When you are interviewing for an Information Technology (IT) job, in addition to the standard interview questions you will be asked during a job interview, you will be asked more focused and specific technical questions about your education, skills, certifications, languages, and tools you have expertise in.
Take a look at some of the questions you can expect to hear during your interview, along with strategies for how to conduct yourself so that you make a strong—and positive—impression on interviewers.
Types of IT Interview Questions
During an IT interview, you can expect to see questions that fall into three buckets:
- Questions about you — here, the interviewer wants to get a sense of your work style and abilities.
- Questions about the job and company — your responses to these questions can help reveal if you'll be a good fit with the company's culture.
- Technical questions — your answers will reveal your knowledge, problem-solving strategies, and give a sense of your on-the-job performance and how you will approach tasks from a technical perspective.
See examples of the types of questions you'll get in these three categories.
Questions About You (and Your Technical Skills)
You've presented your background on your resume, but interviewers want to dig into it a bit more. Asking questions about previous jobs and work experience as well as how you would handle (and have handled) work-related scenarios, will help interviewers get a sense of what you'd be like as an employee.
Practice your responses to common questions about you and your technical abilities:
- What interests you about this position? — Sample Answers
- What certifications do you hold?
- What do you do to maintain your technical certifications?
- What automated-build tools or processes have you used?
- What development tools have you used?
- What languages have you programmed in?
- What source control tools have you used?
- What technical websites do you follow?
- Describe a time when you were able to improve upon the design that was originally suggested.
- Describe the most innovative change that you have initiated and what you did to implement this change.
- Given this problem (problem is based upon job requirements), what solution would you provide? Explain your thought process.
- How do you handle multiple deadlines?
- Describe your work pace. — Sample Answers
- How do you keep current in this industry?
- How do you troubleshoot IT issues?
- Tell me about the most recent project you worked on. What were your responsibilities?
- Tell me about the project you are most proud of and what your contribution was.
- Give an example of where you have applied your technical knowledge in a practical way.
- What is the biggest IT challenge you have faced, and how did you handle it?
- You are working at a client site, and the CTO of the client company has asked if she can see you. The CTO wants to know how much it would cost to bring in five more people on your team. She gives you very vague requirements of the job she is looking for you to do. What would you do?
- You have been asked to research a new business tool. You have come across two solutions. One is an on-premise solution; the other is cloud-based. Assuming they are functionally equivalent, why would you recommend one over the other?
- You have submitted a piece of code that has broken the client's website in production. You have found this bug while you were testing, and nobody else knows about it. What is your next move?
- You have learned that a business unit is managing a major component of the business using Excel spreadsheets and Access databases. What risks does this present, and what would you recommend be done to mitigate these risks?
Questions About the Job and the Company
Your interviewer also wants to know how you'll fit in at the company. As well as assessing if the company culture and you are a good match, your responses will show whether you have researched the company.
- Describe the skills you have that qualify you for this job. — Sample Answers
- Do you prefer to manage people or ideas?
- Describe your production deployment process.
- From the description of this position, what do you think you will be doing on a day-to-day basis?
- Have you worked with software vendors? How do you handle vendor relations?
- How important is it to work directly with your business users?
- How would you rate your key competencies for this job?
- If hired, is there anything you would change about this IT team?
- What challenges do you think you might expect in this job if you were hired? — Sample Answers
- What companies do you see as the biggest competitors to this company?
These questions are designed to let you prove you have the skills, abilities, and knowledge that you mention on your resume and throughout your interview. Bottom-line: interviewers want to make sure you can do the tasks that will be required as part of the role. Reviewing the job posting may help you predict which specific technical areas interviewers will focus on.
- Compare and contrast REST and SOAP web services.
- Define “authentication,” and “authorization,” and the tools that are used to support them in enterprise deployments.
- Describe the difference between optimistic and pessimistic locking.
- Describe the elements of an N-tier architecture and their appropriate use.
- Have you used Eclipse?
- Have you used Visual Studio?
- How did you manage source control?
- How much (what percentage) of your time do you spend on unit testing?
- How much reuse do you get out of the code that you develop, and how?
- How would you describe your ideal working environment?
