For many candidates searching for a new career in tech, job interviews are the aspect of job hunting they dread the most. The questions may leave you feeling off-kilter and unprepared, even though you spent the whole morning prepping and rehearsing your answers before you walked in.
This can be especially true in the tech field, where many candidates worry about making a good impression. We’ve got some advice on answering difficult tech job interview questions in a way that lets you stand out from a crowded field of candidates:
No one really looks forward to answering this question, and we understand — it seems like it’s designed to elicit a negative response. After all, if you’ve chosen to leave your previous career, you probably weren’t very happy there.
The way that you talk about your current or prior position, though, says a lot about who you are as an employee. An interviewer will respond more favorably to a candidate that says they are searching for a position that challenges them than one who just complains about being bored.
Working alone while handling the job duties of two or three people, and you’re feeling isolated and overwhelmed? Let the interviewer know that you’re looking for a position that includes a lot of collaboration and a team environment.
Your potential employer is trying to get a feel for whether or not the position they have available is a good fit for the type of career you’re looking for.
A lot of job interview advice will tell you this is a trick question and that you should just answer “both”, but there’s a good reason for your interviewer to ask.
Some positions may require someone who works best by themselves, especially in smaller companies where the IT department is often a one-person team, while others may require someone who works well within a collaborative daily environment and a strong team.
Ideally, you’ll have a good feeling from the job listing whether or not this is a teamwork-oriented position. Either way, the best way to answer this question is to be honest while maintaining a positive tone. Consider this response:
“My previous jobs in smaller companies had me working primarily alone, so I have a lot of experience handling tasks on my own. However, I enjoy working alongside a team and I’m really interested in having more feedback and collaboration in my day-to-day.”
These questions are a great opportunity to shine as a candidate! When it comes to discussing your favorite parts of your prior position, emphasize those aspects that carry over into the job opening you’re currently interviewing for.
Did you have a previous position that was mostly client-facing, but you found more fulfillment in reviewing project metrics and data? Mention how much you enjoyed reviewing data sets, and follow up with how excited you are that your new position would allow you to really dig in to analytics.
You’re going to hear this a lot from us, as a company with decades of experience interviewing candidates for technology-focused positions — do not fall into negativity when answering this question.
Take the time to prepare an answer and avoid simply complaining about things you can’t change. Instead, focus on aspects of your previous position that you are leaving behind.
Using our prior example: if you’re interviewing for a position that involves a lot of analysis of data and metrics, simply mention that you were frustrated that you did not have the time you needed to really utilize the data you had access to before, and reiterate your enthusiasm for taking on a new position that will allow you to handle that kind of information on a daily basis.
Everyone wants to answer this with some variation on “I just work too hard,” but please avoid anything so trite. For one, your interviewer has heard those kinds of responses before, and we guarantee that’s not the type of answer they’re looking for.
This question is an opportunity to discuss a challenge you’ve overcome. If you have struggled with procrastination in the past, talk about the system you’ve implemented to overcome that problem and stay on task and ahead of deadlines.
We’re thinking of something a little like this:
“I would say my biggest weakness in the past has been a tendency to procrastinate, become overwhelmed, and let things fall through the cracks. In my last position, I began utilizing a personal desk calendar, where my to-do list is right in front of me at all times. Once I put this system in place, I didn’t get overwhelmed any longer and have stayed on task and turned in my projects early or on time.”
The important thing is to have an honest answer and also to emphasize, in a positive way, that you’ve overcome that challenge.
Please, please do not exaggerate about your experience with programming languages. If you put yourself forward as an expert in a particular programming language, your new employer will treat you like one. You don’t want to start a brand new job already falling behind pretending to have more experience with a language you just don’t know.
Most positions do not need you to be an expert in any particular language, but they are looking for someone with a working familiarity. You’ll want to be honest on your comfort level when working in that particular programming language, and really make it clear that whatever you don’t know yet, you’re happy to put in the effort to learn.
Proving that you have the motivation, willingness, and problem-solving ability to quickly learn on the job is more important than being an expert. After all, the types of programming languages companies rely on have a tendency to change with time, and you may need to learn a whole new language as you go.
You can rely on Perceptive Recruiting in Greenville, SC. We have decades of experience working as IT recruiters and interfacing with technical hiring managers, which gives us the insight and expertise you need to find a new position.
We’re not interested in just placing people in jobs that may or may not work for them long term. Instead, it’s our mission to locate the perfect career opportunity in tech for you.