What Questions Can You Expect in an IT Interview?

Updated Dec 21, 20229 min
What Questions Can You Expect in an IT Interview?

What Questions Can You Expect in an IT Interview?

Caroline BantonUpdated Dec 21, 20229 min
What Questions Can You Expect in an IT Interview?

You might think that an information technology (IT) interview is all about finding out what technology and systems you have used and your level of expertise with those various tools and technologies. 

That is certainly one component of the IT job interview process. However, the interviewer will also want to learn your preferred work style, how you interact with others, and your approach to different workplace scenarios.

This article tells you what type of common IT interview questions you might face in your job search, why they are being asked, and how you should answer them.

The Three Categories of Questions

Generally speaking, the questions you might be asked in an IT interview fall into three broad categories:

  1. Common interview questions about you that are not necessarily IT-related.

  2. Questions about your IT skills and knowledge.

  3. Questions about your work style preferences, including how you approach problems and how you collaborate with others.

A Quick Primer for Your IT Interview

An IT position requires technical skills, and most positions also call for collaboration and communication skills. Few IT professionals, with the exception of some coders, work completely independently, and most work with teams to troubleshoot problems and come up with fixes.  

So, when thinking about your answers to the questions in each category, bear in mind that the interviewer will be looking for at least three core characteristics: the ability to listen and interpret information, the ability to solve problems, and the drive to learn.

How to Prepare for the Interview

Remember that each job situation is different. While some interview questions will be predictable, there will be others that you are not expecting. It pays to thoroughly research the company you are interviewing with to understand their IT infrastructure and what exactly your job will entail.

Read the job description carefully and, if you can, find an IT person within the company who can give you an inside look into what your job might be like. If you don’t have a contact, check the company’s LinkedIn page and see if you can find someone to contact. Or, try calling your HR contact and seeing if they can recommend someone you could chat to before your interview.

Where do you see yourself at your target company? If you have a good grasp of this, you will be much better prepared for any question that comes up.

Here are some sample IT job interview questions by category with examples of how to answer them.

Questions About You

These questions are likely to come up in an interview for any job.

Why do you want to work here?

This can really stump you if you have not done your research into the company. A bad answer would be to say that you want to be challenged (yawn!). A good answer is to state a specific area where the company is active and state why you want to be involved. 

This shows that you are interested enough in the company to be familiar with their operations. If you fail to demonstrate that level of interest, the implication is that you would accept any IT job and don’t necessarily want this one in particular.

Check out the company’s website and particularly media and press releases. These will show the latest company news.

Sample Answer:

I learned from your recent press releases that you are developing products for international markets. I am so interested to see how this develops and would love the opportunity to collaborate on international products. I have work experience from Europe and have some contacts who are all interested to see what this company develops for overseas markets.

Tell me about yourself

This question is almost guaranteed to be asked by recruiters, yet many people are not prepared to answer it. Consider this a chance to introduce yourself, but segue quickly into selling yourself for the role. Tell the interviewer what you have been doing recently that is relevant to the role and why you are a good fit for the role.

Sample Answer:

I have been an IT technician for the past three years for a large corporation. I joined my current company after graduating with a bachelor’s in information technology. We recently transitioned the company to a new MIS system, which was a huge job, but it was rewarding when it was up and running and everyone appreciated how versatile it is compared to the old systems. I’d like the opportunity to help companies transition to better IT infrastructure.

How did you hear about this position?

It’s ideal if you can answer this question in a way that expresses your excitement for the job. For example, perhaps a friend told you about it, and you jumped on the opportunity. Perhaps you saw it on a job board and it caught your eye for some reason.

Sample Answer:

My friend, who also works in IT, mentioned to me that you were looking for a software engineer. I have been wanting to move to a larger firm like yours for a long time now and have been purposefully taking on complex tasks so that my skillset is broader and more suited to a career path in new product development. 

Why should we hire you?

This is always an intimidating question because it requires talking about how wonderful you are. Well, just go for it! You can make the answer short, but be sure to tell the employer about what you have done that makes you the best person for the job, and use a measurable result. Also, show how well you work with others. Try to align what you say with what the hiring manager is looking for. Study the job posting carefully for this one, and prepare for follow-up questions!

Sample Answer:

The product I worked on last year was completed in record time. We took it to market faster because the team that I led was so effective in problem-solving. We used agile methodology and an iterative process that really worked. Sales of our existing products also increased 25% when we launched the new product. I know that you are looking for someone with agile experience, and I’m confident that as a leader, I can reduce your concept-to-market timelines.

What is your greatest strength?

Congratulations! You’ve hit the jackpot with this question. It is an opportunity to really sell yourself to the interviewer. Think of an event that aligns with the job description and that you can use to demonstrate your strength. For example, perhaps you are someone that people look to for leadership, and you were consistently nominated for team leader. One method to use to structure your response is the STAR method. This is particularly useful when you are describing a past event.

