Table of Contents
Table of Contents
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What Is a Technical Interview?
If the word “technical” is defined to be “relating to a particular subject, art, or craft, or its techniques,” then a technical interview is a portion of the job interview process where the employer asks questions specific to the abilities to do the job at hand.
Technical questions can be asked as a separate part of a job interview, in a separate job interview altogether, or enmeshed with all other questions and activities in the job interview process.
Technical questions contrast with more traditional and generalized interview questions that can be applied cross-functionally. Generalized questions relate to company-wide values and practices that are relevant to every job in the organization. Technical questions, on the other hand, relate specifically to the job and its unique duties, tools, procedures, and required work and educational experiences.
In addition to technical questions, employers can also add technical skill assessments, personality tests, or job simulations to their technical interviews. These other tools give further insight into a candidate’s proficiencies.
How Do Technical Interviews Help?
- Screen for the specific job. Technical interviews help qualify applicants for the specific job in question, verifying competency in the skills and knowledge it demands.
- Filter our more applicants. A technical interview can be viewed as an extra-fine meshed strainer for your screening process to filter out more candidates and find the best fit faster.
- Learn where applicants need training. Technical questions give insight into where applicants might need additional technical training (software, certifications, proficiencies, etc.). Knowing this can help you make cost-saving decisions as you consider different job candidates. On-the-job technical training takes time and money.
- Learn where they can add to the team. Technical interviews can help you deeply assess how candidates could add to your business’s capabilities.
How to Design a Technical Interview
Here are some steps you should take to make sure what you include in your technical interviews brings the most return.
Step 1: Conduct a Job Analysis
Start with a detailed job description for the role you’re seeking to fill. Pinpoint required experiences, education, and competencies. This will decrease inappropriate applications as well as give you a foundation to work from. Read this article to learn more about conducting a job analysis.
Step 2: Identify What’s Uniquely Important About the Job
What are the requirements for this job and not others? What makes this job different from others in the department or in the business as a whole?
Step 3: Design Ways to Measure Proficiency
Here are some common methods to measure technical proficiency. Consider what could work best for you and the job at hand.
- Behavioral questions. These are the interview questions that often start with “Tell me about a time when…” Think about the experience you need, and ask how the candidate has gained or practiced those experiences in their past jobs. Learn more about behavioral questions here.
- Situational questions. Situational questions carry interviewees through a hypothetical situation and ask how they would proceed. Identify some common challenges the job incumbent is expected to face, and ask the candidate how they would approach them.
- Skill assessments. There are several online tools (such as Indeed or LinkedIn) that offer online skill assessments for job candidates. Once you identify technical skills that are important for this specific job, assign the candidate some assessments for the skills. These assessments will give the candidate a grade that you can use to measure their qualifications for the job.
- Job simulations. Job simulations are one of the most telling methods for determining how qualified a candidate is for a certain job. Construct a timed simulation (online or in-person) for the job they’d be filling and have the candidate work through it before they’re hired. These simulations can be built using online tools, or you can make them up yourself, depending on how unique they are.
- Personality tests. Personality tests can help you determine how a candidate may fit in with your company culture or a specific team. Many software programs and online systems offer tests like this that you can customize to your needs. Beware of being too picky with personality, though; diversity can be scary but can do wonders for your business.
Consider creating a quantitative rating system to make comparing candidates easier and more objective. For example, if you’re trying to measure technical knowledge in a certain subject, create a 1-5 scale point system with each point having its own unique description (1 being more basic answers, and 5 being much more extensive and detailed answers hitting on specific areas).
Examples of Technical Interview Questions
Technical interview questions can be created for every job out there. Here are some common business functions and example technical interview questions you could use.
- What programming languages are you most proficient in?
- What IT certifications do you currently hold?
- Describe a time you troubleshooted a complicated IT/tech issue. How did you approach the problem, and what was the end result?
- What is the difference between RAM and ROM?
- Describe your leadership philosophy. What’s most and least important to you as you lead people?
- How many direct reports have you managed in the past? In what kind of environment?
- Share with us a time you managed a disagreement or conflict within your team. How did things go afterward?
- Could you please describe to us what a relational leadership style would look like?
- Could you share with us a time you identified a safety risk, and what you were able to do about it?
- Please describe a time you were able to improve the way you or your team performed in the field. How did this change go about?
- Walk us through one of your most important past projects. How did you complete it in a safe and efficient manner?
- Share with us a time you were interacting with a heated customer. What was the situation and how did you resolve it?
- Have you ever received negative feedback from a customer? How did you take that feedback and what did you do with it?
- Could you walk us through a time you had to say no to a customer’s request?
It’s important you involve the hiring manager when you’re preparing technical questions. Hiring managers will know exactly what skills and competencies they are looking for. If you want to create technical questions that will qualify candidates the fastest, there’s no better resource.
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Brandon is currently a People & Capabilities Advisor at Thiess where he helps implement HR strategies in Salt Lake City and Colorado. He recently graduated with his MHR and MBA at Utah State University, where he also received his bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies with minors in HR, business management, and technical sales management. He has filled professional roles as an HR business partner, an HR generalist, and a senior recruiter; and has exceptional experience in people analytics, compensation, and talent development. Brandon is a strong advocate for HR strategy and helping business leaders understand the true power of maximizing employee potential.