You’ve worked hard to build your resume and expand your expertise in your career field. Now comes the toughest hurdle: the job interview.
The interview process can be daunting even if you’re a great candidate. It’s easy to slip up on a tricky interview question and give an unsatisfactory response. That’s why you should prepare for your next interview by reviewing common questions and answers — especially if you’re in a technical field like software engineering, computer science, web development, or cybersecurity.
Types of Interview Questions
Job interviews involve an array of questions to discover different aspects of a candidate, such as background, knowledge, and values. Questions may aim to ascertain your expertise on a specific subject or determine your aptitude for handling stressful situations.
Many tech companies ask a variety of interview questions when hiring for a tech job beyond simply understanding your technical skills in the information technology field.
What are the different types of interview questions? Behavioral, situational, education, and technical. Here’s a brief summary of all four types of questions, why interviewers ask them, and sample questions as examples.
Behavioral questions help stakeholders guage your soft skills. They’ll appraise things like time management, teamwork, dependability, self-awareness, problem-solving, and communication skills based on how you’ve handled past situations.
Behavioral interview questions may include:
Describe a time when you’ve experienced conflict with a coworker. How did you resolve it?
When have you disagreed with a boss? Did you voice your dissent?
Tell me about a time when you’ve failed to accomplish a goal. What did you learn?
What do you do when you face a challenging project or situation?
What is your approach to meeting deadlines for multiple concurrent projects?
Your answers to such behavioral questions will inform the interviewer if you would be a good fit within their company culture and with fellow team members as a new hire. For management positions, these would also assess your leadership skills and project management capability.
Situational questions determine how interviewees might behave in future situations they’d encounter at the company. These queries are hypothetical scenarios that may be common in this workplace or important to the evaluator.
A good way to answer these is by connecting the hypothetical scenario to an actual situation you’ve encountered in the past and talking through your thought process.
Situational questions might include:
What would you do if your boss gave you a task that you don’t believe can be completed by their deadline?
You’re working alongside a coworker on a joint project, but your colleague isn’t pulling their weight. How would you handle this situation?
How would you handle an angry phone call from a client who was displeased about our product or services?
You find out a coworker has been lying about the work they’ve been doing. What would you do with this knowledge?
You need to make a good impression on a client. How do you prepare for the meeting?
Your workload has been rapidly increasing beyond what you can handle, and you’ve just missed a big deadline. What do you do?
You responses will help the interviewer determine how well you’ll thrive in their company. These questions can also give you insights into a company’s culture. E.g. If the interviewers focus on heavy workloads and tight deadlines, be sure to bring it up when it’s your turn to ask questions — how does leadership ensure their expectations are manageable?
Your academic background can be very important in some career fields, so you may be asked education questions during an interview. These questions put the spotlight on your school experience and any professional instruction you’ve received.
You may discuss your schooling, grades, major, teachers, and future learning goals. Be ready identify their relevance to the job and what you can bring to the company.
Education questions include:
What made you choose the college or technical school you attended?
What certifications do you hold?
How has your coursework prepared you for this position?
What professional development opportunities have you pursued?
How do you stay informed on the latest advancements and changes in this field?
Do you intend to return to school in the future and continue your education?
Your responses will inform the interviewer of how your educational background pertains to the job position you’ve applied for and how seriously you’ve taken your education in the past.
Every interview will evaluate your hard skills. For IT jobs, you’ll be asked technical questions to probe your technical skills, such as your familiarity with certain tools. You need to answer these questions in ways that clearly verbalize your technical knowledge and capabilities.
What are the different types of technical interview questions? Common categories of technical questions pertain to your credentials, competencies, fluencies, or implementations. They can pertain to your deployment process, project management, and many other concepts.
Here are some examples of technical questions you may be asked in an interview and suggestions on how to answer them. That way you know what you can expect in a technical interview so you can impress recruiters.
Which programming languages are you familiar with?
Why Hiring Managers Ask: Coding languages are vital for software development jobs. If a candidate isn’t comfortable with the languages needed to perform the work, they won’t be a good hire for the position.
What is [word]? Explain it in simple terms.
Why Hiring Managers Ask: Technical interviews will test your knowledge by presenting acronyms or terminology that you’ll need to define to prove your know-how, such as SAN, CORS, or clickjacking. They may ask you to explain it in rudimentary terms to see if you can communicate highly technical concepts to laypeople.
How to Answer: Provide a clear, straightforward definition and then describe what it’s for and how it works. The most succinctly you can answer, the better, as rambling is not often viewed as a positive trait. Also show that you can rearticulate a concept by simplifying your definition and avoiding technical jargon.
What would you do if the program you were working on crashed?
Why Hiring Managers Ask: Companies want to assess candidates’ problem-solving skills by posing scenario that requires troubleshooting. For many IT jobs, a crashing program is a common challenge.
