IT Interview Tips – The Complete Guide

It doesn’t matter whether this is your first IT interview or your fifth, you still need to get it right to be offered. Don’t make interview mistakes and get left behind by the IT crowd. That’s why we’ve written the complete guide on IT interview tips here, covering everything you need to know.

We have taken all our valuable experience of coaching hundreds of successful IT candidates along with the feedback we get from the IT Directors, IT Managers and hiring professionals we work with.

REMEMBER: An interview for a Junior .NET developer role is the same process as a Senior Software Architect – While one IT role might be at the start of your career and the other will happen when you are flying high, it’s still important to remember that for both you’ll need to jump through similarly-shaped hoops when it comes to your IT interview.

This is everything you need to get through your next IT interview.

You can read the entire guide here or jump to the bit you need help with most:

Pass your IT interview first-time
How to prepare for an interview
Phone interview tips
The IT technical interview
Best interview questions to ask
Interview questions to prepare for
Java interview tips
.NET interview tips
Software tester interview tips
How to discuss salary in an interview
Get ready for interview feedback

If you’re applying for tech jobs and want an edge in the application process, you can download our free ebook on interview tips.


The Magic Ingredient For Sailing Through IT Interviews


Some tech professionals seem to manage their way through interviews like ducks to water, while others wade through them like thick mud to reach the job they want.


As IT recruiters for nearly twenty years, we have seen one reason above all others that allow some candidates to get the jump over their rivals time and time again.

It is the biggest reason why some IT candidates go for one interview and get offered and another will struggle through eight, ten or even more interviews.

Having direct access to the latest and most innovative tech in the industry can set any candidate apart from the rest.

Which means quite simply that having the right experience is an edge in itself. Often it comes in their latest or previous job where they have encountered and applied the latest technology or cutting-edge tech-automation procedures.

Having applied this knowledge and experience they are in the best position to bring this knowledge to the new company and hiring managers love it when candidates are able to bring something valuable to the table.

For those whose previous roles have not included this, it can be disadvantageous. A Head of IT doesn’t want to have to teach new skills to candidates. They’d much prefer for new skills and experience of new tech to come to them.

In short having experience combined with the latest technology enables some candidates to ace their IT interview.


How To Prepare For An Interview


Your approach in the interview will go a long way in deciding the eventual outcome and whether or not the hiring manager will offer you the position.


There are four key traits you should exhibit in your IT interview to ensure that the hiring manager develops the best possible impression of you:

  • Be honest about your skills
  • Be in control of the conversation
  • Be enthusiastic
  • Be techie

There are more tips about how to act in an interview than words in this blog, but it pays to be aware of those four key ones.

Be honest with your knowledge

Honesty is always the best policy, be truthful about what skills you know and what you don’t. Always be prepared to show what you know, through either a Technical Test or Technical Interview.

Even if you don’t know, be honest about how you would go about finding out or if you need to answer two sides of an opposing coin, be prepared to do so.

Sometimes the interviewer isn’t searching for the right answer but wants to test your ability to arrive at an answer.

Steering the conversation

If you can keep an interview focussed on your strengths, you’ll be able to shine (don’t forget to be honest though). However, nearly every IT organisation will be looking to fill their knowledge gaps, so make sure that you can discuss other skills and strengths you may have, even if they are not part of the role you are applying for.

The trick is to HIGHLIGHT them, without making the interview ABOUT them.

Most companies don’t like to let go of candidates that can not only do the job they have applied for but can also adapt their skills and knowledge elsewhere.

(IT Managers often talk to us about a candidate not being suitable for one role but are suitable for another role, either being advertised or soon to be created.)

Be enthusiastic

This isn’t just a word, it’s an action, a state of mind and a projection of your techie-persona.

For every interview, IT or otherwise, be friendly, act naturally and try not to be too rigid. Everyone gets nervous, but to have the best opportunity to be offered you need to be liked too, so you’ll need to engage and be engaging.

We cannot tell you the number of times in interview feedback when the hiring manager tells us that despite having all the relevant skills and tech knowledge, the candidate wasn’t ‘dynamic enough’.

