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Canadian National Railway Company Interview
Questions

30 Questions and Answers by Rachelle Enns

Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter
who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.
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Question 1 of 30
How familiar are you with the FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) and the part they play with Canadian National Railway Company daily operations?
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How to Answer
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) was conceptualized by the Department of Transportation Act of 1966. Essentially, the FRA's primary mission is to enable the safe, reliable, and efficient movement of people and goods by rail.

If you are hired by Canadian National Railway Company you will need to be familiar with the FRA and how to comply with their regulations, as they relate to your specific job title. Briefly describe what you know the FRA to be, and how they will impact your daily work operations.
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Answer Examples
1.
How familiar are you with the FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) and the part they play with Canadian National Railway Company daily operations?
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) was conceptualized by the Department of Transportation Act of 1966. Essentially, the FRA's primary mission is to enable the safe, reliable, and efficient movement of people and goods by rail.

If you are hired by Canadian National Railway Company you will need to be familiar with the FRA and how to comply with their regulations, as they relate to your specific job title. Briefly describe what you know the FRA to be, and how they will impact your daily work operations.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"The FRA is one of around 10 US-based agencies responsible for the regulation of freight and transportation by rail. I believe that as a (insert your job description) the FRA will have a significant impact on the safety practices of my job in areas such as hazardous materials, operating practices, and train control."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"The Federal Railroad Administration is actively involved in limiting safety risks in the rail transport industry; impacting, I believe, every aspect of my job as a (insert your job description). The FRA's focus includes hazard identification, and risk analysis, which greatly reduces rail accidents and the consequences of hazardous events should they occur."
2.
Canadian National Railway Company values team synergy. Tell me about the type of people you enjoy working with.
Company culture and team harmony are essential topics for Canadian National Railway Company. First, because these factors directly impact employee retention. Second, because happy environments are proven to be safer, overall.

Talk to the interviewer about the types of colleagues that you most appreciate working alongside. Keep your answer positive and avoid speaking poorly of someone from the past.

Traits you might like to see in your colleagues could include positive, encouraging, reliable, conversational, collaborative, or passionate.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I enjoy working with individuals who work hard and love what they do. Being surrounded by those who value safety makes me feel great. Also, I appreciate those who are reliable and show up when and where expected."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I work best with people who have a strong work ethic and value precision. Every delivery goes smoother when you have dedicated people on your team!"
Anonymous Answer
"I enjoy like-minded people that are honest, accountable, easy-going, and have a sense of humor. Work is where we spend a large part of our lives. It is important to be serious but also enjoy your time while at work."
Rachelle's Answer
These specifics are excellent, and will really help the hiring authority to picture you blending in with their existing leadership and teams.
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3.
Working for Canadian National Railway Company can be physically demanding. Are you able to lift 50-85 pounds, work in confined or enclosed spaces, and spend much of your day bending, kneeling, and climbing?
The answer to this question should be a simple yes or no. Working in the rail transport industry is a physically demanding role and Canadian National Railway Company needs to have complete assurance that you can handle these demands, accident-free. Keep your response brief and confident. If you already work a job that is demanding on you, physically, be sure to share those details!

