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Interviewing for an IT job (Part 2)

Tips and Techniques for a successful IT job interview (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this article, we talked about some useful ways to prepare yourself before a job interview. Here in Part 2, we’ll offer some tips on successfully handling the interview itself.

Many companies will have several people meet each job candidate. As mentioned in Part 1, you should try to find out in advance whom you will be meeting – at least their position in the company, if not their name.  If you are unable to find out in advance, then make it a point to ask at the beginning of the interview, when introducing yourself. This is important, because you should take a different approach for each type of interviewer.

1) If your interviewer is from the HR Department

The HR interview is usually intended to evaluate your potential “fit” with the company’s culture, as well as your general employment background (why you changed jobs in the past, for example) and your longer-term career goals.  A good HR interviewer may also try to get a sense of your “soft skills”, such as how well you handle unexpected situations, whether you are a team player, and (if you are being interviewed for a more senior role) what your team leadership and project management skills are like.

As in any interview, listen carefully to the questions being asked, think about your response before speaking, and then answer clearly and directly – stay on topic. Don’t talk for too long or repeat yourself, but it’s OK to show that you have done your “homework” and prepared yourself for the interview, such as by mentioning prior accomplishments and experiences which may be relevant to this company as well.

Typically, the HR interviewer will not be asking you any in-depth technical questions and will not be evaluating your technical work experience. Don’t use “tech-speak”!  It won’t impress the interviewer, and may even make him or her feel that you are unable to relate well to ordinary (non-technical) employees.

Although the HR interviewer probably won’t be able to tell you very much about the technical aspects of the job, he or she should have a good idea about what’s needed to build a successful career at the company. This is often a good chance to ask the interviewer some intelligent questions about the company and its business, to fill in any blanks which your earlier research may not have covered.

2) If your interviewer is from the IT Department

This is your chance to ask intelligent questions about the technology that the company uses, and about their specific working style with regard to development, implementation, support, etc. So, for example, if you are a developer you may want to ask about their applications architecture (web services? client-server?), or about which development tools they use. You may want to know whether they follow an “agile” style of software development or the more traditional “waterfall” approach.

If the interviewer is a technical person, let them see your passion for technology! If you are asked questions about (for example) specific applications you have developed or implemented, or about network infrastructure you have supported, mention the things that you felt especially proud of having figured out, problems you solved, and especially the value you were able to deliver to users. It’s OK to show off your knowledge a little, as long as you don’t sound arrogant or like a “know-it-all”. In general, it’s a good idea to mention any experience you have which may fit with their specific technical environment. It may not be clear from your resume, and in any case, the interviewer will remember you better if you have specifically discussed your familiarity with the technology in your interview – especially if you have some well-informed opinions about it.

3) If your interviewer is an end-user

For certain IT jobs, some companies will also ask an end-user to interview candidates. As with the HR interview, this is often done to help evaluate “company fit”, but it may also be because that particular user’s department will be closely involved with the specific IT position, such as for Business Analysts configuring a new application, or for IT Support Engineers handling connectivity for remote users.

As with the HR interview, you should avoid any overuse of technical terms. A good approach is to ask the interviewer what he or she expects from IT. If you can relate those needs to similar requirements at any of your previous jobs, describing those experiences can help make the interviewer comfortable that you will understand the business needs of this position as well.

For all three types of interviews, always remember to listen carefully to the questions asked, and to give focused and relevant answers (relevant to the person who is asking the question). Make sure that you are not perceived as “talking down” to people who may not have the same understanding of technology as you do.