Answering Technical Interview Questions
Introduction to Technical Questions
Technical questions are an essential part of the interviewing process. These questions are designed to test a candidate's abilities as they pertain to the position they're applying for. They can be used to test general knowledge within that industry or to determine a candidate's "hard" skills. Overall, technical questions will let the interviewer know if the candidate is able to perform the day-to-day operations associated with that position.
When answering technical questions, candidates may be expected to apply their knowledge to real-world scenarios and are often assessed on the logical process they utilize to solve a problem.
Why Do Interviewers Ask Technical Questions?
Interviewers ask technical questions because it helps them separate qualified candidates from unqualified ones. It's estimated that it costs 10-20% of a new employee's salary to train them, so interviewers want to make sure they select the right hire to invest in.
These questions can range from a broad understanding of the industry to inquiries about specific problems you will see on the job.
What Do Interviewers Expect When Asking Technical Questions?
When interviewers ask technical questions, they expect candidates to show them that they are technically qualified for that position. Therefore, when you are answering technical questions, you should:
Give a detailed account of your thought process
The interviewer wants to know how you will react to certain obstacles that may come up in the workplace.
Technical questions aren’t just about what you know; they’re also about how you communicate that knowledge.
Show your enthusiasm
Not only do you want to show the interviewer that you are qualified for the job, but you also want to show them you’re enthusiastic about the industry you’re in.
How to Prepare for Technical Questions
“When done properly, the questions you get in a technical interview are ones that you won’t have heard before.” - Gayle McDowell, “Cracking the Code’
While there are some common technical questions that you can expect to be asked, the interviewer will also have done their best to come up with questions you haven’t heard before.
Follow these easy steps to make sure you’re ready:
Make sure your foundation is steady
Go back to the basics. Taking a couple of hours to go over your foundational knowledge will help you feel more confident going into the interview.
Do your research
Go back to the original job post and review the requirements and day-to-day responsibilities since this is what the interviewer will test your knowledge on.
The best way to improve your interviewing skills is to take practice mock interviews. Follow the steps outlined in the Assignment section to take a technical practice interview in our online Interview Simulator tool. The simulator will give you meaningful technical questions tailored to your position.
Common Technical Questions Across Every Industry
Within every industry, there are certain technical questions that interviewers love to ask, regardless of the position you’re applying for.
Here are three sample technical skills categorized by discipline. In the premium version of our training program we have an extensive list of skills that will help you be ready for any type of question:
Accounts Payable / Accounts Receivable
- "What is deferred revenue, and how does it differ from accounts receivable?"
- "How can you detect and prevent fraudulent ledger entries?"
- "What is the difference between zero-based budgeting and value-based budgeting?"
- "What are some disadvantages to using outsourcing to control costs?"
Business Intelligence (BI) Tools & Applications
- "What are the goals and benefits of Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) software?"
- "Explain the difference between the three types of data models: conceptual, logical, and physical."
Microsoft Office Suite
- "What specific features of Microsoft Office can assist in data analysis?"
- "What are the advantages of long-term client relationships for Business 2 Business (B2B) companies?
- "What are some tools that help evaluate customer satisfaction?"
- "What customer service tools are you familiar with?"
- "What are the main steps to effective issue resolution in customer service?"
Other Interview Question Types
Technical questions aren’t the only kind of questions that get asked frequently. Here are three more common question types you can expect to be asked during an interview and what you can do to prepare for them!
We go into more detail about the other types in the premium version:
Key Skills Involved
- Similar to logic questions, case studies require you to perform in-depth analyzations to solve a hypothetical business problem or scenario.
- “Do you think we should enter a new market? If so, what strategy should we utilize?”
- These kinds of questions are usually complicated and specific. It’s not unreasonable to take a bit of time to work out an answer, so don’t rush yourself.
Key Skills Involved
- An interviewer may use these questions to evaluate how much you have researched about the company. This is a good way to express your interest in the company.
- "Why are you interested in working here?"
- Show that you have done
your homework and
understand the company's
mission and future. Think
about how your goals
correlate, and explain what
excites you most about the
- It’s a good idea to have a few specific situations in mind for different scenarios. That way, you can choose one quickly and already be prepared to talk about it.
Illegal and Inappropriate Questions
- “How old are you?”
- “Are you married?”
- “Do you plan on having children anytime soon?”
While these questions may seem innocent, they are actually illegal to ask during an interview.
Although it may seem like the interviewer is just trying to get to know you, answering questions about these topics can actually hurt your chances of getting the job.
How to Respond to Illegal Questions
If an inappropriate question comes up, there are a few ways you can reply that won’t reveal personal information about yourself. You can:
Redirect the question to the interviewer
One of the most effective ways to handle an illegal question is redirecting it back to the interviewer. Not only does it draw their focus off of you and onto themselves, but it also gives you more information about the person interviewing you. This helps to distract the interviewer from their original question.
Illegal Question: “Do you have any children?”
Response: “I’m committed to a career regardless of my family status. I also noticed the company does a great job promoting a healthy work-life balance for employees. What has your experience been with that?”
Avoid answering the question
Avoiding answering the question in a graceful manner could be your best bet when handling an inappropriate question.
Keep your answers broad
Sometimes there’s just no way to avoid the question — when this happens, keep your answers broad and vague.
Sometimes, a situation calls for a direct approach. You are completely within your rights to tell the interviewer that you don’t think a question is appropriate.
Consider what the interviewer may really be asking.
Keep in mind that sometimes an interviewer may be inexperienced or unaware that the questions they are asking are inappropriate. It’s best to be diplomatic in your answers and attempt to keep the interview moving.
Additional examples of illegal questions and details about how to respond to them are provided in the premium version of the training program.
This is just a preview of the actual Technical Questions Guide. We’ve outlined some necessary information here but go into much more detail in the real thing. Here is the information we cover in more detail:
- Understanding what technical questions are and why they’re important
- Researching industry standards and best practices.
- Using our Interview Simulator to practice answering technical questions!