- If you know you aren't going to make a project deadline, what will you tell your manager and/or the client?
- In databases, what is the difference between a delete statement and a truncate statement?
- In network security, what is a honey pot, and why is it used?
- What are the most important database performance metrics, and how do you monitor them?
- What are transaction logs, and how are they used?
- What do you do to ensure quality in your deliverables?
- What do you consider documentation, and why is it important?
- What do you do to ensure you provide accurate project estimates?
- What do you expect in the solution documents you are provided?
- What elements are necessary for a successful team, and why?
- What have you done to ensure consistency across unit, quality, and production environments?
- What is a cross-site scripting attack, and how do you defend against it?
- What is a SAN, and how is it used?
- What is clustering? Describe its use.
- What is ETL and when should it be used?
- What is most important—quality or quantity?
- What is structure?
- What is the difference between OLAP and OLTP? When is each used?
- What is the role of continuous integration systems in the automated-build process?
- What is the role of SMNP?
- What is the role of the DMZ in network architecture? How do you enforce relational integrity in database design?
- When is it appropriate to denormalize database design?
- When was the last time you downloaded a utility from the internet to make your work more productive, and what was it?
- Which do you prefer: service-oriented or batch-oriented solutions?
How to Answer Questions During an IT Interview
The hiring manager will want to know, in detail, how equipped you are to handle the position. Prepare for the interview by considering the job qualifications—what skills, knowledge, and experiences you'll need in order to be successful in the job.
Take the job requirements that are included in the posting and make a list of the top qualifications the employer is looking for. Then match your credentials to the list. Be ready to discuss why you have each attribute the company wants. Here's how to match your qualifications to the position's requirements.
Also, review this list of common IT interview questions and take the time to prepare responses based on your qualifications for the job.
When responding, give specific examples, whenever possible, of how you have handled a project or situation.
Use the STAR interview response technique to generate examples to share during the interview.
Providing details will show the interviewer how and why you are qualified for the job. Do keep in mind that the questions you'll be asked will be specific to the job you're interviewing for, so they'll vary.
How to Prepare for an IT Interview
Preparing for an IT interview is particularly challenging. Not only will you have to answer all the typical interview questions—about your background, interest in the role, etc.—but you'll also need to be prepared for a technical component of the interview.
Your best strategy is to prepare in advance. Practice your answers to common interview questions. Also, research the company, so you have a good sense of some of the challenges it faces, as well as its work style and product.
Searching online may even reveal other candidates offering a glimpse into the interview process at this particular company.
Websites are available to help you practice responding to more technical questions. You may be asked during your interview to respond to technical questions using a whiteboard. Practice beforehand will help you handle this type of situation.
Questions to Ask the Interviewer
Interviews are a two-way street. That means it's just as important for you to get a sense of the company and the job's responsibilities, as it is for the interviewer to get a sense of you. In nearly any interview, the interviewer will ask if you have any questions.
Here are some options for what to ask—while there's no need to ask numerous or even several questions, you should always ask at least one.
- What's the biggest project that you're working on currently?
- What are some of the big challenges facing your IT team?
- How many people are on the IT team?
- What's your development process?
- What project are you most proud of completing at this company?
How to Make the Best Impression
As with any interview, if you're seeking a role in IT, you'll need to impress the interviewer. That means showing up professionally dressed. It's also important to be engaged throughout the conversation and keep an eye on your body language.
If the interview also includes a technical portion, do feel free to ask clarifying questions if you do not understand the interviewer's request or question. Better to ask than to work through the problem incorrectly. Keep in mind that showing your strong communication skills and practical abilities are desirable on-the-job qualities.
As you figure out your response to technical questions, do not shy away from thinking aloud.
This is a "show your work" type of situation, and, in fact, interviewers may be more interested in your approach and thought process than the ultimate answer you land on.
- Prepare beforehand by closely reading the job posting, anticipating questions and practicing your responses, and researching the company.
- Pay attention to how you present yourself, from your interview day outfit to your handshake.
- Think through the three buckets of questions, and prepare for each. Keep in mind that with some technical questions, interviewers may be looking for insight into your thought process more than a "correct" response.