7 must-ask IT interview questions

Most hiring managers know that finding the best IT professionals takes more than just an assessment of technical qualifications. A candidate's interpersonal skills and initiative, for example, are important factors in determining job fit.

So asking a predictable question like, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” probably won't offer many helpful insights into an IT candidate's potential. Whether you're recruiting for a big company or an SME, identifying core skill potential is an important part of the interview process.

Here are seven IT interview questions designed to elicit more targeted responses and better insights into an individual's fit for the job:

1. Tell me about a recent project or process that you made better, faster, smarter or more efficient?

You need IT professionals who understand the big-picture impact of their work. Candidates should be able to explain how their efforts made a difference for their employers.

2. You’ve just been assigned to a project involving a new technology. How would you get started?

This question will give you insight into how people handle technology products with which they have less expertise. What steps would they take to overcome a knowledge gap and ensure they still get things done on time?

3. What technology-related blogs, podcasts or websites do you follow? Do you share any information online?

One of the must-ask IT interview questions is to check whether candidates are staying up to date on trends. Do they have a sincere interest in IT and keep up on changes in the field and your industry?

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4. How do you keep your technology skills current?

Has the candidate taken online classes, or do they spend some of their spare time coding or troubleshooting technology issues? Have they taken on work projects in areas of tech they want to learn more about?

5. What three character traits would your friends use to describe you?

This question can clue you in to personality characteristics or qualities that may not be apparent through the resume or traditional interview questions.

6. Can you tell me about a time when things didn’t go the way you wanted at work, such as a project that failed or being passed over for a promotion

Everyone deals with professional disappointment at some point. What you want to know is how people handle these situations. The best candidates will use setbacks as springboards toward positive changes, such as getting a certification that will help position themselves for advancement next time there’s an opportunity.

7. What are your favourite and least favourite technology products, and why?

In addition to learning whether people like the products you use at your company, this question helps you gauge enthusiasm and knowledge. Do candidates get animated when discussing the benefits of certain tools? Do they seem to have a solid grasp of the positive and negative features of different technologies?

Interviewing a developer? Here are additional IT interview questions you can ask:

  • Are you using code from GitHub or contributing code to an open-source project in GitHub? Do you answer questions on Stack Overflow? 
  • What are some practices you use to help prevent a developer on the team from breaking the build? When the build does break, how do you help fix it? 
  • What do you do when you get stuck with a problem you can’t solve?
  • Describe to me some bad code you’ve read or inherited lately.

Remember to allow time at the end of the discussion for candidates to ask you questions. This is not only beneficial to applicants - it also helps you find out what matters to them. For instance, you may reconsider your interest in a prospect if he or she seems overly concerned about expected salary and benefits at the first interview. Or you may be impressed when someone asks questions that show he or she researched your company thoroughly before your meeting.

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