STAR stands for Situation (the context), Task (what the problem was), Action (what you did to solve the problem, and Result (what the result was). Your answer should include all of those components.

Sample Answer:

I was nominated as team leader for the last three projects we’ve worked on (Situation). The last project was quite complex, and the team was at a bit of a loss (Task). I brought everyone together to strategize the best way to attack it (Action). I think people appreciate my technology background, but they also look to me to lead brainstorming sessions and to keep them on track for product development. I seem to naturally be able to keep on top of a project, know who is doing what, and anticipate the next steps, which makes tasks easier for everyone (Result).

What is your greatest weakness?

Turn this negative question into a positive one by showing how you have learned from experience. Don’t pick a weakness that might obviously be detrimental to the job. Pick something innocuous that is easy to fix, like the tendency to rush or wanting to take your time. Either one can be a positive.

Sample Answers:

I have a tendency to rush when I’m excited about a project. However, I’ve learned to slow down and really check what I am doing because that ultimately saves time in the end.

I have a tendency to want to take my time and really focus on the details. That can be a problem if there is a strict deadline, so I’ve learned to build extra time into project schedules so that I can be confident in my work and not worry about making mistakes.

Why are you leaving your current job?

This question is particularly difficult if you were fired or let go. If this was the case, you have to be honest because the hiring manager is likely to contact your last employer. Here are some pointers.

1. Keep your answer short by moving to another topic that is positive. For example,

“My last employer was downsizing and I was laid off. Since then, I’ve been focusing on coding to help me reach my career goals. I entered some contests and won two of them, which has really given me motivation.”

2. If you were fired, show that you have learned from the experience. Here’s an example.

“I was really disillusioned and frustrated because I felt that my career in IT had stalled. I was fired because my productivity had dropped. I took time to focus on my coding. I recently won two online competitions, which has really renewed my motivation.”

If you have another reason for leaving your employer, keep it positive. Being negative about a situation or person will only reflect poorly on you no matter what the circumstances are. Here’s a way to keep your answer simple.

“I feel I have reached the limits of what my company can offer me in terms of professional development. This job really appeals to me because it fits my skillset and also gives me an opportunity to advance.”

Questions About Your IT Skills and Knowledge

What software or technologies are you using currently? Which ones have you learned in the past, and how and where did you learn them?

The interviewer is assessing the breadth of your IT acumen here. They are also assessing your learning patterns. Don’t pretend to know something you don’t, rather, use this question as an opportunity to impress the interviewer with your capacity to learn quickly and to apply that learning.

Sample Answer:

I recently earned my certification as a Financials Functional Consultant Associate by taking Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations. I improved our operations using the technology and trained the rest of the team in how to use it.

How have you managed a project that wasn’t going to meet the deadline?

This question is a behavioral-type question that is examining how you manage projects and how you problem-solve. An additional aspect with this question is your communication skills. How do you communicate to others that you have a problem and perhaps negotiate for additional time or resources? This is another example of when you can use the STAR method.

Sample Answer:

Our team had promised delivery of a product to a client (Situation), but at the last moment we found a glitch that needed fixing (Task). We knew that there might be problems because the client was under time constraints, which meant we could not do beta testing the way I would have liked. I immediately informed the client that we needed more time, but they were not willing to compromise on the deadline. I laid out all the options. (Action). Ultimately, because we had pre-warned them of the possibility of glitches at the outset, they agreed to pay for additional engineers so we could get the product fixed and to market in time (Result).

Tell me about a work product you delivered and that you’re particularly proud of.

This is another jackpot question. You can wow the pants of your interviewer by telling them the high point of your work history. A good idea is to make it about your work colleagues and the company rather than about you. This will show your commitment to the mission and concern with how your work impacts others.

If you really want to nail the interview. Have a presentation or a visual ready to show the interviewers what you did and its impact.

Sample Answer:

The HR department was wanting to realign the incentives structure for the sales team, but it was complex because the sales data they had did not clearly layout the exact metrics they wanted to base the incentive structure around. I developed a system that could extract exactly the data they needed for each product line and each sales agent. With the new data, HR was able to put in place an incentive scheme that the sales team loved. Because the team was more motivated, sales increased 25% in the first quarter after the scheme was introduced.

How does your IT work fit into the overall goals or mission of your company?

This question tests your ability to see the bigger picture in terms of the company's goals and whether you have a good understanding of your role. Emphasize here why your collaboration with other parts of your organization on IT needs is important.

Sample Answer:

I often work cross-functionally to determine the needs of our organization's various departments. The needs are all different depending on what the specific department does in pursuit of the company’s mission. For example, human resources wanted to update their candidate tracking system so that they could reduce their onboarding times. We installed an end-to-end solution for onboarding freelancers, which reduced onboarding times to hours instead of days and gave the HR officers access to valuable HR data.

Questions About Your Approach and Work Style Preferences

Tell us an example of a problem that you solved with a team and how you resolved it?

