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The Best Interview Questions to Ask IT Candidates

Two professionals sitting across from each other during an interview

Conducting an IT job interview presents a unique challenge. You need to cover all the standard interview topics like the candidate’s background, qualifications, and career goals while assessing whether they’re a good culture fit. But an IT interview also comes with the added layer of diving deep into a candidate’s technical expertise to determine whether they can, in fact, deliver the specialized solutions you’re looking for. This can be doubly challenging if you’re not an expert in this area yourself.

Here, we’ll share some of the top interview questions to ask IT candidates to help you find the strongest candidate for your role. To help structure your IT job interview, we’ve divided them into three categories: questions about the candidate, their approach to work, and their technical expertise.

Questions About the IT Candidate

Some questions are helpful to ask regardless of the role you’re interviewing for. Asking IT interview questions about the candidate that covers a broader territory than their technical expertise will help you get a feel for who they are as a whole person and whether you can see them thriving at your company.

1. Why are you interested in the position?

This one is a no-brainer to help you gauge whether the candidate understands the requirements and functions of the job for which they’re applying. From their answer, you should be able to tell not only whether they’ve done their homework about the role and the company but whether they’re enthusiastic about the opportunity. The best employees are those who are excited about making a meaningful contribution to the organization.

2. Tell me about your background.

It’s always beneficial to hear a candidate explain their career progression in their own words. This gives you the chance to learn how they got to where they are and hear about the twists and turns on their professional path thus far. A strong candidate should call out a few career highlights that are closely aligned with the role, whether it’s prior experience with similar job duties, specialized knowledge of a desired technology, or past successes that mimic what you’d like the ideal candidate to achieve. 

3. Describe your ideal work environment.

Their answer will be huge in helping you assess whether the candidate can succeed in your workplace, both logistically and in terms of company culture. Do they prefer lots of structure or a less rigid workday? Do they work best solo or as part of a team? Are they looking for flexibility, like the option to work remotely? All of these aspects and more will indicate whether their expectations align with the reality of working for you.

4. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Candidates in tech, perhaps more so than any other field, have an unprecedented opportunity to create solutions that can change the world. How does the candidate view their place in this landscape?

With this answer, you’re looking for the candidate to demonstrate ambition while having realistic expectations about where the role might take them. You’re also looking to see if their goals align with your company’s. For example, if the candidate says they see themself immersed in software development. Still, your five-year plan revolves more around infrastructure development, it may indicate it’s not the best fit. Or, at the very least, additional clarification is needed.

5. What motivates you?

When a candidate describes their motivations, they tell you pretty clearly whether the job will be fulfilling to them. This is an important factor to ensure the greatest chance of new hire success and retention. Understanding the motivations of your top candidate will also help you craft an offer that’s compelling to them. For example, suppose they say they’re motivated by the desire to one day lead a department. In that case, you might highlight the many advancement opportunities that would be available to them in your firm. 

6. Why are you leaving your current job?

This is a great “sniff test” question that will help you avoid bad hires. Many legitimate reasons people leave jobs include being burned out, disengaged, or just plain bored. What you’re looking for are red flags, both in the content of the candidate’s answer and their delivery. If they tell you they’ve handed in their notice because they’re always getting into fights with their coworkers or if they seem evasive in answering, it could be grounds for taking a closer look at their background and probing their references for more information. 

IT Interview Questions to Ask About Their Approach to Work

Success in IT requires a unique blend of being able to work on a team and being able to work independently without being micromanaged. Use these questions about the candidate’s work style to see where they fall on the spectrum.

1. How do you manage your time when juggling multiple projects?

IT professionals are often pulled in many different directions and must be able to prioritize tasks. What you’re really asking here is, can your manager trust you to stay on top of your workload without dropping the ball? Look for answers that show a strategic approach to workflow management. List-making, time management apps, and spreadsheets are good signs of a candidate’s response.

2. Describe a time when you had to take a leadership role on a project. Were you successful?

Even if the position you’re hiring for isn’t a management role, you should look for leadership skills in your IT candidates. The field frequently requires taking ownership of projects and seeing that they get done on time. What’s more, it’s always great when you can identify talent that may be a good fit for a management track down the road.

3. How would you explain your job to your grandmother?

It’s an old cliché that IT people are bad communicators. Still, breakdowns in communication between the tech team and the rest of the company can cause problems. Your IT pros must be able to convey complex technical concepts to other departments without losing patience or having important details get lost in translation. This exercise will help you gauge their ability to do that.

4. How do you handle failure?

Everyone experiences failure, and IT is one industry where trial and error is an inherent part of the job. Knowing how a candidate reacts in the face of a setback will help you determine if they have the character and perseverance to be an effective member of your team. A strong answer to this question will point out how the candidate learns from the failure and what they do to move forward from it. 

5. Do you work well under pressure?

Whether it’s completing a set of code on a tight deadline or troubleshooting a glitch that’s causing a system outage, performing under pressure is a common challenge in many IT roles. A candidate’s answer will give you clues about how they react in stressful situations. Look for a response that indicates the candidate can keep a cool head and focus on the task at hand rather than letting the pressure get the best of them. 

6. What’s your preferred communication style?

Communication might not be high on your list of required skills for your IT role, but it’s a lot more important than you might think. What good is technical support if no one can understand it? The best IT professionals have a gift for breaking down technical topics in language their colleagues can comprehend, whether that’s verbally or in writing. This question is important to assess candidates in this critical area. 

