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Norfolk Southern Corporation 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

This role with Norfolk Southern Corporation requires union membership. How do you feel about being part of a unionized environment?

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Norfolk Southern Corporation Interview Questions

  1. 1.

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

  2. 2.

    How familiar are you with the FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) and the part they play with Norfolk Southern Corporation 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 Norfolk Southern Corporation 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."

  3. 3.

    Do you have any concerns around this role, or working for Norfolk Southern Corporation?

      The interviewer would like to know ahead of time if there is any reason for you to decline a job offer, should you be the successful candidate. If you do have hesitations, be sure to frame them as positively as possible. Ask smart questions, and gain clarification anywhere you need. If you do not have any concerns, that's great! You should still have a question or two prepared for the end of your interview to show engagement and thoughtfulness.

      Some questions you can ask include:

      - What was the biggest struggle for the person in this role, previously?
      - If hired, what do you believe will be my biggest hurdle in the first 90 days?
      - What is the most significant change your industry has gone through this year?

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "You mentioned a high rate of employee turnover. I have a great amount of experience working with companies that need an overhaul related to employee engagement but would like to know what situation I would be facing. Do you have numbers or stats to share?"

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "Thank you for asking! I do not have any concerns, but I do have a couple of questions. What do you foresee as the biggest challenge I will face, in my first 90 days of employment? I want to start strong and come prepared to meet these challenges."

  4. 4.

    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! Norfolk Southern Corporation 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 Norfolk Southern Corporation."

  5. 5.

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

      Cross-functional communication is one of the keys to a successful day at Norfolk Southern Corporation. The interviewer wants to know more about your experience collaborating with other departments and job functions such as dispatch, yard crew, locomotive engineers, and general train crew.

      If you are new to the industry, or your career, with limited cross-functional experience, you can try focusing your response on any volunteer work, or experience from your post-secondary education.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "I have worked in rail transport for the past eight years, collaborating with a variety of job functions every day. On a regular day, I speak with dispatch, the train crew, and our engineers multiple times per day. I am a strong communicator, both verbally and written. One of my strengths is in my documentation and reporting skills."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "The bulk of my collaborative work comes from a couple of large group projects while obtaining my certificate in locomotive engineering. I also completed my internship at ABC Railroad, which allowed me to learn how engineers collaborate with other departments such as dispatch and crew. I look forward to furthering my exposure to cross-functional collaboration when I join Norfolk Southern Corporation."

  6. 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 Norfolk Southern Corporation 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. 7.

    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 Norfolk Southern Corporation, 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."

  8. 8.

    At Norfolk Southern Corporation we do everything as a team. Have you ever had difficulty working in a team environment?

      Norfolk Southern Corporation 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 Norfolk Southern Corporation."

  9. 9.

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

      Problem-solving and troubleshooting are fundamental skills in the rail transport industry. The interviewer wants to see that you are capable of problem-solving and troubleshooting in a high-pressure or high-stakes environment. Discuss a time when you solved an issue at work that had the potential to become a significant problem. Talk about the steps that you took, being sure to discuss the positive outcome in the end.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "Recently, it was clear that our operational and field staff felt taken for granted and disregarded by the corporate office. Not only did they feel devalued due to budget cuts and layoffs, but morale was also low from some issues surrounding our union's collective agreements and recent changes. Rather than just let these feelings fester, I decided to listen to the ops staff and then bridge the gap with corporate and the union. By sitting down and having a conversation, and laying out a more effective way of delegating work, promoting those who worked hard, and helping our operational and field staff to feel more job security; everyone walked out feeling better about the job, situation, and their coworkers."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "I problem solve quite often at work, primarily with customer resolution. Just yesterday, I worked with a transport customer who was unhappy with a significant delay in their shipment. Through patient communication, I was able to resolve the complaint and create another returning customer."

  10. 10.

    In this role with Norfolk Southern Corporation 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 Norfolk Southern Corporation 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 Norfolk Southern Corporation.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "I read that Norfolk Southern Corporation 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."

  11. 11.

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

  12. 12.

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

      The hiring authority at Norfolk Southern Corporation 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."

  13. 13.

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

      Norfolk Southern Corporation 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."

  14. 14.

    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."

  15. 15.

    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 Norfolk Southern Corporation, 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."

  16. 16.

    Walk me through your experience supervising crews, and facilitating schedules or loading and unloading duties.

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  17. 17.

    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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  18. 18.

    Federal regulations require Norfolk Southern Corporation 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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  19. 19.

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

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  20. 20.

    Which aspect of working within the rail transport industry is most exciting for you?

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  21. 21.

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

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  22. 22.

    Have you ever been terminated from a position?

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  23. 23.

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

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  24. 24.

    Norfolk Southern Corporation 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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  25. 25.

    Norfolk Southern Corporation values team synergy. Tell me about the type of people you enjoy working with.

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  26. 26.

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

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  27. 27.

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

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  28. 28.

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

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  29. 29.

    Norfolk Southern Corporation 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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  30. 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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