MockQuestions

Continuous Improvement Engineer Interview Questions

To help you prepare for your Continuous Improvement Engineer interview, here are 30 interview questions and answer examples.

Get More Information About Our Continuous Improvement Engineer Interview Questions

Question 1 of 30

What does kaizen mean to you?

How to Answer

Literally, kaizen roughly means good change. The concept of kaizen is that continuous small improvements are in aggregate more effective than just a few large changes. True kaizen activities should focus on low-cost, short lead-time improvements that make an immediate impact. More generally, kaizen thinking really means that someone is always looking to make improvements. This is a good opportunity for the candidate to demonstrate their understanding of kaizen thinking.

Next Question

30 Continuous Improvement Engineer Interview Questions & Answers

  • 1. What does kaizen mean to you?

      How to Answer

      Literally, kaizen roughly means good change. The concept of kaizen is that continuous small improvements are in aggregate more effective than just a few large changes. True kaizen activities should focus on low-cost, short lead-time improvements that make an immediate impact. More generally, kaizen thinking really means that someone is always looking to make improvements. This is a good opportunity for the candidate to demonstrate their understanding of kaizen thinking.

      1st Answer Example

      "To me, kaizen is not just implementing changes here and there or conducting structured events every so often. Kaizen is a way of thinking where one is always questioning how things are done and looking for opportunities to make things better. I live and breathe kaizen at work and home. I am always looking for ways in which I can streamline and improve my day-to-day activities. I am constantly looking for small improvements in the workplace that will make work easier and more efficient for myself others."

  • 2. What is the difference in a lean activity and cost reduction activity?

      How to Answer

      This is a tricky question; many practitioners are quick to confuse lean activities with traditional cost reductions. While lean and TPS related activity must reduce costs to be effective, they are implemented differently than traditional cost reduction activities. In lean thinking, waste is always sought to be eliminated, people are always considered, and only sustainable and perene solutions would be considered.

      For example, a traditional labor cost reduction may mean that a manager decides to cut their staff by a (more-or-less) arbitrary percentage to reduce their labor spend. A labor cost reduction in a lean environment means that jobs have been studied and waste has been identified. Once the waste had been reduced or eliminated, the staffing will be reduced to match the new work content.

      To answer this question, the candidate should show that they understand that lean activities are focused on engaging team-members and reducing waste for sustainable results, rather than just cutting costs for a short-term benefit.

      1st Answer Example

      "If properly executed, lean activities should drastically reduce operating costs for a business. However, the method by which these cost reductions are pursued is much different than a traditional cost reduction activity. In a lean activity, the team is engaged in developing solutions thateliminate waste and make the work less cumbersome. The cost reductions realized in a lean activity are an effect of the positive work which has been completed."

  • 3. What is your biggest weakness? or, What do you think your biggest hurdle would be regarding this position?

      How to Answer

      This is a common question. Even though candidates are told to expect this question, they often don't answer the question as best as possible. The candidate should be honest with their answer and make sure to present themselves in a desirable light. The candidate should avoid answers that would preclude them from the job or portray them negatively (i.e., I tend to procrastinate when I don't want to do something, I don't really like working with others). The candidate should also avoid an answer that seems disingenuous (i.e., I am just too much of a perfectionist, I hate being late too much). If the candidate is early in their career or coming to a new company or industry, it is acceptable to mention that they do not have a detailed knowledge of the business and processes they will be working around.

      1st Answer Example

      "Since I am a recent graduate and this will be my first engineering job, I think my biggest weakness is my lack of experience. This is certainly something I look at overcoming in the coming months and years."

  • 4. Why did you decide to pursue a career in engineering? More specifically, what made you interested to study Continuous Improvement?

      How to Answer

      There are many good answers to this question. The candidate should be honest but use this to discuss personal traits that could be desirable for the employer. This is a perfect opportunity for the candidate to sell themselves.

      Answer Examples Have Been Hidden

      Please upgrade to view

  • 5. Why are you interested in this industry?

