June 3, 2021

Questions you can expect in an NZ tech interview

10 min read

There’s a lot of job seeking and interview advice we provide that could be applicable to most roles within the tech sector. In fact, much of our advice could be applied to job seeking in general. But there’s no avoiding the fact that for a highly technical role, your interview will lean more into some of the ins and outs of those requirements. After all, if you don’t have the hard skills required, the employer simply can’t get their projects delivered. It’s important for them to access your skill levels using a number of questions. While every business is different, we’ve provided some typical questions you may be asked below.

Our hope is that reading these will give you some food for thought as you prepare for your next interview.

Why a tech role interview is different

Before we jump into some example questions, let’s clearly define what we mean by ‘tech role’ in this context. We’re specifically talking about developer, architecture, and lead roles that require an intimate knowledge of a set discipline (or combination thereof) to be successful. However, in some situations, an employer might want a Project Manager or Business Analyst with good technical knowledge in order to satisfy the needs of a project. This will always be clearly stated in a job description (and by our consultants if you’re engaging with Absolute IT!), so it’s unlikely you’d be blindsided. If you don’t know exactly the level of technical knowledge a role will demand, don’t be afraid to follow up with the recruiter or hiring manager to find out prior to an interview.

While soft skills are important for tech roles, the hard skills are essential. The job interview is just one checkpoint that an employer will use to establish your expertise and fit for what they need.

Beyond this, another marked difference of a technical IT interview to others is the likelihood of some more task based questions – you may even complete some of this process without a hiring manager in the room. How these interviews are structured varies so much between employers, so for now we’ll just cover the questions as if they’re being asked in person.

Now let’s talk about some common questions you might get asked in a technical interview.

What coding languages are you versed in?

This is central to many tech roles, given that a particular language will be used for development within a project or product team. Yes, your CV should include all of this information, but the job interview will be used to really hone in on your level of expertise in a specific area.

For example, you might be asked about your understanding and practical application of React Native in the development of mobile apps. The interview may ask things like what sort of role did you play in developing X product using React Native and what advantages of React Native bring to your work on the project that other mobile languages don’t have.

To get a better feel for your knowledge on the topic, they may ask about your experience with challenges involved in working within a particular language, seeking some examples.

There’s a good chance the hiring manager will understand or have another senior team member in the interview who understands the language deeply in order to cross check the quality of your responses (after the interview of course!).

Knowing that this type of question may come up can be helpful when building out your CV. Remember to clearly outline the disciplines you’re very experienced in and differentiate these from the others that you’ve got a passing understanding of (but less application experience personally). Honesty is always the best approach!

Tell me about a time where you’ve applied a skill in (coding language, tech discipline) to help a project succeed.

This is similar to the above question, but the interviewer will specifically be looking for a particular scenario in which you applied your expertise to directly influence the success of a project. How you answer this depends entirely on your experience. Have a think about moments where you personally wrote some code or suggested an approach that was taken up and used to generate a result.

These situational questions are likely to come up – while they can be a little intimidating at first, with preparation, these can actually turn into some of the best moments of an interview where you’re truly showcasing your abilities.

How do you stay up to date with the latest IT developments?

It feels like every week the world of tech changes. Employers want to know if you’ve got your finger on the pulse as to general industry news, but also important information about platforms that will directly impact your work. A good example of this would be news about vulnerabilities in part of your stack that are discovered and thus need to be patched by the team. Employers will be comforted by the fact you make an effort to stay current on your knowledge of relevant IT matters.

This question is also a good opportunity to work out where you get your information from – are you a follower of news and community sources that the Employer and their team feel confident in? Tech, unlike many industries, is so reliant on the collective knowledge of global online communities (especially when it comes to mastering certain languages) that a demonstration of your engagement within these might help build a more complete picture of the value you bring.

How do you approach a project requiring an unfamiliar language, platform or other technical element?

This one is really important. It’s totally fine not to understand or even know about aspects of tech – it’s a massive subject area, and we’re yet to find an individual with a deep knowledge in all aspects yet (and we meet more tech professionals than almost anyone each week!).

But an employer is more concerned with how you adapt or take initiative to upskill and research on something that’s new. Remember, a business isn’t just hiring you for the experience you bring up until today; they’re investing in someone who will develop and increase their expertise, thus adding more value as you work together in the future.

