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IT Director Interview Questions & Vetted Answers To Get Hired

If you’re interviewing for a Director of IT role, you’re likely aware of the skills you’ll use every day. However, what separates IT directors from managers is how they manage team members and projects.

It’s not just a bump in salary — your responsibilities will expand significantly from mastery of technology into leading others, managing projects, collaborators, and making decisions.

Be ready with real-world examples and brief answers to questions about your technical background and relating to non-technical stakeholders.

We’ve put together a list of questions and answers you can use to land that IT director role. These aren’t just for aspiring technical leaders, either. As a VP or CIO, you can use them to screen for the best prospects for your role.

What is an IT Director?

An IT director is the intermediary between the IT team and all other departments within an organization. Essentially, you’re responsible for bridging the gap between technical requirements and business objectives.

At small to mid-sized companies, a single IT director will be responsible for working with every team. While at larger organizations, you’ll often find IT directors who specialize in specific business areas.

For example, the IT Director, Infrastructure and Operations, is responsible for all communication and collaboration infrastructure, including your enterprise phone system and other cloud-based services.

No job description is the same between companies as the company culture and work environment are unique. However, most IT director roles require a solid technical aptitude and some degree of managing team members.

2021 IT Director Salary Data - United States
The typical salary for an IT director is $121,798 annually. (Payscale)

What does an IT director do?

Every team has problems that need solving. As IT director, it’s your job to understand their issues, advise them on appropriate technical solutions, and implement and deploy new software or hardware.

So, what are VPs and CTOs looking for when interviewing IT director candidates? Technical skills are undoubtedly necessary, but they want a good leader they can trust with business decisions.

Here’s an example.

Let’s say your VP of customer service is dealing with a spike in average wait time and abandoned calls. As IT director, your workflow would look something like this:

  1. Understand the business problem: In this case, customers are getting frustrated when they can’t get through to a support agent. From a business perspective, we know that 89% of customers have switched to a competitor after poor customer support experiences like this.
  2. Assess technical solutions to the problem: This is where your broad technical knowledge comes into play. You might look at implementing an IVR (Interactive Voice Response) to answer common questions and route customers to the best agents. Or a customer service tool to identify and address problems before they become support calls.
  3. Vet and work with outside vendors: With a solution in mind, it’s time to identify and assess outside software solutions. You’ll also be responsible for verifying compliance, maintaining vendor relationships, and upgrading any hardware or software.
  4. Deploy and help train your team on the new system: Finally, you’ll work with other team leads to train and support them as they transition to the new solution.

The combination of broad technical knowledge and people management skills makes the IT director an important (and lucrative) role. But it’s also this high level of responsibility that makes it a demanding role to make it through the interview process successfully.

Who should apply for a Director of IT role?

There are plenty of roads that can lead you down the IT leader career path. However, the most common roles before applying include:

  • Senior Computer Technician
  • Software Engineers/Developers
  • IT Manager
  • Technology Manager

Unfortunately, as anyone in IT will tell you, you’ll rarely have a clear-cut career path to follow. It would be prudent to have at least 10 years of experience, according to an analysis performed by Nira.

Typical years of experience among IT managers. (10 was the most common.)

Instead, IT teams (and recruiters) are notorious for misusing titles. And the duties between an IT manager and an IT director can be confusing.

Differences between IT managers and IT directors

Before you prepare for an interview, make sure the job posting meets your expectations. Here’s a quick way to see if the role is an IT manager or director position after reviewing the job description:

  • IT Managers tend to focus on implementation. An IT manager job description will focus more on ‘getting dirty,’ and technical troubleshooting, with a little bit of people management and leadership sprinkled in.
  • IT Directors tend to make more business decisions. These job descriptions will focus significantly more on management and leadership. Rather than being hands-on, IT directors plan, delegate, and monitor IT solutions. When evaluating new technology solutions, they orchestrate the procurement process (RFPs and RFIs) and advocate for other business needs.

Related: Check out the career paths for becoming a Technology VP, CIO, and IT Manager.

19 IT Director Interview Questions (And How to Answer Them)

A successful information technology director adapts to growing business needs. It’s a critical role for any organization, so don’t expect to walk in and answer a few questions about standard IT systems and get the position.

Instead, the typical IT director interview process covers these five categories:

Don’t be taken by surprise. Here are the most common job interview questions from each category, along with how to answer them.

Experience and background

Q1: Why did you apply for this position?

This is the most general question asked during a director position interview. An interviewer might also phrase this as “How did you hear about this role?” Don’t overlook the importance of this question. Instead, use it to frame your career narrative and create a connection to the organization.

