A technical interview is used to evaluate candidates applying for positions that require technical skills (engineers, IT, computer science, etc). It is important to have a different process and a different set of interview questions in order to properly evaluate these specialized candidates. Failing to do so will result in not having enough information to hire the best candidate for the job and may even lead to a toxic hire.

What Makes it Different

So you know that you have to adapt your interview process in order to accommodate these highly skilled candidates but what are the key differences that make a technical interview such a unique process?

Technical Interview Assessments

Assessments are a key part of any technical interview process. They allow you to judge all candidates on the same criteria and give you valuable insight into what level of work the candidate is capable of. There are many different kinds of assessments that are used for different industries but they can be broken up into two main types; personality and skill.

Personality assessments ask questions about what the person may do in certain situations or questions about their character type. While skill based assessments test the candidate on technical specifications that are pertinent to the role.

Technical Interview Length

Technical interviews are also typically a lengthier process than a standard interview, both in the amount of interviews there are and how long the candidate is in the interview for. This is due to the fact there are usually assessments involved in the decision process. This is good to keep in mind as you think about hiring a person for a technical role. Make sure to leave enough time on the front end so you are not rushing to hire somebody and can be sure to hire the best candidate for the job.

Technical Interview Questions

Because the roles involved in a technical interview process require specialized skills, the questions you ask will naturally be different. It will still be necessary to ask the basic questions and get to know the candidate, but be sure to have some standardized questions prepared so you can properly compare candidates to one another. The great thing about hiring for a technical role is there is usually a fairly well defined job description. You can use this to your advantage in the interview by having well thought-out questions that allow you to get at the root of what you are truly looking for in a candidate.

Developing a Technical Interview Process

Now that you know what a technical interview is and some of the major ways it differs from a regular interview, how do you go about actually implementing this in your own hiring practices? A great place to start is by structuring your interview process. This allows you to maximize your interview time and minimize bias in your recruiting practices. The technical interview process will differ between industries and even between companies, the most important thing is finding a standardized process that allows you to get the best candidates in the door and hire the best one for the job. Below is a skeleton of things to keep in mind when developing your own technical interview process.

  • Keep the questions consistent – You want to be able to differentiate between candidate’s skills, be sure to have a substantial part of your interview consist of the same questions no matter who is interviewing.
  • Make the candidate feel welcome – Just because there is so much to get into in a technical interview doesn’t mean you should skip getting to know the candidate and making sure they feel welcome. Something as simple as getting them a glass of water and asking them a few questions about themselves is a great way to break the ice. These highly valuable candidates are evaluating your company as much as you are evaluating them.
  • Throw in some brain teasers – Usually unique to technical interviews, brain teasers are a great way to see how somebody thinks on their feet and can use logic to reason through a problem. Most of the time it is important as a worker in a technical field to be able to think outside the box and come up with your own solution. Asking something simple such as “Why are manhole covers round?” can give you a lot of insight into how somebody thinks. The key part is not what answer they give, but how they get there. Do they reason through the question using logic or blurt out the first thing that comes to their mind? Have fun with these, remember it’s not the destination, but the journey.
  • Be prepared for more than one in-person interview – Don’t rush with a technical interview. These candidates are going to be the brains of your company so don’t be afraid to have multiple stakeholders interview them and weigh in on the decision. It’s better to be too thorough and do your due diligence than to risk having a toxic hire.
  • Use some form of assessment – Whether its finishing a line of code on the spot at the interview or completing an online activity before the interview starts you are going to want to have some form of assessment for all candidates to complete. This will give you another layer of knowledge about the candidate and help ensure you hire the best person for the job.

Questions to Ask

Without asking the right questions you won’t have the data you need to make the most informed decision. As with developing the entire technical interview process, you will need to formulate your own questions that pertain to your industry and company. Below are some generic questions that provide a good place to start.

  • What knowledge do you have about the companies activities?
  • What industry relevant technical work have you done in the past?
  • What did you learn from your degree that you can bring with you to the job?
  • How would you solve ______ technical problem if you were given the job?

How to Assess Talent

All humans are different, and this translates to their interviewing processes. It won’t matter how great your assessment or brain teaser is if you don’t have a standardized way to report on and interpret the information. This is where having interview scorecards come in handy. Interview scorecards ensure everyone involved in interviewing candidates reports back in the same format. This may not seem like an important part of the process but when one person handwrites their interview feedback another emails it and the third person faxes it, that doesn’t set you up to make the best hiring decision possible.

Assessing talent properly through the use of interview scorecards has benefits for all three levels involved in the hiring process: recruiters, HR Directors and Executives.

  • Recruiters
    • Improve interview skills
    • Accelerate decision making
    • Avoid analysis paralysis
  • HR Directors
    • Promote consistency
    • Reduce bias
    • Drive data based decisions
  • Executives
    • Improve productivity
    • Reduce turnover
    • Maximize ROI


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