You are standing in front of the head office of the company you applied to 2 weeks ago. In five minutes you will go in and meet Mrs Schmid for an IT interview.
Different thoughts go through your head:
“Will people like me?”
“Have I prepared well enough?”
You are just noticing that you don’t remember how many employees the company’s subsidiary in Malaysia has.
Will they ask you about that?
Should you google the info quickly, before you go inside?
Nervousness before an interview is normal. We all experience this in one way or another. The question is how best to deal with it. A proven way to keep nervous thoughts under control before and during the interview is thorough preparation. You will never exactly know what to expect in an upcoming interview.
But the following text will help you prepare as well as possible.
Table of Contents
1. The Three Types of Interviews
Congratulations. You’ve taken the first hurdle! You have prepared and submitted your CV and your application has been accepted. Or you have signed up on talegri and received an invitation for an interview.
Now you’re wondering what to expect in the upcoming meeting? The first indication you will get on what to expect, will be the format of the interview.
Telephone interviews or phone screens are often conducted before a first personal interview by someone from the HR department. They usually last between 30 and 60 minutes and aim to clarify the basics.
In phone screens, companies usually want to clarify the following questions:
- Do your salary expectations match those of the company?
- What is your earliest start date?
- How mobile are you?
- Why are you leaving your current employer, and why would you like to work for the company?
Often the first questions about skills are already asked (but without going into depth). Remember here that the person asking is usually not a technical expert. He or she just wants to know if your tech stack matches the one of the company.
So, if the next step in your application process is a telephone interview, make sure you have an answer to the above questions ready. Don’t underestimate the phone screen. Preparation is critical here too.
Important: Check in advance if you have a stable telephone or internet connection and if there is no background noise. If you can’t meet these requirements, e.g. because you’re on the road, it’s better to reschedule. It would be a shame if you misunderstood half of the questions because of a bad connection and were therefore rejected.
Online Video Interview
The online video interview is a step between a personal interview and a phone interview. Many companies use this type of exchange especially when there is a greater geographical distance between candidates and interviewers.
In terms of content, the video interview is very close to a personal interview and can contain practically all the questions and tests described below. Therefore, it requires a similar preparation.
Make sure you have a good connection, a quiet environment a background that looks professional. Dress just as you would for a personal interview. Test audio and video before the call and wear a headset if necessary so you and the interviewer understand each other well.
The personal interview typically follows a phone interview, sometimes a video call. This interview causes the most stress in many people and can include coding challenges and tests as well as various types of questions.
What exactly such an interview looks like depends strongly on the interviewing company. The following tips will help you prepare for a typical IT interview. Although we mainly describe the face-to-face meeting here, the tips can also help you with a telephone or video interview.
2. Interview Etiquette
In interviews, there are certain rules you should follow to make a good impression. Adhering to this “interview etiquette” alone will not automatically get you your dream job. But if you don’t follow these rules, you will quickly make a bad impression and increase the probability of rejection.
To appear on time for the interview is a must. If for any reason you are not on time, call as early as possible and apologise for the delay.
It’s also vital not to show up too early. Your interview partners have a full agenda and will not have time to meet you half an hour before your appointment. Ideally, you should be at the reception desk or ring the doorbell five minutes before your meeting.
To arrive on time, plan your trip and be prepared for traffic jams or train delays. Don’t forget the interviewer’s contact details so that you can get in touch in case of a delay.
Clothing and Appearance
Ideally, as a candidate, you are always a little better dressed than your interviewer. Even if the company representative appears in a T-shirt and jeans, you should wear at least decent trousers and an ironed shirt or blouse. If the interviewer wears a shirt, you should appear in a jacket (possibly with a tie).
If you don’t know what to wear (after all, you don’t know what the interviewer will wear exactly), you can ask the recruiter what he would find appropriate. Even if in the IT world, the dress code is usually quite casual, in case of doubt, it is advisable to dress a little too well.
In addition to the right clothes, it is crucial that you also make a neat and clean impression. A shower, deodorant, perfume (not too much), neat fingernails and a haircut are standard for an interview.
