IBM interview questions – what are they, and how do you answer them? IBM is a powerful brand in the tech industry. The firm’s slogan, “Let’s put smart to work” reflects the fact that the brand revolves around innovation and problem-solving. At IBM, you might be involved in building products, coding software, or consulting clients. But the notion of inventing and collaborating and building will underlie all that you do. It’s important to keep this in mind when answering IBM interview questions.
In this article, we’ll prepare you for the IBM interview process. We’ll explore best practices for IBM interview prep, with unique insight into actual IBM interview questions that you will receive. Let’s dive in!
IBM History & Culture
First, a little history lesson. Great answers to IBM interview questions are often the result of a deep understanding of IBM’s history and culture. Let’s take a quick scan through IBM’s history.
The company began in 1911 as the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR) and was renamed “International Business Machines” in 1924. Today, it is involved in computer hardware, software, hosting, and consulting services. It sells mainframe computers, nanotechnology, and laptop computers. But at its core, IBM is a research organization. Between 1924 and 2020, it invented a number of well known, world-changing technologies including ATMs, the floppy disk, the hard disk, the SQL programming language, UPC barcodes, and dynamic random-access memory (DRAM). In 2020, it held the record for most U.S. patents generated by a business.
Nicknamed Big Blue, IBM is one of the 30 companies in the DOW Jones Industrial Average and employs over 345,000 people. It generates over $13B in operating income and is a leader in artificial intelligence and cloud computing. The company’s culture today centers around creativity, innovation, and collaboration. Being an “IBMer” means something. IBM seeks to solve important problems that result not just in profits, but in solutions that benefit all of humanity. More recently, diversity and inclusion have become key areas of focus as well. Prior to 2016, IBM’s review process included forced rankings and a de facto “up or out” policy. But since then, the process has become more feedback driven and focused on coaching and development.
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Life At IBM
When you are answering IBM interview questions, being intimately familiar with life at IBM can provide an advantage. Detailed knowledge demonstrates your understanding of the requirements of the position for which you are applying and that you’ve done your research. However, it’s important to note that because of IBM’s scale and the breadth of roles, life at IBM for one person may differ dramatically from someone else. That said, there are some common themes of note.
First of all, working at IBM will primarily involve designing products and solutions for corporate clients and consumers. However, more so than at the average company, there is a focus on solving humanity’s greatest problems i.e., curing disease, predicting weather, or cleaning oceans. So, you’ll have the chance to think about, and maybe even help solve, problems like these. Life at IBM gives employees a wide range of opportunities for growth. You can spend part of your career in cloud computing, and then switch to security. Or you can start in software development, then transition to consulting. You may even have opportunities to live in Europe, Asia, and the U.S. Needless to say, life at IBM is not boring!
IBM Interview Tips
When you are preparing for an IBM interview, start by researching the company and the specific role you are applying for. Customize your responses to the competencies you know that IBM values. The IBM interview process is likely to include both traditional and behavioral interview questions. Before that, you will likely be asked to complete an online assessment as well. This is intended to measure factors that often don’t emerge from interviews. Examples of these assessments include cognitive ability tests, coding assessments, video assessments, and English language assessments.
After the online assessment stage of the process, you will move on to a more traditional interview process. Note that IBM is a bit “friendlier” than your average consulting or technology company. IBM stresses that you should come prepared with any questions you want to ask them. This is also your opportunity to interview the firm.
We’ve mentioned a few times the importance of doing your research on IBM and the specific role you’re applying for. This will allow you to follow the Tailoring Method when answering IBM interview questions. This method ensures you can match your profile to the skills IBM needs in the role for which you’re applying.
The Tailoring method urges you to:
- Do your research on IBM. Understand what they are all about from their website and social media channels.
- Pay attention to the qualities IBM repeatedly references. For IBM, good examples would be problem solving, creativity, innovation, and collaboration. Pay particular attention to the words used in the specific role for which you are applying.
- Prepare personal success stories you have that allow you to demonstrate these qualities.
When answering IBM interview questions, tailor your answers to reflect what you know the company is likely interested in hearing. Don’t forget to be PSP in the interview – positive, specific, and personal.
On the day of your interviews, it’s important to note you may encounter some group tasks or exercises. In this case, you’ll participate in a group problem-solving exercise. An interviewer will take notes on how you perform. While this may seem stressful, it’s important to just be yourself. Your communication, collaboration, and creativity skills are the focus at this stage of the process. Now, let’s get to some actual interview questions!
IBM Behavioral Interview Questions
In your IBM interview prep, recognize that while you will likely face some traditional interview questions, the IBM interview process for experienced candidates will consist of behavioral and situational interview questions. You’ll be asked about past experiences to allow the firm to understand if your skills are suited to the role you’ve applied for. The more detailed your responses, the better off you’ll be.
IBM Behavioral Interview Questions Examples:
- Give examples from your own experiences which show your leadership and initiative skills.
- Tell me about a time when you solved a problem creatively?
- What was the most challenging part of your previous job? How did you deal with this?
- Give me an example of a time you went out of your way for a customer or client?
- What was the last difficult challenge you’ve overcome?
- Describe a situation when the team you were a part of failed?
- When have you been adaptable in a work situation?
- If a member of your team was not pulling his or her weight, what would you do?
- How would you resolve a team conflict? Can you provide some examples of when you’ve done this?
- How would you make sure everyone on your team completed their tasks to the right standard and on time?
You’ll likely also be asked a series of more traditional IBM interview questions.
Traditional Interview Questions Examples:
- Tell us about yourself
- Why do you want to work at IBM?
- What is one thing IBM has done recently that impressed you?
- Who are our largest competitors?
- Why are you applying to this role?
- How do you feel about having a job that requires you to spend a lot of time away from home?
The above questions try to get at your knowledge of IBM. But when IBM wants to understand whether you have the capabilities required for a particular role, they’ll turn to behavioral interview questions.
How to Answer Behavioral Interview Questions
We’ve already discussed the Tailoring method and how that can help you answer IBM interview questions. Now let’s introduce another key to effectively answering behavioral interview questions. The STAR method.
The STAR method stands for: Situation, Tasks, Action, Result. When answering behavioral interview questions, start by describing the situation. Provide the interviewer with the context he or she might need to understand your response. Next, walk through the tasks that had to be completed, including the options you considered. Then, talk about the actions you took and the results that were achieved. This is a straightforward way to ensure you’ve covered your bases during a situational or behavioral interview.
IBM is a major global brand with over half a century of technology and innovation behind it. Understanding both where the company has come from and its recent strategic initiatives is important during the IBM interview prep process. Being friendly, energetic, and passionate about innovation and technology is also important. And of course, taking time to prepare for the interview questions will be the most valuable use of your prep time. If you need help preparing answers in the form of stories for the behavioral interview, book an hour with an expert coach today.
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