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techsuch May 9, 2021 0 Comments

10 Common IT Interview QuestionsIt’s easy to get excited about the job prospects for Information Technology(IT) professionals. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected a 12% growthrate in IT jobs between 2018 and 2028, which translates to more than 545,000new positions. But a hot job market doesn’t mean you won’t get nervous aboutpreparing for job interviews—or that you don’t need to prepare.Of course, you should make sure you’re ready to answer common interviewquestions for any role. But don’t stop there. Below we’ve also outlined tenquestions you’ll likely face when interviewing for IT roles. You’ll learn the“whys” behind the questions and get advice from IT hiring managers about whatthey look for. There are also sample answers for each question to help makepreparing for your interview a breeze.But first let’s talk about what roles fall under the IT umbrella.A good way to visualize the role IT plays in companies is to think about thefunction like a home’s key operating systems. Just like homes need electrical,plumbing, heating, and air conditioning systems to make them functional,companies need information technology systems to manage the flow of data andoperate their business.“At the highest level,” says Adam Brooks, Technologist and Senior Manager ofLearning Delivery, Workflow Standards and Systems at Charter Communications,“the IT function provides systems and tools that allow employees to workefficiently and effectively and [allow] companies to report on key aspects ofthe business.”IT collaborates with most every business function—from accounting andoperations to human resources and supply chain management—to develop the toolsand processes to collect, store, manage, secure, and report upon informationnecessary to run the business. Folks in IT often refer to colleagues in otherdepartments as internal clients and stakeholders. Sales data, inventorymanagement, order data, shipping addresses, payroll data, customer servicerecords, and accounts receivable data are all examples of the types of systemsIT works and consults on with business partners.Typical jobs in IT include analysts, specialists, software developers, andtechnical support reps. An analyst, for example, might consult on creating anautomated report to capture and sort sales data for an online retailer,working with sales personnel and software engineers. Specialists can work on avariety of systems and may be dedicated to certain areas such as payroll oraccounts receivable. Meanwhile, an IT software developer may create programsthat interface with vendors or suppliers to order new inventory when needed.Support reps work directly with clients (both within and outside of thecompany they work for) to troubleshoot system problems and answer questionsabout system tools.While you’ll be asked questions surrounding technical requirements andexperience unique to specific roles in an interview, the collaborative natureof IT means recruiters and hiring managers place a heavy emphasis on theability to work across business functions and collaborate with a team. Hereare several sought-after skills to be aware of as you prepare to answer ITinterview questions, so that you can emphasize them in your responses:### Effective Listening“I’m always looking for candidates to demonstrate they’re good listeners, asunderstanding others and translating that into action is a key component ofsuccess in IT,” says Rene Daughtry, a solution services manager for Cisco’sPMO Americas division. Understanding how coworkers use information and managedata is an important part of any IT role.Show that you’re attentive and will understand your colleague’s needs by beinga good listener in your interview. And when you think of stories to tell inyour interview, try to remember ones where you asked questions, soughtexamples, and had clients to show you how they planned to use your workproduct.### Problem-Solving “I want to see how candidates approach problems and situations, particularlywhen they may not have all the information,” Brooks says. “Good problemsolvers know to look to others who may have faced similar challenges and seekthem out.” You can share these skills in your interview by talking aboutexamples of when you looked to others for help in approaching a problem youweren’t familiar with.If you’re an early career candidate and don’t have examples from past ITroles, maybe it was the first time you drove a car with a stick shift or whenyou had to use unfamiliar software to complete a class project. When theinterview question calls for it, you want to emphasize the approach you takein getting more information and how you act upon it.### Hunger for LearningWith technologies and business needs evolving so rapidly, eagerness to learnis a quality highly prized by IT hiring managers. “The interest and desire inlearning—about the business, the market we are in, the challenges we face, andwhat technologies best support success—is critical for me,” Daughtry says.Here are some of the questions you’ll be asked to try to uncover thesequalities: 1. Tell Me About a Work Problem That Required a Complicated Solution and How You Worked With Your Team to Resolve It. 2. What’s a New Software or Technology You Recently Worked With and How Did You Come to Learn It? 3. What Do You Do When It Looks Like a Project You Are Working on Might Miss a Deadline? 4. Tell Me About the Stakeholders and Internal Clients You Work With Outside of IT and How Your Work Supports Overall Business Goals. 5. Tell Me About a Time When You Explained a Technical Process or Concept to Someone Who Didn’t Have a Technical Background. 6. Can You Tell Me About a Project Where You Volunteered to Help or Offered Support? 7. Can You Provide an Example of a Challenging Coworker Relationship? How Did You Handle It? 8. Tell Me About a Work Product You Delivered That You’re Particularly Proud Of. 9. What Tools and Strategies Do You Use to Organize and Prioritize Your Work to Best Meet Team Goals, Expectations, and Deliverables? 