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I am applying for a programmer internship and the company scheduled a 30 minute phone interview between me and the Lead Recruiter from the HR. When I wanted to start to prepare, I realised that I am not sure whether I should expect only the HR-oriented questions (e.g. Why should we hire you?), or whether I should expect technical, programming questions as well. I already passed an online coding test that was a prerequisite even to the application submission.

Do phone interviews with HR usually contain technical questions? Is it appropriate to directly ask the Coordinator that has scheduled the phone interview about how the interview is going to be oriented?

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    At most, the technical questions would be in generalities, but your responses would be fair game for a follow-up interview with a subject matter expert (your manager or team members). Closest I would expect you to get to a "technical" question would be how well you explain something technical when responding (i.e.: the correctness of your answer wouldn't be evaluated, but the comprehensibility of your answer would be evaluated). – Matt Jul 4 '13 at 18:32
  • @Matt Great comment, thanks – especially for mentioning that the conversations can come back in a more technical follow-up interview. I'll try to remember to come back here and +1 when I can – I cannot due to low rep at the moment. – mzi Jul 5 '13 at 13:10
  • I've had an HR rep ask me some simple technical questions (like whats the difference between a stack and queue) and then hand it off to the dev team if I passed the soft-skills portion – sevensevens Sep 17 '14 at 22:38
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Technical questions as in the "What is the difference between an interface and an abstract class?" aren't likely. However, there may be questions where you may be asked to refer to technical experiences listed on your resume. "Tell me about a time when you used C++ at Acme Company." may well be a reasonable question that could be seen as technical in a sense.

If you do ask for the orientation of the interview be prepared for some possible drilling as the initial answer may be that it is a behavioral interview and thus you may have to ask further questions to determine how down in the details will it get. I'd probably just be prepared to go over my experience and have stories prepared to explain things in my resume as well as the standard HR questions like, "Tell me about a time where you were stressed at work," or "What are your strengths and weaknesses?" type of stuff. While it may be appropriate, consider what kind of impression you want to give here as this may be something used in determining your fit for the role and asking a bunch of questions may backfire here. I'm not sure how likely that is though something to consider is how many other people are being interviewed for this position and your performance would be compared to them.

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