20 Common IT Interview Questions (With Sample Answers)

IT job candidate answering an interview question


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Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k

Information technology (IT) professionals play a pivotal role in our professional and day-to-day lives. Given the importance of technology in nearly every industry and occupation, it’s no wonder that we rely on people who are well-versed in the intricate structures and technical systems in place at businesses and organizations.

If you’re an IT professional, you’ve chosen an important, lucrative career path. But first things first — you need to land that role. How do you do it? Here are 20 commonly-asked IT interview questions to help you prepare.

The 20 most common IT interview questions

1. “Tell me about yourself.”

Why they ask: Here’s a question you’ll encounter in almost any interview, no matter what your industry or particular role. It’s meant to demonstrate to hiring managers which aspects of your career and history you find most relevant in your overall professional trajectory, as well as what you can bring to the table. It can also give you a chance to tell your interview about any potential problems with your resume, such as career gaps. (An alternative to this prompt is “Walk me through your resume.”)

Sample answer: “I’ve always loved technology and finding solutions to problems. In my first role as an IT specialist, I was able to help the organization solve critical problems, such as replacing their outdated security system. That’s one of the most important things to me — ensuring that businesses have excellent cybersecurity systems in place.”

2. “Why does IT matter?”

Why they ask: You know IT matters. The hiring manager knows that IT matters. But how do you convey the importance to someone else, such as key stakeholders in or related to the organization? Given that every department must justify their activities for budgeting, funding and other important matters, the hiring manager wants to know that you’re able to articulate why IT should exist. This also demonstrates how and why you value your role and work.

Sample answer: “IT is the backbone of a successful organization. While we operate behind the scenes, we’re critical in ensuring that others are able to do their jobs. We’re also the problem-solvers, addressing the technical issues anyone encounters in their workflow. Ultimately, organizations can’t operate without technology on their side.”

3. “What programming languages are you competent with?”

Why they ask: IT specialists are commonly confused with software developers, but the roles are actually quite different. IT specialists typically work with existing technologies, helping provide infrastructure and improvements to a company’s technological systems in order to keep it running smoothly. Software developers, meanwhile, build new technologies for their organization or clients using tools like programming languages.

Still, IT specialists should know programming languages and be able to use them to help their companies innovate and have stability, depending, of course, on their area of expertise and particular role.

Sample answer: “I have a lot of experience in a number of programming languages, such as JavaScript, HTML, CSS, C++, Java, SQL, C#, Python and Ruby. In fact, I used [language] to build [specific project].”

4. “Which certifications do you have?”

Why they ask: Certifications attest to an IT specialist’s expertise. Awarded by outside institutions and organizations, they typically require a certain number of hours of education in a continuing education class or graduate/undergraduate program and passing exams, along with on-the-job experience in many cases, depending on the particular certificate and niche. Organizations like to see these certifications because they attest to your competence and skills.

Sample answer: “My specialty is cybersecurity because that is the most pivotal part of an organization — ensuring that its operations are safe and secure. That’s why I’ve obtained several certifications to that end. For example, I’m a Certified Information Security Manager (CISM).”

5. “What are the biggest issues impacting IT today? How will they affect your role?”

Why they ask: IT is a cutting-edge field, and things are constantly changing and evolving. Your interviewer wants to know if you’re up on the trends and issues that are affecting the field, as is critical of any professional. After all, chances are, these issues will affect their organization, and they want someone who will be able to address them and introduce cutting-edge technologies into their business.

Sample answer: “Some of the issues that I’ve encountered are facilitating remote work setups for employees around the globe and ensuring cybersecurity for work-from-home offices in various locations. In order to ensure safety and security, I’ve done [X, Y and Z] and had Zoom meetings with my supervisor to establish priorities and ensure I’m meeting them to their satisfaction.”

6. “Tell me about a complex IT problem with which you were tasked with solving. What did you do? How did you approach it?”

Why they ask: By virtue of their job descriptions, IT managers or specialists are meant to solve problems within their organizations. You want to seek out professionals who are capable of handling issues efficiently. The issue itself is far less important than how you approach it and came to a resolution — in other words, the “why” behind the “how.”