The importance of body language is often underestimated. On the one hand, your non-verbal behaviour influences the judgement that others form of you to a great extent. On the other hand, body language also affects how you feel and see yourself.
Based on her research, Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy recommends power posing before important meetings. Taking a dominant posture just before an interview or lecture will make you feel more confident and less stressed. This, in turn, will make others perceive you as more competent.
Controlling body language in a stressful situation like an interview takes practice and is not easy. But try to pay attention to these things:
- Look the interviewer in the eye (without staring at him throughout the interview). Direct eye contact is important to many people and shows self-confidence.
- Don’t cross your arms to avoid creating a barrier between you and the interviewer.
- Avoid nervous movements and ticks like playing around with a pen or having your hands on your face. These can quickly become irritating and distract the interviewer.
- A relaxed and upright posture is recommended. All too dominant poses like in “Power Posing” should be avoided. Some interviewers perceive these negatively, since they can seem arrogant.
- Don’t sink into the chair too much. This might seem as if you don’t take the interview seriously. You don’t want to look like relaxing on the sofa at home. Lean your body a little forward while sitting; this shows interest and can lead to a better conversation.
Research as much as possible about the company, the job and the interviewers on Google, Linkedin, Xing, Kununu, Glassdoor and Wikipedia. On the one hand, you do this to have the right answer to any questions your interviewer might ask you. On the other hand, it also helps you to find out for yourself whether you are really interested in this position or not.
Remember, the goal of the interview is not only to help the company find out if you are the right person for the job. It’s also about finding out for yourself if the job you’re offered is the right position for you.
Write down some follow-up questions from your research that interest you or are important to you. Then take them with you to the interview to clarify them.
Notes and Documents
Always take your documents (CV, references, notes about the company, etc.) with you. Also bring a notepad for and take notes during the interview.
If these are missing, your interviewer may feel that you have not prepared yourself well enough for the interview or that you are not taking it seriously.
3. Questions and Tests Coming your Way
So far so good. The advice above is relatively easy to implement.
But we all know that the success of an interview doesn’t really depend on your clothes or your punctuality. These factors can, in the worst case, lead to a refusal or have a negative (or positive) influence on your counterpart. But no one will ever give you an employment contract just because you showed up at the reception desk exactly five minutes before the agreed time.
Much more important is how you behave in an interview. What answers you give to the questions asked and how you solve the tasks presented. Preparing for these things is a lot more complicated than buying a decent suit to make a good first impression.
Every company, every interviewer, is different. So nobody can give you a list of possible questions and answers you need to prepare for to guarantee success. To make the whole thing even more difficult, not every question has one right answer. Interviewers often interpret what is said differently. One does not like it when you say that you are ambitious and would like to develop further, because he is afraid that you will leave your job within a short time if you can’t move up. The other is looking for exactly that, so she has a successor for the team leader who will retire soon.
What does that mean?
Best not to prepare for the interview at all and hope that you will come up with the right answer there and then?
You can do that. However, there is a good chance that you will not have a good answer to some of the questions you will be asked. Quite likely, after the interview sentences like these will cross your mind:
“Why didn’t I tell him about Project XY to show that I can organise myself well?”
“How could I forget to say that I want the job because I saw that they work with Angular and I want to improve there?”
No preparation, however good, can completely prevent these thoughts after the interview. But the frequency of these situations can certainly be reduced. Below we look at the different types of questions and tests that will appear in most IT interviews.
General Questions About you and your Experience
In almost every interview you will be asked some general questions about your experience, motivation and skills (mostly at the beginning). These questions usually don’t have one correct answer. Nevertheless, prepare how you would like to answer so you can do so confidently and quickly during the interview.
Question: Could you please introduce yourself? Could you please give us a brief overview of your resume?
Many interviews will start with a brief introduction. Depending on the interviewer, this may take two minutes or longer. So prepare to introduce yourself briefly and concisely.
