Technical Interviews

A technical interview consists of a series of questions designed to test your knowledge and experience in areas such as programming, algorithms, data structures, circuits, and operating systems, as well as your ability to solve problems. This type of interview is usually part of the interview process for engineering, computing, software, and other technical positions. Technical interviews can be in person on-site, over the phone or conducted remotely over Skype (or another video platform). They typically last 45-60 minutes. There will usually be a short introduction to the position and the interview process and then the rest of the interview will be heavy on coding, data structures, and algorithms. There are usually no “brain teaser” types of questions.

Preparing for the Interview

  1. Analyze the job description: Make a list of the skills and requirements needed as part of the job. Think about your skills and experience in relation to the job description. Did you learn and use those skills in a course or an internship? Identify and prepare to describe those skills and experiences.
  2. Study: Technical interview questions are like a conversational exam. Review relevant projects and class notes relating to the position for which you are interviewing. You do not have to be an expert, but you should be familiar enough with the material to answer questions and demonstrate your understanding.
  3. Practice the Answering Process: In the interview, you may be asked to solve the problems on paper or on a white board. Think OUT LOUD- explain your process and the steps needed to solve the problem while you are working through the question. It is okay to take a few minutes to think before sharing your thoughts, but be sure to tell the interviewer that you are collecting your thoughts so that they don’t assume you are stuck.

Types of Questions

There are two main types of technical interview questions:

  1. Knowledge Based: Questions that determine how well you know advanced technology, software processing, special algorithms, etc.
  2. Process Based: questions that address your problem solving skills. The interviewer is looking at your approach to the problem and how you think through to find a solution.

Advice for Success

Never lie about your skills and past experiences. A technical interview or technical questions will quickly determine what you know and what you don’t. You can admit that you don’t know the answer to a question. Then tell the interviewer what steps you would take to find the answer. Be straightforward, don’t be overly apologetic or hesitant- share your process.

During the Interview

Acing the Interview

Write the question or problem down, verify your assumptions about the problem, and ask for clarification. It is okay to ask for help or a hint as you work the problem. You must have as much information as possible before you start answering a question.

Talk through the process. Even if you aren’t asked to write anything down on the whiteboard or paper, the interviewer needs to hear your thought process. If you are sitting quietly, the interviewer won’t know if you are thinking through possibilities or just stumped.

How you are being Evaluated

One goal of the technical interview is to find out if you have the skills that match the job requirements. However, the interviewer is looking at more than just your technical skills. The company is trying to find people who are creative problem-solvers, have the ability to learn, and are innovative. They are also looking at how you handle the stress of the technical interview itself, how well you articulate your answers, and whether or not you possess self-confidence.


After the interview, be sure to write a thank you note to the interviewer. It is also a good idea to evaluate the interview questions and your answers. Were there some questions that you didn’t answer as well as you could have? Be sure to look up answers and learn more about that topic in case the company calls you for a second interview. You don’t want to make the same mistakes twice!