When looking for a tech job, you will encounter things in the interview process that are much different than most other jobs. It’s almost a 100% guarantee that you will have at least three interviews, maybe more. At one point I was looking for a new job and found one that I thought was a great fit for my skill set and my future. After four interviews spread across three months, I decided not to wait any longer and was told by their HR that there was one more interview still. Organizations are looking for the best talent possible, and as an IT professional you look to make a pretty decent salary. Expect them to vet candidates thoroughly. With that said, if you encounter a company out there that is willing to hire you over the phone without vetting your skills, be very wary – they are likely just trying to fill a seat so they can keep billing their customer. Those situations are very common in government contracting, so beware.
The single most important part of any hiring process in the hunt for an IT pro is the technical interview. In my experience, this is usually the second interview you will encounter. The first time a company reaches out to you is basically to gauge your interest, get to know you, and gather information on your work experience. Recruiters will then take that information and forward it on to the hiring manager who will go through it and decide if you are a good fit. Once they’ve decided on pursuing you as a potential employee, they want to vet your skills, and they want to do it on a technical level. So you told the recruiter you knew Active Directory and you have experience in installing and configuring it… that’s great, but they want to make sure you know what you’re talking about.
The recruiter will call you back and set up a technical interview or “tech screen” between yourself and one of their actual technical employees. From my experience, this employee has ranged from a systems architect to a day-to-day, in the trenches administrator who knows the ins and outs of the technology you are being hired to support. This is not the time to panic and rattle off a bunch of “Ums” and “Hmms.” You will be dropped quickly. This is your time to shine! If you are applying for a job supporting Active Directory and you’ve been at it for 10 years, likely you enjoy it (ok, maybe) and are passionate about what you do. It should be a piece of cake to ace this technical interview. Despite your knowledge, it’s not uncommon to get stage fright and start panicking.
I’m here to help walk you through some dos and don’ts of technical interviewing, If you follow these guidelines you can easily ace your technical interview.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Technical Interviewing
Do – Ask your own questions:
Start the interview with small talk and ask questions about your interviewer, like this for example: “Thanks for taking time to interview with me today, how’s your day been?” “How long have you been supporting Active Directory for XYZ Corporation?” “What is your day-to-day like?” Asking your own questions about your interviewer helps to break the ice and make everyone feel at ease. It might seem crazy, but at times it’s more nerve racking for the interviewer than it is for you.
Don’t – Use Google While Interviewing:
You’re interviewer will sniff this out faster than you can say “Ok Google…” When they ask you a question and there is a long pause or you ask them to repeat the question a few times, it becomes obvious you are searching for the answer. Besides the fact that they likely can hear you typing, it comes across very bad. If you can’t answer their questions, you shouldn’t act like you can, that puts everyone in a bad situation. If you are asked a question that you don’t know the answer to, simply tell them you don’t know or aren’t sure. If you have never heard of the technology or haven’t done what their asking about, just be honest, it will be better received than you trying to tap dance around the answer by Googling it.
Do – Research the Position Before the Interview:
If you are going to interview for that Active Directory position, research the job by reading the job post again, and again. Understand what the company does and how important the job they’ve posted is to their success. If you know the name of the technical interviewer, look them up. It’s ok to Google before the interview! Check out their work experience. If you are rusty in certain areas of the job description, dig in and get reacquainted with technologies that you haven’t touched in a while. If you do your research, you can approach the interview with confidence. That is something the interviewer will pick up on. If you do your research before the interview, you won’t need Google during it.
Don’t – Be Late:
If your interview is in person, show up 15 minutes early. When I was in basic training for the Air Force, my drill instructor always shouted “If you are 15 minutes early you are on time, if you are 5 minutes early you are late, and if you show up on time, you have failed!” If you are driving to a location that you haven’t been to before, leave 30 minutes early, that way when your GPS is wrong or you run into a road blockage you can reroute and still make it on time. If you are supposed to call someone for the interview, make sure to send a text message at least 30 minutes early and ask if the interview is still on. This lets the interviewer know you are prepared and gives them an opportunity to reschedule or push the time back if they’ve run into issues at work. If the interviewer is going to call you, make sure your phone is charged and you are sitting in a quiet place (not a running car) and are ready to take their call at least 5 minutes prior.
Do – Be Gracious:
It goes a long way to thank the interviewer for their time. Most of the time, the technical guys are working their tail off already, at times buried in work when the hiring manager volunteers them to jump on a call or head to a different building to do a technical interview. If you’ve worked any time in IT, you know how frustrating/stressful/tiring it can be. Then on top of your regular duties, your management expects you to drop what you’re doing and interview someone. Thank them, and make sure to end the interview on a good note, regardless of how it went.
Don’t – Lie:
I touched on this a little in the “Don’t Google” section, but it’s worth repeating. Lying in an interview, especially a technical interview, is terrible. Let me stress, if you don’t know the answer, don’t lie. Do your best to answer the questions, and if you don’t know it, ask them to explain the answer. You will learn what they asked about, and they will see you as honest and inquisitive at the same time… great traits for a new employee.
Technical interviews are the most important part of the tech hiring process, I can tell you that from the perspective of both the interviewer and the interviewee – I’ve played both roles many times. If you can ace the technical interview, the rest is all downhill. The hiring manager is waiting for the technical interviewer to give them the thumbs up or thumbs down. I’m confident that if you follow my guidelines, you can be the thumbs up every time! Good luck!