I’m guessing you are either currently employed or want to be employed in IT. Even if you are currently employed, you will find yourself having to attend a job interview for an internal role, or if you find yourself redundant, looking for a new challenge.
I've been interviewed many times since leaving the police force in 2000, both for permanent and freelance roles. I’ve also interviewed a number of candidates to work for the two IT companies I've owned, so I've been on both sides of the table.
Here are my 10 golden rules to help you avoid both the biggest mistakes I see being made over and over again and to help you stand out from the very big crowd of skilled IT people.
1. Research the Company
Never attend an interview without knowing what the company does, which market sector they serve, who runs it, and what their mission is. Just because you are working in the IT department doesn’t mean you should be ignorant about all of this.
You can easily find all this information on the company website under “about us” and “news,” as well as by checking the company’s social media and press releases.
2. Back Up Any Claims
Everybody claims to be hard working, a team player, and a model employee, but you should be prepared to back these claims up. Think of any projects, awards, or other achievements you can use as supporting evidence. If you have any documentation you can use without breaching any privacy, then bring it along. Ensure you have it professionally bound and put it in a briefcase (not a plastic bag like I’ve seen some people do!).
3. Turn Negatives into Positives
I hate the question “what’s your biggest fault?”’ Who would really answer this honestly, saying something like “I take regular sick days” for example. Work out something inoffensive and then turn it into a positive, such as “I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist.”
Never say anything negative about your former job, boss, or colleagues. I've worked for some real jerks in the past, but when I've left, I've always thanked them for all their support and told the next employer that I felt it was time for a new challenge but I loved my time at my previous job.
4. Look Smart
Don’t fall for the “casual dress” trick. Even if it’s a dress down culture, you should dress smart for your interview. You can always take your tie off.
You can be yourself in your own time, so cover up your tattoos, remove any prominent piercings, and get a smart haircut. Everything you do and everything you wear is making an impression, so make it a good one.
5. Ask Questions
Work out some inoffensive questions to ask about the job and the company. You have read the job description, no doubt, so demonstrate your research by asking about the role and the company with questions like these:
“What’s your policy on staff training. Do you do it internally?”
“Do we speak directly to customers or is there a ticket system?”
6. Don't Bring Up Salary
The job interview is to assess your suitability, so any discussion about salary should be left until you get an offer. Same for overtime, bonuses, on call allowance, etc.The job description will usually mention salary range already to save you applying for a role you can’t afford to take.
7. Prepare to Say “No”’
If you have young children, then taking a job involving 12-hour shifts or international travel may not be a great idea. Also, beware of roles where you are expected to fix everything from the printer to the company website. These jack-of-all-trades roles almost always end with you getting burned out and not acquiring any marketable skills to transfer to your next role.
Work out what it is you want for a job, and if there is a big mismatch, then be prepared to walk away. Not every job is a good job.
8. Prepare for the Common Questions
Some questions seem to crop up time and time again in interviews. Here are a few:
“What do you know about our company?”
“What do you know about the role you have applied for?”
“What is your biggest character flaw?”
“What projects have you worked in the past involving teamwork/support/customer service, etc.?”
“Can you work without supervision?”
“Can you work on call?”
“Why did you leave your last job?”
9. Prepare for the Wrap Up
Have you asked any of the questions you brought with you? Did anything crop up you wanted to cover in more detail? Do you know what the next steps are and when you will hear the decision? Is there another interview after this one?
Make sure you ask the interviewers if they have any reservations they want to address before you leave. I sometimes ask if I can meet some of the team members I’ll be working with and for a quick look around the building. It gives you a chance to see if it’s the sort of place you would like to work, as well as the people you will be working with.
10. Prepare for a Tech Interview
When I was called to Cisco for a job interview, I was first taken to a boardroom by two network engineers who grilled me on technical issues for an hour. Thankfully, I’d just passed my CCNA exam, so I was pretty well prepared. Any questions I couldn't answer I told them I wasn't sure, but I’d find out when I got home.
After that, I was interviewed by the HR managers.
Make sure you find out what sort of interview you are attending in advance, so you aren't caught off guard. Be prepared for a technical and non-technical interview.
I hope this helps. If you want to prepare for IT job interviews like a boss, then check out my Land Your First IT Job video training course.