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16 November 2018

How to ace your technical interview

Vicky Fellows

Vicky Fellows

Marketing Manager

Vicky joined IC Resources in June 2015, to look after marketing and brand activity across the…

 

 An interview for a technical role will differ greatly to one where soft skills are less important. Potential employers will be expecting you to be able to demonstrate your skills through previous technical projects.

Differing combinations of hard and soft skills form a well-rounded applicant in every scenario; and whilst they are quite different, together they create the balance between hard knowledge and interpersonal attributes. Soft skills are important to demonstrate to an employer how well you interact with others and the personality traits that define your character. Undoubtedly though your ability to perform well in the position will be much more dependant on the technical / hard skills that you have developed throughout your career.

So how do you demonstrate this technical knowledge in an interview scenario?

 

The early stages: Telephone Interview

This is normally the first stage in the process of applying for a new job, it’s part of the screening process and will likely involve a senior technical manager conducting the interview, the main purpose of this for them to gain an understanding of why you are applying for the role and who you are. Be prepared to have some technical questions asked during this stage, these questions will be used to assess your knowledge and filter out candidate

Growing increasingly popular in some companies is the Skype interview. The most important thing to consider is the location; make sure you can take the interview in a location you will not be disturbed. 

Aim to use a laptop or desktop computer and if you plan on using your smart phone then let me know as soon as possible, as some Skype interviews will require computer access.

Remember you’re on camera, potentially to the whole team so visual first impressions count just as they would in an on-site interview. Dress smart/casual, as you would for an on-site interview.

Talking in front of a camera can make some people nervous, so it’s important to practise your technique before the interview.

Print out a copy of your CV to reference while answering questions.  While we wouldn’t advise speaking directly from your resume during the interview, your resume provides a concise cheat sheet for you to ensure you don’t forget any highlights in your experience.

Research the company, division and job for which you are interviewing.  Print out the job description that you’ve applied for. This description will help you frame your answers and maintain your focus throughout the conversation. If you demonstrate a good understanding of the company during your telephone interview, you’ll stand out against other candidates.

 

Face-to-Face

Once you’ve made it to your interview, you should be prepared for a few different kinds of problem solving. Your interviewers may ask you to talk through how you would solve a problem, they may open a computer and ask you to guide them through creating code, or they may have you write the code yourself on a whiteboard. Be prepared for variation, and don’t get tripped up on the details! No matter what method your interviewers are using, it’s your problem-solving skills that they’re really testing.

First impressions always count, so make sure you dress the part. One of the main things an employer will consider is whether you look and act like someone they want to have in their company. A professional demeanour is essential.

 

1) Research and learn about your potential employer

Try to learn in advance who will be interviewing you, professional websites like LinkedIn allow you to understand their backgrounds and interests.

Research the company by going onto their website, try to understand where they fit in their industry or market sector. Finding and reading online articles where the organisation is mentioned can create useful talking points for certain industries and across technical disciplines. Using this research will allow you to come up you’re your own questions you’ll want to ask the employer.

 

2) Know your skills and accomplishments

Update your CV and know what it includes, you don’t want a question about something that you didn’t realise was there. Ensure that you’re prepared to discuss about your education, accomplishments and experience.

Prepare an updated list of professional references for your interview, including past managers. It’s important to let your references know when a hiring manager asks for references, so they know to expect a call or email. Your references could make or break your chances of landing your new role, so make sure you select the best people to speak on your behalf. Always bring a few extra copies of your CV, plus your professional references. You never know who you’re going to meet, and you can’t assume they’ll have copies of everything, it also shows that you plan ahead.

 

3) Plan your answers to questions

Be ready for interview questions by planning and practising your answers in advance.

 

Project based questions: Engineering projects require a lot of logical and analytical thinking to solve problems that occur on the job. Interviewers will expect you to provide examples of when you’ve used your technical skills. Try to describe the role you worked on and how you overcame any difficulties, and what you learned from it.

Make a list of projects you’ve worked on that have had technical components. It could have been a project setting up an automated process, shipping a new feature, or building an internal tool.

You don’t have to have been the one doing the programming or the one leading project but pick projects where you were the main representative from your team. Think about which projects you were most deeply involved with and which projects you have the most details about.

Problem solving questions: Hiring managers need to know that you can apply your technical knowledge in a reasonable and efficient manner. Often there isn’t a right or wrong answer to these questions but it’s more for the interviewer to understand how you think and observe how you communicate your answer. Remember that you can have some breathing space to think about your answers to these questions, take your time.

4) Practice!

During a technical interview, it’s easy to ramble about small details that don’t matter and gloss over critical points, making it difficult for the interviewer to follow your story. Usually, when this happens, you’re not going to be getting the benefit of the doubt, especially in a technical interview where it’s important to highlight the right details.

Here’s how to frame your answer when you’re asked to talk about a time you worked on a technical project.

  1. Set the context – pick the project you were the one leading
  2. Draw out the technical systems involved
  3. Label how each system connects to each other
  4. Describe the solution by walking through how it flows through the technical systems drawing
  5. Ask if the interviewer wants to ask any questions or gain any more information

If the interviewer is happy and has no further comments, you’ll be in good shape as you’ve demonstrated a solid technical understanding of a real, live project.

 

5) After the interview

Don’t be afraid to ask how they think the interview went and how you compare to other candidates. Even if they need time to think, at lest you’ll seem enthusiastic and motivated.

After all this preparation, try to be as natural as possible by being yourself, remember that potential employers want to find out who you are! You and your potential employer are both looking for a mutual fit.

Looking for your next role? We have new roles being added every day for the Software, Semiconductor and Electronic sectors.

Want more interview advice? Check out our other articles!

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