In a previous role, how have you helped innovate or improve a company’s IT infrastructure or process? Talk me through what you did.
Great IT professionals don’t just fix issues and ensure the smooth running of existing systems—they actively seek to make them better. Listen for evidence that the candidate spotted the opportunity for improvement themselves, successfully sold their idea to key stakeholders, and implemented changes that had a measurable impact on business performance.
Which languages do you have experience programming in? Which programming language do you favor?
Tell me about the procedures you have implemented to improve network security.
A secure network keeps the company’s most sensitive information safe from prying eyes. As such, many IT professionals will be actively involved in improving network security. They may mention measures like implementing two-step user authentication, installing a more resilient firewall, or using an encrypted server. Just as importantly, did they continually monitor and maintain these measures after implementing them?
Which source control tools do you have experience with? Which do you prefer to use?
Source (or version) control is an important element of software configuration management, so it’s important that a candidate has experience with this practice and is comfortable working with source control management (SCM) systems. They may have used tools like Git, Apache Subversion (SVN), or Mercurial. But more importantly, they should be able to explain the benefits of using their preferred tool and tie those benefits back to improving their work.
On the most recent role you were assigned to, what role did you play, and how did your effort contribute to the project’s success?
When working as part of a team, top candidates don’t just fulfill their own responsibilities—they actively push the entire team to greatness. Listen for answers that indicate an interest in the big picture, rather than just the individual part they played. Did they take the time to help their coworkers? Did they step into a leadership role and motivate everyone?
Give me an example of a time when you had to troubleshoot a very difficult problem. Walk me through your process and how you came to a solution.
This question tests how the candidate approaches problem-solving. Troubleshooting is an integral part of any IT role, so you want to know that they approach it methodically, gathering the relevant facts, diagnosing the issue, finding an appropriate solution, then testing it. Do they try quick fixes first to avoid wasting time if it’s a simple issue? Do they have a go-to list of resources they rely on when challenges arise? If they quickly become frustrated when they can’t find the answer, they may struggle to handle challenges on the job.
Have you ever had to sell an idea to someone who was skeptical about it? How did you win them over?
Candidates who are confident and passionate about what they do will stick to their guns and stand by their ideas, especially if they think those ideas will improve the company’s processes. But they’ll also go about this in a nuanced and thoughtful way. Look for signals that they took the other person’s feedback into account and used that feedback to craft a more convincing argument, as opposed to getting frustrated.
Have you ever worked in an IT department that you considered particularly effective? What made it so effective, and what do you think could have been done to make it even better?
This question doesn’t just screen for culture fit. It tests whether a candidate will be a “culture add”—someone who brings something valuable and new to the existing culture. Listen for references to their work style and preferences to assess whether they’ll thrive in your existing culture, but also pay attention to their ideas about what they’d love to see done differently. Some candidates bring unique perspectives that can make the whole team better.
Say you were asked to lead a project involving a new technology. Where would you start? Walk me through your process.
Problem-solving is an essential soft skill for IT professionals, so they should have an idea of the steps they’d take to understand the ask at hand, how to define the scope and technical requirements along with the know-how to evaluate possible solutions. Listen to how they describe the process—do they relish a challenge?
What do you think are the biggest trends affecting the IT industry and how do you see this impacting your role in the future?
Is your candidate a visionary thinker? This question will help you assess the candidate’s insight. If they’re able to pinpoint specific trends that are shaping the field, explain why these trends are so important, and identify how they can stay ahead of the curve, they may be well suited to help steer your company in the right direction.
Ask the candidate to describe a relevant technology to you in terms that even a total IT novice would understand.
IT professionals often need to explain complex technical concepts to business leaders and other non-technical staff, so strong communication skills are important. A good answer will avoid any industry-specific jargon in favor of simple, universally understood language. Even if you are already familiar with the technology, ask a few beginner-level questions to see if the candidate is able to engage in a dialogue to help others get to grips with new technology.