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Kansas City Southern Railway Interview
Questions

30 Questions and Answers by
Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter
who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.

Question 1 of 30

Kansas City Southern Railway needs reliable team members who can adhere to our schedules. How many days were you unexpectedly absent from work last year?

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Kansas City Southern Railway Interview Questions

  1. 1.

    Kansas City Southern Railway 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. Kansas City Southern Railway 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."

  2. 2.

    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?

      It's one skill to be able to handle yourself professionally under stress, but it's another skill to be able to help your colleagues who are feeling pressure in the workplace.

      Begin by acknowledging that the rail transport industry can be stressful, but you can handle it. If you come from the same industry, talk about the fact that you are familiar with the recurring pressures in this industry. If you are new to the rail transport industry, then mention everyday stressors that you face in your current job. Lastly, share with the interviewer what you would say or do to help a coworker cope with stress.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "I completely understand the pressure that comes with managing high-stakes safety and delivery issues in the workplace. If a teammate were becoming visibly stressed, I would recommend that they take a minute to gather themselves. It is surprising how many people are stress-wired in the workplace without realizing all they need is a quick breather. Sometimes a change of pace can fix so many feelings of stress and overwhelm."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "If a colleague were showing signs of poor stress management, I would tell them that talking it out is very helpful. If there is an issue bothering you in the workplace, it's wise to bring it up to a manager right away rather than letting feelings fester. I come from a high stakes military environment, so I am confident that I will flawlessly transition these stress-management capabilities to the rail transport industry."

  3. 3.

    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."

  4. 4.

    How familiar are you with the FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) and the part they play with Kansas City Southern Railway 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 Kansas City Southern Railway 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."

  5. 5.

    Working for Kansas City Southern Railway 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 Kansas City Southern Railway 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 Kansas City Southern Railway. I can lift heavy objects and do not have restrictions as far as heights, or crawling into tight spaces."

  6. 6.

    Do you have experience working with trains containing hazardous material or restricted shipments?

      Kansas City Southern Railway transports hazardous materials regularly such as gasoline, chemicals, and flammable materials. The interviewer wants to understand better the experience that you bring when it comes to moving highly sensitive shipments. Discuss the breadth of your expertise by giving details such as what you have transferred and how often, being sure to highlight your success and safety record.

      If you do not have experience working with shipments that are restricted or hazardous, be sure to express the fact that you are safety conscious and comfortable working in a potentially dangerous work environment.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "In my current role we move dangerous shipments regularly. Before joining the rail transport industry, I worked in road transportation where we moved trucks of gasoline and highly flammable goods. I am TDG (Transportation of Dangerous Goods) certified and have had zero accidents throughout my career."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "I recently obtained my TDG certification and am ready for further safety training when it comes to hazardous or restricted shipments."

  7. 7.

    In the rail transport industry, reaction time is everything. How often do you create alternative scenarios to help you adjust to potential change?

      Situations can change on a dime in the rail transport industry, and the interviewer needs to see that you have the insight to always have a 'Plan B' in your back pocket. Talk to the interviewer about your ability to create a variety of potential scenarios and solutions. You may never need to take on these scenarios; however, it's vital for the interviewer to know that you can adapt your plan on the fly.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "Any transport job can be unpredictable and requires a great amount of adaptability. Recently we had a huge recall of a hazardous product that we were transporting. Our customer was trying to stop the shipment; however, we were unable to turn the shipment around as we had other clients who needed their delivery on time. We made plans with the client for a shipment return, which changed my work schedule significantly; however, that's to be expected in this industry. I always plan for schedule changes."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "Nothing is guaranteed to go smoothly in the rail transport industry; that is one thing I know for sure. I always create 'what-ifs' because I know that plans change quickly, especially where there are multiple decision-makers and safety variables between myself and the delivery. Plan B is always ready to go."

  8. 8.

    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.