We hear phrases like ‘didn’t sound enthusiastic’ or ‘they knew their stuff but they might not fit our team’ all the time, and it’s because candidates just don’t project themselves and their personality within the interview.

Sometimes candidates need to project their enthusiasm; interviewers like positive, enthusiastic candidates. Firstly it puts both parties at ease and secondly it allows you to engage with the client.

There’s a saying in human resources: you can teach someone new skills, but you can’t teach them a new personality. While this isn’t a universal fact, it is remarkable how often we get feedback from clients that  say exactly that!

Sometimes, the final barrier to converting from candidate to employee is enthusiasm.

Get your geek on

Sometimes techies don’t have many opportunities to discuss their topics and interests. If given that chance in an interview, don’t waste it.

You are probably talking to someone just as geeky as you, but who can also offer you the job you want, so if you’re asked about the benefits of SQL Server, you might also want to discuss the merits of Oracle or Sybase too.

This can help you develop a rapport with your interviewer.

The Bottom Line: The interviewer really wants this interview to go well too!


Phone Interview Tips


Lots of IT organisations will begin the interview process with a telephone call to discuss the role with a candidate. It is the first – and most important – step because failure here will likely result in your application being taken no further.

Most of the time you will negotiate with the IT Recruiter on the best time available to take the call and this will be scheduled in for the Hiring Manager to call you. You won’t be surprised with a call out of nowhere, as the Hiring Manager, the Recruiter and you, the candidate, need to be prepared and ready.

Consider this a screening call to get you to the next step of the interview.

DO NOT give this anything other than your best effort.

Why do tech companies still use phone interviews?

Nothing can ever replace the in-person interview, but telephone interviews can help big companies screen potential candidates before seeing them or making them travel vast distances to be seen on the client’s site – only to be found unsuitable.

Many of the commercial giants of IT still use them as their first step in their screening process, and they aren’t going anywhere soon.

Phone interviews are often used to screen candidates in order to narrow the pool of applicants who will be invited for in-person interviews.

They can be cost effective and great for initial screening and many of the companies we work with at Ascent People will use telephone interviews in their application process.

It means you save time and don’t have to use holidays to get off work.

What to do before your phone interview

Always prepare properly for a phone interview in just the same way you for any other interview. Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses and have some questions ready. To help you here are some useful questions to ask in an interview to get you started.

You will always have time to do some research on the company you are applying at. Ensure you understand the job description and make an effort to match your own skills and experiences to the requirements of the role.

Make sure you have checked with the interviewer or recruiter and you know who is making the call (and you are sure you don’t have to). Then find a comfortable place to take the call, this is usually either at a desk or standing up.

Negotiating the phone interview

There are five basic rules of the phone interview which you should be aware of before, during and after your phone interview.

1) Make sure you introduce yourself properly and clearly, leave the interviewer very clear on who they are talking to.

2) Find somewhere quiet to conduct the interview, you do not want to be disturbed.

3) Never interrupt the interviewer, they too will have an ordered schedule of how they want to conduct the interview.

4) Do your homework on the company you are applying to.

5) Stay professional throughout, leave the jokes aside and state your credentials.


The Technical Interview


A technical interview will usually feature questions that are specific to the role are applying for. Technical interviews are used by the Hiring Manager to assess your technical ability and technical questions might include analysis of code or technical reasoning.

Essentially the interviewer is trying to assess your problem-solving skills and will nearly always be related to the job, so make sure you have read, very carefully, all the details of the job description!

Technical questioning usually comes in the form of:

  • Demonstrating that you have a clear understanding of the broader technical aims and processes of the organisation.
  • Examples of technical problems and ways to solve them
  • Coding tests and technical problem examples (see also Technical Testing)
  • Questions designed to present an understanding of the technical aspects of the role.

The interviewer might start off with some easy questions, but every technical interview will get into the nitty-gritty of your technical and coding skills soon enough.

Don’t be put off if the interviewer shows you wiring diagram or a line of computer code and then requests analysis of it in a technical interview.