Sample answer: It’s impossible to give a precise example since you’ll encounter unique problems in your work. However, there is a framework you can use no matter what the problem or interview question asking you to elucidate it: the STAR method. STAR stands for:

• Situation

• Task

• Action

• Result

To respond, use this framework, thinking about the situation, task, action and result. This will help you give structure to and guide your answer.

7. “How do you approach learning a new technology?”

Why they ask: Being able to grasp new technologies quickly and easily is critical to your role as an IT specialist. A hiring manager will ask this question to ensure that you have a system in place for recognizing which technologies your organization needs and how you can learn them in order to implement them as soon as possible. 

Sample answer: “If I’m assigned to a project that requires learning a technology I don’t know or believe an organization could benefit from one, I’ll do as much reading as possible so I can understand the applications and uses of that tool. If needed, I’ll also take an online course to help me hone that skill further. I’m a fast learner, so often, I can get up to speed on a new technology very quickly, even without taking an external course.”

8. “Describe IT in a nutshell.”

Why they ask: What does IT mean to you? It may sound a little silly — you know what IT is, as does (presumably) the hiring manager — but they want to know how you explain your role to a layperson. This is critical for specific projects, problems and more — you’ll probably be tasked with working with numerous people and teams throughout the organization, many of who may be unclear on your particular role.

Sample answer: “IT involves the technologies and technological concepts we grapple with every day. As an IT professional, I’m responsible for the day-to-day tools you use in your work life, as well as helping you facilitate niche projects that require technical expertise.”

9. “Do you follow a specific methodology? Why or why not?”

Why they ask: Many organizations, especially software-related ones, use a specific methodology to organize their workflow and address employee and consumer demands. Hiring managers want to know that you’re familiar with and able to meet the standards of their preferred system. Even if you haven’t used it in the past, you should be able to adapt quickly to fit your projects into the workflow of the business.

Sample answer: “My past organization uses Agile. That’s my preference, too, because it promotes collaboration and focuses on the end-user. I think it’s critical to any project, whether it involves software development or even simple IT management issues.”

10. “How do you ensure that you meet deadlines?”

Why they ask: You don’t operate in a vacuum — your work has a big impact on the rest of the organization. That’s why you need to coordinate with the rest of the business and maintain a certain level of standards, such as meeting deadlines. Rather than asking you if you meet deadlines, hiring managers are more likely to ask you how you do it; meeting them is expected. Your answer will demonstrate your understanding and commitment that you’ll be able to acclimate to the standards of your business.”

Sample answer: “While it can sometimes be difficult to meet deadlines, I make it a priority. I have a project management tool just for my individual projects, as well as ones that involve other members of my team, so I can keep everything organized. I also review all the requirements of a given issue or project immediately in case I have questions or anticipate encountering problems.”

11. “How do you work with outside vendors?”

Why they ask: Often, IT specialists need to work with outside vendors — such as consultants specializing in certain technologies — to implement new systems and create new technologies for them. Working with others and project managing require different skillsets from conducting the actually IT work, so hiring managers want to know that you’re capable of handling these relationships and contracts.

Sample answer: “I have a lot of experience working with outside vendors and contractors. When I’m working on a critical project that requires external assistance, I’ll make sure we have an established means to communicate daily, such as through Slack, as well as establish regular, more thorough check-ins on Zoom. I also use Trello to stay apprised of the bigger-picture efforts and ensure projects are on track.”

12. “How would you handle a difficult customer or client?”

Why they ask: IT specialists often need to deal with clients whose expectations don’t necessarily align with their own. Handling conflicts that arise from this requires strong communication and collaboration skills. That’s why you’ll often encounter this question in an IT interview — so the interviewer can get a sense of your ability to handle conflict, even when you didn’t cause the problem.

Sample answer: “This is something I’ve dealt with from time to time in previous roles. It’s occasionally difficult to meet clients where they are because your expectations don’t align. Before I get started on a project, I ask the client in detail about their expectations and requirements. If something doesn’t seem feasible, I’ll let them know in order to temper their expectations beforehand. If they’re unsatisfied, I’ll explain why this is the necessary route — again, before we make any headway on the project itself. ”

13. “How do you stay abreast of news and trends in the IT space?”

Why they ask: This is similar to question #5, which asks about the news and trends affecting the IT space. But it differs in that it addresses the how, rather than the what. Hiring managers want to understand your methodology for keeping up-to-date with the goings-on in IT, as well as the specific ones of which you’re aware and plan to use.