Ideally, you have prepared a short and a more extended version. Depending on what is asked for in the interview, you can either introduce yourself in 2-3 minutes or go through your CV in more detail. Remember that the interviewers have already read your CV. So make sure that you not only say what’s on the CV here but also provide new information. Most managers want to get to know the person behind the CV. What makes you special? What are your values?
To prepare yourself for this question, it is worth rereading the job description in detail. For example, if the company is looking for someone with knowledge of C++, you can point out where you already gained experience with this programming language.
A question you should not only answer, so you know what you are going to say in the interview. It is also important for you personally. What interests you in this position? Why do you want to spend most of your time in the next few years doing the described tasks? If you can’t find a good answer to these questions, you might want to consider whether the job really is something for you.
You must answer this question honestly. But be careful what motivational reasons you want to put forward. In the table below, you will find some examples of “positive” motivators that tend to be better received by company representatives and “negative” motivators that tend to be less well-received.
Question: Why would you like to leave your current position? Why did you leave your last job?
An honest answer is a must here, as it is for all other questions. But there are different ways to represent a job change. All in all, the above list of motivators is a good indication of which reasons for a change are perceived positively or negatively.
No matter what reasons you had for job changes, never talk badly about a former employer. Of course, there can be problems with any company. In an interview, however, these should only be communicated very cautiously. Always be open to the perspective of your former employer. With this, you can prove empathy and openness for other opinions.
The added value of this question can be debated. But it is still asked again and again in interviews. While most candidates present their strengths more or less honestly, it is not the same when it comes to weaknesses.
How else can it be explained that 90% of job seekers are too impatient and perfectionist 😊? Instead of naming weaknesses that are hidden strengths, it is advisable to tell as honestly as possible where your weaknesses lie and at the same time, show what you have done to improve on these weaknesses.
The art here is to provide a realistic picture of yourself that will convince the employer after weighing your true strengths and weaknesses.
You’re afraid to be rejected if you say that sometimes you have trouble getting to the office on time at 8 am? Sure, there’s a chance you won’t be invited to the second interview because of that. But isn’t it better to stop the process there and then? A termination after two months with your new employer, because you were late twice during your probation period, is a much bigger inconvenience. So it’s better to get a rejection right away in the interview and continue the search for an employer who doesn’t care whether you’re in the office at 8 a.m. or 8.15 a.m. (because there are also employers like this).
Please do not misunderstand. Of course, you should try to present yourself as positively as possible in an interview. But a little transparency can often help to prevent false expectations. After all, you expect the same from your employer.
Behavioral and Competency-Based Interview Questions
Numerous scientific studies have shown that the answers to these two types of questions best predict the performance of candidates after they have started work. It is, therefore, understandable that more and more companies are asking them.
Behaviour-based and competency-based questions aim to find out how you have behaved in certain situations in the past or where you have demonstrated certain skills. The premise here is that behaviour in the past best predicts behaviour in the future.
Example of a behaviour-based question
- Describe a situation in which you were under time pressure and explain how you behaved in this situation.
Example of a competency-based question
- Describe a situation in which you had to use your communication skills to achieve a result.
How can you best prepare yourself for these questions?
By applying the STAR method. Interviewers are trained to pay attention to these four characteristics of your answers.
S for situation
Describe the situation in which you have demonstrated a certain behaviour or competence. Make sure to explain the most important points in a structured and focused way. Put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes and think about what interests him or her. Do not go into too much detail. If the interviewer wants to know more, she will ask.
T for task
Describe your goal and your responsibility in solving the problem. If you worked in a team, it makes sense to briefly describe the task of the group as a whole as well as your own concrete role and job.
A for action
What exactly have you done to achieve the goal? Describe how you approached the task and what you did to find the solution to the problem. Focus on your own role and what you have personally contributed. Avoid sentences like “And that’s how we got the project on the right track”, but concentrate on explaining what you personally did.
R for results
What was the result of your actions? Again, try to be as specific as possible and use numbers and/or facts to show what you (and possibly other people in your team) have achieved.
Would you like more sample questions to practice? Download our PDF with a whole list here.