Here you will want to draw upon any previous experience you have with learning something new in tech:

  • What sources did you go to in order to learn more?
  • What challenges did you encounter with the knowledge gap?
  • What risks do you see in a project introducing a language or platform that doesn’t have sufficient expertise driving it?

This is an opportunity to demonstrate some real maturity and transparency to the hiring manager; they’ll be encouraged by someone with problem solving and critical thinking skills who knows how to learn and adapt vs. someone who tries to pass off expertise in everything.

What’s your preferred working style and how do you find being in an Agile team?

There’s no denying that Agile is pretty much the preferred team style in tech these days. It just makes sense for many product or project teams where there’s changes and complexity everyday to navigate. This style of running a team obviously demands a high level of communication skills in order to work.

However, this question is also your opportunity to find out whether your style and the employer’s are compatible. You may prefer significant stretches of work uninterrupted and solo. That doesn’t need to be directly in opposition to an Agile approach, but it’s worth exploring in the job interview to make sure you’d enjoy working in that environment. If you do have experience flourishing in an Agile team, now’s the time to reinforce the benefits of this. An employer who has embedded this methodology will be happy to hear that a candidate is in favour of this over someone who is clearly opposed to it.

What are your interests within technology outside of your job? Do you have any projects on the go?

While this is sometimes interpreted by candidates as more of a personality/interest question, it’s also a way for an employer to surface more interests and skills you have that could provide benefit to their business.

We know that many of you aren’t just tech professionals for a paying job, but have a passion for technology that manifests in hobby websites, business ideas, apps, games, blogs and education.

If you are involved in anything tech-related outside of your paying work, it’s a great way to chat more about skills you’ve developed and applied to pet projects you’re happy talking about. The interviewer may even ask you about where they can find these projects (like in the case of a blog or website).

Tell us about an area of IT that you’re particularly interested in learning more about.

A thirst for learning and knowledge is a tremendously attractive quality in a candidate. If you read this question and had to think about it carefully, you’ll probably want to do some preparation here, including writing down a list to take in with you.

If you’re someone who has good front-end development abilities but want to become ‘full-stack’, then this is when you can talk about a desire to upskill in the area of back end development.

Being interested in learning doesn’t just apply to languages and platforms though. We see plenty of developers end up in architecture, lead, security or strategy roles as they’re able to apply technical skills and evolve to fill high-level positions. You may be at that stage now, or perhaps looking at such a move in your future. If so, feel free to share this with the hiring manager. In our industry, many businesses make a special effort to support employees with their career development such as mentoring, training and even supporting the completion of qualifications.

How would you describe your job and the work you do to someone not familiar with IT at all?

When you get asked this, chances are the employer is testing your ability to communicate as a layperson to stakeholders within the business who don’t know their JavaScript from their HTML.

If you live and breathe your technical discipline, without too much need to communicate with non-tech folk, this can actually be quite a challenge. We’d suggest preparing for such a question by writing out a description of what you do and checking it with someone who is totally unfamiliar to IT – a family member or friend perhaps. They can give feedback on this and help you refine your skills in communicating technical concepts to anyone.

The ability to connect your work with the wider business is a skill that develops over time. It’s also as much about listening to others as it is about good communication. Don’t get too hung up on this question, especially if you’re interviewing for a highly specialised role. But if want to end up in a lead or managerial role eventually, there’s no better time than now to start thinking about this question.

Technical Scenario – In (situation), how would you approach this and what are some of the things to watch out for?

Maybe one of the trickiest, but not uncommon questions in a technical interview is when the hiring manager throws up a hypothetical situation to test your ability to apply expertise immediately to solving a problem. Now, given the context of the job interview, they won’t (or shouldn’t) be expecting a complete, perfect solution. Rather, they’ll be interested in some of the considerations you make (out loud), the questions you ask, and an idea of skills you’d draw upon.

To prepare for this, do some thinking on:

  • What are challenges that most or all tech projects face?
  • What are the common oversights within technical projects you’ve encountered?
  • Where are your skills and experience most valuable on a task or project?
  • Outside of the technical solution, are there typical communication or soft skills that need to be drawn upon during a tough situation? What are these?

Keen to dig into more about technical interviews with our team?

Talk with our team to learn more about what’s involved in a tech-based job interview and how you can be well prepared for the questions that may come your way.

Further reading

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