By: Leslie Stevens-Huffman
Preparation and practice can help you survive a technical interview, and coming up with the right answers can even help you land a contract engineering assignment. But what happens when several candidates know their stuff? Will you still prevail?
There’s a fine line between dominating a technical interview and simply surviving it. The dominators don’t just answer technical questions; they exude confidence, provide examples and engage the interviewer. And when all things are equal, the dominators usually get the assignment.
These techniques can help you go from survivor to conqueror.
Offer context and examples
Most engineering contractors can demonstrate their understanding of essential engineering concepts germane to their field. Explaining how you’ve used an engineering skill or competency in the past can take your game to a higher level. Seize the opportunity to showcase your engineering experience and value by including in your answers to simple technical probes real world examples from your engineering career.
Engage the interviewer
An interview should be a two-way dialogue, an open discussion that benefits you and the engineering manager. Draw out the interviewer by asking how a particular engineering skill or competency relates to the project. Or, better yet….
“Put on your consultant’s hat,” suggests Jeanne Knight, a career and job search coach. “Look for clues and patterns in the manager’s technical questions that reveal what’s keeping him awake at night or why a project may be difficult or challenging. Then set yourself apart by offering solutions.”
A few timely, insightful questions can transform a dry, technical interview into an in-depth discussion about the project, the challenges it poses and a range of solutions. Best of all, an interactive discussion with the engineering manager can position you as a brilliant contractor with all the answers.
Use visual aids
Instead of providing a series of short terse answers, grab the engineering manager’s attention by illustrating your solution to complex technical issues on a white board. Walking the engineering manager through the problem you faced, the options you considered and how you solved it not only illustrates your basic command of engineering concepts, but also your critical thinking skills, problem-solving approach, communication style and your passion for engineering. And, of course, it invites feedback from the engineering manager.
This workplace simulation also provides a preview of your working relationship with the engineering manager and your cultural fit with the firm. Contract engineers who dominate technical interviews not only provide accurate, concise answers to technical questions, they demonstrate their fit with the organization’s culture and environment and they build a bond with the engineering manager.
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