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Prepare to Get That Job: 20 Challenging GIS Interview Questions

Wednesday, October 17th 2012
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Summary:

How are you preparing for your big interview for your first (or fifth) GIS job?  What hard questions should you expect? Directions Magazine shares 20 probing questions to use for practice.

In 2004, Directions Magazine published an article called the Top 15 Interview Questions. They were generic questions any hiring manager might ask. Eight years later we want to update those with questions that are more specific to the field and go beyond button-pushing. Editor in Chief Joe Francica, Executive Editor Adena Schutzberg and principal of ENTCHEV.com, Atanas Entchev, compiled the questions they might ask of candidates. We’ve not separated them out for more or less technical positions or entry level or advanced ones; we feel most are applicable to the full range of positions.

Skills

  • Tell me about a new skill you taught yourself (need not be GIS). How did you teach yourself?
  • Here’s an online map. What works well? Why? Where do you see room for improvement? Why?
  • How would you describe what GIS is to a sixth grader?
  • What’s your favorite programming language? Why?
  • What’s the topic of the last GIS presentation you gave for work or school? How did the presentation go? How did you prepare for it? What would you have changed, looking back on it?
  • What book or website do you reference the most in doing your GIS work/homework? What sort of information are you typically seeking?
  • What are three things you might do if you got stuck while working on a school or professional project?
  • What can you tell me about open source? How do you feel about it? Have you used it? How? Why?
  • What can you tell me about open data? Have you used it? How? Why?
  • What do you know about OpenStreetMap? Have you contributed? Why or why not?
  • Do you use a GPS in your car/bike or on foot? Why or why not?

Interest and Motivation

  • Tell me about a map or mapping project you did outside of work or school.
  • What’s the next thing you want to learn about in GIS/geospatial technology? Why?
  • What first got you interested in geospatial technology?
  • Who was most influential in spiking your interest in GIS?
  • If you are the GIS person in the backroom, why do you think what you do should be in/on the ________ (boardroom/sales team/training team/etc.)?

Professionalism and Industry Awareness

  • What do you like best about your current/last job/GIS courses at school?
  • Give me your elevator pitch for why this company needs your GIS skills.
  • Are programming skills important in GIS? Why/why not?
  • Will the GIS profession go the way of the office secretary/typist?
  • Does GIS belong in IT or elsewhere (planning, engineering, etc.)?
  • Do you think like a geographer or a ______ (marketer, forester, geologist, programmer, etc.)?

These questions will help you realize that hiring managers want more than just a person who can run a piece of software, write an app or make a map. They are looking for well-rounded, interesting and interested people who can grow as the position and company do.


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