Prepping for my first IT interview ...

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by ELMI0001, Aug 29, 2011.

  1. ELMI0001 macrumors 6502

    ELMI0001

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    #1
    I'm looking for some tips from any seasoned veterans before my first IT interview on Wednesday morning.

    Little background; Lots of work on computers and always been the "computer" guy in every office I've worked in and in my family. I have yet to encounter a problem that I haven't been able to solve. Includes Macs and PC's (XP, Vista, 7). I've been helping a friend with his business for a year. It's primarily been troubleshooting with a little hardware and software install. Again, nothing I haven't been able to do.

    To the present; I finally scored an interview for an entry level position. I really want the job and like the direction the job could go. My assumption is the office is all Windows. Job description states; install, config, and update hardware and software, troubleshoot problems as they arise, some other admin duties.

    I've never had a formal interview for this type of position and there is a written exam before the interview. Any tips or questions you've asked or been asked would be helpful. Thank you!
     
  2. miles01110 macrumors Core

    miles01110

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  3. ELMI0001 thread starter macrumors 6502

    ELMI0001

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    #3
    None - qualifications for position were a high school diploma, one year of post-secondary education, one-year experience.
     
  4. Tomorrow macrumors 604

    Tomorrow

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    #4
    Find out as much as you can about the company before the interview. Otherwise, you risk coming across as aloof and disinterested. Don't "assume" they use Windows, or anything else.

    Congratulations on the interview, and good luck!
     
  5. ELMI0001 thread starter macrumors 6502

    ELMI0001

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    #5
    They do use Windows and Office ... so I know that much.

    What about resources to find troubleshooting guides? Any favorites? I don't want my answer to be - "well, I'd just google that"
     
  6. miles01110 macrumors Core

    miles01110

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    #6
    The minimum qualifications?
     
  7. ELMI0001 thread starter macrumors 6502

    ELMI0001

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    #7
    Yeah ... I have a BS and MS, so I think I meet the requirements. I did lower my salary to match theirs because I'm wanting to switch careers and this would be a good start. I didn't want to scare them off with a high salary. It's about 10% less, but, I'll trade that for a job I enjoy.
     
  8. Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #8
    Okay, some obvious advice first: Dress neatly, shave properly, be on time, and be polite to those who are interviewing you.

    A written exam suggests to me that a considerable number of people are under consideration for this position. Find out what you can about the format of this exam. Is it multiple choice, or an essay type paper? Is it one where you are expected to type your answers, or use pen and paper (if the latter, make absolutely certain your replies are legible)? Is there a practical component to the paper, or will the questions have a problem solving element (you may do well on this, given your experiences)?

    In the interview, your task is to let them know how experienced you are without, 1) formal qualifications (if they make that an issue), and 2) coming across as an arrogant know-all. That means projecting a helpful, confident air; you wish to portray yourself as someone who will be an addition to the company, who will be helpful, an asset, but yet who wishes to learn and add more to the company.

    Plan answers to the obvious (and sometimes fatuous) questions that may be asked: what are your strengths and worse, weaknesses? Where do you see yourself in five years time? There are no right or wrong answers to these, it is just that it looks better if you have given them some thought.

    Try to play to your strengths; have examples to hand ready to reel off the top of your head of where your expertise has been of assistance to the companies/people you have worked with; interviewers like practical examples of where you have done well.

    If there are blunders/mistakes in your career, try to show what and how you have learned from them.

    Don't ramble on for too long in any answer, (focus on what they have asked, and add extra information if you think it will show you in a better light); equally, don't be too terse, and try not to give the impression that words have to be dragged out of you.

    Above all, be happy; this is a job you'd like to get and that you think you'd be very good at. Let them know that; a happy fulfilled employee is an asset to any company (though too many employers tend to forget that).

    Meanwhile, best of luck with it; hope this helps you somewhat.

    Cheers
     
  9. miles01110 macrumors Core

    miles01110

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    #9
    Why are you applying for an entry-level job if you have an M.S., then? They aren't going to hire you because they'll assume you will quit for something that fits your qualifications (and salary requirements) as soon as you find something.
     
