Ten Tips to Prepare for a GIS Job Interview

Kristina Jacob


Interviewing for a position in the GIS field is not that much different from interviewing in other fields) see the article How to Survive the Interview Process for landing the interview).

Kristina Jacob presents 10 tips to get you thinking about how you will prepare yourself for that geographic information systems position interview.

1. Volunteer

If you are hoping to interview for a paid internship or entry level position, try doing some volunteer work. While some companies and/or organizations might not have the budget for a paid internship, they might have the space for a volunteer position.

A volunteer internship will give you real world experience that you will not get in an academic setting, and you can work as little or as much as your time allows. By doing this, you will gain experience, the ability to network within the GIS field, and the ability to sharpen your GIS technical skills.

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The combination of higher education as well as some hands on work experience gained from volunteering or from a GIS internship will be desirable to interviewers. Potential employers want to see if you know how to work with GIS data, understand how to pull information from spreadsheets, are familiar with common GIS software applications like ArcGIS and/or QGIS, do at least some basic geospatial programming with Python, and have experience with other geospatial technologies like remote sensing, GPS, or LiDAR.

2. Create a Portfolio

To show that you have cartographic skills as well as GIS skills, bring a portfolio of your GIS/cartographic work. Make sure to have at least 3-5 good examples of a variety of GIS and cartographic projects.

You will want to use maps that show that you have good analytical skills, good cartographic sense, and an understanding of basic GIS concepts including programming experience with languages such as Python.

Having a GIS portfolio of work will allow you to show off your geospatial skills and is a great way to add something at the end of the interview when the inevitable question, “Do you have anything else that you want to add?” comes up.

3. Research the GIS Job You Are Interviewing For

Doing your homework for the interview is just as important your GIS technical skills.

Learn as much as you can about the company or organization and about how they use GIS. Think about what you have to offer the organization through your GIS technical skill as well as your soft skills.

Here are some questions to think about while doing your GIS job research:

  • Is the organization in the public or private sector?
  • Do they have an enterprise GIS group, or are GIS positions in different departments?
  • How many people are employed at the company?
  • Is GIS used for internal staff or do certain projects have a public component? What versions of software are they using?
  • Do they have a public interactive mapping application? If they do, take note of the data they are using and the software

4. Don’t Rush to Answer

As with any job interview, be precise and clear in your answers.

It is okay to take a moment to think about the question that is being asked, it shows that you are giving thought to your answer.

5. Project the Right Body Language

Confident body language is as important as the words you say.

Sit straight up, don’t fidget, you want to appear confident but not overconfident. If you have a habit of playing with jewelry (rings, watch, bracelet, etc.) don’t wear any during the interview.

Maintain good eye contact. Some companies or organizations can have several people on a panel, while some may only have one person. If there are several people during an interview, make sure to address each of them and make good eye contact.

6. Make Sure to Highlight Your Experiences

Think about the specific projects that you have worked on, how they fit into the organization they were created for, and why they are important. Look for common themes and methodology from each project, and think about your strengths and weaknesses on these projects.

7. Demonstrate Your Ability to Work Collaboratively

Relate all of your answers to other groups that you have worked with to show that you are able to work with a variety of people.

For example, if you had a complicated final project to complete during your coursework that required you to collect data from a variety of resources, think about those different resources and how you were able to get the information needed. Did you need to talk to a professor at another college? Did you need to get data from a different department at your school? Did you work with other students and/or take on a leadership role while collaborating on a group project?

8. Be Positive

If you are asked about an area that was met with challenge, tell how you overcame that challenge and/or what you learned from it. Leaving a positive impression is important.

9. Show an Interest in Your Prospective Place of Employment

Have good questions about how the organization uses GIS. You have done your homework and know a little bit about it- one of the questions inevitably will be something along the lines of “Do you have any questions for us?”.

This is your opportunity to learn more about them, and asking good questions will give you more insight, as well as show them that you took the time to learn about them.

10.  Show Your Passion

If you have outside cartographic/GIS interests, bring them up. This will show that you are passionate about GIS and that you want to bring that passion to the organization you are interviewing for.

Remember, the people interviewing you have been in your position before and are understanding that this is a nerve-wracking process. Preparing yourself will help you get through the nerves and will be impressive to those interviewing you. Good luck!

This article was originally published on March 14, 2013 and has since been updated.


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About the author
Kristina Jacob
Kristina Jacob is a professional photographer and a GIS professional working in local government. Check out her photo blog at http://kristinajacob.com.