Situational Interview Questions
Situational interview questions typically describe certain fictional situations. Your task is then to specify how you would behave in these situations. Here it is assumed that the intentions you communicate in your answer reflect your future behaviour.
Example of a situational question
- Imagine if you, as team leader, had to convince one of your team members to work on Saturday to finish a project on time. How would you approach this?
Situational questions are best answered by first trying to get a clear picture of the situation you need to solve. So ask if anything is unclear to you. If you make assumptions, communicate them to your interviewer. For example, in the above question, say, “I assume the team member has never worked on a Saturday before.”
Once you understand the situation and have made your assumptions and communicated them, take a moment to think. Your interview partners will usually not mind if you give it some thought.
Then answer as structured and concise as possible. Explain your thought processes and show how and why you came to your conclusions. Stay open for ideas and inputs and try to have fun with it. In addition to a good solution, your future superiors want to see that you are someone who enjoys finding solutions to problems.
The range of possible questions is extensive. To estimate which questions could be asked, take a closer look at the job description. You will find the most critical tasks and competencies there. Situational questions (and other questions) often focus on precisely these points. For example, if it says that organisational talent is required, the following question could be asked:
- Imagine you start with us next Monday and are supposed to take over the project of your predecessor. Your predecessor was rather chaotic and did not use any system in his data and storage systems. How do you proceed?
Live Coding Tasks
Live coding tasks are part of most IT application processes. Typically, you will be assigned a problem, which you will then solve either live on the computer or (sometimes) on the whiteboard. Your interviewers will watch you address the issue and may ask questions or provide input in between.
Try to approach these tasks as calmly and relaxed as possible and see the whole thing less as a test and more as a chance to find the solution to a problem together with the interviewers. So ask questions to understand the problem in detail and admit if there is anything you don’t know. Your gaps in knowledge will become visible at some point anyway.
Live-coding tests usually come later in the application process, when you have already overcome initial hurdles such as the phone interview. However, it can also happen that these tasks appear early in the process. So it is also possible that you will solve first tasks via video call before you are even invited to the interview on-site.
To prepare, you should take a close look at the job ad. From the description of the tasks and requirements there, you will see which skills are required. Online you will find numerous providers who offer coding challenges and tests. There you can find out where you stand in comparison to other developers regarding the required skills and can prepare yourself accordingly.
Another way to capture your coding skills is coding homework. In this case, the employer will send you one or more tasks with the request to solve them by a certain date.
Typically, companies use the platforms mentioned above to send you coding challenges. However, it is also possible that you will be sent a task by e-mail which you will then solve at home. The preparation for these tasks is the same as for the live coding tasks.
Knowledge Questions can also occur in a technical interview. Here, questions can be asked on topics that are important for the applications and technologies used in the company.
Use the job description to determine which topics might be most relevant and prepare yourself accordingly. Although it may seem tedious, it doesn’t hurt to take a closer look at the theory of the technologies used in the company in order to impress with your expertise in the interview.
4. Success through asking the right questions
After looking at many of the tests and types of questions that you might be asked, we will now go into the questions that you should ask your future employer.
In the application process, the things you ask are just as important as the questions you are asked. Unfortunately, this important part of the preparation to interviews is often forgotten or at least does not take the place it should take.
A job interview is not only about the company getting to know you, but also about you getting to know your future employer. At the end of the application process, you must be able to decide whether you can imagine spending eight (or more) hours a day in this company for the next few years. A few questions from your side are certainly appropriate.
The right questions will also help you to prepare better for the interview process and thus improve your chances of getting the job.
Questions About the Recruitment Process
Ask questions about the recruitment process as early as possible. Ask, for example, in the first phone interview or following an invitation openly:
- How can I best prepare for the interview with you?
- How is the interview structured?
Most managers will see such questions as an indication that you are interested in the company and the position and want to prepare yourself well. Use the information gained to do exactly that.
Questions About the Company
You have already informed yourself about the company. Now you want to find out the things you didn’t find online. Questions like “What is your revenue?” are misplaced. You can usually find that out on the company website.
