Tech interviews: what can I expect?

Last updated: 22 Jun 2023, 13:23

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IT employers use interviews to assess your technical abilities, but usually their aim isn’t just to evaluate how much knowledge you have amassed in one specific area. Employers are also interested in your ability to deal with unfamiliar technical issues and acquire new skills quickly.

Types of tests you should expect

Employers may assess you with practical tests, presentations, design exercises, technical questions, or a combination of all of the above. To assess your problem-solving skills, you may be asked to comment on a range of scenarios or hypothetical situations of increasing complexity. Before the interview begins, you may be required to take part in a short design exercise or code analysis activity. You will then be asked to present your solution and explain your findings, and interviewers may ask you how or why you might revise the system or code if given more time. This may even happen prior to the interview itself, in the form of online tests as the first stage of the selection process or a presentation given to a group at an assessment centre.

Getting to grips with unique problems

In the workplace, you’ll often be asked questions to which no textbook answer exists – eg ‘How can we make this process run faster?’ You may also be required to come up to speed with new technologies in a short space of time, often without any formal training course.

Recruiters will often challenge candidates with problems they’re unlikely to have come across before. Rather than panicking and thinking you’re expected to know the answer, keep calm and simply give it your best shot. Show the interviewer how you might approach finding a solution, even if you don’t have the solution. Before sharing your ideas, ask the interviewer if you need further information to complete a task, rather than jumping straight in and going off topic. Be honest if you don’t know the answer to a question, as the interviewer will see through your attempts to fabricate an answer. Remember, how you solve the problem is being evaluated just as much as your final answer.

Focus on your preparation

Make sure you fully understand exactly what it is the employer does, and review the job description carefully. While you won’t be required to possess in depth knowledge of all the company’s areas of expertise, it’s some of the questions you face will relate to these. Be prepared to answer questions on anything you add to your CV. If you’ve engaged in project work, expect to be pressed on what it entailed, as recruiters use this as a way to assess how you may have tackled problems. When discussing your project in an interview, briefly explain the key objectives of the work and focus on the skills and techniques you employed, and mention how you overcame any difficulties that arose. If it was a group project, explain what your specific role was and how you integrated your skills into the group.

You may be asked what you do for fun. While you can tailor your answer to suit the role you’re being interviewed for, be honest or you could easily be caught out. Simply smile and share what you enjoy doing.

Don’t be passive

Most interviewers will stick to a set interview format and ask their questions in a specific order. While you shouldn’t attempt to hijack the interview and disrupt their method, neither should you remain passive. Sell your skills and experience in a clear manner while remaining within the framework of the interview.

Make sure you communicate the relevant experience and attributes you possess. Don’t assume the interviewer is aware of your achievements as they may not be the same person that screened your application. If asked about your weaknesses, don't attempt to disguise a strength as a weakness (eg ‘I’m too much of a perfectionist’); rather be honest and display how you might work to overcome any weaknesses. Interviewers will often conclude the interview by asking if you have anything to add; take advantage of this and raise any key points you didn’t get a chance to mention.

Be polite and friendly

Viewing your interviewers as normal people will relax you and help you come off in a more natural manner. Making some polite but genuine small talk will help you stand out as a thoughtful and mature candidate, one who can interact with others in a business context.

gradireland editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the gradireland content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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