How to prepare for an IT job interview: top 14 questions

How to prepare for an IT job interview: top 14 questions

If you work in the IT industry, you may already know that a series of interviews generally consists of two main parts:

1. Interview with a recruiter / HR or hiring manager: they ask basic questions about you, behavioral questions about potential situations or issues at work, and cultural questions to see how well you’re acquainted with the company and its corporate culture.

2. Interview with tech specialists: they ask you job-related questions to learn your level as an IT professional. This part can also include a coding challenge. 

In this article, you will get the list of the most common general, behavioral, and cultural questions. Although you need to craft your own answers, you’ll also find sample answers for your inspiration.

It’s recommended to craft and memorize answers in advance to be more fluent and confident during the interview. However cliched and stereotypical your answers might be, they need to coincide with what your interviewers have in mind.

Basic questions

Basic interview questions concern your personal qualities, general work experience, your strengths and weaknesses, personal and professional interests, etc. These kinds of questions may sound simple but they’re tricky as many of them are ambiguous, and it can be hard to identify what the interviewer really wants to know.

“Tell me about yourself”

Job interview: “Tell me about yourself”

Similar questions:

  • “Walk me through your resume.”
  • “Can you walk us through your resume?”
  • “Tell me something about yourself that’s not on your resume.”
  • “How would you describe yourself?”
  • “Tell me about your work experience.”
  • “Describe yourself.”
  • “Tell me about your background.”

How to answer this question:

  • Give an overview of your current position: who are you, what you do, where you have worked.
  • Enumerate your most relevant accomplishments, past experiences, responsibilities in your current position, your qualities and characteristics that align with the required skills, qualifications, and career goals. Support your statements with examples.
  • Tell why you’re interested in this role, company or industry. 
  • Avoid summarizing your resume word for word.

Example: “As a software engineer, I have spent the last 5 years with the largest Indian IT company developing CRM systems for the American market. During this time, I increased the system's performance and usability by 40%. I also have used this time to develop my technical skills by attending conferences and receiving numerous certificates, such as […]. I enjoy solving issues and taking on the challenges that come with developing software products. My greatest value is my ability to work both independently and in a team. I’m attentive to detail, quick-thinking, highly organized, results-oriented, analytical, disciplined, hardworking, collaborative, and patient. Learning and developing has been a long time passion of mine, and I want to focus my time and skills on growing in my career.”

Questions that might follow:

  • “Can you explain these gaps in your resume?”
  • “Explain why you’ve had so many jobs?”
  • “Describe your top three technical skills.”
  • “Why are you changing careers?”
  • “How many hours per week do you normally work?”

“What are your strengths?”

Job interview: “What are your strengths?”

Similar questions:

  • “What are your greatest strengths?”
  • “What do you like most about yourself?”
  • “What are some positive things your last boss would say about you?”
  • “What skills would you bring to the job?”

How to answer this question:

  • Recall positive feedback you’ve received from others.
  • Think which of your habits, skills or personality traits can be relevant to the position and which ones will help the company succeed.
  • Review the list of required skills and responsibilities in the job description and tailor your answer appropriately.
  • Stay focused on 1–2 key qualities that relate directly to the role.
  • Provide examples.

Example: “I’m highly organized and disciplined, and I never miss a deadline. After 8 years of working as an IT project manager, I’ve had only one late product launch. When I commit to a deadline, I do whatever it needs to be done to meet it in a quality manner. For example, a couple of months ago, we had an important project, and I worked all night to finalize it and to deliver it to the client on time.”

“What is your biggest weakness?”

Job interview: “What is your biggest weakness?”

Similar questions:

  • “What are your greatest weaknesses?”
  • “What is your least favorite thing about yourself?”
  • “What is one negative thing your last boss said about you?”
  • “What are three skills or traits you wish you had?”

How to answer this question:

  • Think of a personal trait that can be your weakness.
  •  Give a short story of how this trait has emerged in your professional life.
  • Finish by telling what steps you’re taking to improve and how you want to continuously get better at your job.

Example: “I’m naturally shy and lack confidence. It prevents me from speaking up at meetings and giving ideas that may be useful to the team. So I started to work on it and even submitted a presentation for the next IT event. I hope it will give me a start to overpass my shyness.”

Questions that might follow:

  • “Are you more of a leader or a follower?”
  • “How do you keep yourself organized?”

“What is your salary range expectation?”

Job interview: “What is your salary range expectation?”

Similar questions:

  • “Can you discuss your salary history?”
  • “How much do you expect to be earning?”
  • “How much do you expect to be earning in five years?”

