The secrets to a successful technical interview

The secrets to a successful technical interview

 5 Feb 2021

The interviews have been going well and all that remains between you and a job offer is the ‘technical’. It’s enough to have even the most experienced candidates running for the hills. But there are easy strategies that will help you through.


Prepare strategically

  • You can’t second guess what the interviewer will cover, so plan logically. Check through your CV for the areas you have mentioned, and any examples given. Refresh your memory so you can chat through your technical examples easily and describe what your objectives were, what alternative options you considered, why you took the course of action you did etc.
  • Go back to the job specification for the role, and research the areas highlighted. Focus on the ‘must haves’ first but try and set aside enough time to revise some of the ‘nice to haves’ too.
  • A common question is “Tell me about a project you found challenging” so prepare a couple of examples to have ready.


Interview scenarios

There are really only four ways that you can answer any technical question and it helps to rationalize these beforehand, so you are prepared for any eventuality.

  1. I know it!

If you know the answer, great! Take a few seconds to gather your thoughts before leaping in with your response. Someone I know pauses for at least 15 seconds to think about what the interviewer is asking and what he wants to say back. Keep it brief and to the point. The interviewer will ask you to expand if they’d like you to, and you can ask if they would like you to elaborate further.

  1. Nerves have got in the way

The interviewer asks a pretty basic question and of course you know the answer, but nerves have got the better of you and you’re in a blind panic. Be honest. Tell the interviewer that you do know the answer but are so nervous that you can’t recall it. If the interviewer is good, they will move on to safer ground until you feel more comfortable.

  1. You think you know something about this…

Say that, trying to name the source e.g.  “I haven’t covered this in practice but think I read something about it in …. I think it might have something to do with ….” Tell the interviewer what you’d do in a real life situation i.e. if a client were asking for advice, you’d advise that you will get back to them in writing after checking a couple of technical points etc.

  1. I have no idea

You have zero experience of this and don’t know the answer at all.

Again, tell the interviewer but also follow up with how you’d handle this in a real life situation i.e. what technical resource/s you’d use for research. This shows that you are resourceful and a self-starter.


Keep calm and carry on

Even if the interviewer asks you several questions one after the other that you don’t know the answer to, keep calm and keep repeating the appropriate response from above. Interviewers are not trying to catch you out but will want to explore the breadth of your experience. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t be relevant for the job opening. Don’t ever be tempted to guess an answer. The interviewer will be worried that you’d do the same in a client meeting. Plus, interviewers can be checking how you perform under pressure so keeping calm is always the best approach.



Remember, even a technical interview will give you information about the firm and the role. You can use this to help determine whether it’s the one for you, if offered - were the areas they asked you about likely to expand the breadth and depth of your experience? What were the interviewers like, and would you feel comfortable working with them?

If the role isn’t for you or the firm is looking for someone with experience you don’t have, it’s far better to find out before you join. Plus any interview, whether it results in an offer or not, is always good for building your network of contacts.








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