11 Must-Ask Interview Questions for Technical Candidates
Technical roles require various soft skills alongside technical know-how. Try these 11 interview questions when hiring for your next role.
While previous experience and technical skills are undoubtedly important, a thorough set of interview questions will give you the insight to establish whether candidates are the right fit for your company.
After all, test results can’t convey soft skills, which are necessary for roles that involve teamwork, initiative, and problem-solving skills.
If you’re interviewing a candidate for a technical role, here are 11 must-ask questions to assess whether they’re a good fit.
1. How would you explain [...] to somebody with limited technical knowledge?
Soft skills are all too often overlooked when hiring technical candidates, but being able to communicate clearly is a key skill for people in technical positions.
Company-wide projects will often include employees from various departments, both technical and non-technical.
Technical employees will have to accurately describe complex processes to colleagues with limited knowledge of the task at hand and make themselves understood. Being able to translate technical terms into layman’s terms is an absolute must.
The candidate should be able to explain a type of technology relevant to their field in simple and easy-to-understand terms to score well on this question.
2. Tell us about a time when you’ve had to use your problem-solving skills to tackle a particularly difficult problem.
Problem-solving skills are at the heart of any STEM role. From undertaking complex calculations to grappling with troublesome lines of code, any technical employee you hire will need to be an expert problem solver.
The easiest way to assess somebody’s problem-solving skills is by asking them to demonstrate a time when they’ve used them in the past to tackle a complex problem. Alternatively, provide candidates with a complex problem (that’s relevant to their role) to solve before the interview begins.
3. Tell us about a situation when you had to handle a particularly tight deadline.
Any technical candidate is likely to come up against strict deadlines in their role. Time-management skills are an absolute must for any role, but especially technical roles in which their completion of deliverables can make or break a project’s success.
Asking about a candidate’s approach to deadlines gives you a much-needed insight into their time-management skills, which helps you assess whether they’re a good fit for your company.
Bonus question: To further test your candidate’s ability not only to manage time but also to manage expectations, ask how they’d approach a situation if they got halfway through the project and realised they weren’t on track to meet the deadline.
4. How do you keep your technical knowledge up to date?
Technical skills are an obvious requirement for STEM roles, but having employees with up-to-date industry insights can also be massively beneficial.
By asking candidates how they keep their technical knowledge up to date, you’ll gain insight into how far their technical knowledge actually stretches.
Plus, you’ll get a better understanding of their technical interests outside of the workplace, which could shine a light on knowledge you didn’t know they had.
5. How have your previous roles prepared you for this one?
Work experience isn’t everything, but it’s certainly a factor in determining how suitable a candidate is for a role. By asking about previous roles, you’ll get a more in-depth insight into the skills and knowledge they’ve gained along the way.
This gives you a clear idea of what they’ll bring to your role - and what knowledge or abilities they’re yet to learn. Look out for mentions of the soft skills or technical expertise you listed in your job description.
6. What qualifications or certifications do you have that will support you in this role?
While technical qualifications shouldn’t count for everything in the hiring process, they certainly come in useful in helping you distinguish who has the right technical knowledge for the job.
Before you start the recruitment process, establish which qualifications are a must, and which qualifications are added extras.
If you’re not hiring on a qualification basis and you’re happy to hire candidates from adjacent industries, consider which transferable skills they’ll need to have, instead.
7. How do you ensure quality in your deliverables?
Producing work of high quality is non-negotiable in technical roles. Asking candidates how they deliver quality results shows you more about their approach to work in general.
There’s no right or wrong answer to this question, but it’s a great sign if the candidate can give you previous examples of when they’ve prioritised quality on a project.
8. Tell us about a time when you’ve had to use attention to detail to make a project a success.
If there’s one thing all STEM roles require, it’s attention to detail. When you’re designing a building or writing a line of code, there’s little room for error.
The best way to assess a candidate’s approach to using attention to detail in projects is by asking them about a time when they’ve successfully implemented it. They should be able to break the project down into detailed steps to give you an insight into how they’d handle projects at your workplace.
9. What technical tools have you previously worked with?
Most technical roles require the use of certain tools or software. By asking candidates which technical tools they’ve worked with previously, you’ll know how much or how little you’ll need to train them once they start.
If you’re recruiting for a contractor, for example, you won’t have time for weeks of training, so you’ll need someone who’s already familiar with the tools in use at your workplace.
Many roles in the STEM field also require basic or advanced knowledge of programming languages. Ask your candidate which ones they know, and if you want to put their skills to the test you can assess them pre-interview with a technical screening tool.
10. When you start a new project, what steps do you take to make it a success?
The majority of STEM roles are project-based, so learning more about how candidates tackle them is crucial.
There’s no one right way to answer this question, but it’s worth checking that a candidate’s approach to projects is one that fits in with your way of working. For more details, ask for a description of a previous project the candidate has worked on and how they made it successful.
11. What are your biggest development areas?
Naturally, when you hire for a role you’re not just gauging how your candidate will carry out tasks in the next six months, but how they might fit into your company long-term.
Asking this question can help you get a better understanding of their development areas (which will help you establish the resources needed to train them) and their appetite for learning and progressing in their career. This crucial information helps you understand how the candidate could fit into your team’s succession planning in the future.
Assessing candidates against these must-ask questions will help you assess who’s a good fit for the role. If you’re hiring for a remote role, it’s also worth asking questions about how the candidate approaches remote work to make it a success.
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