Five Tips to Ace Your IT Interview
An IT Hiring Manager's Insight
IT recruiting has evolved tremendously over the last decade. As organizations have become more IT-friendly, clients are expecting the same in return. Because IT providers now rely heavily on providing quality service, they need a staff who can accommodate these evolving -- and demanding -- needs. To prepare for an upcoming IT interview, be sure to keep these five IT interview tips in mind.
1. Be an IT Softie
Soft skills are valued in today's workforce, regardless of your job. Your future boss wants to make sure she can trust you to interact well with peers, suppliers and, most importantly, clients. Employers are becoming more willing to invest in a well-spoken junior resource who can be trained rather than a guru who does not communicate well.
To wit: Be friendly, stay natural and show how awesome you are. Many candidates are understandably nervous and assume more rigid personas during interviews. Don’t. You have a personality -- use it! Always remember, if hiring managers are taking the time to meet with you, they want to like you. It is in their interest. Let them.
2. Be Honest About Your Knowledge
A necessary evil of applying for an IT job is the technical interview. This is an often a harrowing affair in which there is often a very defined answer to a question. You either know the answer or you don't, so be honest if you don't. Nothing makes an interviewer more uncomfortable than a candidate taking wild guesses when answering interview questions. Doing so will make you sound and feel insecure, and will surely impact the tone of the meeting.
Be honest and say that you don’t know while suggesting how you would go about finding the answer. This will demonstrate your ability to solve problems and think critically. If you’re caught in a 50-50 proposition, argue both sides to illustrate the merit of each. Your interviewer is not necessarily looking for the right answer; he is looking to see how you would go about arriving at an answer. This helps keep the momentum on your side and will keep the interview on stronger ground.
3. Steer the Conversation
This is a universal interview tactic: Try to keep the conversation focused on your strengths. In fact, go one step further. If you’re applying for a Unix system administrator position and you have, say, experience managing Active Directory, it does not hurt to discuss it.
An IT-oriented organization is always looking for multiskilled talent who can fill in knowledge gaps. Stating your cross-platform skills could put you in the running for other career opportunities you don’t know about at that company.
Keep in mind that companies hate turning away a multitalented candidate, unless of course the candidate has an irritating personality.
4. Be Enthusiastic with Your Enthusiasm
Interviewers love enthusiastic candidates. If you come across as confident and positive, your interviewer will be more at ease and more likely to want to engage you. In addition to your technical aptitude and personality, an interviewer wants to make sure you’ll be happy if you’re offered the position. Feel free to ask about training programs and professional IT certification as a means of showing a passion for learning and advancement.
Also, mention some positive, nonwork-related attributes that will assure the interviewer that you’ll want to join her team. For instance, if you live close to the office, mention what a pleasure the commute will be. Interviewing candidates costs organizations time and money, so they want to make sure they get it right. Graduating from candidate to employee has as much to do with enthusiasm as aptitude and experience.
5. Get Your Geek On
When in the throes of a technical discussion, discuss your personal interests and opinions on the topics at hand. You’re in a room with like-minded people so they will naturally be interested in discussing mutually interesting topics. Take advantage! This probably doesn’t happen nearly as often as you’d like, right?
If you’re asked about the merits of MySQL partitioning, discuss your experiences with, say, MongoDB sharding and why it did or did not succeed. This will help you develop a rapport with the interviewer quickly.
Interviews don’t need to be uncomfortable, nerve-wracking episodes in your career. If you’re still nervous, remember that the interviewer wants the meeting to succeed as much as you do. Do your best to be positive and engaging so the interviewer can get a good sense of who you are and how you’ll fit into the job and the company.