Interviews and assessment centres

Technical interviews for graduate roles: the basics

25 Jan 2023, 13:39

For some career sectors you may be invited to a technical interview, which will be used to assess specialist skills.

Unsolved Rubik's Cube on a table, symbolizing problem-solving in technical interviews.

If you are applying for a graduate position in an engineering, technology or science company, chances are you’ll get an interview containing technical questions. Some employers favour a separate technical interview, whereas others prefer to include technical questions in a general interview.

You'll find resources to help you with technical and engineering interviews from our partners at Shortlist.Me .

Know the basics of your subject inside out

Interviewers are sure to quiz you in-depth about your course. Revise the basics that everyone in your discipline should be secure on, and place particular focus on topics that relate to the employer's area of work. For example, you might do some practice exercises, such as writing simple software applications in programming languages relevant to the role.

Be prepared to talk about projects you have worked on

Technical interviewers often focus on project work as it is through this most technical graduates have the opportunity to do more independent work, go deeper into a subject, structure work and solve problems.

Be ready to give a brief summary of what your project focused on, situations you faced, how you overcame problems and the final results.

If you have been involved in a group project, make sure you can distinguish your own contribution. Talk about what you did and the parts that you took responsibility for.

Use experience to back up your technical knowledge

If you have any project work or vacation experience that is particularly relevant to the job you are going for, practise summarising it. You could produce a short digest of the information and take it with you to the interview. Use it to illustrate your answers or leave it with the interviewer when you finish.

It's not always about getting the correct answer

Technical interviewers may ask you to comment on a range of scenarios or hypothetical situations. You may not know the answer to everything you are asked, but try to show the interviewer how you might go about solving the problem, or finding the information you would need to answer the question.

Remember that your interviewer is not just interested in your technical knowledge and abilities – they also want to see how you reason, approach problems, plan and analyse.

Stay calm and keep analysing

You might be set some specific tasks or interviews as part of the interview. For example, you might be asked how you would set about creating a piece of software in line with the specification produced by an imaginary client, or you could be set a practical test of logic and computing skills. Remember to make sure you read the task thoroughly and understand it. Employers will be interested in your thought processes and your ability to plan and analyse as well as your technical abilities.

Demonstrate your communication skills

The interviewer will also look for more personal skills. You need to show that you can work well with others and communicate clearly, avoiding technical jargon.

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