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Technical Interview Questions: Tips for Answering Like a Pro

A man answering technical interview questions at a whiteboard

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Technical interview questions are, unsurprisingly, the main part of a technical interview. They’re the questions that dig deep into your skills and abilities and give you a chance to show in real time what you’re capable of.

While one of your interview rounds may solely be a technical interview, some technical interviews are part of a behavioral interview. And though you may think technical interviews require you to write code or solve a technical problem, some technical questions are casual and may not seem related to your technical abilities.

Here’s what you need to know about technical interview questions, no matter what job you’re interviewing for.

What Is a Technical Interview?

As the name implies, a technical interview assesses your technical abilities. While they are most common in the tech, engineering, and computer science fields, more and more industries are using technical interviews as part of the application process, like putting together a deck for a marketing role or editing something for a position on the content team.

A technical assessment may also be a part of your technical interview. This part of the interview tests your technical abilities (are you really proficient in React?) while the remainder of the technical interview measures how you approach and solve common (and often difficult) technical problems on the job.

5 Technical Interview Questions for all Careers

Even though many industries use technical interviews to assess your abilities, not all ask the same technical interview questions. The technical questions a hiring manager asks a software engineer are usually not the same ones they’d ask a product manager. While these five questions are common in many technical interviews, part of your interview prep should include brushing up on the technical basics in your field.

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Technical Interview Prep

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1. How do you keep your technical skills up to date?

No matter the industry you work in, things change. New products and techniques are introduced that improve how you do your job, or new research comes out that upends everything you ever thought you knew about the field.

When you’re asked how you keep your technical skills up to date, the interviewer is asking how you stay on top of these changes. The company may offer ongoing training or reimbursement for education, but the interviewer wants to know if you take the initiative to learn new things and stay informed outside of anything the company offers.

Talk about what you do to stay educated and informed. Do you attend outside training, whether in-person or online? Read professional journals and publications? Mentor others?

>>MORE: Can You Use ChatGPT to Prepare for Technical Interviews? 

2. What resources do you use to help you do your job?

At first glance, this question is asking what software tools you use throughout a typical workday. That might be technical tools (like GitHub), but it could also be a project management tool (like Jira or Trello). And tools could also include the less technical programs like Google Suite or even Zoom.

The specific tools you mention will vary based on your experience, but other technical tools could include:

  • WordPress
  • Microsoft Suite
  • Teams
  • Notion
  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • Evernote

However, “resources” doesn’t just refer to things like software. Resources can also mean your team, mentor, or supervisor. So, as an example, how do you communicate and collaborate with coworkers? Do you use Slack or email? How about in-person meetings?

Also explain why you prefer what you do. For example, you might like Jira and Slack because it’s a one-stop shop, and you only have to log into one platform to communicate and track progress.

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3. What are the pros and cons of working in an Agile environment?

Before you can answer this interview question, you need to understand what an Agile environment is and how it’s different from other techniques (like Waterfall).

Agile is a project management method structured around collaborative work and is most often used in software development. Say the company wants to roll out an update to the existing software. Every department works together to ensure that their part of the project “fits” with the rest. This is different from Waterfall (a different project management methodology), in which each department does its part independently of other teams.

For example, in an Agile environment, if the company is adding a chat feature to the website, the technical team creates the code for the feature while communicating and working with the design team to ensure the product works as intended and looks good. At the same time, the design team collaborates with the customer service team to ensure the chat feature is useful to users.

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There are many pros and cons to Agile environments. So many, in fact, that you shouldn’t list every one! Instead, focus on one or two and explain why they are pros and cons. For example, you could say that one pro of an Agile environment is that it’s very collaborative and allows for creative problem-solving and autonomy among staff. The con, though, is that despite everyone collaborating, goals can shift quickly, which can result in disagreements that slow progress down.

4. Tell me about one of your side projects.

This doesn’t always seem like one of the technical interview questions you might encounter. It seems more like a standard interview question, like “Tell me about yourself,” but with a tech twist. However, this question is more technical than it seems.

When an interviewer asks about your side projects, they’re asking about two things. First, do you use your technical skills outside of work? If you do, it’s another way to demonstrate that you’re actively using and honing your skills. 

Second, it’s not uncommon for people who feel passionately about the field to have side projects. Whether you get paid for it or not is irrelevant, but having side projects shows that you’re motivated and love what you do.

