A job interview for an engineering position can include challenging questions. The interviewer will likely ask you about your qualifications, your personal characteristics and why you will be a good fit for the open position. In this article, we examine some of the most common engineering questions and sample answers so you can prepare for your upcoming interview.
Common engineering interview questions
By considering a few of the most common questions and thinking of answers ahead of time, you can feel both confident and well-prepared for your upcoming interview in the engineering industry. Here are some of the most common engineering interview questions:
What do you enjoy most and least about the engineering industry?
What new engineering skills have you recently developed?
Tell me about a recent, difficult engineering project.
Describe a difficult situation you had with a previous client or customer
What procedures do you take to avoid making mistakes?
What software programs do you know best? In which do you feel you need more practice?
How do you stay current with today’s changing technology?
How do you manage your time during a busy engineering project?
1. What do you enjoy most and least about the engineering industry?
Interviewers will often ask this question to determine your goals and motivations for being in the engineering industry. They want to know what parts are most interesting to you and which you do not enjoy, which can help them learn about your motivations. Your answer should include the key parts of engineering you enjoy most and the typical challenges you strive to overcome.
Example: “My favorite part of the engineering industry is the ability to see the completion of a project. I get to work with the latest technologies and then implement them into a finished project. My least favorite part is completing the paperwork that comes with the testing process, but I have found that if I schedule time to complete it daily, it seems less overwhelming.”
2. What new engineering skills have you recently developed?
The engineering industry is constantly changing. Employers want to know that you are not only qualified for the position but that you also stay current with industry developments. It can be helpful to include your most recently developed skills and the method in which you obtained them.
You can use the STAR method to craft a thorough response to this question. STAR stands for:
Situation: Describe a time you encountered an obstacle.
Task: Explain your role in the situation.
Action: Detail the steps you took to address the challenge.
Result: Offer the outcome of your actions.
Example: “My college experience helped to develop my analytical and research skills. However, I recently found that I struggled when working under pressure. I know that this is an important part of the industry as many projects are time-sensitive, so I have found methods like outlining my projects to be useful in managing my time.
I have also found that teamwork can be helpful when under pressure, so I have learned to ask for help when needed. I started planning my projects more thoroughly and asking for assistance, and I haven’t missed a deadline since.”
3. Tell me about a recent, difficult engineering project you worked on
By asking you about a recent project, the interviewer is not only requesting more information about your past qualifications but also your ability to overcome difficulties. Answering this question with a clear description of one of your most recent projects, including its goals and challenges—and steps taken to overcome them—will demonstrate your project management skills.
Example: “In my past position as a civil engineer, I worked on a mock city development project. My team and I were responsible for identifying city needs, establishing design components and then creating and testing plans.
We encountered many challenges, including plans that would not fit the current city makeup or budget. We continued to take inspiration from the points that did not work and find alternative techniques to overcome those challenges. In the end, we were able to create a city plan that met all of the mock city needs.”
4. Describe a difficult situation you had with a previous client or customer
Many roles in the engineering industry will require you to work closely with the client. This question can gauge your customer service and problem-solving skills. The interviewer wants to know how you reacted to the challenge and the actual steps you took to overcome the difficult situation. Using the STAR method could help you craft an answer that will impress the hiring manager.
Example: “During my internship, I worked with a large manufacturing company. One of our clients requested that we find a more effective way to manufacture their product. I spent the following week gathering data to evaluate our current process to see where we could improve.
Although I offered a thorough outline of a new method, the client did not agree with my engineering recommendations. I re-evaluated my analysis and was still confident in my research. I decided to review his concerns to see if I could find a common solution. The next day, I presented a new solution that reasserted my research and addressed his comments. He seemed pleased with the idea, and we implemented the process successfully the following month.”
5. What procedures do you take to avoid making mistakes?
Mistakes can be a learning tool. However, some mistakes can be costly and dangerous, especially in the engineering industry. Asking this question gives the interviewer insight into your ability to pay attention to detail. It allows them to see that you understand the implications of some mistakes and how you can prevent them. Choose an answer that accurately describes your process and how it helps you maintain precision as you work.
Example: “I pay close attention to detail during the research phase. I also test each of my ideas individually so I can identify a problem with the individual components before combining them. If I do identify an issue, I restart the entire process, retesting each component again. From there, I compare my results to previous tests to ensure they are consistent.
Communication is also important. A single miscommunication between team members can lead to a mistake. I update my coworkers every time I complete a task and encourage them to do the same so we can maintain constant communication.”
6. What software programs do you know best? In which do you feel you need more practice?
There are many software programs available for engineers depending on your field. An interviewer may ask if you are familiar with the specific program that they use at their business. They may also ask this question to learn more about your dedication to learning a new program that you are not familiar with. When creating an answer, describe the programs you are the most comfortable using. Then, complete the answer with the programs you are not as comfortable with while also listing the steps you are taking to increase your knowledge and comfort levels.
Example:“In my last position, I worked daily with the Autodesk Product Design Suite and MATLAB programs. I would like to learn more about MECHDesigner, and I am excited to have that opportunity with this position. I have already thoroughly researched the program and signed up for online classes to become more comfortable using it.”
7. How do you stay current with today’s changing technology?
Technology is always evolving, and employers want to know you will stay informed within the industry. Your answer can include recent steps that you have already taken in updating your expertise, as well as your plan to stay current with technology changes.
Example: “I keep up with the latest technology by reading the latest editorials and articles in the industry. I follow the thought leaders and consider innovations in each of my projects. I also attend one or two industry events each year. I have found these events to be valuable in identifying and learning the latest technological trends.”
8. How do you manage your time during a busy engineering project?
Some engineering projects may require most of your attention during your workday, and employers who ask this question want to know more about your time management skills. A well-crafted answer will address the specific steps you take to manage your time while also identifying your ability to prioritize.
Example: “Before I begin a large project, I outline each of the required tasks. If the project requires multiple team members, I then work on dividing and delegating the work. I factor in how much time I think I’ll need each day to complete each required task and ensure that I have enough time to manage my other daily duties.”
Engineering interview tips
These tips will help you further prepare for your engineering job interview:
Practice interview questions with a trusted friend or colleague. By practicing your interview answers in person, you can test different methods and examples to evaluate what works best.
Practice answers in the mirror. You can practice your interview answers ahead of time even if you’re alone. Practicing your interview answers in the mirror allows you to increase your confidence while also evaluating your facial expressions.
Research the company ahead of time. Connecting each of your answers with information that you have learned about the company will show interviewers you are interested and invested in working with their business.
Write out examples ahead of time. Many of the interview questions require you to provide an example, so it can be useful to create a list of specific work examples you can use. The exercise of writing these down may help you recall them more easily during your interview.
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