IT talent: 3 interview questions to prep for (and how to respond)

Looking to land your next tech role? How you answer these common interview questions could be key
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With skills gaps across many sectors and flexible work models becoming standard, there’s never been a better time to be an IT professional. Systems analyst, functional consultant, and cloud engineer are among the top roles tech leaders are looking to fill.

If you have the technical knowledge (and even if you don’t!) along with skills like analytical thinking, clear communication, and the ability to understand and respond to feedback, you are likely a strong candidate. But first, you need to go through the interview process.

Based on my experience, here are three questions CIOs might ask during an interview – and tips on how to respond.

1. How would you describe our business to someone who doesn’t speak tech?

This is a popular question among tech leaders looking to bring on new talent. It’s a two-part question, so you should be prepared to offer a two-part answer. The interviewer is likely looking for a clear description of the organization’s mission statement, and a translation of that product or service, free of jargon or overly specialized tech speak.

As the candidate, show that you understand what the business does with convincing clarity. You’ll need to have done your homework before you get to the interview to get this one right, but make sure you also bring in anything you’ve picked up throughout the interview conversation. Re-phrasing something the interviewer said previously can be an effective way of indicating that you’ve understood it.

[ Related read Digital transformation: How to get buy-in ]

For the second part of your answer, try to break down the company’s mission statement into its simplest constituent parts. What does the product do? Who is it for? What niche does it serve within the market? If they sell a product, consider a basic framing: “The company makes a piece of tech that does x.” If they provide a service, you might say, “The company assists people with y.”

Metaphors can be helpful with this part of the question, but don’t outsmart yourself! If the industry space is a coffee house, “we grind the beans” is an okay answer. But maybe don’t get into pour-over and cafetières.

2. How do you see your skills and experience fit the role?

With this question, the interviewer hopes you’ll go into detail about your skillset – but not just for the sake of it. The point of this question isn’t solely to see whether you have the skills for the job but whether you know how to apply those skills to the specific requirements of the job in question.

If you know you’re lacking a specific skill or technical knowledge base, speak to that honestly and emphasize your willingness to learn and grasp the unfamiliar.

This could be straightforward if you have experience as a developer elsewhere and you’re applying for a similar role with the new company. But try to tailor your response and get into the specifics of how your skills and previous experience can serve this business’s needs.

Let’s say you’ve previously worked as a developer, but now you’re applying for an engineering role. You should still talk about your previous experience but with the lens of how you anticipate it proving beneficial in this context. Lateral thinking is a valuable asset in the tech space.

And crucially, if you know you’re lacking a specific skill or technical knowledge base, speak to that honestly and emphasize your willingness to learn and grasp the unfamiliar. A great employer will want to support you in that journey.

3. How do you see the future of the tech industry space?

If you get this question from a CIO or other IT leader at an interview, they want to determine whether you can extrapolate – to think big-picture and long-term.

You might not see the relevance of applying for an administrator or systems manager role. Still, your interviewer wants to know that the person they’re bringing in understands the sector and has an active interest in its wider development. Draw on your prep, pair your tech and business insights with any holistic assessments you might have, and don’t hesitate to share what you would personally like to see.

And if you include some reflections on how the day-to-day business experience could change and develop in the coming years, you’re likely to impress. Connecting the macro with the micro is vital in tech – especially regarding the more strategic tech roles like consultant or systems analyst.

[ Check out essential career advice from 37 award-winning CIOs! Get a variety of insights on leadership, strategy, and career development from IT executives at Mayo Clinic, Dow, Aflac, Liberty Mutual, Nordstrom, and more: Ebook: 37 award-winning CIOs share essential IT career advice. ]

James Lloyd-Townshend joined Frank Recruitment Group in 2015 and is the Chairman and CEO. He is a graduate of Economics and Accounting from Newcastle University and has attended the executive program at Manchester business school and several other business schools across Europe.