The ultimate guide to nailing your IT interview

Use this guide to ace your next interview and land a job in IT

If you’re hunting for a new job, opting for a job in IT is a smart choice. Not only are job opportunities in the tech industry projected to grow 12% by 2028, but in 2019 alone, there were 4.6 million job openings in tech. Nearly 822,000 of those job postings were in emerging tech. Of course, there’s more to landing a job than simply applying to a company’s latest vacancies.

If you applied for your dream job and hear back from the company’s hiring manager it means they’ve taken the time to look over your resume and would like to schedule a time to meet with you. Congratulations, you’ve successfully landed the interview. But are you ready for the interview?

Interviewing for a new job is easier said than done. According to a Harris Interactive and Everest College survey, 92% of adults in the U.S. stress over one or more aspects of a job interview. That percentage is high, but it’s not surprising. Fortunately, there are ways to overcome interview anxiety. 

As Alexander Graham Bell once put it, “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”

Know the job you’re interviewing for and the company you’re interviewing with

Before going to your interview, you should have a good understanding of the position you’ve applied for the company you’re interviewing with. This advice shouldn’t be necessary, but having interviewed job applicants in the past, I have been surprised at the number of candidates who show up to their interview without understanding the job or the company.

Not everyone has the time to do a lot of research, but researching the position and company is imperative to your interview going well. Hiring managers often ask fact-finding questions that gauge your understanding of the role and company, like: 

  • “How did you hear about us”
  • “What do you know about the company” 
  • “Tell us what attracted you to this position and why” 

You don’t want to fumble these easy-to-answer questions.

Mark McFarland, senior manager of talent acquisition and diversity recruiting at Relativity also recommends asking who you’ll be interviewing with and what their role is at the company. While you may initially speak with a hiring manager or human resources professional when setting up the interview, you may end up interviewing with a manager in another department. McFarland said, “Knowing that information will allow you to prepare how you might answer role-specific questions and sell yourself to the interviewers. It will also help you brainstorm targeted questions you can ask them at the end of your conversation if time allows.”

Mastering the art of the lasting impression

Your interview is your time to shine. While your resume served as your introduction to the company, your interview provides hiring managers with a lasting impression. Don’t let this intimidate you, though. 

Practice makes perfect

Before the interview, practice your interview skills with friends and family and make notes on how you would answer the most common job interview questions. Doing so will help you feel more comfortable and make you appear more confident during your interview.

Location, location, location

Confirm the location of your interview well before the scheduled date. If you’re interviewing at a physical location, confirm the address and how you’ll get there. If you’re driving yourself, drive the actual route a few times before the interview. Doing so will ease some of those pre-interview jitters and will help prevent you from getting lost along the way. 

Arrive fashionably early – but not too early

On the day of the interview, arrive 10-15 minutes early. Any earlier and you risk inconveniencing your interviewer. Once you’ve arrived, notify reception. 

You’ll likely have to wait a few minutes for your interviewer to call you in. Spend that time observing the office and your potential coworkers. Get an idea for the comings and goings of the office and how employees interact with one another. 

Nail the interview

Now, it’s time to interview. In the past, I’ve told candidates and coaching clients to think of their interview as less of an interrogation and more of a conversation. Though your interviewer will have specific questions, it’s important not to get flustered. If you can’t hear a question or don’t understand what’s being asked, be honest and ask them to repeat or reframe the question. 

Keep in mind, some interviews might also include a skills test.

According to CEO, Nate Nead, “When we interview folks, we typically send them a specific problem that tests their native coding ability. In doing so, we want them to work without the pressure of having us in front of them. In other words, we want them in a situation that would simulate reality. Then, we have them present their findings and work as part of the interview process. We have found this to be one of the most rapid filters for separating the wheat from the chaff for software development staffing.”

Questions to ask your interviewer

At the end of your interview, your interviewer will ask if you have any questions for them. While it’s easy to say “no” and be on your way, asking your own questions shows your interest in the job and company. 

You can develop questions during the natural process of the interview, but these are good boilerplate questions you can have prepared ahead of time:

  • Why is the position open? Is it a new role or has someone recently vacated the position?
  • How far along is the recruitment process? When are you looking to hire someone?
  • Why did the interviewer join the company? What keeps them there?
  • Can they describe the company’s culture?
  • What does a day in the life of this role look like?
  • What traits would make someone successful in this role?

Acing the remote tech interview

Remote interviews have become increasingly popular. Though many job hunters may be under the impression that a remote interview is easier than interviewing in person, that’s not always the case. Unlike in-person interviews, remote interviews mean interviewing from home. 

Straightening your surroundings

Career coach Stephanie Thoma encourages her clients to ask themselves about their environment, “Is it clean and tidy? Should you default to a green screen? The real question is: does your actual space or background detract the focus from you in any way?” 

“If the answer is yes, then it's time to either clean up your space, or default to a background that is either a solid hue or office setting. (Let's leave the Tiger Kind backdrops for virtual hangouts with friends),” Thoma says.

Dress the part — even remotely

Another mistake candidates often make when interviewing remotely is not dressing professionally. Sure, lounging around the house in sweatpants and a graphic tee-shirt is comfortable, but such an outfit isn’t interview appropriate.

“Candidates should always dress for the job or company culture, virtual interview or not,”  says Dax Wandling, executive recruiter at TalentSparkAnother. “Another mistake is to be in too casual of an environment. Sitting on a couch or a bed doesn’t put off a professional vibe. Rather, sit at a countertop or a table on a straight-back chair or stool.”

Avoid distractions

Be sure to avoid distractions and pay close attention to the interview. Checking your Facebook notifications between questions may be tempting, but hiring managers can tell if you’re not paying attention. 

Instead, liking your friend’s status, focus on carrying on a conversation with your interviewer. Show them you’re not only able to meet the job’s requirements, but you can also present yourself in a professional manner.

Don’t forget to say “thank you”

Sending a simple thank-you note or email after an interview can wield significant influence and reflect favorably on your candidacy. In a busy and often impolite world, sending a thank-you note demonstrates your written communication skills and goes to show just how interested you are in the position you’ve interviewed for. 

Sending a thank-you note also gives you the opportunity to ask any lingering questions.

For Alex Kovalenko, senior IT recruiter at Kovasys IT Recruiters, thank-you notes are very important these days. “Most companies end up interviewing 5-7 people per position they would offer. Only 1 or 2 people would follow up with a thank you note -so you would definitely stand out,” Kovalenko added. To really hit the ball out of the park, Kovalenko recommends sending a thank-you note right away or at least within 24 hours of your interview.

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