      How to Answer

      While CI engineers and similar functions are generally associated with the manufacturing industry, they now exist in most industries. The candidate should have researched the industry they are applying to work in and have some speaking points ready for that industry's interests. The candidate should avoid any response that implies that they are indifferent to the industry they are applying to work in.

      Answer Examples Have Been Hidden

      Please upgrade to view

  • 6. Making changes is a core part of a CI engineer's job function. How do you make sure that the changes you implement don't cause adverse effects on quality or other KPIs?

      How to Answer

      CI engineers are expected to be change agents and challenge the status quo. While change is necessary for success, it can carry drastic risks if not managed properly. There are departments in most organizations whose primary function is ensuring that abnormalities are minimized (i.e., a Quality Control department). While there is some expected healthy conflict between departments who want to minimize disruptions and a CI engineer whose primary function is a disruptor, there is definitely a right and wrong way to make changes. The candidate must let the interviewer know that they will be part of the team and adhere to the organization's change management policy while carrying out their job.

      Answer Examples Have Been Hidden

      Please upgrade to view

  • 7. Please give an example of a large project which you have sucessfully managed.

      How to Answer

      A large part of a CI engineer's job will likely be managing projects. Often, the engineer will not be directly responsible for completing all the work themselves but rather managing schedules and timelines to make sure that other members and/or outside contractors complete the necessary tasks. The answer to this question should highlight the candidate's ability to make and execute a plan. If there were difficult constraints in project implementation, the candidate should bring this up, so the interviewer understands that the candidate can work under pressure and within a specific timeline.

      Answer Examples Have Been Hidden

      Please upgrade to view

  • 8. What are your technical abilities outside of CI (CAD, PLCs, Maintenance, etc.)?

      How to Answer

      While CI engineers are generally not expected to be technical experts in other fields, there are often opportunities for their responsibilities to overlap with other disciplines, especially in smaller facilities. A candidate should not harp on their expertise in other fields or give the impression that a career in CI is their second choice, but it is good to make any additional skills known during the interview. Working technical knowledge in other fields can be seen as a big plus during the interview.

      Answer Examples Have Been Hidden

      Please upgrade to view

  • 9. What is your level of understanding of financial statments as they apply to operations?

      How to Answer

      As a CI engineer, it is beneficial to have at least a working knowledge of financial statements (especially income statements - sometimes also called profit and loss statements or P&Ls). For candidates who are early in their career, it is understandable that they may have minimal expertise in this area; however, taking some time to research financial statements would be advisable. This is not a subject that is generally covered in an engineer's formal training, so this is a good opportunity for candidates to differentiate themselves by demonstrating their knowledge.

      Answer Examples Have Been Hidden

      Please upgrade to view

  • 10. After you have implemented a change to a job, you have a particular team-member who refuses to adhere to the change. How do you handle this?

      How to Answer

      Changing a person's habits can be very difficult, especially if it is something they have grown accustomed to over a long period of time. With that being said, once a change is implemented in an organization, it is an expectation that it will be adhered to by the entire team. CI engineers are often responsible for implementing changes but do not have direct supervisory responsibility for the team that must adhere to the change. This can put the engineer in a tricky spot, as their main means of changing behavior is through influence rather than direction.

      The answer to this question should show that the candidate will be assertive and try to influence the team-member to correct behavior before escalating to the person's direct manager.

      Answer Examples Have Been Hidden

      Please upgrade to view

  • 11. How do you go about building rapport with a team that you will be working with?

      How to Answer

      For a CI engineer, rapport is essential. The more that the engineer can rely on the team around them to identify problems, the more the engineer can solve them. There are many ways to build rapport, and each person's style could lend itself to different methods. Almost always, honesty and transparency go a long way regardless of an individual's style. The answer to this question should highlight the candidate's self-awareness and interest in developing trust with teams.

      Answer Examples Have Been Hidden

      Please upgrade to view

  • 12. How do you go about completing a time study on a process you are unfamilair with?

