Top 10 Common Interview Questions for Mechanical Engineers

Illustration of a male engineer and a woman sitting at a desk

There’s no doubt about it: preparing for a job interview can be a stressful endeavour if you’re not adequately primed for the task. And when pursuing a career such as mechanical engineering — a job that requires immense skill, experience and precision — the endeavour may appear even more daunting.

However, this insightful guide is sure to aid you in better understanding what to expect in your upcoming conversations. Indeed, by the end of this article, you’ll hopefully know what to say when answering some of the most common questions that are likely to come up in a mechanical engineer interview – and, as a result, bag the job of your dreams.

 

1. ‘What was your very first design?’

By asking interviewees to provide a verbal sample of their early work, hiring managers are able to better understand the candidate’s history in the field. This is an important question to ask any candidate, whether they’re an aspiring mechanical engineer freshly out of school or one who is already well established. Indeed, a mechanical engineer’s objective is to create and design power-producing machines.

Not only is this an ideal time to showcase your talents, but it is also a great opportunity to make your interviewer aware that you know how to complete the vital technical tasks at hand.

To answer this question, you can provide a literal example of the first project you completed either in school or during your first job, or you can get a little more creative with your response.

An illustration of the latter reply could be a brief description of a childhood design you created – one that initiated your love of the field and fostered a desire to pursue a career in mechanical engineering as an adult. Regardless of which answer you opt to give, it is a critical opportunity to share your passion, evidence of troubleshooting abilities and history of innovative enterprise.

2. ‘What is it that made you want to become a mechanical engineer?’

A firm seeking new candidates to hire will be interested in why they want the job. Understandably, shallow and lacklustre responses such as ‘because it pays well’ or ‘because I need a job’ won’t get you hired. Although, of course, your objective in responding to this question should be honest, it should be a reply that makes you stand out from the crowd of applicants.

Highlight your understanding of the field on a personal level, perhaps touching on points about the importance of mechanical engineering and your desire to better society through the designs you would be creating. Be clear that you understand the role itself and the tasks that it would entail, noting that these are all aspects of the job that you are passionate about.

3. ‘What is your ultimate career objective?’

This is a common interview question, not just when interviewing for the position of a mechanical engineer, but for a plethora of other career paths, too. However, despite its popular use, many potential job candidates fail to answer the query adequately – indeed, many people tend to reply with ‘Working here, in the position that I’m applying for’.

Instead of offering a response such as this, make some adjustments. Emphasise that you still wish to be working in the field of engineering, even at the firm in which you are applying to, but add in these key elements:

  • you would like to move up to a more prominent position (after showcasing your talents and worth to the company)
  • you see yourself further developing your skills as a mechanical engineer thanks to both your coworkers and through avenues of continuing education
 

4. ‘How do you prevent yourself from becoming bored with the more routine facets of engineering work?’

As with many different jobs, the repetition of basic daily tasks can become monotonous and, as a result, boring. However, working as a mechanical engineer means that you can’t afford to let your mind wander from the tasks at hand; indeed, the design of power-producing machines requires the utmost attention to detail.

Consequently, interview questions such as these aim to separate quality workers from those that will not take their position as seriously as they should.

When answering a supposition such as this, you have the opportunity to discuss the methods in which you self-motivate, encourage those on your team and think innovatively about the tasks that you are completing. Make a note of an example where you made the ordinary more extraordinary; talk about avoiding boredom by taking regular technical components and reassembling them in a novel and out-of-the-box manner.

5. ‘Describe a situation where you were on the job and failed to accomplish a task or a goal.’

This is perhaps one of the hardest interview questions to answer, as it involves a need to provide your interviewer with an example of a time when your work was less than satisfactory. At the core of this question, the interviewer wants to know that you’re an accountable individual who can be upfront about your mistakes, as opposed to making excuses for them.

When answering this question, be sure to tell a clear and concise story, ensuring that you do not become side-tracked. At the same time, keep your tale brief, not exceeding two minutes.

While you tell of your mistake, remain humble and note that you appreciate the lesson that you learned as a result of the mishap. It’s also important to mention that, going forward, you learned to be more aware, more conscientious, and so forth.

6. ‘What is a critical engineering skill that you’ve learned in the past year?’

As with many careers in fields that are constantly evolving, it is important for mechanical engineers to continuously maintain an updated knowledge of current trends and necessary skills. Continuing education is the perfect method to become more adept in this area, and it is something that you should be discussing during an interview.

In selecting an important new skill that you have learned in the past year, you are also confirming to your interviewer that you are actively pursuing new skills and have a passion for developing trends in engineering.

7. ‘What is a turboprop engine?’

In asking more technical questions such as these, an interviewer’s objective is to determine how much you know about the field you will be working in, should they decide to hire you.

Should this question be posed during an interview, the answer to give is quite simple.

Combining the words turbine and propeller, a turboprop engine is a gas turbine jet engine that powers the propellers of said turbojet. Due to the dependability and proficiency of these devices (in comparison to an internal combustion engine), a turboprop engine is extremely desirable for more modern aircraft designs.

8. ‘What is the law of thermodynamics?’

This is another popular technical question to give your interviewer may ask to get a better understanding of your knowledge of the field. As such, it is an important question to become aware of. It’s also a tricky one, as there are three different laws of thermodynamics.

The first law, a version of the law of conservation of energy, proclaims that energy is neither created nor destroyed. Instead, it can only be transferred or changed between forms. The second law states that the entropy of any sequestered system can only increase yet will never decrease. Lastly, the third law of thermodynamics notes that the entropy of a system steadily moves towards a set value while the temperature nears absolute zero (the lowest temperature that is theoretically possible, or zero Kelvin).

9. ‘How do hydraulics work?’

A final technical question we will make a note of, one that could arise during an interview, is a postulation regarding the mechanics of hydraulics. Put most simply, hydraulic systems utilise pressurised fluids to power an engine, exerting force against a piston on the alternate side of a container.

By making yourself aware of how to respond to questions such as these, you are preparing to portray yourself as knowledgeable, professionally assertive and reliable enough to take on any task that the firm may have for you.

10. ‘Why should we hire you?’

Though one of the more basic job interview questions, this is one that nearly every interviewer will ask. Indeed, it is a prime opportunity to set yourself ahead of your competition.

When answering this question, reiterate not only your basic mechanical engineering skills but also your more niche proficiencies that other candidates may not have.

Be sure to recap the personality skills that would make you a key asset to the team you would be working with — factors such as strong teamworking abilities, easily taking direction while also being able to offer your own insights, and the desire to take on personal responsibility. Moreover, don’t forget to let the interviewer clearly see your passion for the job and your desire to work with their engineering firm.

Ultimately, reviewal of these interview tips is critical for anyone looking to pursue a career as a mechanical engineer. Though only a sample of the personal and technical enquiries an interviewer might pose to you, they are some of the most popular interview questions you may be asked. As such, it’s important to prepare for them, even if they don’t come up.

What other questions might a hiring manager ask a potential candidate? How do you feel is the best way to answer them? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!