The interviewer is interested in seeing your approach to problem-solving and how you collaborate with team members. What is key here is to show your ability to listen to others and to be open to new ideas when coming up with solutions. If you are interviewing for a management role, you could also demonstrate your leadership skills.

This is a behavioral interview question—the interviewer wants to see how you approached a certain situation in the past. Use the STAR method here.

Sample Answer:

In my last job, we really needed new infrastructure to move forward with our product mandate (Situation). The legacy systems were really holding us back, but some of the engineers wanted to keep the legacy systems because they worked for their needs, so we need a solution (Task). I called the team together, and we brainstormed possible configurations that we had not yet really considered (Action). We managed to find a compromise that worked for everyone and that could integrate the key functions that some of the engineers really wanted to retain. Ultimately, we were able to move forward and bring new products to market in half the time (Result).

Have you ever had to explain a technical concept or idea to management, stakeholders, or a non-technical person? How did you do that?

This question is asking whether you can take off your IT hat for a moment and see things from a user’s perspective. It is asking whether you can communicate a complex idea in a way that non-technical people can understand and appreciate so that they are inclined to use that technology or tool.

Sample Answer:

I did a presentation for my management group of a payments solution we thought would benefit the company. I explained how it worked using a visual presentation of the process from start to finish from both the customer’s perspective and the company’s perspective. I explained why this payment solution was better than others for our specific needs by comparing it with other solutions and explaining how they worked. The management group unanimously agreed that the solution I presented was the best option once they could understand that it brought greater convenience and security for the customer and the company.

Give an example of a time when you experienced conflict with a colleague. How did you manage the situation?

Here, the interviewer is trying to gauge your ability to work with others. Handling conflict requires a level of EQ, or emotional intelligence, which is the ability to be objective and to take a sensible approach to a problem rather than reacting based on emotions.

Be careful not to place blame on anyone when you prepare your answer. Instead, cite the context, explain the issue from both sides, and then explain how the issue was resolved. As this is another behavioral-type question, the STAR method works well here.

Sample Answer:

I was working on a product with a software developer and we had to get to the beta testing stage within a month, which was tight (Situation). He was often absent from meetings or wouldn’t work on tasks when he was supposed to, so I needed to find out what I could do to get the job done (Task). We met to talk about what was going on, and it turned out he was having personal problems at home and was having to take care of a family member. We both agreed that it would be best if he were replaced with another engineer for that project until his personal situation improved. In the meantime, he could work on another concept that was not so time-dependent. (Action). Both products were developed smoothly and with no issues. (Result).

What tools and strategies do you use to organize and prioritize your work?

This question investigates how you approach your work and how savvy you are where project management tools are concerned. You should cover both in your answer.

Sample Answer:

We use Wrike product management software in my current job. I found it easy to learn and useful. I also have a regular one-on-one with my manager to make sure we’re still on track or need to pivot in any direction. Then, I feed that information down to the IT team, and we come up with solutions to stay aligned with the goals. We use an iterative process so that we are always improving and optimizing our systems. An agile process also means that we are always collaborating to reach the goal.

Has there been a time when you disagreed with a decision made at work? What did you do?

For this question, the interviewer is trying to find out how you handle an awkward situation as far as management decisions are concerned. The interviewer wants to understand your soft skills, or your diplomatic skills. One way to answer this question is to describe a disagreement but demonstrate that you handled it professionally.

Sample Answer:

My team leader once decided that we should shuffle around our product development teams so that we all got to work with different people. We had a critical product that we were in the middle of developing, and I thought it a bad idea to disrupt the team mid-project. I asked the team what they thought, and we all agreed that it was not an ideal scenario. We asked the manager to attend a team meeting, and we told him our concerns. He agreed to wait until the product was launched to reshuffle the engineers. 

Tell me about a time you failed/made a mistake in a previous job.

No one wants to talk about mistakes or failures but, let’s face it, that’s how learning happens. So, you can use this question to show that you can see your own foibles and correct them. Some people can't admit failure, which is a problem, and their answer to this question will reveal that. Choose a real event so that you sound genuine.

Sample Answer:

I had a looming deadline and I thought I would go ahead with a product stage without consulting with the rest of the team. I didn’t think it was a big deal. Well, because my assumption was wrong, we had to go back five steps, and the whole project was thrown off schedule. I learned the importance of collaboration and that short cuts are not the way to go.

Key Takeaways

There is no way to know exactly what questions will come up in an IT interview. However, by thoroughly researching the company to understand their culture and the type of person they are looking for, you stand a better chance of demonstrating that you are the best candidate for the job.

Finally, remember the following tips:

  • Answer questions honestly but positively.

  • Demonstrate the ability to listen and interpret information.

  • Demonstrate the ability to solve problems.

  • Show that you are passionate about learning.

Caroline Banton
Expert on career acceleration and business topics with vast experience writing for globally-recognized publications

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