  10. ELMI0001 thread starter macrumors 6502

    ELMI0001

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    #10
    Let's not get crazy here!

    I'm definitely going to inquire more about the written exam today. I haven't come across that before.

    BS - Geography
    MS - Geographic Information Science

    The geography factory never opened so I'm working in government. It's been a long 4.5 years.
     
  11. firestarter, Aug 29, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2011

    firestarter macrumors 603

    firestarter

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    #11
    Imagine yourself in the shoes of your prospective manager. What do they need? What are their fears?

    - A person who can do the job without me having to spend a lot of time supervising them
    - Someone well motivated who isn't going to complain and won't need continually telling what to do
    - Someone who can find things out for themselves
    - They're not going to embarrass me in front of clients/my boss
    - If they don't know exactly what to do, they'll ask rather than doing the wrong thing
    - They're not arrogant/'doesn't suffer fools' - they won't undermine management decisions (even if they're dumb)
    - They'll get on well with their team mates
    - They're not going to let me down, leave after only a few months.

    Be that person. Cover all these potential fears/needs during your interview.
     
  12. miles01110 macrumors Core

    miles01110

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    #12
    Your point? I'm still not seeing a reason they should hire you, given the realities of your situation.
     
  13. Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #13
    Seriously, I didn't mean to be patronising, but I have heard stories (and seen examples) where the most obvious mistakes were made by candidates interviewing for jobs, especially if the interviewee is a young guy. Sorry for pointing out the obvious, and well done to you if it is superfluous to do so, but you asked for advice; sometimes, nerds and tech specialists spend less time on their personal appearance and grooming than might be considered appropriate or necessary for a job interview.

    The thing about being neat etc is that it is totally under the control of the interviewee, (whereas other matters, for example, a nasty interviewer, horrid exam paper etc may not be), and therefore, when such mistakes are made they are not viewed in an understanding manner.

    Anyway, you seem to be well qualified and experienced, so I am sure that you will do very well. Best of luck with it.

    Cheers
     
  14. Tomorrow macrumors 604

    Tomorrow

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    #14
    Oh. You confused me with your original post:

    Your interviewer will also pick up on such inconsistencies, both written (your résumé and your written test) and verbal.
     
  15. firestarter macrumors 603

    firestarter

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    #15
    Miles makes a good point, OP.

    There are better and higher paying jobs in IT than PC support (which is about the lowest it gets).

    You're a smart guy and a protective hirer will be concerned that you're treating this as a fill-in job - you'll potentially leave quickly.

    Set your sights higher. You can make a lot doing IT business analysis and similar.
     
  16. ELMI0001 thread starter macrumors 6502

    ELMI0001

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    #16
    Thanks? I meet the requirements ... and then some. 1 year of post secondary education. Doesn't specify a field.

    No offense taking. I do shave before my interviews. As much as I hate it.

    Checked the job description after posting, they use Windows.

    I know there are better paying jobs, etc. However, they look for a degree in the field (which I don't have), certifications (which I'm not willing to after unless I have a job in the field) and more years of experience (which I won't get without a position like this one). My plan would be to move into an IT business analysis position once I have more years under my belt.

    But I was looking for some advice/tips on the interview process in the IT fields. Potential questions some of you that may be in a supervisor position would ask a candidate. Aside from the common questions you will get at any interview (strength/weakness), are there common questions asked in the IT field. Speaking from my own experience in government, each government entity will ask you the same questions that may not be specific to the position you are interviewing for. Looking for that type of info in the IT field. Not necessarily reasons why the place won't hire me and fashion tips (not obvious to all, but not my first rodeo).
     
  17. miles01110 macrumors Core

    miles01110

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    #17
    You still have not provided a satisfactory answer/response to the issue I've brought up. If the hiring manager has any sort of experience, you will get asked why you are applying for a job you are overqualified for, which will probably be followed up by the salary/wage question. Either is a no win situation for you, because your Masters' makes you more likely to leave earlier as well as more likely to demand a higher wage for the same position. Pile on top of that your lack of certification and formal experience, it all adds up to a big waste of time on both ends.