Sample answer: “I’m an avid reader of TechCrunch and Wired. But those are just a couple of the resources I use to stay up-to-date on the IT world. I’m also a member of several forums and communities that focus on niche topics like cloud architecture. And I read plenty of books, too!”

14. “How do you determine what technologies are necessary for an organization?”

Why they ask: A critical part of an IT specialist’s role is to determine which technologies a business needs in order to function effectively. At the same time, you’ll be tasked with fitting those vital tools within the budget you’re allocated. How will you manage all these priorities and factors at once?

Sample answer: “I like to speak with all the department heads with whom I’ll be working to discuss their specific needs and priorities. In a large organization, I might also implement a survey of lower-level employees to identify any priorities that aren’t noticed or addressed by department heads. From there, I’ll determine which technologies are the most important ones we can use to help the company meet its overarching goals.”

15. “What experience do you have in this industry?”

Why they ask: IT roles, responsibilities and technologies can vary significantly according to the industry and specific company. An interviewer will want to know that you have experience in the specific field — this will demonstrate that you’re equipped with the necessary skills and expertise to tackle a new position in the same niche.

Sample answer: “I have 10 years of experience working as an IT manager in the education space. I believe strongly in the importance of teaching and learning, so I sought to work in the industry in an IT role. I’m excited to continue to contribute to children’s knowledge in an IT capacity.”

16. “How do you collaborate with stakeholders?”

Why they ask: A chief responsibility of IT specialists is to communicate with stakeholders — both internal and external — to resolve critical issues and initiate important projects. In order to make the relationship successful, IT specialists must possess some critical skills and methodologies, whether they’re implementing a new cybersecurity system or establishing a more efficient means of completing and submitting time logs. 

Sample answer: “These relationships are incredibly important, so I try to make myself available to stakeholders at any given time or provide another contact on my team if I’m unavailable. In order to get off on the right foot, I like to have in-person conversations upfront (or via Zoom, if face-to-face is impossible. This helps me understand the most pertinent issues and the stakeholder let me know how they envision my role.”

17. “How do you explain technical concepts to people without technical backgrounds or expertise?”

Why they ask: IT specialists are generally tasked with explaining and resolving complex technical issues for people who don’t have technical knowledge or expertise. In order to succeed in their roles, they will need to be able to translate highly technical concepts into a language that’s clear to laypeople.

Sample answer: Responding to this question depends on your particular knowledge and skills. A good approach is to tell an anecdote about a time you were required to explain a complex topic to someone without the technical knowledge to understand it in technical terms.

18. “Tell me about a project that makes you proud.”

Why they ask: Your work successes are proof of your capabilities as an IT professional. Giving a concrete example of great work you have produced in the past will provide evidence of your skills and abilities. Additionally, your response will offer insight into your priorities and what you think of as wins.

Sample answer: “My previous employer didn’t have a solid system for facilitating in-house, day-to-day communication. I noticed that this was an issue, so I proposed developing an internal chat platform, similar to Slack but specific to our procedures and systems. It was very successful, with 70% of employees saying they use the system regularly.”

19. “What appeals to you about this job and company?”

Why they ask: This is a common question you’ll encounter in many a job interview. In order to respond, you should do some research to identify specific facts about the company that makes it appeal to you over others you might be considering. Of course, you may well be interviewing with other businesses, but an interviewer wants to know that if they extend an offer, you have enough enthusiasm about the company to seriously consider it.

Sample answer: “I really appreciate your focus on collaboration and delivering exemplary educational experiences to students. While I’m not an educator myself, I’ve had a lot of experience working with teachers and administrators to develop systems that support their goals and efforts, and I’m excited to be part of such an important goal and team.”

20. “What questions do you have for me?”

Why they ask: This is a question you’ll hear in practically any interview in any industry. And it’s one you shouldn’t overlook. Hiring managers want to see that you’re engaged in the conversation and excited about the job, and you can convey that enthusiasm by asking meaningful, well-thought-out questions.

Sample answer: The best questions are ones that you come up with during the interview itself. If you’re able to think of questions over the course of the conversation, it will show the interviewer that you’re paying attention and engaged. But you should still come up with questions beforehand, ones that are specific to the role and niche, just in case you’re unable to think of any on the fly.