10. Why Do You Want to Work Here?Hiring managers are exploring several skill sets with this question, which isa favorite among IT interviewers. Problem-solving is the obvious one, butthey’re also hoping to learn about how you approach teamwork, collaboration,listening, and communication with this question.### How to Answer:“I’m less concerned with the ‘what’ behind their answer than the ‘how,’” saysJeremy Child, Human Resources Director at LemonBrew Technologies. “I want tohear how the candidate worked with other team members, how they made certainthey understood the problem, and how they personally contributed to thesolution.”For behavioral questions where the process or story is as important as theoutcome (usually questions that start with things like “Tell me about a timewhen…”, “Describe for me…”, “Give me an example when…”) try answering usingthe STAR Method. STAR is an acronym that stands for: * Situation: Set the scene and give the necessary details. * Task: Describe what your responsibility was in that situation. * Action: Explain exactly what steps you took to address it. * Result: Share what outcomes your actions achieved. By using this approach in your response, you’ll demonstrate focus and havemore opportunity to share specific skills.Don’t be afraid to share a solution that didn’t initially work out.Persistence and follow-up are valued in IT roles and showing determination ingetting past roadblocks is a plus.Your response might be similar to this:Situation: “I had a problem with a recent project when a software packagedidn’t work as promised. The program was designed to support our sales teamand allow them to collect customer data, track contacts, and place andtransfer orders to our warehouse for shipment and billing. After we installedthe software, orders weren’t getting billed correctly.”Task: “I was responsible for working directly with our sales team, the outsidesoftware vendor, and our accounts receivable personnel to understand how thedata was collected and where the problem was. It turned out that the off-the-shelf program didn’t capture certain data needed for billing and needed to becustomized.”Action: “I met with each department to learn exactly what they needed. Ibrought in the outside vendor to add custom data fields to their program toallow for customer billing. My team updated the interface with accountsreceivable, sales began to collect additional tax and vendor ID information,and we fixed the problem.”Result: “We’re still using this software package today and the additional datafields have helped to streamline billing. The time between an order beingplaced and the company receiving payment has decreased by 50% on average.”Interviewers are looking for your level of technology exposure andunderstanding here. But what’s most important is the “learning” component ofthis question.### How to Answer:You’ll want to stress to your interviewer how you acquired your skills,whether through school, vocational training, certification, previous jobs, ora combination of these. If you had the opportunity to pick up new softwareknowledge or skills as a result of a project you worked on, this questionoffers a great opportunity to share that and explain how you’ve used theskills in practice.“I’m interested in knowing how candidates apply what they’ve learned, not thatthey simply have the knowledge,” says Brooks. With that in mind, you’ll wantto be sure to share how you’ve used the technology tools you’re familiar with.One way to answer this might be:“Last year my employer offered Microsoft 365 certification and I tookadvantage of the opportunity to take the introductory classes. Thiscertification is on cloud computing and MS 365 is a widely used package, so Iwas anxious to add this to my skill set. I was able to immediately apply whatI learned and shared with my boss a couple of recent upgrades where we coulduse the SharePoint component of MS 365 to better connect with our remotelocations. My boss agreed and I was able to transition us over to SharePoint,which saved everyone time and frustration and allowed us to complete everyproject more quickly than before.”“Finishing projects, especially ones with tight deadlines, is a challengeevery IT person faces,” Child says. “I ask this question to learn how thecandidate communicates with stakeholders and internal clients about delays orobstacles. It also gives me a good feel for how they negotiate for more timeor resources.”### How to Answer:This is a good opportunity to show you understand how your work impactsothers. A good option to discuss is a time when you had to juggle yourpriorities and work schedule to keep others from missing their deadlines. Ifyou’re early in your career and don’t have an IT-specific example, a storyfrom another job or a school project works too—as long as it showcases yourcommunication and time management skills.This is another question where you might want to use the STAR Method to shareyour example.A good response might be:“In school, I was assigned a project with three other classmates to create abasic program for automating email reminders that professional services firmscould use with their clients. My role was to contact a dentist’s office, anaccounting office, and a law firm, interview their administrative staff, learnabout their appointment systems, and share findings with my team. They wouldthen design the software interface. I knew their work depended on me gettingthe needs analysis done first. I rearranged my study schedule in order to dothis quickly. However, the law firm that initially agreed to meet with me hadto cancel at the last minute. Given the time it had taken to set up the firstappointments and the time I predicted my analysis would take, I realized thatthis would make it impossible for the rest of my team to make the deadline.“I quickly communicated this to my team and they said that a partial analysiswould help them get started and prevent us from missing the deadline. Icompleted this while looking for another law firm. I asked my team if they hadany connections that might help with this and one team member was able toconnect me with their mother’s law firm so I could get the last interview doneas soon as possible.