When it comes to the daunting task of interviews, there are some essential tips any nervous interviewee can follow to ensure that they put their best foot forward to win over and impress an interviewer.
However, when it comes to asking an engineer about their job experience, those type of questions are not going to be found in your typical interview scenario.
From working in the automotive sector to being involved in the development and production of air and space crafts, the job responsibilities of an engineer are quite variegated, which is why, when it comes to being interviewed for the position of an engineer, you can expect some very job-specific and rather assorted questions.
Our guide will walk you through the top 10 engineering interview questions and how to answer them, and will help you prepare for and ace your next interview!
1. ‘What would you do if a project fell behind schedule, and it was your fault?’
Whether you’re spending your day developing technical reports or preparing project specifications and cost estimates, when it comes to the completion of a project, all responsibility sits heavily on the shoulders of the engineer.
When faced with this tough question, start by highlighting past projects that were completed on-time, and within the specified budget, it’s best to start with a positive, after all.
Mention that while your previous experience has ensured its challenges, having the ability to create workable solutions is always a part of the project planning process.
By highlighting that you always prepare for the possibility of delays, demonstrates that you are someone who can plan effectively and can face any challenge head-on.
2. ‘What do you enjoy most and least about engineering?’
Is testing solutions for effectiveness more of your area of expertise? Or how about presenting proposals to managers and clients? When it comes to highlighting your favourite aspects of your role, this will be a more personalised answer depending on the sector that you work in and where your talents naturally align. Regardless of what you say, this is your time in the interview to demonstrate your passion for your craft and the reasons as to why you love your job.
When it comes to dissecting the more negative aspects of your role, it’s always best to be honest, but also offer up a constructive solution for ways in which you have improved your approach to this aspect of your role.
For example, while creating technical and regulatory documents may not be your favourite part of the job, you can also use this opportunity in the interview to show that you do enjoy preparing plans with detailed drawings and graphs, and in doing so, swiftly turning a negative into a positive.
3. ‘What new engineering skills have you recently developed?’
Like with many industries, the engineering field is constantly evolving as technology and machinery advance. As a result, engineers are expected to develop new skills and enhance their understanding of the sector that they work in. Whether it is furthering your skillset in electrical engineering or updating your technical ability, this is your chance in the interview to show off your knowledge of the industry and the skills that you have developed and honed along the way.
4. ‘Tell us about your proudest achievement.’
While this is quite a generic question, often asked in many interviews, when it comes to being interviewed for the role of an engineer, the answer will vary greatly depending on the type of industry that you have previously worked in. Are you a biomedical engineer who has analysed and designed solutions that have improved patient care? Or a civil engineer who has built an array of roads, bridges and buildings during their career?
Highlight key moments from your previous positions, ensuring that you give a variety of diverse examples that can further demonstrate your abilities.
5. ‘What sorts of problems do you think this company faces?’
Here’s another common interview question, but one with varied answers for those interviewing for the position of engineer. Research, development, designing and construction are just some of the tasks that an engineer can find themselves performing throughout the working day.
With that in mind, when posed with this question, ask yourself what aspects of the business you could improve upon with the skillset and experience that you possess, and how you would implement this change.
This type of question will also require thorough research of the company that you are interviewing for, as well as an understanding of the industry and the type of clients that they attract.
There are many effective methods which you can apply when researching the company that you are applying for. Browsing industry news, checking the company’s social media accounts and reading recent press releases are just a few ways to do so!
6. ‘What software packages are you familiar with?’
Engineers are expected to have advanced skills in critical software applications, such as Microsoft Office and SolidWorks, so listing off software packages that you use in your job shouldn’t be too much of a problem for any professional in your field. Some of the more popular tools and apps for engineering professionals include Tinkercad, Fusion 360 and CATIA.
7. ‘What are your salary expectations?’
How you answer this question will depend on several key factors which will include your overall experience and position and the type of sector that you previously worked in.
Engineering is a growing profession, with an average salary typically between $64,500 and $78,430 in the US. This, of course, will depend on several factors, including the type of sector that the engineer is working in. A nuclear engineer developing reactor cores may be on a vastly different salary from that of a computer hardware engineer.
This type of question can be a tricky one to answer, regardless of the position that you are applying for. It’s important to conduct some research beforehand and find out the average salary for your experience and role so that you can give an honest and confident answer.
8. ‘Have you ever had an experience with a difficult client, employer or employee? How did you handle the situation?’
As an engineer, you would have had the chance to work on an array of exciting projects, from installing modified mechanical components to liaising with suppliers to test and modify products. Working on such an assortment of tasks, however, will involve working with a variety of people, including clients and projects managers.
When describing difficulties with colleagues or clients you have previously worked with, it’s always best to be honest and sincere when detailing the conflict you have encountered but to also demonstrate to the interviewer how you were able to resolve these incidents through effective deescalating skills that defused the conflict.
By showcasing that, despite difficult scenarios, you always put your job duties first, you highlight to the interviewer that you are a team player who will not let personal differences or professional obstacles get in the way of getting a project completed.
9. ‘Tell me about a time you got negative feedback on your work. How did you respond?’
There comes the point in every employee’s career that they will be presented with some form of negative feedback. However, many professionals will choose to use that feedback as an opportunity to develop their skillset or behaviour further.
So, when faced with this type of question, demonstrating to the interviewer that you responded positively to negative feedback by taking actionable steps to learn from your mistakes, shows that you are someone who has the ability to receive criticism and effectively learn from it.
Did you once receive negative comments from a project manager after hastily submitting sample reports and documentation that were not completed correctly? Or how about that time you incorrectly budgeted a project that went over your estimations? Use this opportunity in the interview to showcase how much you have evolved professionally and the lessons that have been learnt along the way.
10. ‘Where would you like to be in your career five years from now?’
The cliché interview question that is often asked near the tail end of an interview. For an engineer, this is your final chance to make a lasting impression on the interviewer by demonstrating your future aspirations.
Perhaps you are an industrial engineer who wants to make the jump to the healthcare sector and be involved in the process of diagnosis, treatment, and management of illness. Or maybe you are currently working as a mechanical engineer and want to further progress in your role and be involved in large scale projects of extremely large plants, machinery or vehicles.
Whatever your future aspiration and how you see yourself progressing in your current role, working as an engineer provides the jobholder with a lot of opportunities, but also a large amount of responsibility in a profession that is hugely demanding but also incredibly rewarding.
Follow our tips to help you prepare for success, and you should do just fine in your job interview!
Have you come across any other engineering interview questions? Share them with us in the comments section below!
This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 17 June 2015.