Technical interviews – what to expect

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What is a technical interview?

If you are applying for a position in an engineering, technology or science organisation, the likelihood is you’ll get an interview containing technical questions. This allows recruiters to assess relevant specialist knowledge and skills.

Some employers favour a separate technical interview, whereas others prefer to include technical questions in a general interview.

The likelihood is that most of the questions will relate directly to the job role, so you can get a good idea of what questions they might ask you from the job advert and description.

Know the basics of your subject

Interviewers are sure to quiz you about your course. Refresh your knowledge of the basics that everyone in your discipline should be familiar with, and place particular focus on topics that relate to the employer’s area of work.

Be prepared to talk about any individual and group projects you have worked on.

Technical interviewers often focus on project work as it is through this that most technical students and graduates have the opportunity to do more independent work, go deeper into a subject, structure work and solve problems.

Be ready to give a brief summary of what your projects focused on, situations you faced, how you overcame problems and the final results.

If you have been involved in a group project, make sure you can distinguish and make clear your own contribution. Talk about what YOU did and the parts that YOU took responsibility for.

3 people working on the starting system of a hot air balloon

Use experience to back up your technical knowledge

If you have any project work or vacation experience that is particularly relevant to the job you are going for, practise summarising it and use it to illustrate your answers.

It’s not always about getting the correct answer

Technical interviewers may ask you to comment on a range of scenarios or hypothetical situations. You may not know the answer to everything you are asked, but try to show the interviewer how you might go about solving the problem, or finding the information you would need to answer the question.

Be sure you understand the question; ask for clarification if necessary. You might want to ask if you can draw a diagram if this would help you to convey your ideas more effectively.

Remember that your interviewer is not just interested in your technical knowledge – they also want to see how you reason, analyse, and approach problems. If you’re totally stumped you may get a few pointers, but you need to be able to pick up the thread and keep going

Showcase your communication skills

The interviewer will also look for evidence that you can work well with others and communicate clearly, avoiding technical jargon.

All in all, as long as you keep a cool head, and prepare thoroughly for the interview, you should be well-equipped to tackle any tricky technical interview questions.

Other types of interview

Further Reading