Candidates should bear in mind that interviewers aren’t just interested in technical know how (although this is very important) but also about how you approach specific problems, construct your thought process, and then include personal skills, like communication and explanation.

A good starting point in your technical interview is to prepare on three, key aspects:

Core knowledge

The interviewer is going to want to know about your core, fundamental knowledge. This means you need to convey and explain, clearly and concisely aspects of your role in terms of data structure, algorithmic analysis, UX design, etc.

This core knowledge must stay central to your technical interview and you will need to use it to answer the technical question relating to strings or data types.

Often the interviewer will be looking to see how you process complex issues and translate it into a process and solution because your process is very much as important as your answer.

Because IT is always changing you need to tie your knowledge and skills to clear lines of thought and understandable and accepted processes.

By doing this you will be able to focus on giving the interviewer the answer they desire and allowing them to develop confidence in your fundamental knowledge.

Flexibility in problem solving

Every problem has a solution and the interviewer will be keen to understand what methods you have applied in getting there and the process you adopt.

They might ask open questions which can either be solved in a number of different ways or have a variety of different solutions.

When giving your solution, you might want to demonstrate your thought process to them to show how you got to the solutoin and that you understood the complex problem posed.

Just make sure your process is sound.

If you need to, make sure to ask plenty of questions and always get clarification.

Practice and preparation

Make sure you download some technical tests or discuss the possibility of the technical interview with your recruiter,

They can either help you prepare or offer you adequate tests to keep you sharp on your coding.

The more you practice for it the better prepared you will be and the more chance you’ll have of passing it or impressing the hiring manager.

Practice technical tests, understand the fundamentals and be flexible – you never know quite what you’ll be presented with. So be prepared.


Questions To Ask In Your Interview


Because of the way the candidate market works, interviews aren’t the one-sided exercise they might once have been.

If you strongly believe that interviews have the singular purpose for the candidate to sell themselves to the hiring manage and the company.

You’d be wrong.

It used to be, but not anymore.

Interviews in nearly every case are just as important as opportunities for the company to sell themselves to the candidate as they are for the candidate Remember, candidate numbers are lower than ever and vacancies are rising.

If you’ve prepared hard for your interview, don’t waste the opportunity to look like you are unprepared  or uninterested by not having a few questions prepared.

Here is a list of every question you’ll ever need in your interview.

We are a recruitment agency, and when we aren’t preparing candidates for their interviews we are reminding them they should be getting a short list of relevant questions together for the end of the interview.

Every question you ask should be different depending on the role you are applying for, but here are five questions that you can amend for every role and every situation:

Could you talk me through the day to day responsibilities of the role?

“How and why did this position become available?”

“What career development opportunities will there be at this company?”

“What is your favourite thing about working here?”

“Can you tell me about the team I will be working with?”

“How will my performance be measured?”

“Do you offer any training in this role?”

“What is the next step in the process/when can I expect to hear from you?”

End your interview with some enthusiasm, and act like you want the role.


Interview Questions You Should Prepare For


Most hiring managers know that they have to look beyond a job candidate’s technical qualifications when staffing an IT role. Soft skills and initiative, for example, are equally important factors to consider. And to get that kind of insight, you’ll need to put aside the resumes and come up with a thoughtful set of interview questions to ask your top candidates.

Predictable interview questions like “Where do you see yourself in five years?” probably won’t tell you much. Neither will a series of “yes-or-no” questions. To determine whether someone is a good fit for the job, you want to draw them out, ask a mix of technical and situational questions, and listen closely to not only what they have to say but how they say it.

You want to know if this person has the technical skills and drive to succeed at the job — and the interpersonal skills to thrive on your team? Here are 15 interview questions to help you reach a decision:

1. What online resources do you use to help you do your job?

Most IT workers turn to websites such as StackExchange or Github when they need help with something. Serious professionals will have their own selection of websites, online communities, social media feeds and other resources specific to their interests. The answer to this question will give you an indication of how engaged the candidate is with the broader IT world.

