Don't Make These Common IT Job Interview Mistakes

by Janet Pinkerton | Oct 01, 2012

Before you head into your next IT job interview, check out these common IT job interview mistakes to learn how to avoid them. Hiring professionals from IT staffing firms TEKsystems and Robert Half Technology, as well as companies in the telcom and energy industries, told CompTIA their solutions for how candidates can stay clear of common IT job interview pitfalls. 

Mistake #1: Not researching your prospective employer ahead of the interview.

Solution:  Always visit the company's website to learn about its business before the job interview. "Candidates gets a much higher initial reaction from interviewers if they appear to have taken even 10 minutes to learn about the company," says Kevin Doheny, manager of information security for the industry consortium Electrical Power Research Institute in Charlotte, N.C.

Beth Kennedy, consultant community manager for the IT staffing firm TEKsystems, suggests IT job candidates draft a list of questions about the company to ask during the interview. Such questions to ask during an interview for a contract job might include:
  1. What kind of deadlines and deliverable dates are you expecting for this project?  What do you expect the deliverable to look like?
  2. Who will I be working with on a day-to-day basis and, if necessary, whom can I rely on for questions?
  3. What are the biggest challenges your company is facing with this project?

"You don't want to project an 'I'm the only one in the world who could do this job' sort of attitude. No one wants to work with that guy! Hiring managers are looking for team players."

John Reed, senior executive director, Robert Half Technology

Mistake #2: Not knowing the IT fundamentals needed for the job opening.

Solution: Spend time (invest a matter of hours) reviewing the IT fundamentals used in the job you are pursuing. "Know the basics of your target position," advises Doheny. "Most hiring managers are willing to train people up to a certain point. But if a candidate can't demonstrate they know the fundamentals—the difference between discretionary and role-based access control, for example—they're never going to make it past the phone screen."

Mistake #3:  Listing every technology buzzword on your resume and not being able to speak to it in detail during your interview.

Solution: "Only list your hands-on experience — honesty is the best policy," TEKsystems' Kennedy says. "It will definitely come out in the interview."

Mistake #4: Only speaking "geek" to non-geeks involved in the hiring process.

Solution: Recognize your audience and speak accordingly—using non-technical language when talking with human resources representatives, for example. Speaking "geek" is fine when talking with an IT manager, says Jill Blumer, vice president at FMHC, a real estate site development firm in the telecommunications industry. "However, if a job candidate is not able to communicate clearly with HR, that gives us information about how that individual will communicate with our general employee population when they explain IT problems."

Mistake #5: Not admitting what you don't know.

Solution: If you don't know the answer to a technical question, admit it and show that you know how to acquire the needed information. "It's not possible to know everything in IT," says Doheny. "If you don't know something, the next best thing is showing that you have a process to find the answer on your own — using TechNet or Google, for example."

Mistake #6: Running late for the interview.

Solution: "Aim to arrive a minimum of 10 minutes early, and plan out your route to the office the night before," advises John Reed, senior executive director of Robert Half Technology (RHT).

Mistake #7: Coming to the interview without a printed copy of your resume and your references.

Solution: Bring printed copies of your well-crafted resume and your references to the interview. "If you have them ready, it tells the interviewer, 'This candidate came prepared and ready for next steps'," says Doheny. Make sure you spellcheck your resume and scrutinize its layout, urges Blumer. A well-designed, typo-free resume shows that a candidate has good attention to detail. 

Mistake #8:  Bad mouthing your old boss, coworkers or place of employment to interviewer.

Solution:  "Describe your old job/work environment as not being the right fit and parlaying that into what you like about the job you are interviewing for," suggests TEKsystems' Kennedy.

Mistake #9: Coming across as arrogant. 

Solution: Know the difference between confidence and arrogance, urges Reed. Speak about specific accomplishments and use concrete examples, while making it clear to the interviewer when something was a team effort. "You don't want to project an 'I'm the only one in the world who could do this job' sort of attitude," Reed says, adding, "No one wants to work with that guy! Hiring managers are looking for team players."

Mistake #10: Dressing unprofessionally, not making eye contact with the interviewer and/or slouching during the interview.

Solution: "Dress professionally," advises Blumer. "Even if the job isn't going require you to wear a tie and jacket, it's not a bad thing to still show up that way." Make sure your body language — your eye contact and your posture — demonstrates that you are interested and alert. "Eye contact is critical because that's how you are going to quickly establish trust with the people interviewing you," Doheny says. "If a hiring manager doesn't feel they can trust you, then the interview is dead." Sitting up straight "makes the candidate seem much more like a higher-energy, go-getter."

Mistake #11: Conveying nervousness and desperation during the job interview.

Solution: Relax and sell the interviewer on your skills and qualities. Make no mention of personal finance issues. "In this economy, lengthy unemployment can lead candidates to feel desperate to get a job," says FMHC's Blumer. "But even if they feel it, they need to not show that desperation. Don't talk about how hard you've been searching, how many interviews you've gone on, and how you really, really want this job. Instead, be your professional self."

Mistake #12: Not closing the interview. 

Solution: Emphasize how much you'd love to join the firm, or ask what the next step in the process will be at the end of an interview. "Technology professionals typically don't like to 'sell' themselves, but by not taking these steps, they risk appearing unenthusiastic about the job," says RHT's Reed.

Mistake #13: Telling the IT hiring manager you are the "perfect" candidate.

Solution: Speak clearly and boldly about what skills and qualities you can bring to the job, and convey your interest in joining the company, but don't overreach. "I know people have been taught to say they are the 'perfect' candidate for the job, but that doesn't close it," says Blumer. "It's old school. As a candidate, you don't really know what (employers) need, but hopefully you can grow into what we need."

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