How to answer this question:

  • Research the market. You can learn about IT salaries in various countries on (examples: IT salaries in Australia, IT salaries in Germany, IT salaries in Canada, IT salaries in the US).
  • Give a range, not a specific number.
  • Tend toward the higher side of your range. If you give a salary range exceedingly lower or higher than the market value of the position, it may give the impression that you don’t know your worth.
  • Explain your reasoning by highlighting your experience and educational level.
  • Let the interviewer know that you’re flexible with your rate.
  • Don’t try to negotiate until you have a formal job offer.

Example: “I understand from my research and experience that $110,000 to $120,000 annually is a competitive range / the average salary for a candidate with my level of experience in this city. However, I am flexible and open to negotiate salary depending on bonuses, benefits, stock options, equity, and other opportunities. Is this in line with your thoughts?”

“What makes you unique?”

Job interview: “What makes you unique?”

Similar questions:

  • “Why should we hire you?”
  • “Why are you the right person for this job?”
  • “What differentiates you from our other candidates?”
  • “Why should I hire you rather than another candidate?”
  • “What can you bring to the company?”
  • “How would you bring value to the position?”

How to answer this question:

  • Carefully review the job description beforehand and use specific skills outlined there.
  • Focus on why hiring you would benefit the employer, why you might be more qualified than other candidates, and what unique skills distinguish you from others.
  • Provide examples of how your experience and skills allow you to succeed.

Example: “What makes me unique is my experience of having spent 10 years in the game industry. As I’ve had first-hand experience developing back-end systems, I know how large-scale games and high-traffic web systems are being produced. I have a passion for game development that’s grown stronger throughout my career. I believe my experiences align well with your organization’s mission and that I could bring a diverse set of skills to your company. I also want to work for a company that has the potential to reshape the game industry, and I believe you’re doing just that.”

Cultural questions

The group of cultural interview questions focuses on determining whether you as a job candidate would fit in the company’s business culture and would align with corporate goals and values.

“Why do you want to work here?”

Job interview: “Why do you want to work here?”

Similar questions:

  • “Why do you want to work for us?”
  • “Why do you want this job?”
  • “Why are you interested in this position?”
  • “Why are you interested in this role?”
  • “What made you interested in applying for this position?”
  • “Describe why you are interested in this position.”
  • “What made you want to apply for a job with this company?”
  • “Why is our company interesting to you?”
  • “What do you know about our company/industry?”

How to answer this question:

  • Do some homework before the interview: study the job description, list your favorite thing about the position, research the company’s website (especially the “About Us” and “Careers” pages), memorize some facts about the organization, read a little bit about the industry, their mission, services, products, and workplace culture.
  • In your answer, mention the aspects of the company/position that appeals to you and align with your career goals.
  • Explain why you’re looking for these things in an employer/job: how this position is going to help you advance in your career, how it aligns with your goals, etc.
  • Make sure to mention how you will positively contribute to the company.
  • End your answer with a question about the company or job.

Example: “I want this job because I am looking for an opportunity that lets me exercise my analytical skills and eye for detail. While I highly value my time at my previous company, there are no longer opportunities for growth that align with my career goals. I feel this position will allow me to succeed because I’ve learned from the job description that your company offers challenging tasks and growth opportunities. I also believe that my experience with business analysis and BI tools will allow me to effectively contribute to your company’s success. Can you tell me more about how the company creates growth opportunities for people who work here?”

Questions that might follow: 

  • “When were you most satisfied in a previous job?”
  • “What will you miss about your previous job?”
  • “What is the best job you ever had?”

→ IT companies that hire foreigners in Canada

→ IT companies that hire foreigners in Australia

“Describe the environment in which you work best”

Job interview: “Describe the environment in which you work best”

Similar questions:

  • “What is your ideal working environment?”
  • “Describe your perfect company.”
  • “What is your ideal company size?”

How to answer this question:

  • Determine what you consider a perfect work environment: great communication between employees and the employer, a healthy work-life balance, flexible hours and telecommuting, access to amenities such as an on-site gym or break room, access to training programs, an open office layout or closed off cubicles, a closely managed atmosphere or an autonomous environment, etc. You could also tell whether you prefer a position where you work mainly with a team or working at a company that encourages individual successes.
  • Research your prospective employer and consider what answer might overlap with what they can offer as a company. You can visit their website or read company reviews.

Example: “From the research I’ve conducted, it appears your company encourages working as part of a team to achieve goals. This is my ideal working environment, as I thrive working in a team where you equally share in the workload, exchange ideas, and get feedback from others. This type of work environment allows me to remain passionate about my job and continue to grow my professional skills.”

Questions that might follow:

  • “Do you prefer working alone or in a team environment?”
  • “Do you prefer to get feedback about your performance through formal reviews or informal meetings?”