That said, not everyone has technical side projects. Some people would prefer to spend time with family, engage in non-technical activities outside of work, or have other obligations that make projects outside of work impossible.

If that’s the case, you don’t have to shy away from answering this question. You can be honest and upfront about why you don’t have a side project. Moreover, how the hiring manager reacts can give you some clues about the company’s culture. If the reason you don’t have technical side projects is because you’d rather spend time with your family during your non-work time, the interviewer who nods, smiles, and says, “Cool,” is likely one that respects your devotion to work-life balance. One who has a tight face and says, “I see,” may be someone who expects you to work long hours and is concerned that your after-work priorities will interfere with that.

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5. Have you ever used our product/service?

Though you’ll learn the technical details of the product or service once you’re hired, the interviewer is trying to find out if you’ve done your homework and, in some ways, why you’re applying for the job.

So, be prepared to discuss the product or service and how you’ve used it. Explain what you like or dislike about it and why you feel that way. Is the product intuitive and easy to use? Buggy and slow? It’s OK to mention some shortcomings as long as you’re delicate about it.

But what if you haven’t used the product or service?

Instead of saying, “No,” and leaving it at that, you could say that you didn’t know the product or service existed before you heard about the job and have just started learning about it. Then name one or two things you like about it and talk about how you’re excited to learn more about the product or service.

Tips for Answering Technical Interview Questions

Preparation is the key to success in any interview. And when it comes to technical interviews, you might be surprised to learn that, in many ways, technical interview questions are no different than behavioral interview questions, which means you can use similar techniques to answer them. 

>>MORE: 30+ Common IT Interview Questions (and How to Answer Them) 

Stay Calm

Even though you know it’s coming, being asked to perform on a whim can still be anxiety-provoking. While you may suddenly feel a bout of imposter syndrome, stay calm and trust in your abilities. If you’ve done the work and prepared for the interview, you can handle whatever the hiring manager asks!

There’s Often More Than One Right Answer

Some technical interview questions have more than one right answer because there’s more than one way to approach the situation. 

Talk Them Through Your Answer

Technical interviews aren’t so much about seeing if you can get “this” answer as much as they are about seeing how you approach a problem and what techniques you use to solve it.

So, talk the interviewer through your thought process. Explain why you chose X over Y and how it makes sense in this context. This will help the hiring manager experience how you’ll work through challenges and obstacles on the job.

Use the STAR Method

STAR stands for situation, task, action, result. In short, you tell a story about a challenge you faced at work, what you did to overcome it, and what the tangible results were. Using this technique to answer interview questions helps the interviewer understand how you’ll use your skills on the job.

And you can use the STAR method to answer most technical interview questions because, ultimately, the interviewer wants to understand the steps you’ll take to solve technical challenges at work.

So, while you may not talk about a challenge you faced, remembering this acronym can remind you to explain your answers step-by-step in a way that demonstrates not only that you have the technical skills the company needs, but how you solve technical problems.

Whiteboard Challenge

One common technical interview question is a whiteboard challenge. The interviewer gives you a technical challenge and asks you to solve it while mapping the steps on a whiteboard. Interestingly, you may not solve the problem on your own! You may collaborate with your interviewer to find a workable solution.

Whiteboard challenges give the hiring manager an opportunity to not only see how you work but to work with you. While you won’t know exactly which problem you’ll work on, the best way to prepare for this technical interview question (or exercise) is to lean into your collaboration and communication skills. Make sure you’re using your active listening skills to understand the task at hand, ask questions if you’re unsure, and teamwork skills.

What If I Don’t Know the Answer to a Technical Interview Question?

While some technical interview questions have more than one right answer, you may run into a question that you don’t know the answer to — at all!

But that’s OK. Explain that you don’t know the answer, then talk about how you would find the answer. It’s one more way you’re demonstrating your technical problem-solving skills.

Brush Up Your Skills

One other way to prep for technical interview questions is by leveling up your technical skills in a free Forage virtual job simulation. Challenge yourself with technical projects, solving whiteboard problems, and more. And once you complete a simulation, you’ll unlock a resume snippet and interview talking points that can help you throughout your job search.

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Rachel Pelta is the Head Writer at Forage. Previously, she was a Content Specialist at FlexJobs, writing articles for job seekers and employers. Her work has been featured in Fast Company, The Ladders, MSN, and Money Talks News.

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