How to succeed in technical exercises and interviews

We asked two employers at yesterday’s Engineering Fair, Arup and Jacobs, to share their secrets of succeeding in technical exercises or interviews. This is what they said…

Technical exercises – Mikey Bishop, Early Careers Co-ordinator, Arup

When you apply to a role at Arup, we want to ensure that you can demonstrate and communicate your knowledge and skills. To allow you to do this, we incorporate a technical exercise into our assessment centres.

A technical exercise will be related to the specific role or industry you have applied for e.g. Structural Engineering. It will also incorporate aspects of the tasks that you would be doing on the job. It is important that where possible you demonstrate your working and remember the thought process you took to get to your answer. This is because your technical exercise will often be analysed and discussed during your interview with hiring managers.

Connor Braithwaite one of our recent Graduate Civil Engineers, provided this useful insight:

When doing a technical exercise, remember to keep an eye on the time and to move on from a question if you are stuck and are spending too much time on it. Your assessor may also be looking at how well you are able to manage your time.

 Also, try not to panic if you don’t know something. It’s important to think about how you could tackle a problem and why you’d do it that way, so remember to demonstrate this rather than becoming too fixated on the answer itself.”

Technical interviews – Gary Anderson, Global Future Talent Program Manager, Jacobs

Recently I became a STEM Ambassador in my organisation. Through this, I have met a range of people from local schools looking for advice on their CVs and usually I explain what a typical competency based question might look like. It is an interesting experience listening to individuals considering a suitable scenario where they can talk about what they did and what the results where.

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Gary Anderson, Global Future Talent Program Manager, Jacobs

Having done this for so long now it all comes back to the same thing – preparation. This is needed whether it’s your first interview or your 100th interview. Whether invited to a competency-based interview or billed as a “technical interview”, it’s amazing what you can forget about yourself and all the experiences you have been involved in. So, preparation for me is almost like checking your life CV and remembering how you got to an interview in the first place. Remember, no one is going to invite you to a face to face interview that isn’t already interested in what they have read or heard (video interview). So, believe it or not you are already part of the way there.

Any interviewer will of course have prepared some technical questions as well. It can be difficult to determine what they might be but it’s highly likely to focus on areas from the job description and how your experiences and qualifications can bring benefit to the role on offer. So, if you are studying a specific technical discipline or subject area, take some time to prepare and recall what you have learnt and how you have applied this outside of your course. What examples can you give that will showcase your experience or skills?

My final tip is to think about your final questions. With such easy access to websites and social media doing research is now seen as a pre-requisite of making an application. So, take some time to think about questions you would like to ask about the organisation to get as much insight as possible. After all, this is all about you making the right decision too.


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