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I am physically fit and able to meet every requirement of this role. In my current job, I lift 80 pounds regularly. I crawl into small spaces and spend a lot of my day standing and walking. Rest assured, I can meet the physical requirements of this position."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I read through the physical requirements of this role before applying to Canadian National Railway Company. I can lift heavy objects and do not have restrictions as far as heights, or crawling into tight spaces."
Anonymous Answer
"Yes, as an electrician, much of my day was in these conditions. I remember one time where I was the smallest on the crew; I had to go into ceiling spaces in the central part of the hospital. We had to run a conduit with very limited access. Working in the confined space and crawling through the area safely as a crew would follow underneath with a tent to pass up materials."
Rachelle's Answer
It sounds incredibly intense, and you handled it like a pro! Your example is great and will create a lot of confidence with the interviewer.
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4.
At Canadian National Railway Company we do everything as a team. Have you ever had difficulty working in a team environment?
Canadian National Railway Company and its employees rely on great teamwork and exceptional communication to make every day efficient and safe. Explain to the interviewer that you can work well within a team environment. If you have had challenges in the past, you can discuss these challenges; however, it's essential that you then mention the positive outcome.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I have no difficulty in team-based environments. That is where I thrive, as a highly collaborative crew member. I can work well on my own as well, but I do prefer the variety and excitement that comes with teamwork."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I have never encountered difficulty working in a team environment. I have been lucky enough to work with an amazing crew for the past year, and look forward to even greater collaborative experiences here at Canadian National Railway Company."
Anonymous Answer
"I am a very team focused person. I feel I do my best work in a team environment. Sometime people may not agree with each other, but I do my best to assess the situation and come to an agreed-upon solution to move forward."
Rachelle's Answer
It's good that you are team focused! Do you have a specific example that you could give of a time when not everyone completely agreed?
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5.
Canadian National Railway Company needs reliable team members who can adhere to our schedules. How many days were you unexpectedly absent from work last year?
Depending on the role for which you are interviewing, there may be expectations for you to be on call 24-7, or be available to come into work within just a couple of hours' notice. Canadian National Railway Company may ask you to work double shifts, evenings, weekends, and holidays. Assure the interviewer that they can rely on you to show you to work when expected.

Rachelle's Answer #1
" My parents raised me with an old-fashioned mindset where you go to work unless it's an absolute emergency. The last sick day I took was about three years ago. I expect dedication from my teammates so that I don't have to cover for their shifts for fickle reasons. I deliver the same level of respect and reliability at the same time."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I have had zero unexcused absences in the last two years. In total, I took eight vacation days out of my ten days holiday time. I always try to be 10 minutes early for my shift. When you call my references, they will attest to the fact that I am highly reliable."
6.
How honest are you, on a scale of 1-10?
The hiring authority would like to know that you are a sincere and honest person that Canadian National Railway Company can trust to do the right thing - even when nobody is looking! Giving yourself a rating from 1-10 can be a bit tricky since everyone has room for improvement. Be reasonable and give yourself an honest rating while backing your response with an example of your ethics and honesty.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I value honesty and integrity very much. For that reason, I would rate myself as a 9/10 since there is always room for improvement, but I certainly try my best. I have never faced a discrepancy at work, or faced reprimand for acting dishonestly."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"When it comes to ethical issues, I always choose to be honest and truthful. For that reason, I give myself full marks! I have never faced an issue at work that tempted me to be dishonest. Integrity is all we have, and I am loyal to my employer."
7.
Explain to me the role of a freight conductor. What do you feel are the top 3 skills a freight conductor at Canadian National Railway Company should possess?
The hiring authority at Canadian National Railway Company wants to know that you have a complete understanding of this role, your future responsibilities, and the expectations present should you be the successful candidate. Of course, you will only be asked this question if you are applying for a freight conductor role.

If you are interviewing for a different job title, you should still do some research on the fright conductor role considering it's always a great idea to have an understanding of other positions within your company.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"The primary purpose of a freight conductor is to oversee railroad movements, the safety of a train, and the movement of a train. Communicating with the rail traffic controllers, ensuring the train remains on schedule, supervising the train crew, and facilitating loading and unloading activities are significant parts of the job. Considering these tasks and duties, I believe that the three top skills a freight conductor should possess are time-management, problem-solving, and patience."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"From my understanding, a freight conductor will spend their day managing the movement and overall operation of a train. Responsibilities include making sure the train is on time, switches are smooth, and that loading or unloading activities happen safely and efficiently. If I were hiring a freight conductor, I would look for someone who stays cool under pressure, puts safety first, and can lead a team with authority."
8.
Describe your overall experience working around and operating heavy equipment.
When you answer this question, avoid merely listing off the equipment that you have used. Make your answer more conversational by also discussing any training you have received, troubleshooting you have done, and any areas of expertise you may have.