      How to Answer

      Completing time studies will be a key part of almost all CI engineer's jobs. Many companies have their own requirements and methods for completing time studies. The candidate should answer this question in a way that shows their practical experience completing time studies and their understanding of the importance of the data.

      It is worth mentioning that the detail and resolution required in a given time study could greatly depend on the process being studied and the information the engineer expects to garner from the study. For example, a time study completed on an assembly line to identify bottlenecks may be completed with just a handful of elements and a few data points on each operation. In contrast, a time study that will be used to justify the reduction of a position may require numerous elements and 30 or more data points.

      When answering this question, the candidate must explain that they will become familiar with the job being studied before completing the time study.

      Answer Examples Have Been Hidden

      Please upgrade to view

  • 13. How do you use Value Stream Mapping to drive improvement?

      How to Answer

      Value Stream Maps are a useful and powerful tool that can be used to understand complex processes and organizations. However, many organizations fall short in their implementation of VSMs. Oftentimes the Value Stream Mapping activity is completed to satisfy a corporate requirement rather than drive meaningful change. This question is less about the candidate's ability to read or create a VSM and more about the candidate's ability to identify impactful improvements based on the information contained in the VSM. The candidate should focus on their practical experience and improve business results using Value Stream Mapping.

      Answer Examples Have Been Hidden

      Please upgrade to view

  • 14. Are you familiar with the 8 wastes? How do you go about reducing waste in the workplace?

      How to Answer

      Identifying and eliminating waste is a key part of lean thinking and TPS. While the wastes can differ slightly by an organization, they are generally accepted as intellect, waiting, overproduction, rejects/defects, motion, processing, inventory, and transportation. While eliminating all waste is good, CI engineers need to eliminate waste that can create a direct cost reduction in the workplace. There are many ways to reduce waste, so there are many good ways to answer this question. This is a good time for the candidate to reiterate their ability to engage others, make improvements, and express their CI/kaizen mindset.

      Answer Examples Have Been Hidden

      Please upgrade to view

  • 15. How do you handle conflict in the workplace?

      How to Answer

      As a CI engineer, the candidate will be studying and eventually making changes to how others work. Most people are resistant to change, especially when it comes to the way they do their job. For this reason, CI engineers will inevitably experience some conflict in the workplace. To be effective, it is critical that the CI engineer can mitigate this conflict without damaging relationships or losing motivation. An effective answer should demonstrate emotional intelligence and show assertiveness without seeming overly standoffish.

      Answer Examples Have Been Hidden

      Please upgrade to view

  • 16. Why are you interested in the role of Continuous Improvement Engineer?

      How to Answer

      This is a simple question that often leads off an interview. This is an opportunity for the candidate to sell themselves to the interviewer and give examples to differentiate themselves from other candidates. There are many ways to answer this question well, but the candidate should focus on answers that explain mutual benefit for the candidate and the company. The candidate should avoid answers which don't convey a strong interest in the position (i.e., I am just looking for a foot in the door, and I saw this position was available).

      Answer Examples Have Been Hidden

      Please upgrade to view

  • 17. Why is standardized work important?

      How to Answer

      Standardized work is the foundation of all lean systems. It is impossible to make improvements until there is a base level of standardization. The first step in improving a system should be documenting and standardizing the current processes.
      This question is very general, so there could be a lot of good answers. The key here is that the candidate expresses the importance of standardized work and demonstrates their understanding of the topic.

      Answer Examples Have Been Hidden

      Please upgrade to view

  • 18. Please explain the importance of a pull-system and how you may go about implementing a pull-system in a new work place.

      How to Answer

      Pull systems are an integral part of a lean environment. Fundamentally, a pull system can be created in any system just by establishing min and max inventory or work in process (WIP) levels. While all kanban systems are pull systems, all pull systems don't have to be driven by kanban. Kanban systems can become very complex and difficult to manage, especially in an environment where kanban is not engrained in the culture. This question is used to gauge whether the candidate has a practical understanding of pull-systems or only knows about these systems through classroom training. The candidate should focus on simple and practical examples of pull systems that could be implemented very quickly.

