For one interview for a PC support role a candidate said he was an expert in PC building and troubleshooting. When the guy interviewing him pulled out a box from under his desk filled with PC components he couldn't name a single one. Not the hard drive, fan, PSU, nothing! I know they guy who conducted the interview.
When I was a detective in the police force in the UK I actually arrested and charged one guy who lied his way into a job. I don't know about other countries laws but in the UK it's classed as obtaining money by deception.
My point is that companies can no longer believe what they read. Enter the dreaded technical interview. It's something you need to prepare for if you are serious about getting the job you are applying for. But before we start prepping, a few words on the possible formats.
Firstly, you might not know if a technical interview will be part of the selection process. I've had a few jobs where there was no interview, sometimes because it was a new role and nobody understood the technology they were hiring for. You need to presume there will be a tech interview and prepare accordingly.
The interview could be by phone or in person. It could be hands on or verbal and I've even had to do a whiteboard presentation in the past. For jobs at Cisco you often had to have up to five interviews, part personality and part technical. For one, you would be in a room and over two hours several people from the company would walk in, ask you questions and then leave, then the next guy would come into the room and ask you more questions. What fun!
Recruitment agents can often interview you over the phone and without warning send you an e-mail link for a timed exam you have to take. No time to prepare for that. You take the exam and the result is sent to the agent.
Here then are the types of interview you need to be prepared for.
1. Phone interview – questions from the support or network engineers.
2. In person verbal interview – as above but in person.
3. In person whiteboard – you have to answer technical questions put on the board or draw diagrams/solutions.
4. In person hands on – you have to build, configure or troubleshoot live equipment (yikes).
5. Computer based or written exam – either in person or remotely.
If you prepare adequately though you should be fine. It's all common sense really.
1. Find out what the role involves as much as possible. If it's helpdesk and supporting Microsoft Word then find out which version and spend lot's of time using it and trying out all the features.
2. Ask if there is a technical interview as part of the selection process. It's a fair question and you should get an answer.
3. Check the job description and learn anything you can about the technology. Learn both theory and configuration.
4. Find out what vendor equipment they are using. If it's Juniper then don't waste time learning how to configure Cisco kit.
5. Be honest. If you don't know an answer then tell the interviewer. You can't be an expert at everything and DO NOT try to bluff (see below).
6. If you aren't sure then ASK for the question to be explained again. It shows you are listening.
7. Enjoy it as much as you can. We don't always land the first job we apply for so learn from the experience and move on.
I was put forward for a job with IBM years ago by a good friend. I sent him my resumé which was all Cisco and Microsoft. The team leader called me without warning and started asking me technical questions about Unix commands. I told him at each question that I wasn't a Unix guy but he kept asking more questions. I stopped him and explained that I knew no Unix commands and there was no point in continuing. I explained that I would be happy to learn but I'd be wasting his time if we continued with the interview.
So it all comes down to asking and preparing. If you have various skills then be honest about your level. It's okay to say you have basic Cisco and strong Microsoft Server 2012 for example.
I've created an entire course on getting through IT job and technical interviews, it's called ‘Land Your First IT Job.'