      There are a variety of ways that you can be a good fit for a job; regardless of the industry from which you come. This question is your opportunity to discuss the transferable skills you bring to this position. Transferable skills can include safety training, mechanical abilities, customer service experience, and software capabilities, for instance. Be prepared to position yourself as the best candidate for the job, regardless of your direct industry experience.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "I come from a welding environment versus a rail transport setting; however, the importance of what I did in terms of accuracy and safety are the same that you ask for in your job posting. I put safety first, and I am highly technical and mechanically minded, no matter what the industry."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "It's tough to teach time management, troubleshooting, and safety skills; however, industry knowledge is something I can learn. I have begun to study the rail transport industry already and will have a firm grasp before my start date. If you have any suggestions on resources to gain further industry knowledge, I am happy to look into them."

  9. 9.

    Kansas City Southern Railway values team synergy. Tell me about the type of people you enjoy working with.

      Company culture and team harmony are essential topics for Kansas City Southern Railway. 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!"

  10. 10.

    Name for me some specific characteristics that make you a functional problem solver.

      There are specific characteristics that an employer will look for, to see if you will be an effective problem-solver; even in high-pressure situations. A keen problem solver will:

      - Think systematically
      - Be open minded
      - Admit when they do not have an answer
      - Value research and exploration
      - Look for the core problem first
      - Understand how to reverse engineer an issue
      - Will learn from mistakes

      Consider any similar skills and qualities that you may possess. Maybe you are highly positive minded, seeing opportunity when others can only see the problem. Share your problem-solving strengths with the interviewer, using a recent example of this in motion, if you can.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "What makes me a great problem-solver is my ability to gather facts, first. I look at the problem from multiple angles, and I am not afraid to make a creative decision, based on the pros and cons present."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "Learning from others is the key to my great problem-solving abilities. I observe and draw from the experience and mistakes of others. I never hesitate to ask for help or advice when I feel stuck on an issue."

  11. 11.

    In this role with Kansas City Southern Railway 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 Kansas City Southern Railway 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 Kansas City Southern Railway.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "I read that Kansas City Southern Railway 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."

  12. 12.

    This role with Kansas City Southern Railway 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 Kansas City Southern Railway 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 Kansas City Southern Railway 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 Kansas City Southern Railway and what they have done to benefit the lives of employees and the company culture, I would greatly appreciate the additional information."

  13. 13.

    Explain to me the role of a freight conductor. What do you feel are the top 3 skills a freight conductor at Kansas City Southern Railway should possess?

      The hiring authority at Kansas City Southern Railway 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."

  14. 14.

    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 Kansas City Southern Railway, 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."

  15. 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."

  16. 16.

    Do you have experience collaborating with dispatchers, yardmasters, engineers and other train crew?

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  17. 17.

    At Kansas City Southern Railway we do everything as a team. Have you ever had difficulty working in a team environment?

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  18. 18.

    Do you have experience working on an on-call basis? Are you willing and able to comply with an on-call schedule?

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  19. 19.

    Describe your overall experience working around and operating heavy equipment.

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  20. 20.

    Federal regulations require Kansas City Southern Railway to conduct a series of background checks as well as random testing for drugs and alcohol. Are you able to meet these requirements?

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  21. 21.

    How do you maintain familiarity with scheduled trains, destinations, times of arrivals, and departures?

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  22. 22.

    Kansas City Southern Railway values problem-solving and troubleshooting skills. Tell me about a time you solved a significant issue in the workplace.

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  23. 23.

    Have you ever been terminated from a position?

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  24. 24.

    Successful communication between departments is key to success at Kansas City Southern Railway. How do you encourage healthy communication in the workplace?

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  25. 25.

    Stress is an every-day presence in the rail transport industry. How do you manage in the most stressful situations?

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  26. 26.

    Do you have any concerns around this role, or working for Kansas City Southern Railway?

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  27. 27.

    How honest are you, on a scale of 1-10?

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  28. 28.

    Talk to me about your most recent performance evaluation. What was one positive, and one area for improvement?

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  29. 29.

    Kansas City Southern Railway employees are always busy, with critical tasks. Talk to me about what hard work looks like, to you.

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  30. 30.

    Kansas City Southern Railway works hard to offer competitive wages and employee perks. Besides your pay, what is the most critical factor when considering a job offer?

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