→ IT workplace culture and working conditions in Australia

→ IT workplace culture and working conditions in New Zealand

Behavioral questions

The behavioral interview is used to learn how you have behaved in previous work situations and whether you’re able to fit in the corporate culture. During this kind of interview, you’ll be asked questions about different situations. Your goal is to give examples of your previous actions, explain how you would deal with situations and what the potential outcome might be.

The STAR method is a recommended way to structure your answers to behavioral questions. This method consists of 4 steps: 1) S — Situation: describe the situation; 2) T — Task: explain your role in the situation; 3) A — Action: tell about the actions you took to resolve or improve the situation; 4) R — Result: describe the outcome of the situation.

“How do you handle conflict in the workplace?”

Job interview: “How do you handle conflict in the workplace?”

Similar questions:

  • “How do you deal with conflicts?”
  • “Can you recall a time of conflict with a coworker?”
  • “How do you handle conflict at work?”
  • “Describe a time when your boss was wrong. How did you handle the situation?”
  • “Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss. How did you resolve it?”
  • “Share an example of a time when you faced a difficult problem at work. How did you solve this problem?”

How to answer this question:

  • Briefly explain the issue. Keep in mind that stories are more memorable than general statements, so strive to “show” instead of “tell.”
  • Describe your role in the situation.
  • Tell what you did to resolve the issue and how your actions had a positive outcome.
  • Add what you would do to prevent the situation.

Example: “When a conflict arises, I find it best to consider the other person’s perspective and communicate calmly until we reach a resolution. I also attempt to move the confrontation to a private space to avoid further complications. For example, while working as a project manager on an IT project, I had a colleague who was constantly missing deadlines. When I approached him about it, he reacted defensively. So I readjusted my attitude, listened to his point of view, and offered assistance in improving his performance. He calmed down and told me that he was involved in another project where he had to do tasks that were outside his responsibilities. I came to a resolution that we need to alleviate his workload. Later, for other projects, that colleague delivered great work.”

Questions that might follow:

  • “Describe a time you got angry at work.”
  • “Describe a time when you had to give a person difficult feedback.”
  • “Describe a time when your work was criticized.”

“How do you work under pressure?”

Job interview: “How do you work under pressure?”

Similar questions:

  • “Describe a time when you were under a lot of pressure at work. How did you react?”

How to answer this question:

  • Think of a previous professional situation in which you displayed an excellent ability to work under pressure.
  • Briefly discuss the situation that caused stress and the context behind the situation.
  • Explain what your role was, outline the measures you took to solve the issue and discuss the outcome.
  • Mention the methods you use to manage workplace stress.

Example: “I’m not naturally efficient under pressure, but it’s something that I’ve learned with experience as I’ve done some of my best work under pressure throughout my career. One time at my last job, I was supposed to deliver a large project in four days. I quickly overcame that initial sense of panic and came up with a detailed time management plan that enabled me to deliver the project on time. I now see stress and pressure as motivating factors and challenges, so when such situations arise, I approach them with a positive mindset, try to act quickly and decisively, and come up with working solutions. I know stress tends to build up, but I eliminate it through meditation, yoga, and reading books.”

Questions that might follow:

  • “What makes you uncomfortable?”
  • “Do you find it difficult to adapt to new situations?”

“Tell us about a project from your experience”

Job interview: “Tell us about a project from your experience”

Similar questions:

  • “What was the last project you led and what was the outcome?”
  • “Tell me about a time you worked with other departments to complete a project.”

How to answer this question:

  • Think of a project from your experience.
  • Focus on your role in that project. While in many Asian and CIS countries it may be OK to talk mainly about the project and the organization of the team’s work, in English-speaking countries (Australia, Ireland, the UK, and the US), such an answer may be considered as a red flag indicating irresponsibility and the lack of initiative. Therefore, talk about yourself emphasizing your unique role and achievements in the project.

Example: “Last year, I worked as a software development lead on a document management software system. I assisted junior colleagues and made my best to deliver the project on time. I also offered to introduce a feature that decreased paperwork-related time and workload by 40%.”

Questions that might follow:

  • Tell me about how you dealt with a difficult challenge in the workplace.

“What are you passionate about?”

Job interview: “What are you passionate about?”

Similar questions:

  • “What motivates you?”
  • “What inspires you?”
  • “What interests you personally and professionally?”
  • “What drives you to do your best?”
  • “What makes you excited to come to work?”

How to answer this question:

  • Select something you are genuinely passionate about, what drives you, and what you care most deeply about.
  • Explain why you’re passionate about it.
  • Give specific, real-life examples of how you’ve pursued this passion.
  • Tie your answer back to the job role. What prompted you to apply for the role when you read the job description?

