What is a technical interview?
A technical interview is a specific type of interview used mainly in fields like engineering, I.T., science, programming and more. A common situation is one or more interviewers will ask specific coding questions and the interview candidate will work out their answer on a whiteboard in front of the interviewers while explaining their process out loud.
Technical interviews are mainly about weeding out the candidates who do not have the technical knowledge to properly fill the position. However, another purpose is to see how a potential employee interacts with those in the company.
So while it is very important to study up on your technical knowledge, it is equally as important to research interview techniques, body language and more — especially if the interview is in person.
Technical interviews are meant to challenge candidates. Sometimes they are asked impossible questions that are completely unsolvable. But the purpose is not to see whether the candidate comes up with an answer, but rather, how the candidate goes about trying to find the answer. As this type of question can be incredibly frustrating, interviewers are also searching to see how a candidate reacts both to a complex scenario and to a frustrating situation.
What is the purpose of a technical interview?
Technical interviews are meant to decipher whether or not you are truly qualified for the technical aspects of a job. Interviewers will ask questions about your technical knowledge. While they will ask you about specific terminology or technology related to your field, they may also be evaluating your problem solving capabilities. Interviewers may focus on questions that resemble brain teasers or numerical reasoning tests, if that is applicable in your field.
Interviewers may also be looking to see if your experience matches that of what they expect. If your resume is lacking in a specific aspect of the job, they may ask how you think you could compensate for your lack of training or experience.
While they will mainly focus on your knowledge base that will allow you to be successful at the potential position, they will also focus on how you may apply that knowledge, or how you have applied that knowledge in the past at similar companies.
And these interviews are known for being somewhat psychological. The interviewer may be evaluating your communication skills as well. They may be determining whether or not you would work well with other team members, how you choose to communicate with coworkers, whether or not you are personable or approachable. They will be working to envision you on the team.
What are some common types of questions they might ask?
A good rule of thumb is to read the job description thoroughly. Technical interviews will mainly be focused on the actual role of the position and the duties you will be expected to perform. What requirements does the job posting list? What experience must you have? What is not required but would be preferred? Are there any other skills or work experience you have that they did not ask about? Prepare to mention it!
Here is a list of common interview questions:
1. Describe the last project you worked on. What role did you play? What were your responsibilities? Did you run into any challenges?
2. What do you think makes a team successful and efficient? Why?
3. Tell me about a time at work where you applied technical knowledge in a practical way.
4. What are your individual strengths and weaknesses?
5. What issues do you think you may have at this position? What aspect of the job may you not be prepared for?
6. What development tools have you used?
7. How will your most recent position differ from this one?
8. What do you think your day-to-day will look like if you are offered this job?
9. How would you change your potential role if you had the chance?
10. Which technical certifications have you had to maintain and how have you done so?
11. Aside from maintaining your certifications, how do you stay up-to-date on the latest technology and innovations in our field?
How to prepare for a technical interview:
Technical interviews aren’t ones you should enter without properly preparing. While it is probably impossible to anticipate the exact interview questions you may be asked, it is possible to prepare for specific types of questions (addressed above).
Before a technical interview, it is imperative that one brushes up on all of the technical language you may be asked about. Make sure you are well versed in the fundamentals of your field. And if possible, look over notes or lectures from any relevant college courses you may have taken. As we suggested earlier, use the job description as a sort of study guide to help you prepare. Make sure you can talk about any bullet point on the description and you can relate it back to your own experience in your field.
Have a friend help you set up a mock interview. And have them ask you questions in which there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer — a question where your process for discovering the answer is more important than the answer itself. A simple google search for this type of problem will do the trick. Practice your creative problem solving skills with any exercises offered online.
And aside from the above suggestions, prepare for this interview as you would for any other standard job interview. Make sure you can properly describe your responsibilities at your past jobs. Be prepared to describe how your past experience has prepared you to excel in this particular position if given the chance. Keep a greatest strength and a greatest weakness on hand. Come up with a few questions to ask the interviewer about the position. And be prepared to say how you would make this position your own and how the company would benefit from hiring you.
What jobs require a technical interview?
Jobs that require a technical interview are normally in the science, engineering or information technology fields. A few examples include:
- Biomedical engineering
- Data scientist
- App developer
- Software engineer
- Frontend developer
- Web developer
- Graphic designer
- Health information technician
- Environmental scientist
What to do at the end of the interview
Be sure to ask questions regarding the job to let them know you are interested. If you were asked a difficult question during your interview, ask the interviewer how she would have answered the same question. If you think you made a mistake in an answer during the interview, you can acknowledge the mistake and tell them how you would have answered the question differently now, reflecting back.
And always send a follow-up email thanking the people you met with for considering you for the position.