This is an authoritative guide to interview questions that anyone applying for IT Specialist should be ready to answer. These are also the questions that interviewers should know to ask any candidate.
Specialist job is good entry into IT career
Millions of jobs in a growth industry with median pay into six figures make information technology (IT) careers quite attractive. The Computer User Support Specialist job is a good entry position into an IT career. This job is sometimes referred to as IT Specialist, Help Desk, Support Specialist, or Computer Technician. Either way, the mean pay is $47,660 for more than one-half million workers. See related article about IT jobs leading the list of jobs companies are trying to fill with college new grads.
Behavior based interview
Past behaviors are the best predictor of future behaviors. Therefore, expect to be asked about what you have done in previous jobs, school or other venues. You need to think through very specific accomplishments related to job characteristics. Many questions will take time to think through. Effective interviewers will actually ask you to take time to think about your answers. It is more important to think through and communicate good examples of whom you are than to show you can answer questions quickly. Quick answers will more likely be the wrong answers.
Preparing for the interview
Each answer should 1) explain the situation, 2) detail your actions in first person (say “I did this” and not “we did that” and 3) describe the results and how it helped a person or how it improved your organization.
Computer help desk workers provide technical assistance to other computer users. They answer questions and resolve computer problems in person, by telephone or electronically. May provide assistance concerning the use of computer hardware and software, including printing, installation, word-processing, electronic mail, and operating systems.
Ten success factors for IT Specialists
The Department of Labor’s O*Net website defines work style qualities of successful Support Specialists. Interviewers often screen IT Support Specialist applicants against these qualities during the interview. Work styles with highest correlation to the job are listed first.
- Dependability — Be reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfill obligations.
- Attention to Detail — Be careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
- Cooperation — Be pleasant with others on the job and display a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
- Analytical Thinking — Analyze information and use logic to address work-related issues and problems.
- Integrity — Be honest and ethical.
- Initiative — Take on responsibilities and challenges.
- Persistence — Be persistent in the face of obstacles.
- Stress Tolerance — Accept criticism and deal calmly and effectively with high stress situations.
- Adaptability/Flexibility — Be open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
- Achievement/Effort — Establish and maintain personally challenging achievement goals and exert effort toward mastering tasks.
See the list for interview questions used to determine applicant work style.
The most important work style quality in IT Support Specialists is to be reliable and responsible and to fulfill obligations. The kind of examples of your past behaviors to bring to an interview could be having outstanding attendance at work or school despite a demanding schedule, making a tough commitment and following up on it, keeping a promise, producing consistent work, or applying company policies and business strategies evenly to each task and assignment. Here some questions to expect:
- Give me a specific example of a time when you did not meet a deadline. How did you handle it?
- We all face times when personal issues pull us away from work responsibilities. If possible, tell me about a time when your dependability or attendance was challenged. How did you handle it and/or remain accountable or involved in work? How long did the situation last?
Attention to Detail
Highly important work styles include being careful about detail, being thorough and completing tasks. Answer all questions with great detail. Avoid cursory comments. Interviewers can judge your preference for detail by how you answer all questions. For example, “Tell me about your week-end,” is a good opening question that indicates whether the applicant is detail oriented. A thorough response about the family packing for an excursion is better than “We took a trip.” Some questions that focus on detail orientation include:
- Describe a situation where you had the option to leave the details to others or you could take care of them yourself.
- Do you prefer to work with the “big picture” or the “details” of the situation? Give me an example of an experience that illustrates your preference.
- Have the jobs you held in the past required little attention, moderate attention, or a great deal of attention to detail? Give me an example of a situation that illustrates this requirement.
- Tell us about a difficult experience you had in working with details.
- Tell us about a situation where attention to detail was either important or unimportant in accomplishing an assigned task.
Being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude is also important for Support Specialists. Some questions that give you an opportunity to describe this aspect of your personality are as follows.
- What did you do in your last job to contribute toward a positive work environment? Be specific.
