Interview question of the week: Tell me about your home computer

With each post, I cover a new topic to help you get your start (or keep progressing) in your IT career. If it’s your first time, start here. Or, see all my posts about interview questions you should definitely be prepared for.

I’ve conducted quite a few interviews for IT Support Specialist positions, and I’ve always made time to ask interviewees this question.

I’ve seen it make or break interviews – it’s that good a question. Let’s take a look at two interviewees and their responses.

“My home computer? It’s a Dell. I have Windows on it.”

-Joe

“My computer is my baby! I’ve got a Ryzen 7 on an MSI Gaming Pro Carbon motherboard. Even though I can fit 64GB of RAM on it, I’ve only got 16GB because that seems to be more than enough to run everything I need it to. Besides, I’m saving for a new graphics card. I’ve been limping along on a 980 ti all this time, and I’m really excited about the new 2080. I’ve got an SSD for the main drive and a 1TB HDD for all my files.”

-Jill

When you’re interviewing for an IT Support Specialist (or desktop support, or help desk technician) position, the interviewer understands that you may not have much, or any, experience. Sure, experience helps, but many companies are more interested in hiring motivated people for entry level positions.

I underlined that last sentence so you wouldn’t miss it. Let’s take a deeper look at what I mean.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that both Joe and Jill have no previous experience.

I’d definitely hire Jill.

But what about if Joe had six months of experience and Jill had none?

I’d still hire Jill.

Jill is going to hit the ground running. She’s passionate about IT, and she’s going to learn as much as she can both at work and on her days off. I’m expecting Jill to overtake Joe’s knowledge by the second month because she’s interested in this stuff and he doesn’t seem to be.

So what do you do if your answer is more like Joe’s than Jill’s?

First, ask yourself the tough question: are you interested in IT? I’m going to assume the answer to this question is yes, since you’re reading this blog, after all, but I did want to put it out there: IT is not for everyone. If technology isn’t appealing for you, you may end up burning out fairly quickly as it’s de facto expected that you’ll be learning quite a bit on your own time. If that’s not interesting to you, IT is going to be a difficult field to be in.

But what if you’re interested and your answer is like Joe’s anyhow? Let’s say you know you like IT and you want to be in the field, but you’re not sure how to get started? You have a few options. I’ll let you know what approach I took, and we’ll also look at some other options as well. Pick what works for you!

The first thing I did was to read through the CompTIA A+ certification book. I had no intention of taking the test, but it was a good refresher on terminology. Interestingly enough, there were a bunch of interview questions that I got right because I did this. So, if your basics are shaky, I’d start here.

The next thing I did is subscribe to Maximum PC magazine. Hard copy or digital version, go with what works for you. You may also go with a different publication, or go with only websites that deal with IT. You do you! All I can say is that I learned a lot about hardware from this magazine. And I did so without putting effort – it’s just a fun read. Going this route, you’ll effortlessly keep up with the latest graphics cards, memory modules, and IT news.

I can’t stress how important it is to know your basics. You’re going to have a hard time finding work if you don’t know the difference between memory and a hard drive!

I also tried various IT news sites. The one that I found the most interesting and that I still read to this day is Ars Technica. It has a nice mix of news about malware, PC games, hardware, and anything else related to technology. I really recommend it!

There are some other options that might work for you. One is using social media as a learning tool. Subscribe to some IT groups on Facebook. Subscribe to r/ITCareerQuestions on Reddit. Listen to podcasts. Read blogs on the topic. (You can check that last one off your list now!)

Try finding two or three methods that work for you and stick with it. The best time to start incorporating learning about IT is months before you actually interview.

Between your months of effortless learning using the methods above and preparing yourself by researching common interview questions, you’ll be in good shape for your interview!