2. How do you keep your technology skills current?

Tech professionals work hard to keep their knowledge base current, and they do that by reading blogs and forums, taking online courses, joining hackathons and plugging away at personal IT projects. This interview question can help you gauge the candidate’s enthusiasm for the profession, as well as open up a conversation about professional development.

3. Pretend I’m not a tech person. Can you explain [a relevant technology] in simple terms?

IT plays a crucial role in almost every company, so the ability to communicate with non-technical people is a must. You can assess candidates’ communication skills with this interview question. Do they avoid obscure acronyms and jargon? How well can they break down a complicated process? Try asking a few “dumb” follow-up questions to get sense of how they’d interact with non-tech colleagues.

4. What qualities do you think are most important in a developer [or another relevant position]?

A question like this can reveal how the interviewee feels about the position and what they think they would bring to it. Some people may focus on IT certifications and technical abilities, while others may talk more about problem solving, attention to detail, communication and other general job skills. Look for candidates who give a nice balance of both.

5. What three words would your friends use to describe you?

The answer can clue you in to a candidate’s personality trait that may not be readily apparent through their resume or traditional interview questions. It also gives insight into how the individual perceives themselves and the role they’re applying for. For example, if their answer focuses on their creative side but the position is very analytical in nature, the job may not be a good fit.

6. Can you tell me about a time when things didn’t go the way you wanted at work, such as a project that failed or being passed over for a promotion?

Everyone deals with professional setbacks at some point in their career. What you want to know is how people handled — and what they learned from — those situations. The best employees are resilient, using setbacks as a springboard toward positive changes. So listen to not only the problem they mention, but also what they did after the disappointment.

7. What are your favorite and least favorite technology products, and why?

In addition to learning whether prospective employees like the hardware, operating system and software your company uses, this question helps you evaluate enthusiasm and knowledge. Do candidates become animated when discussing the advantages and disadvantages of certain tools? Do they admire solid engineering, sleek design, intuitive user experience or another aspect of good technology?

8. What are the benefits and the drawbacks of working in an Agile environment?

Most IT teams have adopted some form of Agile — currently the favored SDLC methodology — which means lots of quick meetings and a steady stream of feedback from fellow team members. A candidate’s answer to this question can tell you not only their level of understanding of this popular environment, but also their attitudes toward collaboration and communication.

9. Tell me about a tech project you’ve worked on in your spare time.

You want to hire an IT professional who devotes their personal time to side projects. Why? These are people who are driven and curious, which, in turn, keeps their skill set fresh. Ask how they stay motivated, what interests them about the project and what their ultimate goal is. If they can demo a website or app they’ve built, all the better.

10. What was the last presentation you gave?

Today’s tech workers can’t be lone wolves. They have to discuss changes with teammates, coordinate with other departments, advocate for platforms they prefer and much more. While not everyone has to love public speaking, your new hire should be able to conduct research, put together a solid presentation and persuade stakeholders why X is better than Y.

11. What are the qualities of a successful team or project leader?

Always be on the lookout for leaders, even when you’re not hiring for a management position. The nature of IT work means individuals will frequently have to take responsibility for delivering projects, and this requires leadership skills such as organization, motivation, positivity, delegation and communication.

12. Are you comfortable working remotely or on a flexible schedule?

Many candidates seek workplace benefits such as telecommuting, flextime and a bring your own device policy. Asking this interview question serves as a reminder to candidates that the company offers such perks. It’s also a good way of identifying those who might not be a good fit — that is, if your company has a flexible work environment.


Java Interview Tips

If you’re applying for a Java job, then make sure you go to the interview Java prepared.

Every job you apply for will have different questions and the complexity of each question will vary, depending on the seniority of your role, or the person interviewing you. However, you can still be prepared by considering some of the questions that you may get asked.

