Why this matters:

The level of programming experience you’re looking for will vary depending on the seniority level of the role, but understanding the basics of programming is essential for all IT roles. Hearing what the candidate loves about certain languages can also help you spot their passion for IT and the unique perspectives they can bring to the role.

What to listen for:

  • All interviewees should have at least a working knowledge of languages like JavaScript, Python, and SQL.
  • Candidates should show a willingness to learn new languages if the role requires it.
  • Great answers will delve into the benefits of some languages over others.

Why this matters:

Source (or version) control is an important element of software configuration management, allowing IT professionals to engage in more detailed editing than a typical workflow would allow. Candidates should have experience with this practice and be comfortable working with source control management (SCM) systems.

What to listen for:

  • Answers may mention a range of tools, including Git, Apache Subversion (SVN), and Mercurial.
  • Candidates should be able to explain the core benefits of using their preferred tool.
  • Strong answers will demonstrate the business benefit of using a certain tool.

Why this matters:

Cyberattacks are on the rise, and companies of all shapes and sizes can be targeted. A secure network safeguards against malicious attacks and keeps your company’s most sensitive information safe from prying eyes. As such, many IT professionals will be actively involved and invested in improving network security.

What to listen for:

  • Strong answers will demonstrate a proactive approach.
  • Candidates may mention measures like implementing two-step user authentication, installing a more resilient firewall, or using an encrypted server.
  • Answers should discuss ongoing monitoring and maintenance.

Why this matters:

IT is often the backbone of a well-functioning organization. Great IT professionals don’t just fix issues and ensure the smooth running of existing systems—they actively seek to make them better. That requires them to successfully sell their ideas to stakeholders, so good communication skills are a must.

What to listen for:

  • Listen for evidence that the candidate proactively identifies opportunities for improvement.
  • Pay attention to how they secured stakeholder buy-in, asking follow-up questions if necessary.
  • Great answers will include metrics or anecdotes to demonstrate business impact.

Why this matters:

Troubleshooting is an integral part of any IT role, so you want to know that your new hire will approach it methodically. With a firm strategy in place, they’ll be able to resolve simple issues quickly and get to the bottom of even the most complex of problems, implementing smart solutions that minimize costly downtime.

What to listen for:

  • Candidates should cover how they gathered relevant facts, diagnosed the issue, found an appropriate solution, and tested it.
  • Ideal answers will mention steps they took to avoid wasting time, like trying quick fixes first.
  • An aptitude for problem-solving is essential.

Why this matters:

Some pushback is to be expected in any job. Candidates who are confident and passionate about what they do won’t fold under scrutiny. They always stand by their ideas, especially if they truly believe those ideas will improve the company’s processes, while still taking feedback on board to refine their recommendations.

What to listen for:

  • Candidates should demonstrate a thoughtful response to pushback.
  • Look for evidence that they took feedback into account and used it to craft a more convincing argument.
  • If the candidate seems aggravated that their idea was met with skepticism, this could be a red flag.

Why this matters:

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. Candidates with diverse experience can often share different and better ways of working that can make your team stronger over time.

What to listen for:

  • Listen for references to the candidate’s work style and preferences to assess whether they’ll thrive at your company.
  • Look for unique perspectives that can expand your team’s mindset.
  • Great answers will also demonstrate an analytical mindset and sharp insights.

Why this matters:

This question will give you an insight into the candidate’s ability to keep pace with emerging technology, while also probing their problem-solving skills. Regardless of the technology in question, they should have a clear idea of the steps they’d take to set themselves and the project up for success.

What to listen for:

  • Candidates should walk you through the steps they’d take to gain the necessary know-how, such as seeking internal training.
  • Top answers will mention their process for defining the scope and technical requirements.
  • Signs that they relish a challenge are a plus.

Why this matters:

IT professionals often need to explain complex technical concepts to business leaders and other non-technical staff, so strong communication skills are important. Depending on the technology they’ll be working with, you may want to ask them to explain higher-level concepts, such as machine learning. The important thing is not their expertise—it’s their ability to help others understand.

What to listen for:

  • A good answer will favor simple, universally understood language.
  • Candidates should avoid any industry-specific jargon.
  • Try asking beginner-level follow-up questions to see if the candidate is patient and able to engage in an informative dialogue.