If you are considering a career in the tech industry, it is important to know that a technical interview is often very different from any other traditional job interview. Technical interviews typically include behavioral questions, situational questions and technical problem-solving questions. Whether you are just starting out in the technical field or are a seasoned professional, knowing the types of questions to expect during a technical interview can help you prepare your answers carefully to showcase your skills and experience.
In this article, we discuss the most common interview questions asked during a technical interview with tips and example answers for technical questions.
What is a technical interview?
A technical interview is a job interview for any position that relates to the tech industry, such as information technology. Technical interviews may take place over the phone, online and in-person, and may range in time from one hour to full-day interviews. Interview questions may consist of traditional interview questions, brainteasers, technical proficiency tests and problem-solving questions.
During the technical interview, the interviewer will assess your technical knowledge, skills and abilities as they relate to the needs of the specific job you are applying to. In addition to assessing your technical knowledge and skills, the interviewer will also be looking for what your thought process is when solving problems and how you will fit into the company's culture.
Common technical interview questions
Questions asked during a technical interview can fall into several categories including:
- Behavioral interview questions
- Situational interview questions
- Questions about your education
- Questions about technical knowledge and experience
Read on as we discuss why employers ask these types of questions and what they are looking for with sample answers to questions about technical knowledge and experience.
Behavioral interview questions
Technical interviews usually begin in the same way any other interview would: with a series of general and behavioral interview questions intended to learn more about who the candidate is and how they will fit in with the culture of the company. When answering behavioral interview questions, it is best to try to answer using the STAR interview technique by clearly identifying a Situation, Task, Action and Result of an experience you have that is relevant to the question being asked. Here are a few common behavioral interview questions you can expect during a technical interview with example answers:
- What was your specific role and responsibilities on the most recent project you worked on?
- What is the project you are most proud of, and how did you contribute to it?
- Do you prefer to work alone or on a team?
Read more: How to Prepare for a Behavioral Interview
Situational interview questions
After asking a few behavioral interview questions, the interviewer may move on to asking a few situational interview questions in which they present you with a hypothetical situation and ask you how you would resolve the problem or respond to the situation. With these questions, the interviewer wants to know if you have anticipated certain workplace challenges that may arise and how you would respond to them. You can use the STAR technique to answer these questions by identifying a similar situation you have encountered in the past. Here are a few common situational interview questions you can expect during a technical interview with example answer:
- What would you do if you were asked to perform a task and weren't sure how to complete it?
- Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond your expected tasks while working on a project.
- How would you overcome the challenge of working with a difficult co-worker on a team project?
Read more: Situational Interview Questions and Answers
Education interview questions
When an interviewer asks questions about your education, they want to know about the specific technical training and education you have and how it has prepared you for the position you are applying to. When answering these questions, make sure you mention any special certifications, coursework and training you have received and any academic accomplishments relevant to the position you are applying for. Here are a few common technical interview questions about your education with example answers:
- How did your education prepare you for this job?
- What technical certifications do you have?
- What do you do to stay up-to-date on your technical certifications and knowledge?
Sample technical interview questions and answers
After asking behavioral and situational interview questions and finding out more about your educational background, the interviewer will move on to asking you questions about your technical knowledge, skills and experience. When answering these questions, it is important to show your ability to communicate technical concepts in an easy-to-understand manner and describe your work processes. The specific technical questions you can expect to be asked will vary based on the technical needs of the role, but here are a few common technical interview questions and example answers:
- What coding language are you most comfortable with?
- What is a SAN, and how is it used?
- When is it appropriate to denormalize database design?
- What is the role of continuous integration systems in the automated-build process?
What coding language are you most comfortable with?
The interviewer will probably ask you a question about the coding languages you know to determine whether you have a comprehensive understanding of how to use the language they expect you to use and whether you are comfortable using more than one language. When answering this question, it is important to mention the specific coding languages you have worked with and are comfortable with. Then, choose one specific coding language you are most comfortable with and explain why.
What is a SAN, and how is it used?
This interview question is testing your technical knowledge related to a specific network you will need to be familiar with to be successful in your role. When answering this question, it is important to clearly define what SAN stands for, what it does and how you would use it in the role you are applying to.
Example: "SAN stands for a Storage Area Network. This is a high-speed, specialized network that gives block-level network access to storage. SANs are used to improve application availability, enhance performance, increase storage utilization and effectiveness and improve data security and protection."
When is it appropriate to denormalize database design?
This is a more complicated technical interview question that is testing whether you know how to identify the pros and cons of choosing to use denormalization for database optimization. Because denormalization will have an impact on what a database can do, it is important to clearly explain the pros and cons of using this method and identify when it would be appropriate to use.
Example: "Denormalization is a database optimization technique used to improve a database's performance for specific queries. Denormalization may be needed when improvements need to be made to a database for it to meet your application requirements. However, denormalization will have an impact on what your database is able to do, so it is important to make sure it is needed for scalability or performance before choosing to use it as an optimization technique."
What is the role of continuous integration systems in the automated-build process?
The interviewer is asking this question to make sure you understand what continuous integration systems are and how they are used in the automated build process. When answering this question, clearly define what continuous integration is and then explain how it is used in the automated build process.
Example: "Continuous integration is a developmental process that requires developers to integrate code into a shared repository several times throughout the day. Each time the code is integrated, it is verified by the automated build. This allows for early detection of defects and problems within the codebase."
Technical interview tips
Here are a few additional tips to help you stand out as a great candidate during a technical interview:
Explain your reasoning
Many technical interview questions have a specific correct answer. This means you need to find a way to make your answer stand out from the answers provided by other candidates. Explaining your problem-solving process and the logic you used to arrive at your answer can help you stand out as a stronger candidate.
Know different methods for solving a problem
Some technical interview questions have several answers that could be correct. When answering a question that has several possible scenarios for arriving at a solution, explain your problem-solving process and make it clear that you know how to use each method to find a solution.
Ask for clarification, if needed
If the interviewer asks you a question and you need additional information to properly answer it, it is ok to ask the interviewer for clarification. This will show the interviewer that you have the ability to identify when additional information is needed and that you aren't afraid to ask for clarification when you need it.
Elaborate on answers you don't know
If you are asked a question during a technical interview that you don't know the answer to, it is ok to tell the interviewer you don't know the answer. However, you should elaborate on your answer and explain how you would go about finding the information for the answer if this were a problem you faced on the job. This will show the interviewer you have the ability to search for information to solve problems when you don't know how to do something.
Be prepared to prove your skills
Many technical interviews include an aspect where you are asked to prove your skills through a series of brainteasers, whiteboard coding challenges or remote coding assignments. While this phase typically occurs during the second or third interview, it is important to be prepared for at least one brainteaser question or whiteboard challenge during your first technical interview. With these questions, it is important to remember to talk through your reasoning process and explain the steps you are taking to answer the question.