Technical interviews place an emphasis on what you know about a particular industry. They are most commonly used as a tool for recruiters in fields that are quantitative in nature, such as Finance, Computer Science, Technology, and Engineering. Technical interviews do not replace typical Q&A-style interviews; you should still be prepared to answer traditional questions as well.
Technical interviews are often hands-on interviews that demonstrate skills in real-time. Examples of these include but are not limited to case interviews, “whiteboarding” (drawing or writing your ideas on a whiteboard for interviewers to see, either by yourself or while collaborating with other candidates), and real-time coding assessments.
The content of a technical interview depends on the role you are applying for.
- For example, Management Consulting roles require candidates to complete a series of case interviews. Case interviews, which you may have read about in our Interview Preparation Guide, are mini business problems that you solve either in advance or on the spot to display your critical thinking skills.
- But, roles that require knowledge of computer programming often require candidates to demonstrate proficiency in a coding language (the most common being Python and Java) during their interview.
- Sometimes, there is a correct answer to the question. Other times, there is not a correct answer – the interviewer is more interested in hearing your thought process.
The format of a technical interview often depends on the type of position you are applying for (e.g., full-time, co-op, or internship) and the industry the role is in. It is recommended that you prepare ahead of time for all technical aspects of your interview by reviewing the subject matter related to your interview.
- Preparing for a case interview may look like researching common market sizing assumptions and utilizing online case books for practice.
- However, preparing for a programming interview would look a lot different, and may involve quizzing yourself on commonly used functions in your coding language of choice and doing practice problems that test your knowledge of computer science concepts such as data structures and algorithms.
- For these interviews, it is recommended that you choose the language you are most comfortable with for the interview out of the options provided.
Formulating responses for a technical interview is a different process than formulating responses for a behavioral interview. High-quality responses are defined in different ways for different interviews. Here are a few tips that can take your interview from good to great:
- Repeat the question back to the interviewer to ensure you fully understand the prompt, and ask clarifying questions to get more detail.
- Communicate your thought process for solving the problem before actually solving the problem to validate your approach with the interviewer. Continue to talk through your process to ensure your interviewer follows you at every step.
- When you are finished, check your solution for potential flaws and fix them. Then, respond to questions and comments from your interviewer.
What all technical interviews have in common is being able to communicate details in a succinct and relatively quick manner. Make sure your responses:
- Are clear and concise
- Show evidence and explain logic
- Are legible and can be clearly followed (if completing a whiteboard challenge)
- Are displayed confidently and positively
Although following these recommendations will likely result in a successful technical interview, no interview is perfect, nor is your way of thinking the only way to approach problems. Being able to anticipate potential setbacks and barriers during your interview will make you stand out from other candidates, whether that be fixing a disruption in a certain process, debugging code, or improving upon your prototype of a hypothetical product design.
If you arrive at an issue or your interviewer challenges an idea, remain calm and go back to the drawing board to determine how to navigate the situation. It is acceptable to ask the interviewer for some time to think on your own before actually responding.
Here are some tips for defending your solution to your interviewer:
- Be sure to acknowledge the viewpoint of the interviewer or otherwise validate their perspective before presenting a counter argument.
- Analyze the problem from different perspectives to help you validate your solution and make it more well-rounded. Think about how the big-picture problem you are addressing in the interview prompt affects different stakeholders and/or processes.
Lastly, if there is ever a situation where you do not know the answer to a question or cannot devise a solution to a problem, it is okay to tell the interviewer that. However, be sure to follow up with a plan for how you would obtain the information necessary to answer the question or solve the problem. This is a great way to show initiative and display your ability to search for information when you do not have the knowledge already.
DO’s and DON’Ts
- Take your time answering questions. Especially in case-based interviews, interviewers expect candidates to ask for time to develop problem-solving frameworks, clarifying questions, and potential solutions.
- Highlight your knowledge and experiences appropriately. If possible (depending on the format of your interview), be sure to leverage your strengths to display your qualifications for the role you are applying for.
- Thoroughly explain your answers with adequate justification.
- Be intimidated by the time pressure. Although it is important to anticipate certain time limits, it is crucial to focus more heavily on your delivery of the prompts at hand to demonstrate your true skill set as best as possible.
- Ramble or provide long answers. While it is important to thoroughly defend your answers, it is also equally important to be concise and keep the interview moving along.
- Be overly critical of yourself. It’s OK to make mistakes – nobody is perfect! Instead of being hard on yourself for making a mistake, take note of what it was, why it happened, and how you can improve for next time.
Additional resources you can utilize to prepare for your next technical interview include:
- Meeting with a Career Coach at The Center for Career Development. These meetings can help you elevate your technical interview preparation by discussing your goals for obtaining the position, and receiving personalized advice on how to progress in your career journey. Appointments can be carried out in-person in the Wilbur Cross building or virtually, and can be made through Handshake.
- Experiential Learning Opportunities: visit UConntact for a comprehensive list of all student organizations at UConn. Some of them, such as the Investment Banking Society and the UConn Consulting Group, provide interviewing tips and hands-on experience.
- Independent Research: depending on your needs, a quick Google search can go a long way. For example, you could search phrases like “computer science coding interview questions”, “practice cases for consulting”, or just “technical interview questions for xyz industry/role” to help you narrow down potential resources.
Photo by Christina Morillo: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-in-black-coat-1181346/