Everybody knows the basic interview questions, the ones that you can expect to always be asked.

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Challenges you’ve faced
  • Top Skills
  • Why you’re a good candidate for this job

If you’re not straight out of school, you’ll likely hear “Why are you on the job market?” or “Why are you looking to change or switch jobs?”.

In the technology field, you’ll also be asked about your skills and experiences with various technology programs or tools.

These are ALL good questions to be prepared for. You want to show that you have done the research on the position and the company, and you want this job offer. You also want to prove that you are highly skilled in the technology field whether that be as a developer, programmer, engineer, etc.

But none of those is the one interview question you must have an answer for.

This question could be the defining factor for whether or not you receive that second interview (or whatever point in the process you are at).

Yes, it’s THAT big of a question.

So, what is it? What is the one interview question you must have an answer for?

“Tell me about a tech project you’ve worked on in your spare time”

You may be thinking, what, that’s it? But not having an answer to this can be a big turn-off for a company because it’s an important question.

Why is this question so important to have an answer to? There are a few reasons.

You Care About Your Profession

Companies want to hire an IT or technology professional that not only works hard in the office but outside of it as well. This isn’t to say that you should have zero free time because you’re so busy with projects in your spare time. But a tech professional who is passionate about what he/she does is more likely going to show that through side projects—projects where they get to have fun and explore the open possibilities out there in the tech world. This innate characteristic of being curious and driven is a great combination for a technology professional to have.

Fresh or Sharp Skills

The world of technology is constantly changing. There are constantly new programs, systems, and software being brought to marketing. So, by showing that you work on projects on the side, you’re revealing that you are willing to freshen or sharpen your technology skills. It also shows that you are curious and keep up to date with current trends and technologies—a huge plus to companies hiring tech positions.

Showcase Knowledgeability

It’s one thing to talk the talk in your professional career, it’s another thing to walk the walk. Working on a tech project in your spare time allows you to showcase just how knowledgeable you really are. It’s likely that in your side projects you are also learning slightly new processes, methods, or skills which is also a plus!

If you can show that you are taking what you have learned through school and your years of experience and applying them to outside projects—especially if it is a niche or specific area of your skill or expertise—you are going to be a much more attractive candidate to an interviewer.

On top of simply asking you about your side projects, they often will ask you how you stay motivated, what interests you about a project, and what your ultimate goal is. So, this is why if you don’t have any outside projects, don’t lie. Because you’re just going to get dragged deeper and deeper down.

If you truly don’t have a side project, be thinking about one to start. Or in the interview, mention one that you are thinking about starting to show that it’s something that’s on your mind.

But if you do, be proud to tell the interview about it and everything that you’ve done or are doing. Better yet, if you can show your interviewer a demo of the app or site you built or other projects you’ve done, that’s like the cherry on top of this question.

It’s always important to be prepared for your interviews and the questions they may ask you. Having outside projects that show how you apply your knowledge and skill to work that’s outside of your actual job’s work.

If you have a perfect side project you’ve done but are searching for a job to apply to, check out our job listings.

If you need help preparing for a job interview or understanding how to frame your side project in an interview, we’re here to help with that as well!

And in the meantime, go start a side project that will wow your next interviewer. Remember, it could just be the difference between getting the job or getting rejected.