Technical Interview Questions and experience levels

At the more advanced level, technical questions are sometimes extremely demanding on interviewees. They can also be matters of professional opinion.

For experienced people, technical questions aren't a matter of guesswork. Their answers are always based on some degree of experience and knowledge direct from the workplace.

For professional people, technical questions can lead to profound differences of opinion. Answers are based on a whole raft of qualifications.

For most people, particularly in administration, or blue collar work, technical questions are sometimes very difficult.

The answer you give is the answer you know. Other workplaces may do things differently, which means you've given a wrong answer, from their perspective.

In self defence, and to make sure you're answering the question so you're clear you're talking about your previous experience, you need to be sure you're answering the right question.

Example:

How do you file invoices?

Possible answers:

  • I don't, they're all electronic, where I work.
  • In a drawer, in numerical order.
  • In monthly groupings by client name, like in the cash receipts book
  • In alphabetical order, using client names.
  • In date order.

Do you notice something about these answers?

They're all part right, and all deal with the basic function of record keeping. Only the third answer, however, includes the use of those invoices as records in relation to their actual purpose.

That's not a particularly technical question, but there is a technical answer:

Records are kept in accordance with accountancy department requirements and statutory records maintenance laws.

Irritating as it is, that's the actual answer.

However they're physically filed, it's on that basis. The accountancy department must be able to access those files. The records are required by law to be available for the statutory limit period, usually at least 5 years.

So the answer would be something like:

We keep our invoices in monthly groupings by client name, like in the cash receipts book. Records are kept in accordance with accountancy department requirements and statutory records maintenance laws.

Always make sure you cover all relevant points.

In this case, the reason why the records are kept is the reason why they're kept in that way. The monthly grouping is directly related to the cash book, which is the primary working material for the accounts department. You usually score a few extra points for understanding the records system as well as the work involved.

Any technical question needs a background to the answer.

You need to qualify your answer, so the interviewers understand it, and can see the steps involved.

If you're an apprentice plumber, and the problem is a leaky pipe, you'd be advised to explain inspection and any removal of the old pipe and patching, welding or replacement of the pipe. Safety issues, like use of oxy torches, and other matters, also should be addressed.

The risk is that you can answer the question, but not explain your answer. You can leave out a lot of information.

It's often best to ask interviewers, regarding any question, what level of detail they need.

When repairing an old pipe, you may not need to write a book on the subject, but you will definitely need to be clear about:

  • What is done,
  • How it's done, and
  • Why it's done in that way.

Technical questions must have structured answers. In other types of question, it's really just common sense to answer clearly, and try to organize your answer effectively.

In technical questions, however, there are no real options. The answer must cover an entire problem, in a clearly structured way. You can't be disorganized in your answer, because it sounds like you're disorganized.

Repairing this pipe, for example, the process is:

  1. Locate leak and inspect pipe.
  2. Decide to patch or replace.
  3. Turn off water.
  4. Ensure safe access for work
  5. Repair pipe, using a weld

Now, try phrasing that response in any other order. It won't work, will it? The logic of the answer would be scrambled.

Even if the interviewers know what you mean, a disorganized response to a technical question can sound terrible. Says nothing for your communication skills, either, which is another good reason to get it right.