If you have no experience working around or operating heavy equipment, that is okay! Canadian National Railway Company is willing to train the right person. Be sure to express your eagerness to learn. You could offer to take some coursework or training before your hire date, which will strengthen your knowledge before you start your new job.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I have a great deal of experience with equipment for railway work. Some of the heavy equipment I have operated or repaired include (list the equipment you have experience in). For the past three years, I have been the go-to crew member for troubleshooting many of our heavy equipment failures. I am comfortable with anything that has an engine, and if I don't know what to do, I will research until I have the answers."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"Heavy equipment is new to me; however, I am tech savvy, and confident in my ability to learn to troubleshoot the most common pieces of equipment used at Canadian National Railway Company."
Anonymous Answer
"I have extensive experience working around heavy machinery. My family business has been around since the mid-'70s. I learned how to drive a front end loader before a car. Most recently, at IWG, I was responsible for 15 pieces of heavy equipment and trucks."
Rachelle's Answer
Your experience with a front end loader before a car is memorable - this is an excellent addition! I recommend adding in more detail on the type of heavy equipment you are used to.
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9.
Which aspect of working within the rail transport industry is most exciting for you?
The rail transport industry is diverse, with many opportunities for travel, growth, and learning. This question helps the interviewer to see what type of research you have done on the role and the industry as a whole. Refer to the job description to see if any particular tasks or responsibilities are real stand-outs for you. Be sure to bring enthusiasm to your response!