How to Answer: Explain the step-by-step actions you’d take to debug the software to identify and fix the root of the problem. To illustrate your approach, describe a case in which you’ve had to debug a program or website before.
When would you denormalize a database design?
Why Hiring Managers Ask: Interview questions like these go beyond assessing your knowledge to ascertain your ability to think critically about certain methods by appraising their advantages and drawbacks.
How to Answer: After explaining what denormalization is, describe the most common scenarios in which it would be needed and then identify the downsides that implementing it would cause. If possible, share a case in which you’ve had to resort to denormalization.
If you’re still relatively new to data engineering or need a refresher, here’s how and why you might denormalize a database.
Explain the differences between A, AA, and AAA WCAG compliance.
Why Hiring Managers Ask: All UI and web designers need to know Web Content Accessibility Guidelines to properly follow protocols. This question ensures that the applicant possesses this prerequisite knowledge.
How to Answer: Explain Web Content Accessibility Guidelines standards and why they’re important. Provide a succinct description of Single-A, Double-A, and Triple-A, identifying their main differences.
What improvements have you made to IT infrastructures in the past?
Why Hiring Managers Ask: Interviewers like to know that you’re able to improve the frameworks you’re working within and not just simply operate within it. This question is especially pertinent to IT Directors who have overseen developments and deployment.
How to Answer: Describe the biggest improvements you’ve made at prior workplaces, especially if you’ve led a team to helm development. Provide specific metrics that illustrate the impact your improvements made.
Describe your methodology when you have to review someone else’s code.
Why Hiring Managers Ask: This question gives insight into whether the candidate can work with other people’s existing code or review code created by a colleague. Your ability to spot errors in code that you didn’t write demonstrates your proficiency and shows if you’ll be able to work within the company’s workflow.
How to Answer: Break down your process for pinpointing and correcting coding inefficiencies, errors, and stylistic issues. Be willing to review some coding as a test.
What tech projects have you completed in your spare time?
Why Hiring Managers Ask: A promising IT candidate spends their free time delving into side projects. This shows that they have a personal interest in computer science as a hobby and are more likely to keep their skill set honed.
How to Answer: Have a sample prepared, such as a website or an app demo. Just make sure it’s something that shows your skills in a positive light. If you don’t have a side project to show, start one now before your next interview.
What are your preferred resources to help you perform work?
Why Hiring Managers Ask: Skilled IT professionals know where to look for the latest, most authoritative information in the tech industry. Evaluators want to make sure you’re plugged into the IT community and can find what you need without guidance.
How to Answer: Know what the go-to publications and websites are for your particular tech field and share those when you’re asked. Identify some prominent names or entities you find most helpful and state specific instances when you’ve learned something beneficial from them that positively impacted your work.
When would you use templates for data structures instead of entirely coding them yourself?
Why Hiring Managers Ask: Hirers want to know that you can determine the most efficient course of action that results in a quality product. It’s important for coders to distinguish which approach to programming will be the most effective given the constraints.
How to Answer: Identify cases in which you have and have not used a template as the basis of your code and what factors made you choose that particular approach.
Be Ready To Discuss…
Some topics may not come up as direct questions, but you’ll need to be able to discuss them. Even if you’re confident with your knowledge base, it’s worth brushing up on some basics before the interview, so you can answer fluently.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Compare and contrast Relational Databases vs NoSQL databases
Object Oriented design. Be able to discuss:
Collections. Compare and contrast the following types of collections:
Technical Interview Tips
What is a technical interview like? Most tech interviews are highly focused on assessing the interviewee’s expertise and determining their ability to solve procedural problems. They involve a series of highly specific questions to judge the applicant’s ability to navigate complex problems, solve brainteasers, and think critically about IT challenges.
How do I prepare for a technical interview? The best ways to prepare for a technical interview are:
Know what the job description is asking for, including any required certifications.
Get familiar with the tools necessary for the role.
Be prepared to show your coding or programming expertise on the spot by practicing algorithms.
Role-play an interview with someone experienced who can test you and give feedback.
Make it a habit to ask clarifying questions and speak your thought process aloud.
Memorize as much as you can — or at least know where to look things up quickly.
Have an idea of how you’d answer follow-up questions to any answers you give.
Bring Your Own Questions
While it is your responsibility to prepare for interviews, and they can feel like tests, remember they go two ways. Take the opportunity to ask questions. You want to know as much as you can about a job before signing on.
Find out what tools and programs they use, what project management methodologies they use, what kind of continued education they recommend. You are also allowed to circle back to areas where you didn’t feel confident in your answers and clarify points.
Jumpstart Your Search
Don’t wait around for a recruiter to find you; kickstart your job search by joining the MVP Match freelance network. We have connections to countless companies across the globe looking for skilled technical experts like you.
You should also contact MVP Match if you’re a recruiter in need of a freelancer or tech contractor to augment your team. We’ll save you hours of interviewing time by vetting candidates so you only talk to the best matches.