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

With skill gaps across many industries and flexible working models becoming the norm, there has never been a better time to become an IT professional. SSystems analysts, functional consultants, and cloud engineers are among the top positions technology leaders want to fill.

If you have the technical knowledge (and even if you don’t!), as well as skills like analytical thinking, clear communication, and the ability to understand and act on feedback, you’re likely a strong candidate. But first you have to go through the interview.

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

1. How would you describe our business to someone who doesn’t know technology?

This is a popular question among technology leaders looking for new talent. It’s a two-part question, so be prepared to give 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 that is free of technical jargon or overly specialized jargon.

As a candidate, show with convincing clarity that you understand what the company does. You must have done your homework before you come to the interview to get this right, but make sure you include everything you picked up during the interview. Restating something the interviewer said earlier can be a powerful way to show that you understand.

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[ 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 parts. What does the product do? For whom is that? What niche does it serve in the market? If they’re selling a product, consider a basic framing: “The company makes a piece of technology that works x.” If they provide a service, you might say, “The company supports people with j.”

Metaphors can help with this part of the question, but don’t fool yourself! If the industrial space is a coffee house, “We grind the beans” is a good answer. But maybe not in pour-overs and cafetières.

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

With this question, the interviewer hopes you’ll address your skills—but not just for the sake of it. This question isn’t just about seeing if you have the skills for the job, but whether you know how to apply those skills to the specific needs of the job.

If you know you lack a particular skill or technical knowledge, be honest about it and emphasize your willingness to learn and understand the unknown.

This might be straightforward if you have developer experience elsewhere and are applying for a similar role at the new company. However, try to tailor your answer and go into the details of how your skills and previous experience can serve the needs of this company.

Suppose you previously worked as a developer but are now applying for an engineering position. You should still talk about your past experiences, but with a view to how you expect them to prove beneficial in this context. Lateral thinking is a valuable asset in the tech field.

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And most importantly, if you know you lack a particular skill or technical knowledge, be honest about it and emphasize your willingness to learn and understand the unknown. A great employer will want to support you on this journey.

3. How do you see the future of the technology industry?

When you get this question from a CIO or other IT executive during a job interview, they want to see if you can extrapolate — to think big and long-term.

You may not realize the importance of applying for an Administrator or Systems Manager role. However, your interlocutor wants to know that the person he consults understands the sector and has an active interest in its further development. Leverage your preparation, combine your technical and business insights with holistic assessments you may have, and don’t hesitate to let us know what you’d personally like to see.

And if you do some reflections on how day-to-day business might change and evolve in the years to come, you’re likely to impress. Connecting the macro to the micro is crucial in tech – especially in relation to 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. ]

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