But questions like “What are the plans for your department in the coming year?” are good. On the one hand, you show interest in your future employer, and on the other hand, you can find out how your working environment is likely to develop.
Think about some questions before the interview and ask them at the end or already during the interview if it fits. Try to find out as much as possible about the company and team culture, goals, working atmosphere and expectations towards the employees. You must be clear about what is relevant for you personally in a company or a position. Your questions should help you to clarify these points.
Be aware that your interviewer will also draw her own conclusions from your questions. For example, if you ask about flexible working hours or the number of vacation days, she will assume that these things are important to you. So only ask about them if they really influence your decision to join the company.
Questions About your Manager
When you interview with your future boss, it makes sense to use this time to find out as much as possible about what makes him or her tick. So take the opportunity.
Ask, for example, what is important to him or her when working together. Or what he or she does not like at all when working with his or her team members. The answer to the question of why the manager likes to work in his or her role or company is usually also fascinating.
An interesting question is also the question of the manager’s leadership style. Is he or she more directive and makes clear announcements or is he or she participative? Or does the manager perhaps have difficulties in saying anything at all about his or her leadership style? This also speaks volumes.
Questions About the Tech Stack
Most likely, many of your questions about the tech stack were already discussed during the interview. However, it is important to ask more questions here if there is anything that is not clear to you.
Are the technologies mentioned in the job description really the ones you will be dealing with in the daily business? It’s best to ask what percentage of your time they estimate you will spend on which technology/programming language to get an idea of whether the image you have of your job is in line with reality.
Questions About the Job
You will try to find out as much as possible about the job before you start with a new company. Make sure that you clear up any ambiguities with your questions.
For example, ask what a typical day or week in your job will look like. It can be baffling how the answer to this question completely changes the picture that was conveyed in the one or two hours of interview before.
Also, ask what your goals would look like to get a better idea of what is expected of you.
Finally, you can also ask what the ideal candidate for the job should brings to the job and what the interviewer thinks is missing for you to be the ideal candidate. The answer to this question can help you to better assess your chances and possibly help to clear up misunderstandings and explain why you are the right person for the position.
Maybe the qualities that your supervisor says you lack to be the ideal candidate have simply not been mentioned and you can use this opportunity to clarify that you already have experience in these areas.
What Happens After the Interview
Last but not least, in the end, you should ask how the process will continue. Should you call again or will you hear from the company? In what time frame will this happen?
Even though we have all had experience with not hearing from people within the promised time frame, this information will give you an indication of when you can get in touch again to ask how and when the process will continue.
If you have not received any information, just contact the company one or two weeks after the interview.
5. The Successful Interview
An interview for an exciting position can be stressful. You really want the job and therefore try everything to come across as a competent and useful future employee. This is understandable and to a certain extent, helpful.
But it can also have negative consequences.
The first prerequisite for a successful interview is that you remain yourself.
If you pretend too much and never admit a weakness, you can quickly seem tense or cold. So always remember: Yes, you should show yourself from your best side. But at the same time, you have to stay natural, stay yourself.
It’s true. In the worst case, this might prevent you from getting the job you are interviewing for. But usually you will have done yourself a favour. What’s the benefit of having a job where your boss is only happy with you if you pretend to be someone else? Do you really think you can keep pretending day after day for the next five years to please your boss and meet his expectations? Not likely.
Seen in this light, even a rejection can be a success. You managed to avoid starting in the wrong job.
In the long run, you will be much happier in a job where you know that your real strengths are appreciated. And where they know your weaknesses and work together to help you progress.
Now I can already hear some of your questions: “Why should I prepare myself so elaborately for an interview then? I just go there and be myself! I don’t need any preparation for that!”
Unfortunately, and this is the second prerequisite for a successful interview, you won’t get around this preparation if you want to impress your interview partners with your experience and knowledge. Many of the above questions are easily asked, but only very few people can give a well-founded answer just like that.
So, take the time to think about what motivates you, which examples from your working life best show where your strengths lie. Read up about what the basics of the programming languages you use every day.