    You should be looking for a professional job, not an entry-level technician position. It is not a matter of meeting the minimum requirements, it's an issue of exceeding them so far that your willingness to stay in the position will be called into question immediately. GIS is not an obscure field, either.

    edit: In fact, there's a good reason to believe that taking this job will actually hurt your income for the rest of your career. Since many salary negotiations are based off of past history, you'll be using a technician's starting salary (read: low) when you apply for a "real" job.
     
  18. ELMI0001 thread starter macrumors 6502

    ELMI0001

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    #18
    Are you here to help or argue?

    Here are the facts; they are interviewing me. They selected me, along with others, from a huge pile of applicants. I doubt they see it as a waste of time since they picked me.

    I have satisfactory experience. I can express to them that I wish to change careers and this is a great opportunity to do so. This is not uncommon.

    The salary is lower than I make now. True. I acknowledge that and I am not asking them to exceed their ceiling. It's a trade off.

    Neversaid GIS is obscure. However, those hiring GIS professionals (city/county/state) are not hiring, or perhaps you didn't hear http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/01/minnesota-shutdown-2011_n_888363.html

    Please stop wasting my time if you are not willing to supply useful information. You don't know all the facts and make too many assumptions.

    ----------

    I answered some of your questions, without intending to do so, in my previous post. Maybe read through them all before responding?
     
  19. firestarter, Aug 29, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2011

    firestarter macrumors 603

    firestarter

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    #19
    I've worked in IT for almost 16 years - much of that time as a supervisor/manager. I've definitely interviewed 100+ people in that time, and hired 20+.

    If a person:

    - Could show that they know the subject (and that's probably what the test is for)
    - Looks like they could stand the stress
    - Didn't exhibit any of the bad characteristics on the checklist I posted above

    Then they would probably end up hired.

    The best questions are open questions, not specific - so it's difficult to give you likely specific questions! Specific questions lead the candidate and prompt 'yes/no' answers. The best candidate strategy is to have a game plan to place themselves as 'the right guy' - by illustrating all the qualities that are right for the job (and technical stuff is only a small part of that).

    You need to lead the interview (subtly) to cover your best attributes. Not all interviewers will give you that opportunity (lots of people ask dumb questions!). If your interviewer asks poor questions and you don't end up having an opportunity to sell yourself then it's your problem, not theirs.

    What is your 'elevator pitch'? If you were stuck in the lift to your interview with the company CEO, what would you say in 30 seconds that would convince them to hire you?
     
  20. ELMI0001 thread starter macrumors 6502

    ELMI0001

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    #20
    Thanks for the tips firestarter. The written exam is throwing me for a loop but we'll give it a shot and see where it leads me.
     
  21. r1ch4rd macrumors 6502a

    r1ch4rd

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    #21
    Definitely try and find out the format of the exam and do some practice papers.

    I suspect you will either be asked technical questions which would show knowledge directly applicable to the role, or you may just be asked to sit a maths and english paper (to try and weed more people out).

    I work in IT (product development/management) and for this role I was asked to sit a maths and english exam. I didn't do very well, but luckily I was able to impress in the verbal interview.
     
  22. steviem macrumors 68020

    steviem

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    #22
    As long as you can google and have patience, you're fine in IT Support anyway.
     
  23. villicodelirant macrumors 6502

    villicodelirant

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    #23
    The IT crowd is usually pretty laid back.

    If the company is small-to-medium, white shirt, jeans, a smile and lots of passion for IT may kinda work.

    I've always fared best in interviews when after half an hour I was passionately talking with the IT guy who was interviewing me along with the HR guy like two nerd... ehr, buddies, I mean.

    Show that you are "one of them".

    EDIT: Written interview? Nevermind.
     
  24. ChristianJapan macrumors 601

    ChristianJapan

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    #24
    Good advise. When I do interviews I focus on what and how the person worked in the past; what his contribution was when working in team. I often hear "we would do"; I like to hear "I did"/"I achieved"-kind of answers.

    Definitely listen very carefully on little differences in the questions asked.

    Also be honest with your weakness. It's actually a strength to talk about your own weakness and it demonstrate self-awareness.

    Good luck !
     

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