Rachelle's Answer #1
"In the job posting, you mentioned seeking someone who can assist and instruct train crews to couple and uncouple cars, operate switches, and make minor repairs to railcars, including replacing heavy couplings or air brake hoses. I am looking forward to the opportunity to utilize my heavy mechanic's experience and equipment failure troubleshooting expertise."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I get very excited about opportunities to problem solve and troubleshoot. For that reason, I believe the greatest aspect of working in the rail transport industry will be the opportunity to ensure smooth and effective movement of priority trains, trains containing hazardous material or restricted shipments. Every success related to smooth transport without delays will be very satisfying."
10.
Stress is an every-day presence in the rail transport industry. How do you manage in the most stressful situations?
With high-stakes situations being an every-day occurrence at Canadian National Railway Company, the hiring authority needs to know that you can keep your cool no matter what tasks come your way. Your ability to manage stress will directly impact your job performance. Think of some ways you have learned to deal with stress at work, and give a real-life example to the interviewer.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I realize that the rail transport industry is high-stakes, so it's critical that I manage that stress like a pro. I tend to work best in stressful situations. For instance, the pressure of delivery deadlines drives me to work faster and smarter. I am resistant to stress because I choose to focus on the end goal rather than the small hiccups along the way."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I do well under pressure or stress, but like most people, sometimes I need to take a minute to recalibrate under high-pressure situations that offer little relief. I know myself, and my stress triggers pretty well, so when I feel like there's too much on my plate, I will center myself, dig in and get through it, knowing I'll come out better on the other side."
11.
Successful communication between departments is key to success at Canadian National Railway Company. How do you encourage healthy communication in the workplace?
The hiring authority at Canadian National Railway Company would like to know that you lead by example when it comes to communication efforts on the job. Breakdown of communication in the rail transport industry can have dire effects on deliverables, reputation, and safety. These reasons are why clear communication is essential in your job.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"Many customer and delivery issues stem from poor communication. When we have a delivery issue in my current role, I work with my team to explore what happened, and how we can prevent it from happening again. We often role play and discuss ways that we could have reacted better. This practice has greatly improved our customer reviews."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I show my co-workers the importance of communication through my willingness to ask questions or seek clarification. I do not pretend to have an answer just to look smart. By creating an environment where it's safe to ask questions or ask for clarification, our customer service has improved, we have more on-time deliveries, and fewer workplace accidents."
Anonymous Answer
"I am always open and honest with anyone in my life. If anyone has a problem, I encourage them to talk it out and come up with an agreed solution. Many times it is just a misunderstanding from either party."
Rachelle's Answer
It seems you are a transparent person who is willing to explore the opinions and needs of others. Very good answer!
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12.
Explain to me the responsibilities of a train dispatcher. In your opinion, what is the most critical component of a dispatch position?
If you are applying for the role of train dispatcher with Canadian National Railway Company, it's essential that you have a clear understanding of your responsibilities and the expectations of this position. You may think that this question does not apply to you if you're interviewing for a different role. However, it's vital that you have an understanding of this critical position, regardless of where you will be working in the organization.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"Train dispatchers have a diverse role which includes making sure that trains are arriving safely and efficiently. I believe that safety is the main priority for a train dispatcher as they communicate with the train drivers and conductors on every movement of the train. For these reasons, I think that a train dispatcher should have a keen eye for detail, be highly organized, and able to see potential issues before they happen."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"From the research I have done, I understand the responsibilities of the train dispatcher to be around team communication, compliance of every train and load, and to be on top of scheduled trains, destinations, times of arrivals and departures. This level of responsibility means that a train conductor should be able to coordinate multiple moving parts, be resistant to stress, and be able to be critically minded."
Anonymous Answer
"Safety is, by far, the essential part. Making sure customers freight is delivered on time, employees are home to their families, and communities are not affected by any decisions that are made by me."
Rachelle's Answer
Very well said! You are very clear about your objectives.
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13.
In this role with Canadian National Railway Company you will be responsible for the safe and efficient operation of trains and the movement of customer freight from one destination to another. How will you contribute to our reputation for safety and excellence?
In the rail transport industry, nothing is more important than safety and pride in work. Take some time on Canadian National Railway Company website to learn about their mission statement and values. Now, take a look at your values, work ethic, and top skills. How are they a match? Talk to the interviewer about how your skills and characteristics will contribute to the goals of Canadian National Railway Company.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I read that Canadian National Railway Company abides by key principles which include Employee Development, Operational Safety, Diversity & Inclusion, and Customer Excellence. I too am committed to opportunities for development and growth. I seek out an exciting career that is safe and rewarding for all. I plan to contribute by abiding by your policies, leading by example, and being an encouraging team member to my colleagues."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"Serving customers safely is the theme that I have read on your website and a goal that I plan to help you achieve every day that I am on the job. Your trains pass through small towns, big cities, and everywhere in-between, which is why a firm commitment to safety is of utmost importance. I will invest time in learning your equipment and infrastructure, getting to know my colleagues, and learning about the customers that you serve. Through this dedication to knowledge, I can contribute to your history of safety and customer service excellence."
14.
This role with Canadian National Railway Company requires union membership. How do you feel about being part of a unionized environment?
There are many bonuses' to being part of a unionized environment; however, there are some folks who do not wish to work in a unionized environment. It's essential that an employer checks for preference, so they can avoid any issues arising in the future. If this role with Canadian National Railway Company requires you to be part of a union, be prepared to discuss your willingness to join the union. You can certainly ask questions about their collective agreement, or what the union has done to collaborate with Canadian National Railway Company in the recent past.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I have worked in a union environment for the past three years, and am willing to work in another union environment again. I appreciate the pay standards and workplace protections that come from being part of a union; two points that are very important when working in an industry like rail transport."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"Union environments are new to me; however, I am eager and open to learning more. If you could share with me a little bit about how active the union is at Canadian National Railway Company and what they have done to benefit the lives of employees and the company culture, I would greatly appreciate the additional information."
Anonymous Answer
"I have had brief employment through a union in my career. I would be comfortable being part of a unionized workforce by following the proper guidelines and procedures to the company and union."
Rachelle's Answer
It's great that you offered up the fact that you have been in a unionized environment before. It is a nice, agreeable answer.
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15.
Walk me through your experience supervising crews, and facilitating schedules or loading and unloading duties.
The interviewer would like to gain an understanding of your leadership activities. You may have leadership roles on your resume. If you do, be sure to bring this experience to life for the interviewer by discussing how many people you have lead, what their job titles were, and the volume of work you needed to facilitate.