How to answer:

  • Show your career growth. You don’t need to go into detail, but briefly explain your background and how it’s led you to this point.
  • Focus on what makes you unique for this role. Hiring managers need to see why you’re a good fit over everyone else. Explain why you want to work with them, why you care about the industry, or how your skill set makes you the perfect candidate.
  • Limit the length of your answer. After providing an answer to this interview question — stop talking! The aim behind this question is to lay the groundwork for the rest of the interview. Leave room for the hiring manager to dig further.

Q2: What sort of certifications do you have? Why did you choose to pursue those specific ones?

Ideally, companies want to hire people with relevant education, stay up-to-date with industry trends, and identify opportunities to edge out the competition. If you have self-taught experience from a side project or completed an online course, be sure to mention it.

How to answer:

  • Highlight your relevant education. Start with the basics, but then spend extra time on any certifications or education related to the company’s industry. For example, network security or business communication.
  • Connect your interests to the company’s goals. Your education can be a strategic advantage. Try to shift your answer from talking about what certifications you have to why they make you a better candidate.

Q3: What software and hardware are you most familiar with?

Information technology directors need a deep understanding of technical solutions – both hardware and software. However, no one wants to hear a laundry list response to a question like this. Pro tip: Scope out the company’s tech stack with a service like BuiltWith or StackShare.

How to answer:

  • Explain technical skills with confidence. Director-level candidates should have no problem explaining the technical skills and tools they’ve used throughout their careers. You can also use this question to show your willingness to learn new technologies.
  • Use non-technical language for technical concepts. IT directors will need to know how to speak with less technical stakeholders. You must be able to describe and teach technical concepts to coworkers who are less comfortable with them.

Related: 50 Best Remote Work Tools: Everything Your Team Needs to Get More Done

Q4: What was the structure of your previous IT department?

Interviewers will want to see that you understand a typical IT team structure and are comfortable managing people. The interviewer is likely assessing whether you can recruit, lead, and scale the department.

How to answer:

  • Focus on relationship management and communication. Use this question to explain how you build trust across team members, approach growing an IT department, and maintain clear lines of communication.
  • Show your ability to manage at scale. Companies also want to see that you’re comfortable leading a team at their scale. Give a specific example. If you previously oversaw an IT team of 50, explain what that was like, the challenges you faced, and how you worked through them.

Q5: Walk me through a past project that you oversaw and were proud of the results

This IT director position question asks you to wrap your project management skills, responsibilities, and goals into a neat package. It’s an opportunity to humbly brag about your accomplishments and fill in any gaps from your resume.

How to answer:

  • Pick a project where you overcame obstacles. Any good interviewer will dig deeper into your answer. Choose a project where you can demonstrate your ability to solve problems, adapt to changes, and manage cross-team collaboration.
  • Describe how project results impacted the business. IT directors don’t just solve technical problems but business problems. Your interviewer wants you to show how your work affects the bottom line and approach IT from a business perspective. Think about staying on budget, time management, keeping teams and departments fully operational.

Technical skills

Q6: How have you improved your technical knowledge in the last year?

IT directors are constantly learning, evaluating, and implementing new technologies. The worst thing you can do for your career is to stay stagnant. Instead, interviewers want to trust that you’ll be their ‘source of truth’ for all things IT-related.

How to answer:

  • Show a willingness to learn new technologies. Explain which new technologies you’ve mastered recently. Mention blogs you read, podcasts you listen to, and industry voices you trust during the job interview.
  • Demonstrate a passion for the role. Do you explore aspects of the industry in your free time? Interviewers love to see when candidates have a genuine passion for some part of IT and work it into their hobbies.

Q7: How would you solve [a specific business problem] in the short- and long-term?

Now that the interviewers understand what you find important and how you work, they’ll want to see how you can apply it to their business problems.

How to answer:

  • Show how you will add value to the company. A good interviewer will ask how you would solve one of their organization’s longest-running problems. Cite specific examples from your past. Discuss technologies you’re familiar with but know they haven’t tried. For example, show how a company struggling with poor customer support could benefit from a cloud-based contact center.
  • Ask deeper questions. How you answer this question is more about your ability to probe deeper into the business problem rather than jump straight into a solution. No interviewer expects you to solve a long-standing issue on the spot. Instead, they want to evaluate your approach to problem-solving.

Q8: How do you monitor the performance of your IT team?

A large part of a director-level role in IT is organizing and monitoring your team’s performance. Therefore, interviewers will want to see that you have a system for setting goals, monitoring progress, and addressing productivity issues.

