Career Advice

Be Prepared to Ace the Technical Skills Assessment
The Engineer posted on May 08, 2017 | 4122 views

By: Tom Goettl, vice president of George Konik Associates

Congratulations! You’ve just been invited to interview for an engineering job at a company you’ve long admired and have had on your job search short-list. You’re excited about the challenging role and the possibility of collaborating with other brilliant engineers on revolutionary products. 

Then, you receive the interview schedule and your heart races uncontrollably when you read the words “Technical Skills Assessment.” You may feel anxiety overtaking you at the idea of taking an exam under pressure and the thought of how one wrong answer could make or break your dream job chances. You thought you were through with tests after college graduation.

However, don’t hyperventilate, and rest assured we’re here to help you prepare for your technical skills assessments and ace them with flying colors.

Much like preparing to solve an engineering problem, the first step here is to define the problem and collect your data in order to understand the type of assessment you’ll be given. Ask the person coordinating the interview what type of technical assessment will be expected, such as a written exam, computerized assessment, coding exam, computer-aided design assessment or a technical presentation.

This shows the company you’re engaged in the hiring process and that you want to be well-prepared. Learn as much as you can about the upcoming assessment so you can formalize your plan.

Once you understand the assessment type, set aside time to prepare for the upcoming exam.  From the information provided by the interview coordinator and the original job description, you can surmise what topics will be covered in the assessment.

The age-old rule of “Practice Makes Perfect” holds true in this case, as well.  Giving yourself at least several hours to prepare for your assessment will put you at ease when you’re actually taking the exam. This not only gives you a chance to refresh your technical skills, but also puts you in the right frame of mind to excel. 

Here are some tips to prepare for the most common types of technical interview:

 

Computerized Assessment 

This assessment is comprised of software-generated questions and assessment typically including multiple choice and essay form questions.  Computerized assessments will measure your general knowledge of your engineering discipline (mechanical, electrical, software, etc.) as well as your writing abilities and style. 

To prepare for this assessment, it’s time to dust off those college textbooks you thought you’d never need again.  Or, perform a quick online search for “sample engineering test questions.” The main goal here is to refresh yourself on the fundamentals of engineering so you’ll be primed for the assessment.

Set aside a couple hours to go over questions and answers in your head and on paper. Getting in-the-zone for this assessment will be key to your success.

Computer Aided Design Assessment

If the role requires knowledge of design software, such as SolidWorks or AutoCAD, it’s a good bet you’ll be given a CAD assessment to demonstrate your understanding of this software. 

There’s no shortage of training videos on most software companies’ websites, Lynda or YouTube.  Even better, if you have a student or trial version of the given software, spend time working with it to get your mind used to the format, features, and shortcuts.

Coding Assessments 

Many engineering positions requiring coding or an understanding of how coding works. This can require a coding assessment, which will enable the interview team to differentiate those who claim to be “gurus” from those who are a novice.

If you’re faced with the prospect of showing off your coding abilities, sharpen your skills by spending time on the coding competition site, HackerRank.  Focus on practicing the coding language that is most required in the job description, or which is mentioned by the coordinator.

Technical Presentation Assessment 

This type of assessment includes a live presentation or verbal demonstration of your abilities. You may be asked to present technical information in front of the hiring team using PowerPoint or a similar tool.

This type of assessment is more common with customer-facing or training roles, such as Sales Engineering, Applications Engineer or Technical Trainer positions.

As with the other assessment types, practice makes perfect! Take time to outline your presentation, making notes of the main topics and bullet points you’d like to cover. Doing this in advance helps you organize your thoughts in a relaxed atmosphere. When you’re in the moment during your presentation, you may forget key points if you haven’t written them out in advance. Time permitting, run through your presentation several times, practicing out loud and, if possible, in front of a friend to get some great feedback and practice.    

 

No matter what type of assessment you’re asked to complete, remember to relax, read the instructions carefully and answer to the best of your abilities. For written essay or free-form answers, be as truthful and honest as possible. Above all, do your best not to become anxious or frustrated as this only hinders your concentration and focus.  Simply do your best and know you’ve prepared as much as possible.



About the Author

Tom Goettl is vice president of George Konik Associates, a technical recruiting company in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

 

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