Preparing for and Nailing an Interview as an Entry-Level IT Professional

Posted on 19. Nov, 2014 by

With the upcoming December graduations, I have been speaking with a lot of soon-to-be graduates who are gearing up for, and getting more aggressive, with their job search. Being new in your job search can be a scary and nerve-wracking experience.  The IT market is an extremely competitive and cutthroat market and can be very intimidating to someone with little to no experience. However, there are things you can do before and during an interview, that will help you not only nail the interview but also ideally get the job! Below are a few key actions that I have seen help entry-level IT professionals beat out some of the most experienced professionals!

1. Build an honest resume

Many times the first mistake you can make, particularly within IT, is list skills or technologies that you actually have no experience with on your resume.  The resume is the first thing a hiring manager looks at in most cases. They

use that almost as a navigation tool when interviewing you. Listing technologies that you read about in college, but have actually never worked with, is just setting yourself up to answer questions about something that you know very little about. Be very honest with your skillset. List things you truly know about and have worked with (even if only on school projects) so that when asked about your experience with them, you have something credible to say!

2. Research trends in IT

IT is all about trends: New versions of software, new programming languages, new startups etc. Everyone wants to work with the latest and greatest technology. Put yourself ahead of the game and keep yourself up to date with what is going on in the technology world. Coming right out of school you probably won’t have a lot of experience with the newest technology. You can however be informed about the market and know what some of the big tech innovators are working with. Tech companies want employees who are passionate about all things IT. Knowing about major acquisitions or product releases can help create conversation in an interview and show you know what is going on in the world of technology.

3. Find internships at Startups

In any major metropolis new startup companies are constantly emerging, many of which are still in the incubation period awaiting funding etc.  Research young startups in your area and reach out to them. Even an unpaid internship is going to go a LONG way for your career. New tech companies are always working with the hottest technology, which allows you to get your hands on real cutting-edge products. Think about how great that is going to look on your resume!

4. Research the people you are meeting with

Ok so you landed an interview. Congrats! It goes a long way when you show you’ve done your homework and actually checked out the people you are going to be meeting with. I’m assuming it goes without saying that it is extremely important to know what the company actually does. Go the extra mile and check out the interviewer(s) on LinkedIn. They could have a common connection with you. They could have gone to your college (always a great thing to have in common!). Sprinkle in some personal facts that you discovered about them. They will appreciate that you spent the time really preparing to meet with them personally.

5. Have at least 3 questions prepared

If someone asks if you have any questions, your answer should never be “No”. There is always more you can find out about a position and/or company. Go in with at least 3 questions you want answers to. Now of course there are some questions that aren’t necessarily good to ask in a first interview. Some examples of not so great questions to ask usually pertain to money, schedule or dress code. Don’t get me wrong, these are pretty important pieces of information to have when deciding on your next position, but if those are the only questions you have for a company right off the bat, it is going to totally turn them off. It might come off that you are money hungry or even lazy if you are only asking about compensation and how many hours you have to work. Instead, try asking questions about team size and dynamic, what is the culture like, what is the most exciting project they have in the works right now, even why they have been at the company for x amount of years. This shows that you are looking for the right opportunity and not just an easy paycheck.

6. Confidence versus Arrogance

It is so important to go into an interview with confidence and excitement. You should be excited! Hiring managers receive tons of resumes and they chose to meet you! Know what you have to offer and be confident about that.  DO NOT be a show off or too over impressed with yourself. There are enough “divas” out there in the field of IT. Hiring managers want a team player that they can see working well with their engineers, not someone who is going to cause friction on the team.

7. Follow Up

A thank you email can go a long way. It is best to include a recap of what you learned about the position/company and why you feel even more excited about the role.

It is so important to be educated about the market you want to work in, honest and confident about what skills you have and diligent about preparing for each interview individually. If you follow these seven steps, you are guaranteed to have a great interview and maybe even your next job! Good luck!