How to answer:

  • Explain what metrics matter most to you. For example, you might talk about your approach to tracking uptime and system reliability. This is also an excellent opportunity to front-load how you think success should be measured, such as helpdesk response times, user satisfaction, or strategic goals.
  • Show both technical and management skills. IT directors need to be data-driven when it comes to both IT infrastructure and team productivity. Explain your process for monitoring team performance, such as tracking productivity metrics and conducting regular one-on-ones.

Need to optimize a business network for VoIP? Watch this video to find out how.

Strategic vision

Q9: What is your process for evaluating current operations and proposing strategic projects?

An essential part of your success will come down to where technology can improve the overall business. Therefore, your answer to this question should show off your analytical and critical-thinking skills.

How to answer:

  • Show an ability to work with stakeholders. Reference situations when you worked with different team leaders, VPs, and executives to understand their issues. Interviewers want to see that you have good communication skills and can balance the technical needs of individual teams and the overall organization.
  • Describe your experience drafting proposals. IT directors need to be comfortable with project management. Explain how you put together a project proposal and what your experience is like getting it approved.

Q10: How have you improved efficiency or made process improvements during previous roles?

The best IT directors have a sixth sense for cutting costs and increasing revenue. This question is designed to see if you can step out of a solely technical mindset and approach the business needs from a financial standpoint.

How to answer:

  • Address ‘hidden’ costs like ongoing maintenance. Every new technology adds complications and complexity to your IT team and overall workflows. Show how you think long-term about maintaining and supporting new technologies you bring in. For instance, a cloud PBX is about 60% less expensive than an on-prem setup. Rather than simply gutting old hardware, focus on how it helps the business operate with more agility.
  • Show your ability to work to a budget. In many situations, you’ll be tasked with finding a solution that’s ‘good enough’ – it does what it needs to without putting pressure on your budget. Try to think of examples where you balanced these competing demands on a project.
IT Budget Allocation Percentages - North America (2020)
IT budget allocation among businesses in North America. (n=1005, Spiceworks)

Q11: How do you approach working with outside vendors?

As the IT team’s decision-maker, you’ll regularly work with outside vendors. Interviewers will want to see that you’re comfortable researching and vetting solutions providers and consultants and monitoring the relationship over time.

How to answer:

  • Show how you understand the entire vendor management process. Find an example of when you went through the whole vendor lifecycle – from determining needs and sending out bids to selecting, defining contract terms, and renewing (or ending) the relationship.
  • Discuss ways you validate claimed expertise. Your role as a decision-maker means the organization trusts you to vet any vendors or consultants you bring in. Talk about your approach to validating claims and checking references.

Related: VoIP RFPs: The Complete Guide to Upgrading Your Phone System (+Free Templates)

Q12: What technical strategies have you used in the past that you wouldn’t use again?

It’s pretty much impossible to go through a career in IT without a few bumps along the way. However, interviewers want to see that you learn and grow from any mistakes that happen.

How to answer:

  • Show humility. As a director, organizations are looking for people who take responsibility for their good and bad decisions. Be humble about your errors and show how you moved past them.
  • Explain what you learned from the situation. This question is an excellent opportunity to show your crisis management skills. Show that you can stay calm under stress and work through high-priority issues quickly and effectively.

Leadership

Q13: How would you describe your management style?

Each company culture has a unique management style. This question is an easy way to assess if your skills, experience, and outlook match the organization’s expectations.

How to answer:

  • Define what ‘good management’ means to you. Interviewees expect a thought-out response with clearly stated values. For example, be firm. If you believe the best managers always consult their team on difficult decisions, then say that.
  • Tell a story. The best way to describe your management style is by showing what it looks like in practice. Instead of just listing off vague qualities, set the scene for a situation that required exceptional leadership. Then, show how you rose to the occasion.

Q14: How do you balance between dealing with the technical aspects of a project and delegating?

As you’ve worked your way up the IT ranks, you’re probably used to solving issues yourself. But as a director, you need to trust your team and can delegate tasks.

How to answer:

  • Highlight the value of your time. Explain where you see the IT director fitting into the hierarchy of the IT team and why it’s essential for you to delegate to others.
  • Show examples of how you build trust. Before you can delegate to your team, you need to build their confidence. This is an opportunity to give an example of how you approach trust-building through proper communication, motivation, and organization.

Q15: Has a teammate ever disagreed with your decisions? How did you handle the situation?

This interview question is a classic leadership prompt, and for a good reason. Interviewers want to see how you handle conflicts or disagreements that are bound to happen.

