Interview Skills

Practice is the best way to improve at interviewing and there are several options for gaining practice.


Dress tidy (smart casual which is tidier than your slopping around home clothes), present yourself as you would for a days work in an IT office. For example for males, tidy jeans, clean shoes, collared shirt, clean shaved, recent haircut. Vary as needed to accommodate your lifestyle or the workplace you are interviewing at. If in doubt, talk to your parents for advice or chat with your WE Coordinator or Careers and Employment. Female and non-binary have many more dress options, again aim to dress as you would on your first day starting there.

Take spare copies of your CV. Expect that they will have copies already, but if they don’t, having spares looks good.

Have half a dozen questions prepared to ask of them at the interview. Always ask at least one or two as it helps you to stand out. If they answer them all during the interview, pick one out and ask them to elaborate further.

Research the company you wish to join. A classic question for finding out who prepares and who doesn't, is "tell me about our company" followed by "why do you want to join us". The responses of "I don't know" and "because I need a job" will typically not put you at the top of the list.

Other classic questions (in other words, prepare your answer in advance) are;

  • Why are you looking for a job with us
  • Why employ you (as opposed to the next person)
  • What have you done with xyz tech
  • What are you strong in (followed quickly by)
  • What would you need training in (or what are your weaknesses)
  • Tell us about a time you resolved a team conflict
  • Tell us about one of your hobbies
  • Tell us about a successful project, why was it a success
  • What do you know about Agile (or pick a topic), describe how you used it

Note that most graduate interviews (there are exceptions) do not focus on your technical skills. As an ECS graduate your technical skills are already a known quantity. Expect some technical questions but interviewers tend to focus on determining whether you would fit within the existing team and add value. This dynamic changes once you gain experience in the workforce, at this point employers are not looking for graduate potential, they are looking for that experience.

Common interview styles

There are many styles of interviews, and the choice of what style to use often comes down to the personal preference and experience of the interviewer.

This is a quick guide of common interview styles you may see.

One on one. Rare for graduates or students within the tech sector, but very common outside of it. One on one implies you are sitting with the decision maker, often the business owner or a manager. Typically they will interview a dozen or more candidates in a day, so don’t be concerned about their note-taking. The interviewers motivation is to find great talent that in their opinion would add value to the team they have in mind. Talk to your skills, but also show an interest in the team, how they work, how they collectively manage their work, Agile practices or not, peer programming, how often they do social events, how much experience have they got.

Panel. A panel typically looks to include representation from staff as experts in what they do and just as importantly, how they work. Find out who on the panel you might be working with, ask a couple of technical questions around tools and practices, then ask what the team does to relax and bond. The interview leaders motivation is to find out from the panel, first, can you do the job, second, will you fit smoothly into the team.

Speed Interviews. Speed interviews are used to screen many candidates in preparation for a second round of interviews. Often they are organized by a third party (eg. Summer of Tech). As above the motivation is to find technical talent that will blend into the existing team. Typically in a speed interview you are competing against graduates from other institutions, just highlight that you are at ECS, VUW to satisfy the technical side (we are at the top of the tertiary tree in Wellington). Talk to your personal projects to provide the impression that you are not waiting for work, you are doing neat stuff already. Be humble and emphasize that you are keen to learn from their experience. Find time to be interested in how they work as a team.

Video Interviews. If the position is outside of Wellington, video interviews are attractive. Choose your environment, check the wall behind you and try to ensure quiet whilst doing the interview. If the interviewer is from overseas, slow your speech down (we tend to talk fast).

Technical Interviews. These tend to be rare. They are typically used where an employer has many student and graduate candidates, making technical interviews useful as a filter. For example, Google or Microsoft. Otherwise employers do not expect you to be a technical expert, they already employ technical experts that they are hoping you will learn from, fast.

You are interviewing them

Keep in mind the interview is going both ways. Define what you are looking for in an employer, beyond merely a job and ask questions to be sure this company can supply it.