If you’re in the process of applying for an engineering job, it’s likely you’ve already written (and re-written!) the perfect engineering CV, and you’ve done everything you can to try and make your cover letter stand out.
But there’s a part of the recruitment process that often gets neglected by job hunters in the engineering sector - the interview.
The interview is your chance to show a potential employer that you’re the perfect fit for the role, so it’s important to invest some time into some interview preparation.
But with an endless supply of interview questions on the internet, which ones should engineers focus on perfecting answers for?
Here’s our list of the 12 interview questions that we think every engineer should have an answer to:
1. What was the most demanding engineering project you've worked on? How did you overcome the challenges you faced?
This question gives you a great chance to go into the details of a particularly challenging project you’ve been a part of. It’s an opportunity to showcase your problem-solving skills, and demonstrate how you’ve used your engineering skillset to overcome challenges during a project.
The interviewer is trying to get a better understanding of the way you think through, and solve, problems. Tie your answer to a project you’ve been involved in, and be sure to highlight the thought process you went through when you made decisions at each stage of the project.
2. How would you present technical concepts to a non-technical audience in a stakeholder presentation or client meeting?
At some point during your engineering career (if you haven’t already) you’re going to have to present complicated technical plans to someone with no technical experience.
This question is designed to gauge how you would go about distilling the key principles behind a complex idea down into something that clients and stakeholders will understand.
Ideally, you’ll have professional experience in dealing with non-technical clients or managers, and you can use these examples to demonstrate how you conveyed the principles behind the project to them.
Try to think of specific techniques you used – perhaps relating the principles to more common day-to-day experiences, or into an example relevant to your audience – and explain how those methods helped your audience to understand the concepts you were presenting.
3. What methods do you use to manage your time during an engineering project?
Despite everyone’s best efforts, there can often be delays in the schedule of an engineering project, costing businesses time and money.
This question gives you the chance to explain the ways you work to avoid these delays, and how you handle large and demanding projects.
No one is expected to be perfect, and most people will have projects that have been delayed for reasons outside of their control, but you can demonstrate the ways in which you’ve personally improved your time management during your career, and the methods you use to help ensure your projects run smoothly.
4. How do you keep up to date with the latest technology and news in engineering?
With technology moving so quickly, advances in engineering happen almost every day, so it’s important for employers to find engineers who are willing to stay up to date with the latest trends in their sector.
This is also a great opportunity to show managers that you’re willing to learn new skills and processes, and gives you a chance to show your adaptability.
Give the interviewer examples of the sources you use to keep up to date with what’s happening in your sector, and explain why you feel it’s important to do so.
5. What engineering skills have you developed or improved over the last year?
As well as keeping up to date with all of the latest industry changes, companies also want to see that you’re proactive about keeping your knowledge and skill-set relevant to your role.
Use this opportunity to show the skills you’ve taken the time to improve, and explain why you chose the skills you did. There is no right or wrong answer for why you prioritised one over the other, but this is your chance to defend your choices.
6. How would you handle someone who pushes back on parts of an engineering plan that are in place for safety reasons?
Sometimes a client may not like a certain aspect of a design that has been added for safety reasons, putting engineers in the difficult position of having to defend their reasoning and explain the importance of the feature from a safety perspective.
Take the opportunity to explain how you’d re-iterate the importance of the feature in the plan and, if you’ve experienced the situation before, relate it to an example where you had to do just that.
7. Can you describe a time when you managed a difficult client? What would you have done differently?
Most of us have worked with a nightmare client at some point, and this gives you the perfect opportunity to explain what working with that client taught you, and how you’ve changed the way you work in the time since.
You can explain the ways in which working with that client highlighted areas you could improve your workflow, and clarify how you would approach the project differently if you had the chance to start from square one.
8. What measures do you take to ensure that your work is accurate?
A small miscalculation can have potentially huge implications in engineering, so it’s important that an engineer’s work is always accurate.
Interviewers asking this question are looking to test how seriously you take your role, and how you go about minimising errors in your work.
Take this opportunity to explain all of the best practices your workflow uses, and any safety standards you have experience of working to, to show that you have experience in making sure your projects are safe.
9. Which software packages do you consider yourself an expert in?
Interviewers might ask a variation of this question to get an idea of what software you have used in a professional environment.
By the interview stage you should have a good idea of what software the role is going to be using, so it’s worth highlighting something that’s relevant to show you’re well suited to the role.
Try and give examples of the tools and features you’ve used within the software that show that you have a good grasp on how it works, and the ways in which it might help in the role you’re interviewing for.
10. Can you give an example of a time when a project didn’t go to plan? What would you do differently in the future?
This question is typically used as a way to gauge your problem-solving skills. Some engineers try to avoid answering this question by acting as though nothing has gone wrong on their projects, but this is a bad idea.
The best approach is to highlight a time when things did go wrong, but where you managed to remain calm, and fix the issues before they cause even more damage.
You can then explain why things went wrong, and show what that experience taught you; showing you’re capable of learning from your mistakes and bettering yourself.
11. What do you enjoy most/least about engineering?
Everyone knows that there are good parts and bad parts to every job, but an all-too-common mistake candidates make is to list one of the key responsibilities of the role as one of their least favourite aspects of engineering!
To give yourself the best chance at getting the job, your answer for your favourite aspects of engineering should include some of the main responsibilities of the role, and your least favourites should be areas you have experience with, but that aren’t key to this job.
The most important thing, though, is to be honest. You shouldn’t pretend that you love doing something that you actually hate – or you could end up having to do that job all the time!
12. Where do you see yourself five/ten years from now?
A classic job interview question!
A new employee is a huge investment for a company, and they will want to see a return on that investment into the future.
Make sure your answer explains how you will grow within the business, and what impact you’d like to have before moving up the organisation. Companies generally like to see that engineers want to master the technical aspects of their role before moving up to a more senior position.
But again, the most important thing is to be honest!
You’ve already taken the time to make sure your cv and cover letter are the best they can be, so make sure you give yourself the best chance of getting the job by preparing yourself properly for your interview.
While practicing answering these questions will take some time (and might feel silly), it will make it much easier for you to answer them if they do come up in your interview; giving you the best chance of coming across confidently and succinctly when the pressure is really on.
Getting an interview can often feel like the most difficult step, so once you’ve got your foot in the door, and you’re confident with your answers, make sure you’ve done everything you to prepare for the interview.
If you’re struggling to land yourself an interview, make sure you haven’t made one of these common cv mistakes!