How to answer:

  • Explain your conflict-resolution playbook. What’s the first thing you do when there’s a disagreement within your team? Use a real-world example (if possible) to talk through each step you take to bring everyone back on the same page.
  • Show a willingness to listen to different viewpoints. As an IT director, you’ll spend hours talking to people with different ideas about what’s ‘right.’ Use this question as an opportunity to show your openness to other viewpoints and even situations where you changed your mind.

Q16: How would you explain the most complicated aspect of IT to a non-technical person?

The one skill that separates IT directors from the rest of their team is simplifying IT terms for non-technical people. For example, an interviewer might ask you to describe a VPN or VoIP to a new employee.

How to answer:

  • Be patient. An interviewer wants to see that you deeply understand the concept and don’t get frustrated answering ‘simple’ questions.
  • Relate to business needs. Rather than ‘dumb down’ your answer, explain it from a different team’s perspective. For example, show how a sales CRM can help sales teams close the highest-value prospects.

Working style

Q17: What’s your usual framework for setting goals?

When you’re juggling multiple projects at once, you need to be able to set both long- and short-term goals (for yourself and your team).

How to answer:

  • Show how you prioritize projects. Explain how you balance innovative projects versus ones that are for maintenance or scaling systems.
  • Share your own goal-setting beliefs. Do you use SMART goals or a specific task-management tool? Show that you think deeply about how to get things done. You can be more abstract, but be sure to put some thought into this common interview question.

Q18: How do you ensure you consistently hit deadlines?

Time management is another soft skill that every outstanding IT director embodies. The interviewer wants to know how you manage new projects, reduce scope creep, and respond to urgent matters.

How to answer:

  • Walk them through your daily/weekly/monthly plans. Show your organizational skills and how it impacts your daily decisions. For example, do you put tasks on a calendar or use a master list organized by priority?
  • Explain the importance of deadlines. It should go without saying that hitting deadlines is critical to any organization’s success. Still, make sure to touch on the importance of staying to schedule and what you do when your team falls behind.

Q19: What’s your experience working with a remote team?

With more teams working remotely, a director of IT needs to be comfortable using asynchronous communication to carry out their work. Remote work is a given and here to stay, so it’s a must to describe how you resolve technical incidents virtually.

How to answer:

  • Describe your process for organizing remote teams. Remote work requires a balanced approach to management. Share your strategy for working on a virtual team and ways to keep productivity high without micromanaging.
  • Explain your ideal remote-work stack. What communication tools do you use to keep the team connected? This answer includes video conferencing, uptime monitoring, Teams integrations, or a virtual phone system.

Not familiar with a PBX? We explain it in less than three minutes:

Bonus: “Do you have any questions for us?”
Follow-up questions to ask during an IT director interview

An interview isn’t a one-way conversation. As a candidate, this is your opportunity to ask follow-up questions, see if you’re a good fit, and understand their goals and vision.

Select a couple of these questions from this list you’re genuinely interested in. Recruiters have heard them before, so tailor it to the discussion to reflect your interest and desire for the IT leadership position.

Here’s a list of several hiring manager interview questions you should ask:

  • What upcoming projects does the company have? Get a feel for the size and scope to ensure you’re up to the task.
  • What shortcomings do you feel need to be addressed in the IT team? You’re looking for openness and signs this company is a safe and thriving environment.
  • Which technical services do you love? This interview question lets you know the attitude toward various legacy and next-gen technologies.
  • What would a 100% successful first 90 days look like to you? This is good to get a sense from the hiring manager of what they expect beyond the job description.
  • What are the top challenges the IT director role will face? These hopefully are areas that aren’t a total surprise and are easy to address.

Asking questions demonstrates that you can listen and grasp concepts and discuss trends — and surface potential issues. Plus, it’s a great chance to show how you’d work with non-technical teams (especially if your interviewer isn’t as technical as you).

Land the job by mastering these IT director interview questions

Whether you’re on your way to becoming a CTO or looking to scale a performance-driven technology group, it pays to be prepared for an interview.

The background on these questions also comes in handy when you’re hiring an IT specialist and manager. It can be stressful for both candidates and managers, so leverage them to salvage a lull in the conversation.

Survey: Top skills in demand for IT managers.
(Source: Nira)

Lastly, ensure you position yourself as the ideal candidate they want. What are they looking for? A survey among technology leaders what they want in an IT manager — which is a foundation for what skills they want to see in a director.

Your skills and resume might get you in the door, but your ability to answer these IT director interview questions is what will get you the job. Good luck!

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About the author

Jory MacKay is a writer and editorial consultant for fast-growing companies, innovative creators, and media empires. He's helped multiple companies scale their content to millions of readers and has appeared everywhere from The New York Times to Lifehacker. You can find him taking his dog Lu for a walk in the forest or at jorymackay.com.