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Six myths about IT interviews

It’s easy to find career advice online or from well-meaning souls. However, much of what people say about how to perform in interviews doesn’t necessarily correspond with the realities of applying for a position in IT or software development. Here are some of the common myths:
Myth #1: “When they ask you tough questions, they really just want to see how you think.”
This is true if you happen to get the sort of open-ended brain teaser questions that were particularly popular among high-tech companies a few years ago. But if you’re asked a technical question about syntax or port numbers, most likely the interviewer has a specific answer in mind (even if he or she tells you that memorization isn’t important). Thinking out loud might appear as fishing for the answer. For this kind of question, you may be better off calmly thinking hard to recall the correct answer and confidently stating your best response. Better yet, study for interviews by practicing the skill of recall under pressure. Research actually shows that we learn better by recall exercises (e.g., quizzes and flash cards) than by just reading or cramming.
Myth #2: “Going ‘above and beyond’ in an answer earns you extra points.”
In certain cases, this is true. If you’re being interviewed by a non-technical manager, offering relevant advice can be particularly helpful. Also, in coding exercises, interviewers may want to see how you handle subtle edge cases relevant to the problem. But for straightforward technical questions, stating additional information that’s true but different from the expected answer may sometimes actually count against you.
Myth #3: “You can’t tell beforehand what they’re going to ask.”
If you look carefully at the job description, you can get a good idea of what interviewers might ask you. Focus your efforts on required skills over optional ones. Look online for commonly asked questions in those areas.
Myth #4: “You’re expected to know everything you can about the company.”
Technical interviews for non-managerial positions rarely involve questions about the company’s business, although it’s certainly to your benefit to mention some knowledge you’ve researched about the company when relevant to the discussion.
Myth #5: “Impress them with how smart you are.”
For certain types of interviewers, showing the range of your intellectual skills may help you. But for most interviewers, you’re better off demonstrating that you fit into the role and the company’s culture.
Myth #6: “Cater your resume to each position.”
To an extent, you may need to do this; but overall, you’re better off with a resume that sells what you’re best at and applying to those roles that really fit. In technical IT-related roles, specialists are in greater demand than generalists. If your expertise involves a combination of multiple technologies, seek positions that require integrating them.

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