5 examples of java interview questions:

1. In your own words, explain what Java is and how it is used in the technology industry today?

2. Why would a character array be preferred over a String for passwords?

3. Look at this code and tell me what is wrong with it and why

4. What Java IDEs do you prefer using?

5. Tell me about a Java project you have worked on that you have been proud of


How To Discuss Salary In An IT Interview


Discussing salary can be difficult, but it is so important. Why else do we go to work? It can be a topic we forget to research when preparing for interviews and it can be an especially tricky one to answer on the spot. Here’s how to do it.

Be confident in your interview,  prepare some questions, answer honestly. But  blurting out your current salary or what your salary expectations are with no preparation or research could lead to you pricing yourself too low or high.

Here are our tips for preparing and discussing salary expectations in an interview:

Do your research

It’s important that you spend the time researching what the market average is for the role you are looking for and for your skills and experience. Pricing yourself too high and you will be out of the running. To find out more about what the average salary packages are in your area for your skill set, you can check out sites such as Glassdoor Salaries or Indeed . You can also check out some of our recent blogs where we assess salaries for Java Developers , Web Developers and Software Testers.

Stick to a range

It is usually better to provide the range of salary in which you are looking rather than a specific number. This is the best way to highlight your research, if you are asked about your salary expectations. For example, a good response to “what kind of salary are you looking for in your next role” could be; “from my research prior to this interview, for a role with these requirements in this location, between x and y would be a reasonable salary.”

Hold back on answering if you don’t want to or it’s too early

If the salary question comes up too early in the interview, or if you don’t want to discuss salary straight away, you can deflect the question until later on. If you are keen to discuss salary straight away and want to find out if the role would be a good match, go ahead. But, if you want to hold back you can always answer with something similar to; “I would be looking to find a competitive package as a whole, but first I would like to hear more about the skills and requirements of the role.” It is okay to delay if you feel it is too early. If you are pushed again on what salary you are looking for, provide a range (as discussed above).

Be honest

If you choose to disclose what your current salary is, be honest about the number. Don’t exaggerate or lie about your current package because with a little research, it could backfire. This could damage for professional reputation and also ruin your chances of securing the new role.


Are You Ready For Interview Feedback?


Sometimes our clients can be brutally honest, and why not, it’s their business. Potential candidates must be the right fit on every level and their feedback can make a recruiter’s eyes roll.

There used to be a time when mothers thought it was ok to lick their finger and wipe off some real, or imaginary, grime from our faces, usually in public. Now we’ve grown up, spread our wings and flown the nest, why do recruiters still feel it necessary to give candidates a verbal licking of “don’t be late”, and falling just short of reaching through the phone to straighten your tie – you are wearing a tie, right?

Whether that’s being forty minutes late for an interview, blaming the sat-nav and not apologising, or turning up for an interview under-prepared with an excuse of being too busy to do any research the night before. It could even be going for a permanent job interview and stating that in two years time you see yourself doing contract – it embarrasses everyone.

Body language is revealing, how do you appear to others? Have you ever come out of a long interview test for a break, clicked your fingers at a receptionist and asked for a drink of water and directions to the smoking area? You might think you are being ironic or amusing, but how that message is interpreted to others is far more important.

Did you convey real enthusiasm for the position throughout the interview? Employers like motivated candidates, ones they think will invest plenty of energy. Not a candidate that casually states “I’ve actually accepted a job this morning but I thought I would just turn up to see what you have to offer.”

Often a taboo subject, body odour can often be an immediate deal-breaker. First impressions count and that means presenting yourself well; were you dishevelled because you were late; is your personal hygiene beyond reproach?

Sometimes the perception that both candidate and recruiter having the same goal has been skewed. But its true, recruiters want you to have that ideal role that fits perfectly with both you and your future employer. It’s the only long-term business model that can possibly work in the recruitment industry.

Rejection can often be a good thing for candidates. There is nothing like interview experience and some positive, or negative, feedback to highlight where your technique can be improved.

We don’t always sugar-coat the feedback our clients provide of candidates. But sometimes explaining it to candidates feels as futile as trying to wipe a grimy face at the school playground. Whilst on the subject of school, just because it’s a hot sunny day, it doesn’t mean you can wear shorts to an interview either. Ever.