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5 expert tips for your next IT interview

The tech industry is an exciting area to work in but getting the interview right can be a challenge for even the best candidates. We asked our experts to share their advice to help you succeed in your next IT interview…

Over the last decade, the role of technology in business has evolved from a backroom operation to a pivotal function with influence at the highest levels.

It’s an exciting time to be in tech, and in many areas and territories candidates are in high demand. But competition for coveted roles is still fierce, and as tech has evolved so has the best way to approach the application process.

To help you prepare for your next tech interview, we’ve asked two of our IT experts for their advice…

Do your research

Every candidate knows preparation is key to a successful interview, but in the tech industry this preparation should be as up-to-date as possible.

“I always tell candidates to check the industry news and the company’s latest news too,” advises Josephine Chen, senior manager of Technology at Robert Walter’ Taiwan office. “If the company is heading off in a certain direction, whether it’s AI or machine learning, make sure you know about it and have something to say about it.”

Josephine also advises candidates to read up on the hiring managers. “LinkedIn and the company’s own website are invaluable for finding out more about the managers themselves and their backgrounds. This will give you material for intelligent questions you can ask, as well as evidence of things you may have in common that can help you build rapport.”

Make your CV stand out

In the IT marketplace, candidates must ensure that their CV is able to capture the imagination of the hiring manager as quickly as possible, advises Wayne Bennett, associate director for IT in Robert Walters’ Manchester office.

“The very first part of your CV should include a short summary of three key achievements from your career so far that are relevant to the role you’re applying for,” he says. “If you work on a service desk that has improved its first contact resolution or implemented software that’s made things measurably more efficient, for example, then make that your headline achievement.

“That way, you’ll be able to make it clear to the hiring manager within the first 10-15 seconds of them looking at your CV that you have exactly the kind of track record that they’re looking for.” It’s vital to make these achievements as tangible and specific as possible, says Wayne, and to be prepared to customise them for different roles.

Be specific about your experience (and don’t take credit for things you didn’t really do)

A common frustration among IT hirers, says Wayne, is that “too many candidates talk only very generally about the projects they’ve been involved in, without focusing enough on what their specific role was within these projects.” This can leave hiring managers unsure as to what candidates have actually done, he says, and the experience that they can bring to a role.

Josephine similarly warns that any candidate trying to cover a lack of specific knowledge and experience by focusing on the overall achievements of their team will quickly be found out. “Hiring managers are generally quite experienced and they will always drill in on the specifics of what you actually did.”

So, before an interview, Josephine advises her candidates to go back through each of their previous jobs and remind themselves what their specific role was on the project.

“Be specific about the technologies you used and the challenges you overcame,” she says. “If you were responsible for coding the Java APIs on a certain project, for example, then mention it. Practice talking through what you did in convincing detail. Then when asked about it, you’ll be able to tap back into your own experience, which is a really great interview skill to have.”

Show your softer side

As tech becomes more and more of a business priority, the importance of soft skills to complement the more obviously hard skills is growing too.

“For some roles, such as a Java developer, soft skills might not seem as important as tech skills,” Josephine explains. “But if you can show how, in addition to your hard skills, you were also able to effectively manage or collaborate with a team of developers working remotely in Ukraine or India, say, that will add to your appeal.” That all speaks to communication skills, collaboration, teamwork, flexibility – lots of soft skills that are increasingly admired and should be highlighted in your responses.

“In functional and more senior roles, such as project management and team leadership, soft skills are more important than technical experience because these roles will be tasked with delivering projects through others,” says Josephine. “So, demonstrating soft skills like the ability to run a team or engage clients or influence change among a complex set of stakeholders will be looked upon very favourably.”

Ask the right questions for you

When it comes to asking the interviewer questions, Josephine tells her candidates to not stop asking questions until they know whether they want the job or not. “Candidates should come to interviews with at least five questions that they’ve prepared beforehand,” she advises. “At the end of an hour-long interview, they should aim to ask as many of those as possible.”

As Wayne warns, too many candidates get blown away by the salary or the company and forget why they are looking for a new job in the first place. “You should ask questions that will help you find out whether the role will meet the reasons you are looking to leave your current role. If it doesn’t, or if your questions throw up any red flags, then you should consider whether this role is right for you.”

Wayne recommends focusing your questions on what you can expect from the role, such as what the management style is like or what type of career progression is available. “If you’re leaving a job because there’s no career progression, you need to use the interview to make sure that the new role offers what your current role lacks,” he says.

By asking the interviewer about their experience of the company, candidates will not only build a rapport with the hiring manager but also find out more about whether this role is right for them, says William.

“My fall-back question that I tell every candidate to ask is: ‘Why do you like working here?’” he says. “By talking directly to another developer, for example, candidates will get the best idea of what’s good about working for the company, and whether the role is right for them.”

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