Technical interviews are a challenging part of any hiring process and one of the final stages that define a candidate’s eligibility for an open job. The critical difficulty is creating tasks that will evaluate the level of expertise in the best possible way.
Technical interview strategies vary from company to company and strongly depend on the vacancy in question. It’s important to delegate this task to a representative who can quickly and honestly determine the desired candidate’s skill set.
In this article, we’ve gathered some main points for conducting a successful technical interview that just might help you improve the process for your company.
What Is a Technical Interview?
A technical interview is an interview for a tech job that includes a series of practical tasks and usually takes place after an initial phone screen. The primary aim of this specialized interview is to measure a candidate’s proficiency in the must-have skills and ensure a person is a good fit.
The tech industry requires not only theoretical knowledge but also practical skills. The candidates who would like to work in an industry shouldn’t be evaluated solely from a theoretical or practical perspective; the final score is about a mix of these plus a behavioral evaluation score. Technical challenges are an excellent chance for candidates to demonstrate their workflow knowledge, coding skills, and more.
Who Uses Technical Interviews?
Surprisingly, technical interviews are not only found in tech-related fields. In many industries, recruiters will conduct an interview with practical tasks as an obligatory part of the hiring process. Tech businesses that might require a task-based interview include software development and software as a service (SaaS), hardware producers, cyber security and consulting firms, and startups.
Conducting a technical interview is about evaluating a candidate’s skills to perform tasks successfully. This stage also helps to define where the candidates are now and what they need to know to interview well and succeed in the new role.
Stages of a Technical Interview
Once all resumes are reviewed, pick those likely to become good candidates for an open position. Schedule an interview by choosing any format you like best, whether that’s a phone call or a video meeting. Be aware, however, that a video interview format tends to work better because it provides more opportunities for various test tasks.
Next, brainstorm the necessary knowledge and abilities the person should possess to perform the job’s tasks. The job description summarizes responsibilities and hard and soft skills; this can help the recruiter form a set of questions for the candidates who might want to work there. Rank the technical questions from most to least important. Once these steps are done, you will be well on your way toward the best way to conduct a technical interview.
Talking about the interview itself, there are four basic interview stages:
- Stage 1. General questions
- Stage 2. The assessment
- Stage 3. Ask questions to clarify
- Stage 4. Check out a portfolio or work samples
It’s worth keeping in mind that these interview stages and their scenarios might vary depending on the vacancy you are about to fill. Thus it’s essential to stay flexible and tailor the interview process to the job.
More Stages of an Online Interview
Online interviews are very similar to those conducted on-site, but there are some differences. Typically, the remote hiring process requires more time and effort to complete the process. Here are some key points when considering how to conduct a technical interview remotely:
- Scheduling. The candidate might live in a different time zone, so be sure to find the best time for the technical part of the interview that works for all the participants.
- Define the platform for the interview. It might be Google Meet, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or any other tool. Ask the candidate to install any necessary software beforehand.
- Decide on the interviewers. Define the team that will help conduct the interview in the role of technical interviewer. Tell the candidate who will be present so that they will know what to expect.
- Send the invitation link beforehand. Don’t wait till the last minute to send an invitation link for a scheduled interview to all the participants. Do your best to send it at least an hour, or even a day, before the actual meeting.
- Do a technical check. Choose a quiet place or check the noise-reduction function on your device. Make sure your camera works well and that your mic is good too.
Consider all the actions you might need to take to conduct a technical assessment. Think about people, time, and resources well in advance so that you don’t miss anything.
How to Conduct a Technical Interview
An interview about checking tech-related knowledge does not necessarily need to include only technical topics. It might also include questions like, “What is your favorite part of the job you currently do?” or even, “What is the weather like where you live?” There is no one-size-fits-all method for how to do a technical interview, although we have laid out a basic road map for you to follow below. Just make sure the candidate isn’t too nervous and is able to respond to your questions.
Step 1. General questions
Start with some general questions about the candidate’s skills and background. Usually, the answers to these interview questions are already on their resume, but discussing these points in person might paint a new picture. The responses can highlight specific points, giving a clearer image of the interviewee’s knowledge and skills.
Step 2. The assessment
There are two widely used approaches to assessing candidates’ technical skills: an independent task, done independently by candidates on a remote basis, and supervised testing.
The first way is to provide a remote coding challenge. It should be simple enough to be understandable and requires little guidance during an interview but complex enough to test the candidate’s competencies. But be careful not to ask for fundamental task solutions, and never give a test that requires hours of unpaid work. Keep it brief and be flexible. The assessment is about checking whether a candidate knows what to do.