- Building a team spirit to get results is often a very difficult thing to do. Tell me about a time when you had your greatest success in building a team spirit. What specific results did the team accomplish?
- How would you describe yourself in terms of your ability to work in a group?
- Describe a situation where others you were working with on a project disagreed with your ideas. What did you do?
- It’s sometimes important to confront a negative attitude to block de-motivators at work. Give me an example of a time when you confronted a negative attitude successfully with the result of building morale.
- Describe a time when you put your needs aside to help a co-worker or classmate understand a task. How did you assist him or her? What was the result?
- Describe your most recent group effort.
- Tell me about a time when your relationship with a person was tested because of your responsibilities. Explain what you did and why.
IT Specialists must analyze information and use logic to address a wide range of issues. Try to recall a time when you had to break down a complex problem into simpler parts, use data from other sources, employ problem solving methods and gotten to the root cause. Here are some typical questions:
- Tell about a time when you had to analyze information and make a recommendation. What kind of thought process did you go through? What was your reasoning behind your decision?
- Describe the project or situation which best demonstrates your analytical abilities. What was your role?
- Developing and using a detailed procedure is often very important in a job. Tell about a time when you needed to develop and use a detailed procedure to successfully complete a project.
- Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.
- How did you go about making the changes (step by step)? Answer in depth or detail such as “What were you thinking at that point?” or “Tell me more about meeting with that person”, or “Lead me through your decision process.”
IT Specialists must be honest and ethical. Think of events where you have demonstrated your values and be prepared to answer some of the following.
- Have you ever been in a situation where, although it was difficult for you, you were honest and told the truth, and suffered negative consequences?
- What would be the best example that shows you are a person of integrity?
- What would be the best example that shows you are an honest person?
- Have you ever had to work with, or for, someone who lied to you in the past? How have you handled this?
- Have you ever taken a stand or said something in public that you knew those above you would not like? When was the last time you did that? What did you say?
- What is the hardest thing you can remember having to admit to in a work setting? What did you say? What did you do?
- Has your manager/supervisor/team leader ever asked you to do something that you didn’t think was appropriate? How did you respond?
- Have you ever had to present an unpopular proposal/point of view that you believed in?
- Have you ever had to present a position that you did not totally agree with?
- Tell me about a time where you stood alone to stand up for what was right.
Successful IT incumbents take on responsibilities and challenges. Recall the times of your life when you acted without being told. There are dozens of examples even if you are interviewing for your first IT job. You did extra credit work at school. You saw trash on the floor; you stopped to pick it up. You noticed an error and corrected it. You helped a customer not being served. You updated your boss with new information. These are good answers to the following questions:
- Give me an example of a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
- Can you tell me about a job experience in which you had to speak up and tell other people what you thought or felt?
- Tell me about times when you seized the opportunities, grabbed something and ran with it yourself.
- Have you ever started something up from nothing – give an example?
- Give me a specific example of something you did that helped build enthusiasm in others.
- Give some examples of when you have shown initiative over the last six months in school or at your last job.
Many times IT Specialists must exercise persistence in the face of obstacles. They must stay on task and finish what they have started. Be prepared for the following type of interview questions that could be asked.
- Tell us about a time when you faced a difficult problem. What methods did you use to sustain your ability to keep going until you had fixed this problem?
- Tell us about a time when a project is put at risk. What steps did you take to ensure the project was completed? How did you respond to the pressure of this situation?
- Tell us about a time when you were given a project or task with an impossible deadline or other difficult to meet requirements. How did you handle this situation? How did you keep staff motivated to complete this task?
IT support personnel often must accept criticism and deal calmly and effectively with high stress situations. Examples on or off the job can be equally effective.
- Tell me about a time when you had to cope with strict deadlines or time demands. Give me an example.
- Give me an example of a time at work when you had to deal with unreasonable expectations of you. What parts of your behavior were mature and immature?
- When have you had to cope with the anger or hostility of another person? Be specific.
- It is not unusual to be in a setting at work that will be physically demanding or hazardous. Tell me about a time when you were able to do a job in spite of difficult conditions.