7. What role do you prefer to take in a team setting?

This is an excellent question to help you understand how and where an IT candidate might fit in with your existing team dynamic. While there’s no right or wrong answer, some responses may be preferable. For example, if you already have strong department leadership, you don’t need another teammate who always likes to be in charge. On the flip side, if you’re lacking leadership, you might be looking for a candidate who says they prefer to take the reins and give direction to others. 

8. What type of people do you work best with?

When hiring IT professionals, culture fit is often neglected in favor of technical credentials like programming or security capabilities. However, a candidate’s ability to mesh with your existing staff can make or break their success. Pay attention to a candidate’s response to see if it sounds similar to the people on your team. It may be worth speaking with additional applicants if their description sounds way off base. 

Related: IT Recruitment Challenges and How to Overcome Them

IT Interview Questions to Ask About Technical Expertise

This part of the interview can prove the most challenging for hiring managers, particularly those who aren’t well-versed in IT. Use these technical interview questions to better assess whether a candidate’s hard skills align with the role’s requirements.

1. What skills make you the best fit for this role?

This great open-ended question will help you discover what the candidate thinks are the most important qualities for success in the role. Some might talk about specific programming languages or technical credentials, while others might talk about more general skills like critical thinking or problem-solving. Look for answers that correspond with your own version of the best candidate.

2. How do you keep up with the latest technology advances?

The world of IT is fast-paced and constantly changing. In addition to mastering the duties of their job as it stands today, the ideal candidate will help your company keep pace with the shifting landscape and anticipate the skills that will be necessary for success 6 months, 12 months, or 24 months down the road. Look for candidates who prioritize ongoing learning through technology blogs and forums, industry publications, online courses, and even tech hobbies outside of their 9-to-5.

3. What are your favorite technical tools to use in your work?

This might include hardware, software, apps, cloud-based services, the list goes on. This question will help you uncover what the candidate considers to be “quality” technology—and whether it gels with your company’s perspective on the same topic. This question can also identify potential pitfalls, like if a candidate reveals that they hate Windows but your organization has an exclusive software license with Microsoft.

4. What was the biggest project you worked on in the last six months?

Here, you’re turning the mic over to the candidate and giving them the floor to make a case for their technical and non-technical strengths. Look for the candidate to talk you through how they solved a problem or overcame a challenge and the steps that were involved along the way. Ideally, you’ll get to hear about a mix of hard skills, like programming logic, and soft skills, like teamwork and communication.

5. Describe your process for quality control.

No matter the specifics of your IT job, it no doubt comes with a certain level of expectations about the quality of the work or product. How will a candidate meet these expectations? What prior experience do they have in this area? You want to see that quality isn’t an afterthought but a core part of the candidate’s approach to their work.

6. Let’s say the CTO comes to you with [insert common challenge candidate would face in the role]. How would you handle it?

This situational interview question requires the candidate to think in hypotheticals about how they’d react in a future situation. It will help you understand how a candidate thinks through problems and whether they’re able to take a bigger task and break it down into smaller, achievable parts to get the job done.

7. One of the goals we’re looking for the right candidate to achieve is [insert KPI for the role]. How would you go about achieving this?

This question allows the candidate to talk through their process for achieving goals and expand upon how they would apply their skills in this role. A good candidate should be able to confidently explain how they’d approach the challenge and name the action items they’d check off along the way. This demonstrates a critical thinker who’s comfortable solving problems, which are necessary qualities in an IT role. 

8. How do you measure your success?

One big challenge with IT jobs is that success can take time to define. Performance is often subjective, and technical professionals may have different ideas of what success looks like than the company leaders who are assessing them. Thus, it’s a great idea to ensure you’re on the same page from the beginning, and you can start by discussing it in the job interview. 

9. What new software or technology have you used recently?

IT professionals play a crucial role in helping companies innovate. You look to them as a source of knowledge for what’s new and coming next. A strong candidate should have no problem naming off a few pieces of tech they’ve tested out and telling you how they performed. Even better if they speak about the topic with enthusiasm. 

10. How do you provide support remotely?

With millions of employees working offsite, the modern IT professional must possess the skills to do their job–and help others–remotely. Look for an answer that demonstrates the candidate is comfortable using various forms of technology (or even a good old-fashioned phone call) to support people in another location. 

11. What questions do you have for us?

Don’t forget to leave time at the end for this all-important IT interview question. This not only helps contribute to a positive candidate experience, but it can also help you see where their head is at after their first face-to-face interaction with your company.

Are they asking questions about what success looks like in the role or the department’s biggest goals for the upcoming year? Great! Are they asking basic questions they should already know the answer to or probing about your time off policy? Not so great. This question is a good way to get one last read on a candidate’s preparedness and the likelihood of accepting the job should you decide to make an offer.

Hiring for an IT Role? Let 4 Corner Resources Deliver Top Talent

Information technology plays a critical role in every field. That’s why it’s of utmost importance to hire the very best IT professionals available. Consider partnering with an IT staffing agency to recruit top IT professionals for your hiring needs.  4 Corner Resources got its start in information technology staffing, and though we’ve grown a lot since then, IT remains a core expertise.

Let us fill your hiring funnel with IT candidates who can help keep your business fast and agile. We have experience filling various technical positions, including data architects, DevOps engineers, software developers, network administrators, and much more. Get started by contacting us to speak with one of our IT hiring experts today.

Pete Newsome

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the President of 4 Corner Resources, the staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. 4 Corner is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance, and the top-rated staffing company in Central Florida. Recent awards and recognition include being named to Forbes’ Best Recruiting Firms in America, The Seminole 100, and The Golden 100. Pete also founded zengig, to offer comprehensive career advice, tools, and resources for students and professionals. He hosts two podcasts, Hire Calling and Finding Career Zen, and is blazing new trails in recruitment marketing with the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn