Technical interviews are an opportunity for a potential employer to learn about your technical knowledge, including the tools you use and the practical skills you possess. They tend to be more targeted than behavioral interview questions so interviewers can determine the extent of what you know, your ability to solve problems and think critically, and how prepared you are to begin the role should you get an offer.
Let’s go over what you can expect from a technical interview, including a number of sample questions that can help you prepare for your next one.
Most roles require a variety of job skills—or some combination of workplace skills and technical skills. While workplace skills pertain to how you work, technical skills are those you develop in order to complete a particular function, such as knowing a programming language or how to use a content management system.
A technical interview often happens as part of the interview process at a technology company and applies to certain tech-heavy roles, such as those in engineering, product, or design. In such cases, your technical interview may also include an onsite or remote challenge, such as a whiteboard design challenge or a live coding test. But candidates applying for roles in marketing, finance, or sales may also have to complete a technical interview in order to showcase related technical skills.
However, a technical interview can also be part of the interview process at other companies or industries outside of tech. Any time a role requires practical skills, you may be expected to complete a technical interview so your potential employer can verify that you have the training and knowledge needed to do the job.
Each company structures their interview process differently. Some may integrate technical interview questions into other interview stages, whereas others may schedule a specific technical interview that focuses exclusively on technical questions. In that case, a technical interview can occur earlier in the interview process or near the end, when you’re among the top candidates.
During your first interview, ask the recruiter or hiring manager about the hiring process and what you can expect, including the number of interviews—as well as types—they anticipate having you complete.
We’ve compiled an assortment of technical interview questions based on both tech-heavy and non-tech heavy roles. With either focus, you can expect technical interview questions to span three primary areas: the tools you know, the processes you have experience with, and hypothetical situations that aim to better understand your problem-solving skills.
The questions below vary by role but give you an idea of questions pertaining to engineering, data analysis, product management, and design.
Tools: Interviewers ask these to know more about which software, programs, and tools you know how to use.
What programming languages do you know?
What are some limitations of your favorite programming language?
What scripting languages do you know?
What design software do you know? Which do you prefer?
What product management system do you like using? What’s the best one for scalability?
Processes: Interviewers ask these to learn more about the way you go about your work and how well you’d potentially transition into your new role.
How do you go about deploying a product?
What statistical methods do you prefer using?
What are the steps involved in a decision tree?
How much time do you spend unit testing?
What type of UX framework do you prefer?
Situational: Interviewers ask these to understand how you solve problems and think critically about certain tools and processes.
How do you determine what an end user needs?
What’s the largest data set you’ve ever worked with? How would you handle a data set with variables missing 25 percent of its values?
How do you treat outlier values?
Tell me how you’d debug an update.
What would you change about one of your favorite products?
The questions below vary by role, but give you an idea of the types of questions you can expect during a technical interview when applying for roles that fall under marketing, finance, sales, and project management.
Tools: Interviewers ask these to know more about which software, programs, and tools you know in order to complete the tasks you’ll handle. They may also ask about your familiarity with major tools they use for more general day-to-day operations.
What content management systems (CMS) do you know how to use?
What’s your experience working with SEO?
What customer relationship management (CRM) software do you prefer?
Tell me about the budgeting software you used in your last role.
What tools have you used to manage a remote team?
Processes: Interviewers ask these to learn more about the way you go about your work and how well you’d potentially transition into your new role—and onto your new team.
Are you familiar with Agile? When have you used it in the past?
How do you ensure a new design meets a company’s brand guidelines?
How do you prioritize competing deadlines in a project?
How do you handle constructive feedback at each iterative stage?
How do you ensure the validity of your quarterly projections?
Situational: Interviewers ask these to understand how you solve problems and think critically about your work.
What’s the biggest budget you’ve managed thus far?
What is a marketing campaign that’s really caught your eye? Why?
How would you describe a project plan?
What’s your experience with risk management?
How do you determine your audience so you can identify the best tone to take?
Answering technical interview questions should go beyond simply discussing what you know. There are ways you can frame your responses that better showcase the depth of your knowledge as well as your other abilities. Use the tips below to get started.
Whether you face questions about the tools you’ve used, the processes you’ve followed, or the potential situations you could find yourself in, go one step further and discuss your thought process when explaining your answer. Doing so can be a valuable chance to showcase your critical faculties and help interviewers learn more about you personally.
What programming languages do you know?
I took time to research whether I should learn Python or R first. I knew that I would end up learning both, especially since I’m interested in moving into statistical analysis at some point. But at the start, Python seemed like the better language to help me get started because it’s so popular. I enjoyed having access to more resources while I learned it.
You shouldn’t bend the truth if you don’t know how to use a tool, but where possible, use it as an opportunity to call attention to a related or similar program you do know.
What design software do you know how to use?
Many of my design friends use Figma, so I’m familiar with it, but I’ve used Sketch in most of my previous roles. Even though they are different, I have every confidence I’d be able to pivot to Figma once I get started thanks to their overlapping similarities, especially when it comes to real-time collaboration.
It can be scary when you don’t know the answer to a question, but don’t let a knowledge gap stop you. Use your answer as a chance to show off your approach to particular challenges by explaining what you’d do to get up to speed.
What content management systems do you know how to use?
I taught myself how to use the social media management programs Hootsuite and Buffer, which will give me a strong foundation as I transition into content management and learn your CMS. Do you offer any in-house training sessions as part of your onboarding? I would plan on taking advantage of those resources. Or if that’s unavailable, I would focus a portion of my first two to three weeks on becoming comfortable in WordPress and how this team uses it.
It’s important to prepare for a technical interview because of the specific knowledge you’ll need to demonstrate. Use the tips below to help you.
Each job posting lists “required” and “recommended” skills; these can often help you understand the tools and skills you’ll need. If the job posting is still available, take time to review it and make a list of the tools, programs, and skills detailed in the description. Note what you know, so you can highlight it during your interview.
If you know your technical interview will include a task or test, spend time practicing in advance. Beyond that, you should spend time practicing how you talk about your technical skill set, the ways you’ve used various tools in the past, and the successes you’ve experienced because of them. If you’ve had challenges, bring those up as well so you can discuss how you overcame them.
The longer you are in the workforce, the more technical skills you will acquire. But you can also develop your technical skills on your own time. Take trainings or tutorials to help you learn important software or processes you can include on your resume—or bring up during a technical interview.
As with any interview, it’s important to spend time researching the company so you understand their business, their industry, and as much as possible, how they work. For example, if they’re remote, you’ll likely be expected to have some understanding of remote work tools, like Zoom and Slack.
You should always come prepared to each interview stage expecting to ask at least two or three questions at the end. With the technical interview, you can ask more about the company’s tools, the kinds of training they offer new employees, and anything else related to the technical skills portion of the work.
Learn more: Questions to Ask at the End of an Interview
Beyond preparing answers to technical interview questions, it can help to get an interview refresher. This five minute video from Big Interview, in collaboration with Coursera, goes over the fundamental interview question, “Why do you want to work here?”
Want to feel even more prepared for your next interview? Enroll in The Art of the Job Interview, a collaboration between Big Interview and Coursera. You’ll learn about interview fundamentals as well as how to answer basic and advanced interview questions. It’s free to enroll and you can complete the course in less than 19 hours.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.