A second method is the whiteboard challenge. With this interview method, the candidate must find a solution for a problem written on a whiteboard. What’s more, there can be more than one problem to tackle. The challenge may comprise a set of short questions on different points. The whiteboard challenge is typically more difficult and stressful for a candidate, so it works better for mid- and senior-level candidates who are more confident in their skills and likely to perform well in stressful situations.
It’s worth noting that candidates who exceed expectations during the interview are likely to perform well in the future. Again, don’t neglect good candidates in search of a unicorn. The candidates with enough accuracy and moderate creativity and who are efficient with their time are strong candidates by default and do not necessarily have to possess strong technical knowledge.
Step 3. Clarifying questions
Test tasks and challenges alone are sometimes enough to provide definitive answers to your questions. For instance, say the candidate didn’t complete the job within the set time. You can ask about the remaining steps to ascertain whether the person can do it. Another way to get the necessary information during an interview is by asking about hypothetical situations and listening to how the person would handle them.
This stage also presents an excellent opportunity to ask about past work experience, motivations, and any other sort of background that might help to succeed in the new role. Don’t forget to give your candidate a chance to ask some questions regarding the technical part of the open vacancy at the interview.
Step 4. Check out a portfolio or work samples
Ask whether a candidate has something to share as an example of their work that you could check out after the interview. This is vital for designers (examples include Behance, Dribbble, or a personal website) and developer positions (GitHub, open data projects, etc.). Don’t forget to consider young, ambitious people and career-switchers. The newcomers to the industry are often highly dedicated and work hard in search of recognition as new industry players.
The Best Questions to Ask
The STAR (Situation, Task, Actions, and Results) approach is the most effective way to form questions for any interview. By putting this method into practice, you might get questions like these: What kind of projects have you been working on? What tasks were assigned to you? What were your actions? How were the results measured?
If you really want to dig deep into the candidate’s skill set, don’t use the tech questions posted online. Some candidates prepare by studying questions from Quora, Glassdoor, and similar sources. Instead, make your questions unique and tailored to the role. Don’t hesitate to ask the future team for some help here.
There are three types of questions you should develop during coding interview preparation:
- Intentional. These questions help to get to the core responsibilities without asking random questions on code or approaches.
- Narrow list. These are questions designed to separate a good answer from a bad one. If you are not really into tech, identify the key tools or terms you would like to hear in the answer to a question.
- One-of-a-kind. Again, make your question list unique to avoid rote or regurgitated answers on common technical points. Candidates truly interested in their careers read various sources to master their skills.
Another important point is a cultural fit, which is often quite challenging to define. One approach is to ask whether candidates consider themselves to be lucky. This question highlights their values and character traits from a practical point of view.
When planning your strategy on how to give a technical interview, remember to leave some time for candidates to ask and clarify things they are interested in. Don’t take this opportunity lightly; otherwise, potential hires might think of your company as one that doesn’t care about the needs and opinions of its employees. If a candidate hesitates about what to ask, you can give a few questions you would be happy to answer.
Tips for Assessing Candidates after a Technical Interview
Once the tech interview is done, take your notes and summarize the various candidates’ levels of success. Some criteria to review include:
- Time spent on test assignments. Try to spot whether any candidates put in the extra effort. If a candidate worked hard on a given task, they will likely work the same way in the future.
- Questions asked. Spot the candidates who asked you questions during an interview. Asking questions is a good sign of a genuine interest in the vacancy.
- Prospects of a long-term collaboration. You want a candidate who will stay at the company for a long time rather than one who will force you to search for their replacement in the near future, necessitating going through the interview process again. It’s a good sign if they mention long-term work experiences on their resume.
Qualification level. Search for relevant experience in candidates’ employment histories.
A single interview should not be the sole factor in deciding a candidate’s success. The interview process should consist of multiple stages that, taken as a whole, give a complex picture of a candidate’s personality. So don’t rush to reject someone’s candidacy if they didn’t achieve a top score on a technical task.
The technical interview is an important stage of the interviewing process that aims to define role-related skills and evaluate a candidate’s eligibility for an open job from a technical perspective. The hiring manager is expected to decide how to conduct a technical interview and identify the set of tasks and questions that match the level of the open position and qualifications. These interviews also vet the candidate’s knowledge of tools, approaches, and workflows as well as their potential for future learning and career growth. But just because the candidate does not perform as well in a technical setting as you expected them to, it doesn’t mean they failed the interview. Take into account everything you learned about the candidate throughout the interview process before taking a final decision. That person could be a diamond in the rough!
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