Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Technical Interview

As part of the interview process for engineering, computing or other technical positions, you should expect to encounter either technical questions as part of the interview or an entire interview dedicated to technical aspects of the job.
Employers want to evaluate your knowledge or skills in the areas that are most relevant to the position for which you are being interviewed.
How to Prepare for Technical Interviews or Questions
· Review the job description: Make a list of the skills and requirements that will be needed as part of the job. Think about your skills and experience in relation to the job description. Where are your strengths? Did you learn and use those skills in a lab or project or on a past co-op? Where are your weaknesses? Can you brush up on those skills prior to the interview? How would you learn those skills before the job starts?
· Study: A technical interview or technical questions are like an exam. Review old labs and projects, keeping in mind the job description. Look for possible technical questions in what you’ve already learned. Search on-line for examples of technical questions and answer them.
· Practice the Answering Process: In the interview you may be asked to solve problems on paper or on a white board. Practice explaining the steps needed to solve the problem while you are working through the question.
During The Interview
Be sure to write the question or problem down, verify your assumptions about the problem and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. You must have as much information as you can before you start answering a question. For example, if an interviewer asked you to design a house, you’d ask for verification on how big, how many people will be living there, what style, etc.
Talk through the process of solving the interview question. 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 to Answer When You Don’t Know the Answer
Never lie about your skills and past experience. 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. Be straightforward, don’t be overly apologetic or look confused. Next, tell the interviewer what steps you would take to find the answer.

Post Interview
When the interview is over, after you’ve written your thank you notes to the interviewer, 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!
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 good thinkers, 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.
There are many examples of technical questions on the internet. You should use what is available and find questions that mirror the skills listed in the job description. Here is just a short list of examples:
Computer Architecture: For a single computer processor computer system, what is the purpose of a processor cache and describe its operation.
Validation: What is the difference between = and == in C?
Memory: What types CMOS memories have you designed? What were their size? Speed? Configuration Process technology?
Electronics Hardware: You have 2 switches to control the light in the long corridor. You want to be able to turn the light on entering the corridor and turn it off at the other end. Do the wiring circuit.
Brain Teaser Questions
Brain teaser questions are a special sub-group of technical questions. On the surface, these questions do not seem to be related to the job or the skills listed in the job description. The interview wants to see how well you analyze the problem, evaluate your options and come up with a solution. An example would be “Why are manhole covers round?”.
To prepare, do an internet search for brain teaser questions and familiarize yourself with examples. Don’t try to prepare answers for every question you find. Your goal is to be able to recognize a brain teaser question and have a process for coming up with an answer. Most of all, stay calm!
General Interview Preparation
Review the information available for interview preparation overall. Rules for being on time, dressing for success, eye contact and posture, etc. are just as important in a technical interview. Don’t focus on the technical aspect so much that you forget everything else!
by Maureen Arquette
RIT Office of Co-op and Career Services


  1. They are really valuable and very informative..Thanks for sharing!

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