How to prepare for an interview in IT: Part One
First impressions: how to nail your IT job interview
A job interview is, essentially, an opportunity for you to show off your skills, talents and experience while demonstrating your knowledge of the job and asking any questions you might have about it. In this article, we’ll focus primarily on the main question you can expect to be asked during an interview: why do you think you’re suitable for the job? Here are some tips to make sure you can knock it out of the park.
Research the job!
We know - this seems like an obvious tip. However, recruiters often express their amazement at candidates who arrive at interviews with only a superficial understanding of what their target job will entail. You should instead possess an in-depth knowledge of the job description and be ready to convince the jury, with evidence, that you’re the best person to take it on.
Start by reading the job description, paying particular attention to any academic requirements, as well as essential and desirable attributes. Be proactive and reach out to graduate recruiter or company contacts if there’s anything you want to clarify. You can also check if GradAustralia has a profile of the company.
Get a feel for what life will be like in your target job by talking with personal contacts in similar roles or checking out the grad stories and graduate job reviews on GradAustralia.
Find out more about the organisation, such as what types of clients it works with, where is it based and what types of projects it takes on.
Deepen your understanding of the job
When it comes to demonstrating your suitability for a particular role, the general rule is this: the more specific you can be, the better. Of course, this means arriving at a deep understanding of what the role will require - and this will usually require you to go beyond the job description by asking questions like those below:
How much of your working day will be spent working alone, and how much interacting with others?
Will you only have to deal with your immediate team and supervisor, or will you interact with internal or external clients?
Is this job more focused on meeting immediate, conflicting deadlines in a fast-paced environment, or longer-term planning and development work?
How flexible will you have to be, eg in terms of travel, working hours, or changing projects or picking up new skills at short notice?
What industry sector(s) will you be working in/for? Will you need to develop a working knowledge of, say, the finance sector or the retail industry?
Will training and development time be built into your job, or will you be expected to learn extra skills and keep up to date with new developments this in your own time?
Bringing it all together into your own pitch!
By combining what you’ve learned from the position description and your own supplementary research, you’ll arrive at a strong sense of the talents and attributes you should emphasise in the interview. For example, you might reach one of the following conclusions:
I will be working for both internal and external clients, so I’ll need to show that I have good interpersonal skills such as the ability to communicate effectively, building relationships and negotiation with tact and patience. The recruiter will also want to see that I’m ‘presentable’, confident and friendly.
I’ll be working to tight deadlines so I’ll need to show that I can handle pressure and manage competing priorities.
I’ll be coding every day, so I should talk about my contributions to open source projects and provide other examples of my experiences solving complex technical problems.
We expand on the IT interview preparation in ‘How to answer technical questions in an IT interview’ and ‘How to answer general questions in an IT interview’. For now - good luck!