- Sooner or later we all deal with interpersonal conflict or personal rejection at work. Give me an example of a time when you had to cope with these demands.
- Tell me about a high stress situation when it was desirable for you to keep a positive attitude. What happened?
- Describe a high-pressure situation you had to handle at work. Tell me what happened, who was involved, and what you did in terms of problem solving.
- Give me an example of a time when another person really tried your patience. Specifically, talk about a time when you were angry or frustrated and felt like attacking the other person.
- Tell me about a time when you brought two reluctant people or groups together.
- Describe the worst customer or coworker you have ever had and tell me how you dealt with him or her.
- Tell me about a situation in the past year in which you had to deal with a very upset customer or coworker.
- Tell me about the last time you had to smooth over a disagreement between two other people. What was the end result?
- Describe the last time you confronted a peer about something he/she did that bothered you. What were the circumstances? After realizing the problem, how long did you wait to confront the peer? What did you do?
- How did you feel about it afterwards?
- Tell me about the most difficult or uncooperative person you had to work with lately. What did you do or say to resolve the situation? What was the outcome?
- Tell me about a team member from whom it was tough to gain cooperation. How did you handle the situation?
IT Specialists work in a rapidly changing technical environment and a workplace. They must be open to change (positive or negative) and deal with considerable variety in the workplace.
- Sooner or later we all have to deal with arrogant, dogmatic, people. Tell me about a time when you were able to be flexible with this type of person.
- By providing examples, convince me that you can adapt to a wide variety of people, situations and environments.
- Tell of some situations in which you have had to adjust quickly to changes over which you had no control. What was the impact of the change on you?
- Describe a time when you felt it was necessary to modify or change your actions in order to respond to the needs of another person.
- Give me an example of a time when you had to analyze another person carefully or a situation in order to be effective in guiding your action or decision.
- What would be the best example of your ability to be flexible and adaptable?
- Several years ago, a popular phrase said ‘different strokes for different folks’. At work, we frequently need to deal with all sorts of people. Describe a time when you adapted to different types of people.
- Tell us about situation in which things you had planned or expected fell apart. What was the situation and what did you do?
- Describe a high impact experience that forced you to learn to do something differently. Tell me about a time you had to learn to behave very differently.
- In the work situation, we must all compromise to make things happen.
- Tell me about a time when you felt it necessary to compromise your own immediate interests in order to be socially flexible and tolerant of another person’s needs.
- It is sometimes very difficult to accommodate the wishes of another person without going so far that we lose our own personhood. Tell me about a time when you tried hard to ‘be nice’ BUT had to back off to avoid loss of self esteem.
- It’s often very difficult to please another person while maintaining you dignity. Tell me about a time when you were able to balance your sense of dignity while changing your behavioral style.
- At times, we are all required to deal with difficult people. An even more demanding factor is to be of service to a difficult person. When have you been successful with this type of situation at work?
- Tell me about a time when you were able to make someone feel comfortable when dealing with a situation which had a lot of feelings involved in it. Describe a specific case.
- Describe a situation in which you had to arrive at a compromise or guide others to a compromise.
IT work requires one to establish and maintain personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks. Some questions used to judge this character are as follows.
- Tell about a time when you had to adopt a new approach or style at work. How did you cope with the transition?
- Tell about a time in which you had to adjust to a colleague’s working style in order to complete a project or reach your objectives.
- Tell about a time when you achieved a great deal in a short amount of time.
- Tell about a time when you were particularly effective on prioritizing tasks and completing a project on schedule.
- Tell about a time when a job had to be completed and you were able to focus you attention and efforts to get it done.
- Give a specific example of a time when you did not meet a deadline. How did you handle it?
- It takes extra effort to accomplish a difficult task or reach a target. Give a specific example of when you had to exert extra effort to accomplish a task.
- Give an example of an important goal that you set in the past. Tell about your success in reaching it.
- Name one of your best accomplishments, including where the assignment came from, your plans in carrying it out, how you eventually did carry it out, and any obstacles you overcame.