General Interview Tips

Check in During Interviews:
Some of your best stories probably take time to detail, but your initial interview answers should be brief. Check in with the interviewer after two minutes and prompt an invitation to go on. Say something like, "Now that I've described the outcome of my work on that project, would you like to hear about my role in detail?"

Prove What You Could Do:
Always put a positive spin on your answers to difficult questions. If you lack a particular skill or don't know a certain technical skill, emphasize how quickly you learn. Give an example of a time when you were able to get up to speed in a similar situation.  Never exaggerate your knowledge in a technology with which you’re not completely comfortable… it will show.  Hiring managers would much rather a candidate show they are willing and eager to learn.

Managing Time in a Job Interview:
In an effort to try and dig themselves out of trouble, most job interviewees give long answers to hard questions and they give short answers to easy questions. Mistake! That increases the proportion of the interview spent on weak points.  Short answers for hard questions and longer answers for easy ones is a good rule of thumb. Another tip for managing time in a job interview: You want the employer to picture you in the position, so spend as much time as possible discussing what you'd do in the new job. The mantra: Focus on the future, not the past.

Think of an Interview as a First Date:
When facing a job interview, the natural tendency is to gird yourself against the onslaught of killer questions and to do everything you can to snow 'em. That can be a prescription for failure. Under pressure, job seekers frequently utter turn-off canned phrases such as, "I'm seeking a new challenge," or, "I believe I'm uniquely qualified for the position."  You will likely come off as defensive, even disingenuous.

Follow the Interviewer:
During the interview, your interviewer is giving you information that can guide you on how to behave during the meeting. Observe your interviewer's style and then pace and match it. Answer questions by providing only the information asked. Telling more than needed could be a mistake. Too much information, particularly personal information, should not be discussed during the interview.

Telephone Interviews

Telephone interviews are increasingly commonplace; especially for IT positions.  The need to make a good impression on the phone cannot be overemphasized. The telephone screening interview is a make-or-break proposition.  Included below are some important factors to consider when you are selected for a telephone interview.  Preparation will increase your confidence and ability to focus on the conversation during the interview as well as enabling you to make a favorable impression.

Clear a work area near the phone and keep the following tools handy to aid your fact gathering and information sharing. 
1. A copy of the version of the resume you sent to the interviewer. 
2. A note pad and pen. 
3. Two or three carefully worded questions you’ll want to ask. 
4. Company literature with pertinent sections highlighted. 
5. A calendar. 
6. A watch or clock.

Phone Personality

Voice reflects personality.  The quality, pitch and tempo of your speech convey a certain attitude, energy level and enthusiasm. “Enthusiasm and excitement are the biggest selling points of candidates talking on the phone,” says Mr. Young of First American Rehab. “This translates directly over to their performance and work ethic.” Here are some practical tips to enhance your phone “personality” and overall presentation.

General Telephone Interview Tactics

The Home Stretch

In Person Interviews

1. Know Yourself

2. Research the Company

3. Bring supporting documents, and be prepared to discuss in detail.

Other Items

Arrival at the Interview

Common Interview Questions & Responses

You should give complete but brief and relaxed answers to questions. When possible use questions as a basis for developing information that you want to make sure is presented.  Continue to sell yourself in a positive way.

Typical/ Common Interview Questions

Tell me about yourself.

What are your greatest strengths?

What are your greatest weaknesses?

Personality Questions

What do you do in your spare time?

Motive Questions

Answer motive questions enthusiastically. Show the interviewer that you are interested in the position and that you really want the job. Remember to maintain eye contact and be sincere.
How can you contribute to this company?

Why should I hire you for this position?

Why do you want to work for our firm?

Where do you hope to be in five years?

What interests you most about this position?

How long do you plan to be with the company?

What are your career goals?

What are you doing to achieve your goals?

Job Satisfaction Questions

Why did you leave your previous employer?

What did you like least about your previous job?

Why are you looking for another job?

What do you think your employers obligations are to you?

Are you applying for any other jobs?

Past Performance Questions

These questions are aimed at determining behavior based on past examples:
What kind of decisions are most difficult for you?

What causes you to lose your temper?

What are your greatest accomplishments?

How do you feel about a younger male/female boss?

What kind of worker are you?

Salary Questions

Salary discussions should be avoided, if possible. You should NOT be the one to bring  up salary questions.
What type of salary do you have in mind?

What is your current salary?

Other Questions You Should be Prepared to Truthfully Answer

Are you willing to relocate?
May we check your references?
May we verify your income?

Answer a question to the best of your ability and then relax. If there is a period of silence before the interviewer asks the next question, stay calm and do NOT fill in the blank spaces. Interviewers often use silence to see if you can handle stress and maintain poise.

Questions for You to Ask

Your interviews should be two-way conversation. You must ask questions and take an active role in the interview. This demonstrates the importance you place on your work and your career. Asking questions gives you a chance to demonstrate your depth of knowledge in the field as well as to establish an easy flow of conversation and relaxed atmosphere between you and the interviewer. Building this kind of rapport is always a plus in an interview.

Remember, you are not just there for the interviewer to determine if you are right for the position but your questions can help you determine if this position is right for you. Some of your questions should evolve from research you’ve done on the company in preparing for the interview. Following are some guidelines for your questions as well as some examples.

Interest Questions

Why do you want someone for this job?

Job Satisfaction Questions
Ask questions that relate to the responsibilities, importance and authority of the position as well as those investigating the rewards for a job well done and the long range career opportunities.

Past Performance Questions
If the position is a replacement role – Was the prior employee promoted or did they leave the company?

How did you get started in the company?

Additional Interest Questions