18 Non-Generic Tech Interview Questions to Ask When Interviewing for IT Positions
Whether you’re interviewing or dating, you can’t get to know someone with generic, boring questions. Why? Generic questions warrant generic answers and you can easily get those by reading your candidate’s resumes and cover letters. Once you’ve asked the preliminary questions about IT certifications and skillsets, here’s some non-generic IT/tech interview questions (conversation starters) to gauge your candidate’s creativity, critical thinking, and real-life experience beyond what they’ve written in their CVs or rehearsed before your interview.
1. What is the first thing you ever built? Can you tell me why you built it?
The point of this question clearly isn’t to determine skill levels – it’s for IT recruiters and hiring managers to get a sense of how passionate and excited the candidate gets talking about this big, pivotal moment in their life.
2. If I were to ask your coworkers from your previous job to describe you, how do you think they’d describe you?
Much of most interviews are focused on the candidate’s certifications, the candidate’s experience, the candidate’s working style, etc. etc. Here, you get a chance to hear a “filtered” version of the candidate’s working style. Here you can ask questions based on why a coworker might say those things about the candidate.
3. Now that you’ve described how a co-worker would describe you, describe one of your co-workers working style.
By asking candidates to describe a co-worker’s working style, you can see how detail-oriented, observant, and opinionated the candidate is. Are they able to objectively describe their co-workers? Do they give details about how their co-worker benefited their team due to previous experience, ability to simplify complex matters, etc. This also shows you if they get along with their co-workers and how they work in a team.
4. Do you follow any technical websites or subscribe to any newsletters/blogs?
This gives you insight into what type of information the candidate finds important and that they have that hunger for learning and exploring new innovations and technology beyond what their job’s IT certifications require. Who knows? It’s possible you get some very unexpected answers that show you a different side of your candidate.
5. Can you give me an example of when you’ve applied your technical knowledge in a real-life practical way?
This question is a great way to get interviewees to think on their feet, show off their creative side, and see a glimpse of how his or her life outside of the world of information technology was benefitted by their IT knowledge. Additionally, it allows them to give a real-life example of them being innovative and problem solving in a non-conventional way.
6. If you could design your dream job, what would your role look like?
Asking open ended questions that have no “right answer” helps hiring managers get authentic responses from interviewees, who often seem to give their memorized, robotic answers based on what they rehearsed and prepared before the interview. It’s obvious when candidates describe their dream job as the IT/tech position they are interviewing for, but if they give an authentic answer, it allows you to see their creative side and gives you insight about their long-term goals without asking the plain-Jane, over-asked question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
Additionally, a question like this shows they are driven and thinking about their future, qualities great for an employee.
7. When you don’t know the answer to a problem you’re having, what’s the first thing you do?
When hiring for an IT position, you’re looking for candidates who are fundamental problem solvers and are able to self-manage. Here you’re looking for answers from candidates about researching solutions to their problems before reaching out to upper management.
8. Explain how the internet works.
To most people, the internet works in mysterious ways. This also gives insight into how the candidate can explain a quite complex topic. They may keep it high level discussing how it is similar to a filing cabinet, or they may get even deeper and discuss specifics such as DNS server, packets, and IP addresses – giving you insight into how the candidate thinks.
9. What resources do you use to keep your technology skills current?
For any professional, it is important candidates have a network of online communities, social accounts, websites, online courses, etc. to keep up to date on the latest news and trends in any industry. Asking this question helps you see how involved the candidate is in the technology world as well as how they approach their professional development.
10. How do you see your position evolving as technology changes?
Technology is ever evolving and knowing how the candidate fits into the current state of the industry, as well as where it is going, is important. By asking this question, you’ll get to see how the candidate views their role currently as well as where they see it going in the future, as well as provide the opportunity to discuss advancement and trends in the field.
11. What top qualities do you think are most important in the tech position?
This question gives insight into what the candidate views as hard skills and soft skills for themselves, as well as potential goals (such as trainings or certifications) they may be interested in. This also helps create portray the candidate’s expectations for the role and can help you understand their skillset.
12. What technology products are you most passionate about? Least passionate?
Asking this question shows a candidate’s knowledge of the tools and technologies they’ve worked with and mastered, as well as insight into functions they are drawn to (such as user experience, advanced technology, etc.).
13. What kind of work environment do you thrive in? Remote or flexible schedule?
Every organization has a unique culture and it’s important determine if the new candidate will work well within it. By asking this question, you’re able to see how they work best (such as if they’re independent or work best in a team, or if they work best remotely) and can allow you the opportunity to give insight into your culture and any flexible perks to make sure it’s a good fit.
14. Explain your favorite technology-related project you’ve worked on in your spare time.
This question gives insight into a candidate’s dedication to the industry. When working on side projects, this allows professionals to explore aspects of the industry they’re most interested in and develop their skillsets in ways they wouldn’t necessarily be able to in the workplace. This also gives an opportunity to see their project and skills, should they have a demo or website to provide for reference.
“Having a side project is a great indicator that the candidate loves to code and is passionate about writing software he or she is proud of. Furthermore, the code for a side project is often hosted on a public repository which I can browse to get another data point on the quality of code the candidate has written.” – Brian Pugh, Vice President of Engineering for Lucid Software
15. How much reuse do you get out of the code that you develop, and how?
Answers may vary across the board and it may not be a practice you are looking for in your organization, but this question helps you to see a few things about the candidate’s work ethic. If they do reuse code, are they doing it in an efficient way to perform a new function or to act in a new environment, and do they have measures to ensure it is done correctly? Following reusability principles to build a new software out of existing software is one of the modern holy grails of software development – probe the candidate in their code reuse procedure to gain insight into how they save time and resources with code reuse without compromising anything in the new software.
16. How do you develop a comfortable rapport with clients to determine their preferences for products and services?
Whether your candidate is working client-facing or in-house, they are catering to someone’s needs. Beyond what the candidate is capable of doing, it’s important they fulfil the ultimate goals, wants, needs, etc. of their project. Sometimes, people don’t even know what they want! It’s also important for candidates to be able to build a relationship with clients/upper management to not only understand their wants/goals, but also determine if there is a better way to do it.
17. How do you maintain work-life balance?
If you’re in IT, you are definitely a hard worker, and it can be easy to struggle with work-life balance. Oftentimes, it takes a lot of effort to maintain and you can learn a lot about your candidate’s work ethic and ability to detach with this question.
18. What inspires you in a job?
This is a great closing question to hear what gets your candidate inspired. From here, you can get some insight as to whether the IT role they are interviewing for is aligned with what inspires them, as it’s important as a recruiter to hire an IT professional that not only fulfills the organization’s needs, but also fulfills the employees’ needs to ensure satisfaction and longevity at the company.