7 Steps to Giving a Very Successful Technical Interview

July 3, 2020

A technical interview is typically used in the engineering and technology sectors to determine if a candidate has the right skills and experience for a role. While a general interview might focus on soft skills and culture fit, a technical interview is required to determine if a candidate has the right level of knowledge and expertise.

Some technical interviewers start with a list of essential skills and desirable skills and use the interview to determine where the candidate lands on this list. Other interviewers will take a more flexible approach, using the interview to determine the limits of the candidate’s knowledge and also determining if they would be quick to learn on the job.

Being an intelligent and brilliant technical mind doesn’t always make you a good interviewer. Interviewing technique is something that comes with practice and a lot of preparation. If you are preparing for a technical interview, Nolan Recruitment can help. We’ve gathered the following tips to help you to put interviewees at ease and get the best out of candidates.

1. Determine the purpose of the interview

The purpose of an interview is not to prove anything about your own knowledge or expertise, it’s to determine if the person in front of you would be a good fit for the role. If you are looking for a bright candidate you can train on the job, your approach and questioning will be very different from that of someone who needs an engineer who can hit the ground running.

You should also consider how many interview stages you plan to have. If you’re hosting one round of interviews, you’ll want to be more detailed. But if you have three rounds planned, you can vary the focus of each interview.

2. Outline the job and role within the company

Before you start the interview, give the candidate some background on the company and the available role. The candidate should have done some research, but this step is helpful to frame the rest of the interview questions. You should also be able to provide some additional insight into the role from an insider’s perspective.

3. Define a set of questions

A technical interview is all about determining if the candidate has the right knowledge and experience to be successful in a role. A candidate might be able to bluff their way through soft skill questions, but when it comes to technical knowledge, there will be nowhere to hide if they aren’t up to scratch.

Determine the skills that are essential to the role and then formulate questions that will allow you to assess their depth of knowledge on the topic. A candidate might have the professional qualifications for a role, but you also want to know that they have a working understanding of what they have learned.

For example, for a gas design engineering role, you will be looking for a candidate with a suitable degree, but you will also want to know the extent of their real-world experience. You might ask questions related to current legislation or about technical installations to determine their skill level.

4. Don’t be afraid to go off-script

One of the best skills you can learn as an interviewer is how to go off script with confidence. Going off-script can allow you to probe deeper into a candidate’s experience and determine if they are right for a role.

Be wary about going off-script for the sake of it. If you are satisfied with a candidate’s knowledge of a particular area, don’t try to throw in oddball or trick questions. Using trick questions to catch a candidate out can leave them with a poor impression of the company.

5. Be mindful of time constraints

Time flies when you’re not the one on the spot, so be mindful of how long your interview takes. Candidates will expect an interview of around 45 minutes to an hour. Technical interviews tend to be a little longer, but if you expect to pass the 90-minute mark, consider giving the candidate a break between.

You need to be respectful of the candidate’s time as they may have other commitments or even other interviews to attend. Repeating questions or phrasing them differently just for the sake of filling time will give the candidate a poor impression of your company. This is why having a checklist of essential and desirable traits will help you to stay focussed.

6. Make sure all interviewers are on the same page

When there are multiple people on the interview panel, you need to ensure that everyone is on the same page. If everyone expects to be able to grill the candidate for 45 minutes, your interview will quickly become an endurance test. It’s also important not to appear that you are “ganging up” on a candidate as this is poor interview form.

Speak to your fellow interviewers and determine who will ask what. Sometimes it helps for one person to lead the interview and additional people to chime in with questions that are specific to their field.

7. Give the candidate time to ask questions

When you are planning how long the interview will take, be sure to factor in time for the candidate to ask questions. All engineering recruitment agencies will encourage candidates to prepare questions for the end. This will help them to determine if the opportunity is right for them.

You might already have an idea in your mind that a candidate isn’t quite right for the role, but you should still give them time to ask questions. They may have already reached the same conclusion but will want to leave the interview on a professional and courteous note.

Good interview technique is something that takes time to master. With time and experience, you will learn how to lead questions, how to extract the information you want, and how to manage your time. Becoming an effective interviewer can help you to see the best in candidates and hire the best talent for your company, so it is certainly a worthy project.

Nolan Recruitment is a Specialist Engineering Recruitment Agency. One of the UK's best Engineering & Technical Recruiter

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