“After completing the full analysis, I met with my team, shared my analysis,and made myself available as they developed the interface. I was able to thentake prototypes to the firms I’d spoken to and see how they might use the toolwe created for them. By bringing the problem to my team immediately, I wasable to find out what would help them keep things on track, and by asking fortheir help, I was able to find a solution to the original problem more quicklythan if I’d tried to solve it alone.”With this question, hiring managers want to know you understand the supportrole IT plays in assisting business operations. Whether it’s helping design acustomer service tracking system, creating a digital interface that will helpyour company’s purchasing department pay vendors, or assisting your colleagueswith technical issues, you’re expected to have a broad understanding of howyour stakeholders use the tools you help create.### How to Answer:Tell your interviewer how you work with teammates to learn what they do. Sharehow you keep up with broader company goals and the current environment at yourorganization both in terms of challenges and opportunities.“It’s important to me that candidates know how their role fits into the largergoals of the business,” Brooks says. “I listen for candidates to tell me abouttheir internal client relationships and how they work with them to designprocess fixes.”Your response might be like this:“In my current role as a specialist, my internal client group is humanresources. I specifically work with the employee benefits department and amresponsible for collaborating with that team and the various insurancecompanies that provide benefits. Each has different ways of collecting andreporting employee data. My job is to make certain I understand how oursystems capture that data, keep it secure, and make it available to theinsurers. This ensures that HR can smoothly and easily support the staff andkeep organized, accessible records without worrying about security issues andthat employees in other departments get the benefits they need and can easilyfind information on them.”“Often, nontechnical coworkers aren’t aware of [all the ways] technology cantransform manual work into something that can be automated,” Brooks says. Sothis question explores your communication skills and ability to help othersunderstand processes and approaches that may be new yet ultimately helpful tothem.### How to Answer:Here’s a great opportunity to use a story or example of how you took a newconcept, explained it to someone else, and saw that they “got it.” Maybe youwere able to put it in simple terms they could understand right away or maybeyou listened carefully to their questions to help you frame the explanation ina way they could best understand. Interviewers want to know you can explaintechnical concepts without using jargon, check for understanding, and gainbuy-in from others.If you don’t have a specific work-related example, borrow a real-life exampleof a time when you did something similar with a friend or family member.You might use this type of response:“When explaining technical concepts to my nontechnical colleagues, I thinkabout how I’d explain this to my dad. He really wanted to set up a website forhis small business, but didn’t have a lot of experience or familiarity withweb design. I helped him get started using a platform that does a lot of thecoding work for you, but he still wanted to understand how things workedbehind the scenes.“For each question, I broke it down using analogies—for example I comparedAPIs to a restaurant menu. When there was still a disconnect, I’d sometimespull up introductory videos explaining a topic and watch them myself to seehow others would explain this same topic. Then I would sit down with him andshow him how things worked on the back end with these explanations in mind.This helped him gain a fuller understanding of what a small business sitecould do and got him excited about the possibilities.”Hiring managers like to see initiative in candidates. With this question,they’re seeking to learn about your motivation and interest in going beyondwhat’s required.### How to Answer:Share not only when you volunteered, or for what, but also why. By explainingyour reasons and motivation for taking on new projects, you’re showing theinterviewer your enthusiasm for learning new things and helping others.“I want self-starters on my team,” Daughtry says. In other words, he likeswhen employees seek out opportunities to grow in their careers. “I like tohear about instances where candidates volunteered to work on technologyprojects not just to help out, but to gain new skills and make newrelationships.”A good response may be like this one:“We have weekly ‘all-hands’ staff meetings with the entire IT department tobrief everyone on existing and upcoming projects. When I recently learned of asoftware upgrade project coming up, I approached the project manager after themeeting to see if I could join on. At my last company, we’d gone through asimilar upgrade, and I had learned a lot and saw this as an opportunity toboth share my experience and learn even more about how to implement this kindof process in a much larger company. I was especially interested because thework was with the sales department, which I hadn’t worked with much up to thatpoint, and I saw it as an opportunity to get a broader exposure to thebusiness.”Conflicts are inevitable at work, and this question explores yourcommunication and problem resolution skills. Brooks likes this questionespecially because it reveals how staffers differentiate work issues frompersonal conflicts.### How to Answer:While we all have a story about working with difficult people, it’s importanthere to share how you de-escalated a situation rather than focusing on who wasright or wrong. It’s never a good look to throw coworkers, bosses, orcompanies under the bus during an interview. So speak more to the concernexpressed by your coworker as opposed to their personality or behavior. It’sOK if you brought in help, just be sure to to share why that was appropriate.Using the STAR method here will make your response clear and specific.You might say:“One of my colleagues was going through a rough time outside of work and theirperformance suffered as a result. We were working together on a project and Iwas responsible for taking our work product directly to the internal clientfor testing. My colleague often was late to meetings and missed deadlines forhis contribution, which left our client frustrated.