Interviewing for that perfect IT job

27 Jan 2015

“How many square feet of pizza are eaten in the US each year?” Yes, believe it or not that’s the kind of question that could turn up at your IT job interview, says Jeremy Pigott of Hays.

Interview processes, in general, differ from company to company. They use a variety of tools and techniques to try and determine who will be the best fit. Within the IT market, this is very much the case as the type of interview process you will undertake will vary a great deal depending on the level of seniority of your role, what technical space you are in, and whether or not it is a contract or permanent opportunity.

Glassdoor has a top 25 list of companies with the hardest interview process. It’s no surprise tech companies are in the majority. Google’s interview process has become notorious. It’s well known to include questions that don’t have a correct answer. The reason for this is that Google, like many large tech companies, are looking for innovators to build the future so they are more interested in the thought process. A programmer analyst question in Goldman Sachs, according to Glassdoor was, “How many square feet of pizza are eaten in the US each year?” You could say it’s a form of competency-based questioning, which many companies use.

Aside from the questioning, IT companies will use a wider range of tools than most other industries to analyse candidates. Of course there are telephone and video interviews, as well as face-to-face interviews and presentations. There can also be written, verbal and online technical testing, code walk-throughs and whiteboard tests.

Technical tests in IT job interviews

If applying for a technical role, you will most likely encounter some form of technical test during the interview process. Some companies will administer these before bringing you in for a face-to-face conversation while others will wait until you progress to later rounds. Either way, they will be focusing their questions specifically on the technology that will be critical to your success in the role. Sometimes the technical tests can be done at home, in your own time, while others can be carried out on the company premises within a specific time frame, to test how you work under pressure.

Whiteboard tests and code walk-throughs are commonplace when interviewing for a role as a developer. At this stage, it is not always about getting the task 100pc correct, but often the focus will be on how clean and scalable your code is, how you approach problem solving, or how you grasp and interpret new concepts.

Interviewing for a UAT, QA or systems testing role will certainly involve some level of technical questioning. In an interview for a test manager or lead role, you will need to show demonstrated experience setting test plans and strategies, defining the difference between testing and QA, or explaining the test lifecycle. However, a more hands-on role may require you to undertake a practical example of testing tools, such as HP Quality Centre, or a focus on Selenium or QTP if your role is in the automation space.

Through the rounds of IT job interviews

In the current market, a permanent recruitment process across the IT sector is likely to take two to three rounds, with each interview likely to focus on a different element. The first stage can be more HR driven, with the second more technical, whereas the third is likely to be a meeting with either the wider team or a senior executive staff member to assess the cultural fit of the individual.

Formal presentations are used as a final round of a project-driven or senior-level appointment. You will normally be given a challenging situation or scenario, ahead of the interview. You will then present your proposed actions to a panel of key stakeholders or panel members. For example, how would you correct a project failing due to a number of specific conditions? Or give an overview of how you would achieve certain key deliverables in your first 90 days.

Job interviews for contract roles in IT

For a contract role where the needs of the hiring manager are traditionally more immediate, one to two stages of interview are what you are likely to receive. Given the urgent nature of the prospective candidate to hit the ground running, the focus is often on trying to assess the required skills quickly, while determining which candidate will get to grips with the new environment the fastest.

As the fierce competition for technical talent continues, some companies are going through the interview process as swiftly as possible. Some high-profile, major multinationals have a famed reputation for an intentionally long, multi-stage procedure, but we are seeing more organisations running all interview stages back to back, essentially giving the candidate one super interview after which an offer will hopefully be presented.

Whatever the process, your recruitment consultant or HR contact should be able to give you a thorough explanation of each step in order to assist with your preparation.

Jeremy Pigott is a business manager who specialises is recruiting executive-level and PMO staff while also managing the Hays IT development recruitment team.

Job interview image via Shutterstock

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