When it comes to IT interviews, preparation is key…
Because aside from testing your skills with common interview questions, employers will also need to make sure you have the technical and practical ability needed to do the job. This means you’ll be asked a range of IT-related questions specific to your field of expertise – and they’ll also want to ensure your tech skills are up-to-date.
To make sure you’re not caught off guard, here are five of the most common IT interview questions that you should prepare for:
What is a/what is the difference between [insert technical term]?
Translation: how good are you at thinking on your feet?
IT employers will commonly ask more than one of this type of question, and aside from checking that the qualifications on your CV check out, it’s also a great way of testing your communication skills and your ability to summarise information.
A similar method could also involve the interviewer asking something along the lines of, ‘explain a network to an eight-year-old’ – which primarily focuses on simplifying information (not to mention knowing when to stop talking).
So whether you’re asked to describe HTML, what a network is, or the difference between optimistic and pessimistic locking – the skills you need to answer it are usually the same. Just make sure you brush up on your terminology before your interview.
Right answer: HTML stands for ‘Hyper Text Markup Language’, and it’s the standard system used to tag text files. It allows you to create a range of font, colour, graphic, and hyperlink effects on websites.
Wrong answer: What does HTML stand for? It stands for commitment, it stands for audacity, it stands for courage…
What’s the best piece of code you’ve ever written?
The subject of this question depends on the type of IT you work in, and could refer to any kind of industry-specific task. But what you’re essentially being asked here is ‘what’s the best project you’ve ever worked on, and why?’
Interviewers use it to test both your technical and practical ability, whilst trying to understand what areas of (in this case, coding) you’re strongest at. It’s also a subtle way to figure out how you deal with problems.
Aside from choosing a project that’s related to the role you’re interviewing for, you should also cover all stages of development – not just the outcome. This will help you to demonstrate as many skills as you can.
For example, if there were any challenges (e.g. bugs in the code) – mention them, but place your focus on how you worked to fix them. It might even be the ability to overcome an issue that made this piece of code your favourite.
Right answer: In my first job as a Junior Administrator, I was asked to create a drop-down menu for a survey we were running. Although the code involved was pretty simple, it was actually the first instance I’d done any real programming at all. So I worked closely with the dev team, who helped me learn some of the basics, and wrote X piece of code, which really improved the UX. It was from this experience that I really got interested in programming.
Wrong answer: Probably the ‘bro code’. Perhaps you’ve heard of it?
What is your favourite technology-related blog, podcast, or website?
In other words, are you tech-savvy enough to keep up in this industry?
Unsurprisingly, this is a vital trait to have in any IT job. And your answer says a lot about your character, enthusiasm, and ability to stay up-to-date with current trends. So never say you don’t follow anything.
Instead, make a list of your favourites before the interview – and think of how they link to the role you’re applying for, whilst noting the most current updates from each. That way, you’ll be able to prove your interest with contemporary examples that link back to your interests and skillset.
This question may also be followed by ‘how do you manage your own online presence?’ In this case, remember to stay professional. They’re not asking about how often you update your profile picture, or how often you send game requests to your friends – they want to know how you use it to benefit your knowledge and career.
Right answer: I try to follow as many related blogs and websites as possible. However, I recently discovered [insert website/podcast/blog name], which contains a range of tips and advice for developers – including everything from quick code fixes to recent news in the industry. They also just published a piece on [insert topic here] which actually helped me in a recent project.
Wrong answer: I’m more into retro tech to be honest. Wanna see my Nokia 3310?
What would you do if a user was experiencing slow network speeds?
This question is usually asked to ascertain your problem-solving skills, as well as your ability to communicate effectively with non-specialists.
Aside from referencing the specific processes that should be followed before starting work on an issue (e.g. backlogs or raising tickets for tech support) place focus on how you would find out as much information as you can from the user before you proceeding with a resolution.
This could involve a series of troubleshooting questions – including asking what operating system they’re using or getting them to explain any error messages. From there, you should be able to decide whether the problem can be fixed over the phone, or whether it needs a more hands-on approach.
And don’t be tempted to respond with ‘I’d go and fix it straight away’. Although it might seem like the most proactive solution, jumping to conclusions could result in wasted time for both parties.
Right answer: In my current job we ask users to raise a ticket, which gets added onto our backlog, then we work through the issues in order of priority. And when it comes to helping with slow network speeds, I’d start by asking the user a series of troubleshooting questions to figure out the most effective way to fix it. By ascertaining the cause of the problem, I’d be better equipped to come up with a practical resolution.
Wrong answer: I’d ask them if they tried turning it off and on again.
How many ten pence pieces would it take to reach the top of the Shard?
You can thank Google for starting the riddle-based-interview-question trend in the IT industry.
Whatever you do, don’t panic. No one expects you to actually know the answer – whether it’s in response the above or to similar favourites such as ‘How many piano tuners are there are in Glasgow?’ or ‘How many traffic lights are there in London?’
What the interviewer really wants from you is to exhibit a logical thought process, which leads you to a carefully prepared estimation. Or when all else fails, a response that tells them where they could actually find the answer.
However, it’s worth bearing in mind that many software based roles place precedence on skills in accuracy and maths – so working this into your answer is a great way to earn bonus points.
Right answer: I’d estimate the height of the Shard in line with the width of a ten pence piece. And, since it’s the tallest building in London, and a ten pence piece isn’t even as big as a centimetre thick, it would probably take in the region of a hundred thousand of them to reach the top. To get an accurate answer though, I’d find the exact measurements, and divide the height of the Shard with the width of a ten pence piece.
Wrong answer: If I answer right, will you give me all of the ten pence pieces?
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