Interview 101: How to Handle Common IT Interview Scenarios Like a Pro

If you’re an IT professional looking for a new job, it’s likely that you’ve heard about the importance of having a positive interview experience. But what does this mean? What exactly does an interviewer look for in a candidate, and how can you make sure your answers will impress them? The good news is that there are several common scenarios that come up in most interviews. These include: understanding the needs and goals of the interviewer; overcoming language barriers; demonstrating your technical skills; answering behavioural questions like “Tell me about yourself”; knowing when to follow up after interviews have concluded; and finally, knowing how to handle different types of interview questions.

Remember an interview is a marathon not a sprint! You might not be successful at your first interview but you can learn from the experience and refine your interview skills for the next one. Practice makes perfect and failure is an opportunity to learn, refine and improve.  

1. Understanding the needs and goals of the interviewer. 

The first step in any interview is understanding the needs and goals of the interviewer. In order to do this, you’ll need to know:

  • What they’re looking for in an employee or candidate?
  • How can your skills and experience help them achieve their goals?
  • What are some common pitfalls that have prevented people from getting hired in the past?

How can you help them avoid these pitfalls? In order to be successful in any interview, it’s important to understand the needs and goals of the interviewer. Always remember the interviewer is concerned about making themselves look good to their bosses and is looking to hire the best person for the job on offer they will always be thinking “This guy or girl is great but what can they do for me?” In order to do this, you’ll need to know: What are they looking for in an employee or candidate? How can your skills and experience help them achieve their goals? What are some common pitfalls that have prevented people from getting hired in the past? Do your research, look online and network with people from the company to find out what they are looking for.

2. Overcoming language barriers. 

If you’re not a native English speaker, you may have to deal with language barriers during your interview. While it can be intimidating at first, there are ways you can overcome this obstacle and ensure that your message is communicated clearly.

  • Speak slowly
  • Use simple words and phrases
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help or clarification if necessary! It’s better for everyone involved if everyone understands each other well enough so that no one has any doubts about what was said or what needs to happen next in the process (and who knows? This might even lead into some great conversation!)

Try to find out where your interviewer is from (USA, UK, India etc,) and try to watch YouTube videos or listen to podcasts of people from this region. This will really help you to train your ears and be able to understand different accents and pronunciations before your interview. 

3. How would you describe your ideal software development position?

You should use this opportunity to emphasise your interest in the company, its culture and mission. You’ll want to show that you are serious about getting a job with them, so talk about what makes you excited about working there.

For example: “I’ve been reading about your company and was impressed with the work that you do on XYZ and ABC. I think it would be great if I could contribute my expertise in [insert relevant skill] by helping build new features for [insert product name].” by demonstrating you know the company and the products you’ll be able to stand head and shoulders above other candidates.

4. Tell me about a time…

There’s nothing like a good story to illustrate a point, and this is no exception. A good way to answer this question is by telling a story about a time when you learned something new on the job. Talk about how that experience helped develop your skills or knowledge as an employee, and then describe how those new skills can benefit the company if they hire you.

For example: Tell me about a time when you experienced a problem in a project?  “I remember when I first started working at [Company Name] as a software developer. Shortly after launch our client discovered a bug in the software. I lead a team where we investigated the bug and brainstormed ideas of solutions. Within 6 hours we had identified and corrected the bug and the client was ecstatic with the results.”

Try to memorise two or three stories which you can alter on the fly to fit the scenario you are being asked. These stories should be able to help you to demonstrate how you have been able to overcome challenges and technical problems or how you have been able to work with team members. A good story will be able to fit into any of these situations. 

5. How well do you work in teams?

This is a question that employers ask because teamwork is essential to IT. It’s also important in the workplace and in life, but let’s stick with IT for now! If you’re asked this question during an interview, it means your interviewer wants to get at how well you work with others and whether or not they think you could fit into their team.

One thing that can help here is knowing what makes up a good team environment–and what doesn’t make one great. For example:

  • Communication needs to be open and honest (no secrets!).
  • Everyone should be able to contribute ideas without fear of judgement or reprisal from other members of the group (including managers).
  • Teams should have shared goals so everyone knows where they are going together as well as individually within those goals.”

Remember, your job is to demonstrate that you have team working skills and empathy for your team members even if you don’t have any! For the duration of the interview and for your probation period, you need to show that you can work as an effective member of a team.You need to demonstrate your understanding for the greater good of the collective (just like the Borg).

6. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

This question is one of the most common interview questions, and the interviewer isn’t really asking you to reveal your deepest darkest secrets. Rather it is a chance for you to demonstrate that you know yourself and you are constantly working to improve and up your skills. The interviewer wants you to demonstrate you are self aware and can be self critical and show you are working to overcome the challenges.

This is one of the most difficult questions to answer in an interview because 1 usually we find it difficult to blow our own trumpets and praise ourselves and 2 because it is hard to focus on our weaknesses. 

For the strengths let your skills and experiences speak for themselves. Remember to highlight your biggest contributions to past projects and how you helped the team. It is best if you can highlight key statistics or quantifiable gains. 

For your weaknesses as a non-native English speaker you have a get out of jail card! A secret weapon that Native English speakers don’t have! You’re already on the road to success whilst others cry into their anime pillows. 

In interviews many of my clients have said as their biggest weakness is confidence in understanding English not from the UK or the USA, e.g. South African, Indian, Indonesian etc. (but highlight how awesome you are in the English being used in the interview!). To overcome this they say they are taking English classes with a platform or English teacher and listening to English from around the world regularly to boost their confidence in understanding non-traditional English accents and pronunciations. 

7. Is there anything else that we should know about you?

You should be prepared for this question. It’s a good idea to have some talking points ready, so you can give a thoughtful answer that reflects well on yourself.

Here are some ideas:

  • Ask for feedback on your performance and what you could do better next time. You might find out where the interviewer thought there were gaps in your knowledge or skills, which could help improve how prepared you are before the next interview. Try asking “Is there anything I missed that you’d like to know about?” If you feel like the interview went badly you could ask “What are the areas I need to concentrate on?” This will give you vital feedback to concentrate on for the next interview. 
  • Ask if the interviewer has any advice about interviewing in general–for example, “What is one thing that people often forget when they’re preparing?” Or even better: “What do employers look for in an ideal candidate?” This will help give context around why they asked this particular question (and may also give some insight into what sort of person they think would be best suited for the role).

If you feel like there are any skills or experiences you have had which didn’t come up in the interview this is the best time to mention this. Again focus on quantifiable results such as project results, improvements, bug fixes etc. 

IT interviews can be challenging, but knowing what to expect and preparing for them will help you ace them.

  • Prepare in advance.
  • Practice answering questions.
  • Be positive and confident, but don’t overdo it! Don’t be afraid to show your personality if you have one, but also don’t try too hard to make a joke or come across as too goofy or quirky if that’s not who you are naturally (and definitely don’t try too hard–it will probably backfire).
  • Be honest about your weaknesses; employers want someone who can admit when they need help and work with others as part of a team, so being able to admit when something isn’t going well is an important skill for any job candidate to have! Try not to shy away from this question–if anything, consider it an opportunity for you both: What kind of training could the company provide? How would they help me improve in this area? Or perhaps there are other ways that I can demonstrate my strengths elsewhere within the organisation…

We hope that you’re now better prepared to face your next IT interview. Remember, it’s important to be yourself and show your potential employer that you’re the right person for the job. Good luck! And if you need any help preparing for your interview please contact me at or via the contact form here.

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