If you do not have experience with supervising crews or facilitating schedules, think of other times that you have jumped into a leadership role without being asked. Show that you are a natural leader and someone who can take control of a situation when it's appropriate, and when you see the need.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I have four years' experience as a freight conductor, leading teams of up to sixteen people at one time; primarily train crew. I have a vast amount of experience communicating with dispatch, ensuring that all loads comply with federal regulations and that schedules are aligned."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"Being new to my career, the leadership experience that I have is informal and mainly during times when my supervisor is unavailable, or I need to help a new employee learn something new. I think that I am a natural leader because I quickly see where there is a need and where a potential issue could arise. I am proactive and have a keen eye for detail."
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30 Canadian National Railway Company Interview Questions
Win your next job by practicing from our question bank. We have thousands of questions and answers created by interview experts.
Interview Questions
  1. How familiar are you with the FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) and the part they play with Canadian National Railway Company daily operations?
  2. Canadian National Railway Company values team synergy. Tell me about the type of people you enjoy working with.
  3. Working for Canadian National Railway Company can be physically demanding. Are you able to lift 50-85 pounds, work in confined or enclosed spaces, and spend much of your day bending, kneeling, and climbing?
  4. At Canadian National Railway Company we do everything as a team. Have you ever had difficulty working in a team environment?
  5. Canadian National Railway Company needs reliable team members who can adhere to our schedules. How many days were you unexpectedly absent from work last year?
  6. How honest are you, on a scale of 1-10?
  7. Explain to me the role of a freight conductor. What do you feel are the top 3 skills a freight conductor at Canadian National Railway Company should possess?
  8. Describe your overall experience working around and operating heavy equipment.
  9. Which aspect of working within the rail transport industry is most exciting for you?
  10. Stress is an every-day presence in the rail transport industry. How do you manage in the most stressful situations?
  11. Successful communication between departments is key to success at Canadian National Railway Company. How do you encourage healthy communication in the workplace?
  12. Explain to me the responsibilities of a train dispatcher. In your opinion, what is the most critical component of a dispatch position?
  13. In this role with Canadian National Railway Company you will be responsible for the safe and efficient operation of trains and the movement of customer freight from one destination to another. How will you contribute to our reputation for safety and excellence?
  14. This role with Canadian National Railway Company requires union membership. How do you feel about being part of a unionized environment?
  15. Walk me through your experience supervising crews, and facilitating schedules or loading and unloading duties.
  16. Do you have experience collaborating with dispatchers, yardmasters, engineers and other train crew?
  17. Do you have experience working on an on-call basis? Are you willing and able to comply with an on-call schedule?
  18. Federal regulations require Canadian National Railway Company to conduct a series of background checks as well as random testing for drugs and alcohol. Are you able to meet these requirements?
  19. How do you maintain familiarity with scheduled trains, destinations, times of arrivals, and departures?
  20. Do you have experience working with trains containing hazardous material or restricted shipments?
  21. Canadian National Railway Company values problem-solving and troubleshooting skills. Tell me about a time you solved a significant issue in the workplace.
  22. In the rail transport industry, reaction time is everything. How often do you create alternative scenarios to help you adjust to potential change?
  23. Have you ever been terminated from a position?
  24. Your background is not in rail transport. Tell me what skills and characteristics qualify you for this position, regardless of your lack of industry experience.
  25. Do you have any concerns around this role, or working for Canadian National Railway Company?
  26. Talk to me about your most recent performance evaluation. What was one positive, and one area for improvement?
  27. Canadian National Railway Company employees are always busy, with critical tasks. Talk to me about what hard work looks like, to you.
  28. Name for me some specific characteristics that make you a functional problem solver.
  29. Canadian National Railway Company works hard to offer competitive wages and employee perks. Besides your pay, what is the most critical factor when considering a job offer?
  30. Working in rail transport can be stressful due to high-stakes safety issues and a lot of moving parts. What advice would you give to a colleague who seems to be cracking under pressure?
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