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Career Hacker: 5 common IT interview questions decoded

November 10, 2014 | By Kelly Niles

two professional men smiling and shaking hands

If you want to ace your interview for an IT job, it helps to understand what hiring managers are really looking for when they ask questions. Find out the hidden meaning behind these questions—and how you can satisfy your interviewer’s curiosity.

1. Question: Tell me about a time your project failed.

What it means: I want you to demonstrate that you will be accountable for your mistakes and learn from them.

The right answer: 

Tell a story that about when you made a decision that went poorly. Demonstrate resilience by discussing what you learned from the mistake and how you fixed the resulting problems.

2. Question: Tell me about your experience as an IT professional interacting with the business.

What it means: Businesses need to see if you get the big picture. Do you look past your function to see why what you do matters? Can you make decisions based on larger needs that will benefit the organization?

The right answer: Give an answer that shows your philosophy to IT work transcends technical needs to encompass overall business goals. Demonstrate that you can be selfless when necessary.

3. Question: What is your most recent professional accomplishment?

What it means: The interviewer wants to know that you’re achievement-oriented, not a clock-puncher.

The right answer: You should have a story prepared for this. Talk about an achievement where you demonstrated initiative and brought value to your company beyond living up to your job description. 

4. Question: Who inspires you? Why?

What it means: This question (and others like it such as “What is your favorite hobby” and “How do your friends describe you?”) give an interviewer a chance to get a better sense of you as a person and coworker.

The right answer: As long as you’re authentic and enthusiastic, there’s no wrong answer to this question. OK, Kim Kardashian is probably the wrong answer to who inspires you. (Or maybe not). But choose someone you truly feel passionate about, and don’t forget to say why that person inspires you.

5. Question: What do you foresee being your biggest challenge in this position?

What it means: Do you know what you’re getting yourself into?

The right answer: Show that you've given some thought to the position’s challenges, and have realistic ideas about how to meet them.

The hardest question of all: 

Read a former IT recruiter's insightful take on how to answer every candidate's least favorite question: "What's your biggest weakness?"

Lisa Dare is a marketing writer for TEKsystems who enjoys learning about IT from some of the smartest folks in tech. She frequently blogs about IT career advice and the lighter side of technology, and on her off days loves to kayak and play with her toddler son.