Example: “As a software developer, I thrive on creating efficient digital products to make people’s experience with technology memorable. I’m motivated by the opportunity to create something innovative, see the tangible results from my efforts, and watch as months of work yield positive user feedback. These are the reasons I’m excited to go to work every day. Having the opportunity to lead projects from ideation through launch is one of the reasons I’m pursuing this position.”

“What’s your greatest achievement?”

Job interview: “What’s your greatest achievement?”

Similar questions:

  • “What is your greatest personal achievement?”
  • “What is your proudest achievement?”
  • “Tell me about a time when you set and achieved a specific goal.”
  • “Tell us about the last time you achieved a goal. Describe the process of achieving it.”

How to answer this question:

  • Think about a recent example that is related to the job for which you’re applying.
  • Briefly explain the achievement, your role in it, and why you think it’s great.

Example: “I have architected all the finance and payment software systems that were implemented in the largest resort in the Caribbean. I also developed a social network similar to Facebook in my earlier career days”.

Questions that might follow:

  • What has been the most rewarding experience of your career thus far?

“What was your greatest failure?”

Job interview: “What was your greatest failure?”

Similar questions:

  • “What was your greatest failure, and what did you learn from it?”
  • “What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from a mistake you’ve made?”
  • “What is your biggest regret and why?”
  • “What was your biggest career mistake?”
  • “Tell me about the last mistake you made.”
  • “Share an example of a time when you failed. What did you learn from the experience?”
  • “Tell me about a mistake you’ve made. How did you handle it?”
  • “Discuss a major mistake you've made and your efforts to remedy it.”
  • “Tell us about the last time you didn't achieve a goal.”

How to answer this question:

  • Think of a specific failure related to your work. It may be a situation where something didn’t go as planned.
  • Explain your responsibility for the failure — even if it was a team failure.
  • Explain what you would have done differently and what you’ve learned.

Example: “I believe my biggest failure was career stagnation and lack of motivation for learning and developing. I’ve worked for 4 years with the same company which made me sign a contract where I should not be involved in any application development outside work. They gave no opportunities to learn new technologies, and I could not do anything at home either. So I lost touch and was behind other application developers. But last year, I found a new job, and started to visit IT events and learn new technologies.”

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Job interview: “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Similar questions:

  • “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”
  • “How do you want to improve yourself in the upcoming year?”
  • “What do you want to accomplish in the first 30/90 days of this job?”

How to answer this question:

  • Provide general ideas about the skills you want to develop and the types of roles you would like to be in. Mention things you would like to have accomplished. Would you like to attain a specific job title? Do you want to have certain technical or soft skills? Are you planning to receive specific certificates?
  • Try to guess what the employer wants to hear. If you seek to be at a lesser level than they might expect from you in 5/10 years, you might seem underqualified. And if it’s the other way around, you may seem overqualified.
  • Assure the interviewer that you see yourself in their company for several years.

Example: “In five years, I’d like to be an industry expert in my field, able to train and mentor entry-level developers, potentially taking on a leadership role. A few of my future goals for the next few years include leading a software development team in some capacity. I’m motivated by connecting my initiatives to the company’s larger goals, and I’m excited about the prospect of getting more experience in that.”

Questions that might follow:

  • “Are you overqualified for this role?”
  • “How long do you expect to work for this company?”

After the interview

It normally takes more than one week for a company to give you feedback, either positive or negative. The average time between the first interview and the appointment of the next interview is a month and a half, sometimes it takes up to 3 months. The larger and more global the company is, the longer and more unpredictable response times are.

Job offer 

If a long time has passed after the interview and you still have not received a response from your potential employer, you can send a follow-up email. Some experts recommend sending such an email within 24 hours after the interview.

Here is an example of how a follow-up email could be structured:

1. Subject line (e. g. “Thank you for your time”, “Thank you for the opportunity”, “Followup regarding [insert position title]).

2. First paragraph: a thank you (e. g. “Hope you’re well. I’m reaching out to say thank you again for taking the time to speak with me about the Software Development Lead role. It was so great to meet with you earlier and learn about the position”).

3. Conclusion (e. g. “Please feel free to contact me if I can provide you with any further information or samples of my work. I’m looking forward to your update.”).

4. Contact details: full name, phone number, email, Skype.

According to generally accepted standards, you can reapply to a large company 4–6 months after refusal. It is believed that during that period you could get missing work experience, learn more things, correct your strategy, etc.

Here are some general tips for job seekers preparing for an IT interview:

  • Study the corporate website, the company’s social networks, and the job description.
  • Review the major projects you’ve worked on and make a list of your professional and academic accomplishments.
  • Practice your interview responses aloud, preferably with a friend or mentor.
  • Use the STAR method to structure your answers.
  • Keep each of your answers under 2 minutes.
  • Be honest and open in your answers.

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