“I met with my colleague and asked him if there was anything I could to tohelp him succeed while he was dealing with this issue in his personal life. Heacknowledged the issues and explained that he was having things come up at thelast minute that took him away from the office. So I offered to help him byshifting some of the task work around to give him more scheduling flexibility.These changes helped him to improve his performance, kept the project ontrack, and made the internal client happy.”Hiring managers want to hear about your successes and understand what you seeas big wins at work. It’s also a subtle way to learn about your style and seehow you collaborate with others to accomplish things.### How to Answer:Here’s an opportunity for you to toot your horn a bit and show how your workmade a difference. “When I ask this question,” Child says, “I’m curious to seehow their work made a mark on the business. Did they add efficiencies byreducing costs or time associated with the process? It’s a bonus if they seebeyond their project and show how their work was a win for the organization.”A visual aid could come in handy here. If you have one that showcases yourwork, you might want to bring it with you to the interview in case thesituation calls for it. For example, you may have a “before” and “after” of areport you redesigned or screenshots that show how you streamlined an internalscheduling process. (Just make sure you’re not sharing any confidentialinformation.)A good response might sound like this:“I support a field office that developed a special commission schedule fortheir salespeople. Unlike other offices, these employees represent multipleproduct lines with different commission structures. I worked with the officeto create a custom incentive program that pulled data from their sales andassigned different commissions based on which product line was sold. It was acustom program that made it easier for the sales team to predict their monthlycompensation.“The program was a big hit with the manager and her team. The increasedvisibility ended up motivating the sales team to make more sales and earnhigher commissions. It was great to see how my behind-the-scenes work not onlyhelped my colleagues perform better and earn more, but also brought in morerevenue for the company.”IT by nature involves a lot of project planning, testing, and evaluation. Thisquestion is asked to learn about your exposure to project management software,your experience with meeting deadlines, and your process for staying updatedon project status.How to Answer:Share specific project management tools you’ve worked with and how you usethem. You can also share with your interviewer what other strategies you useto work smoothly and productively with your colleagues and supervisors.You might say something like:“We use the Productboard product management software in my current job. Iwasn’t initially familiar with it but was eager to learn a new tool when Istarted. Our team has a brief ‘huddle’ each morning to go over the plan forthe day. This gives me an opportunity to share where I’m at and if I needanything from others or they need anything from me. I’ve become comfortableenough with Productboard that I can quickly check the status of everything inprogress before I go into the huddle so I go in prepared.”Interviewers use this question to see if you’ve done your homework on theirbusiness and the industry. It’s also a check on your interest in the work andthe company’s culture. Basically this question asks: Are you looking for anyjob or do you really want this job at this company?### How to Answer:Be genuine and authentic in your response. This question gives you theopportunity to show what matters to you and how excited you are about the job.So share what you’ve learned in your research and show your interviewer whyyou want to work at their company specifically.How do you do your research? You’ll often find a “media” or “press” tab oncompany websites that share recent news. Another underused source is companyjob listings: What other kinds of jobs are they hiring for beyond the oneyou’re interviewing for? This can tell you about their growth areas. Thecompany’s social media posts are a great source for breaking news and can alsogive you a sense of the kind of culture they have. You can also, of course,check to see if the company has a Muse profile.Your response will be highly specific to the company and what matters to you,but one response may look like this:“I saw on The Muse that you were also hiring for new positions on the WestCoast to support your new operations there. I did some more reading about thenew data center you’re building there and that excites me as I know this meansthere’ll be opportunities to train new teammates. I also learned through aWall Street Journal article that you’re expanding in Mexico as well. I speakSpanish fluently and would be eager to step up and help liaise whenevernecessary.”Read More: 4 Better Ways to Answer “Why Do You Want to Work at This Company?”As demand for remote access to the workplace increases, more companies arelooking to automate processes and make work easier, and career opportunitiesin IT will continue to grow. With the right knowledge and skill set and theappropriate preparation, you’ll be set to ace your next interview and be onyour way to a great new gig.Michael J. Solender spent 25 years in human resources management rolessupporting corporations in retail, manufacturing, and financial servicesindustries. His feature stories have appeared in the New York Times, CharlotteObserver, American City Business Journals, Metropolis Magazine, MinnesotaMagazine and others. You can find his work here: http://michaeljwrites.com/.More from Michael J. Solender

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