Amy Kardel is CompTIA’s Vice President, Strategic Workforce Relationships. She works with industry, education and government to create opportunities for new techs. With a deep background in the IT industry, and as the former chairwoman of CompTIA’s board of directors, she has seen how people around the world get into tech careers. Today she shares her advice for how to successfully interview so you can land the IT job of your dreams.
Preparing for an IT job interview can be nerve-racking, especially if you have no experience in the industry. To calm your nerves a bit, there are several sure-fire ways to prepare beforehand and share your previous experience, no matter what industry you are coming from or if you are at the beginning of your career.
7 Interview Tips for IT Pros
1. Review and Clean Up Your Resume and Online Presence
Before applying, it is a good idea to perfect your resume. The first step is to make certain all your information is up to date and free of typos or formatting issues. It may help to send your resume to a few trusted friends or mentors for their proofreading and feedback. In addition to cleaning up your resume, also check your LinkedIn profile and other social media accounts. These are a representation of you that is out there for all to see, so you want to make sure they depict the best version of you.
2. Do Your Research
Once you have been invited to interview with a company, do your research before your interview. Look around on the company’s website, study the core values and mission statement, and check out the competition. Also, check the company’s stock price, if they are a public company. If you are curious about career advancement opportunities, find current employees on LinkedIn to see how long they’ve been with the company and how quickly they’ve moved up the ladder. This should give you an idea about potential growth opportunities.
3. Prepare Answers to Commonly Asked Interview Questions
When it comes to IT pro job interviews, there are some commonly asked questions that you should expect before going in. The key is to think beyond the basics when answering these.
Here are a few of those commonly asked questions:
- Tell me what you know about our company? Keep in mind, they are not asking for a summary of the website. When answering this question, don’t just think about what they are going to ask you on a technical level. Think instead, “How does the company add value?” You really will impress them if you can say how they make money!
- Why do you want to work here? Think about the research you did on the company’s core values and mission statement. Use the insight you gathered to relate your motivation to work here. This is also an opportunity to highlight your soft skills.
- Tell me about your home network and how you secure it. This question is a bit more uncommon, but it’s important to be prepared for it, because how you formulate your answer will show a lot about how you work. Even if you’ve never worked in IT, it is a good idea to show you have some knowledge about technology. Tinkering around on your own home network and sharing that knowledge during an interview will bridge the gap between having prior experience and needing experience to get an IT job.
Overall, the IT hiring manager wants to know what kind of tech employee you will be. If you don’t know how to answer a question, it is OK to say you don’t know but are willing to find out. This will show a lot about work ethic and how well you can get along with others.
4. Share Your Past Experiences
Every job interview will most likely include questions about your past job experience. This is a good opportunity to brag about yourself and share your accomplishments. But what if your past job was in hospitality? Or you’ve recently graduated and this is your first real-world job interview? This is when you highlight the soft skills, coursework or pet projects you have accumulated over the years. Stack your knowledge of technology with the soft skills you have gained with previous experience. This is also a good time to share any volunteer work you have done, foreign languages proficiency or IT certifications you have under your belt.
5. If You Don’t Have the IT Hard Skills, Highlight Your Soft Skills
As mentioned above, soft skills are an important value add that employers look for during an interview. Some call them power skills or employability skills because they may be more important than being qualified on paper. Hard skills or technical skills may get you in the door, but certain soft skills such as active listening, being able to understand customer problems and being able to communicate clearly, will help you keep that job. In fact, in over 20 years of IT industry experience, I have never seen anyone let go over hard skills; I’ve only seen people terminated for lacking soft skills.
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6. Ask Questions and Set Expectations
As the conversation nears the end of the interview, make sure you have all your questions answered and expectations known. A good thing to ask is if there is opportunity for growth within the company. If you are interested in moving up the ladder and taking on more responsibility, make this known from the beginning. You may also want to ask some logistical questions about things like the timeline for hire, what additional parties are involved in the decision process and how you can stay in touch after the interview.
7. Follow Up
After the interview ends, there are a few common practices to show your appreciation for the interview. Later in the day of your interview or the next day, follow up with an email or a handwritten, mailed note thanking them for the opportunity. In this note, call out some specific things you talked about to show your interest in the position.
If you don’t hear back in a few days, it is appropriate to follow up to check in on how things are progressing.
Remember, don’t take a rejection personally or ask an interviewer for feedback. If you feel you need more practice interviewing, set up a mock interview at your school or with someone you know who can offer valuable feedback.
Lastly, be patient and stick with it. It takes time for anyone to land a job. Allow yourself to learn as you go, improve your game and keep networking.
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