      Answer Examples Have Been Hidden

      Please upgrade to view

  • 19. How do you handle feedback?

      How to Answer

      This is a simple question that many candidates struggle with. Lots of candidates will respond that they take constructive feedback well. Of course, it is a hard expectation that employees will take constructive feedback well. This question is really asking: how does the candidate handle all feedback, and are they going to be dismissive of peers' and team members' feedback at lower organization levels. If negative or unconstructive feedback is offered, the interviewer will gauge how well they will handle this by seeing if they have the emotional intelligence to cipher through all feedback offered and extract the useful parts without damaging relationships.

      This is an opportunity for the candidate to differentiate themselves by demonstrating their emotional intelligence and ability to communicate with all organization levels regardless of how others communicate with them.

      Answer Examples Have Been Hidden

      Please upgrade to view

  • 20. Once you identify a potential project, how do you evaluate if it is a worthwhile use of resources?

      How to Answer

      Typically any project should be justified with a financial cost to benefit analysis, however, sometimes the effect of an improvement can be difficult to measure. It is OK for some projects to be justified based improved morale or general workplace beautification. Each company will have their own requirement for an acceptable pay-back period, with many companies targeting <18 months. Usually one should be conservative in this analysis. The answer to this question should demonstrate the candidates ability to be business minded and think analytically.

      Answer Examples Have Been Hidden

      Please upgrade to view

  • 21. Why is 5S important in the workplace?

      How to Answer

      While the specific 5 Ss can be different for each company, the overall concept of orderliness in the workplace is accepted by almost all businesses. In layman's terms, 5S can be summarized as a place of everything and everything in its place. 5S activity is usually the first step in any lean transformation. If a workplace is cluttered or disorganized, productivity and quality improvements can be realized by successfully implementing a 5S program.

      There are many real impacts from improving 5S: elimination of wasted time hunting for supplies or parts, improvement in inventory control by reduction of lost stock, reduction of inventory levels by the establishment of correctly sized storage locations, etc. Many ancillary effects can be equally important. Generally, morale is much better in a clean and orderly environment than in a chaotic and disorganized environment.

      Most lean systems are built on the concept of visual management; it is almost impossible to have a visual management system without having a neat and well-defined workplace.

      Answer Examples Have Been Hidden

      Please upgrade to view

  • 22. If you identify an opportunity to reduce a position (or positions), how do you go about explaining this to the workforce?

      How to Answer

      Labor is one of the highest controllable costs in many organizations; there are often opportunities for low-cost improvements that drastically reduce the labor required to complete a given task. Implementing projects to reduce labor cost can be a core function of a CI engineer. Labor reductions can be a very touchy subject with the workforce because they can be worried that team members will lose their jobs or that the reduction in positions will mean everyone else has to work harder. If the project is implemented correctly, there should be a reduction in overall work content, which means that the remaining workforce should not have to work any harder after the reduction than they were before.

      Hopefully, the employer will handle reduced positions through attrition rather than layoffs or terminations, but this may not always be the case. For a labor reduction to work, the remaining workforce (and management) must buy-in to the change. When reducing positions, how the activity is communicated to the workforce can dictate the activity's success or failure.
      This question aims to understand the candidate's ability to engage the workforce and create buy-in for a labor reduction project. When creating buy-in on these types of projects, it is important that there is clear communication and that the workforce senses transparency from the company. When explaining the answer, the candidate should focus on selling a project and addressing concerns from the workforce.

      Answer Examples Have Been Hidden

      Please upgrade to view

  • 23. What is Takt Time is, and how it should be utilized to manage a process?

      How to Answer

      Takt time is the cadence at which a process has to operate to meet it's demand. This concept can be applied to any process that has a defined amount of deliverables over a given time. It is important that the candidate shows that they understand that the takt time of a process is driven by customer demand rather than the cycle time of the process. There are many ways to use takt time to manage a process, but at its core, the takt time should be used to dictate the staffing and hours of operation required for a given process.

      Answer Examples Have Been Hidden

      Please upgrade to view

  • 24. What is your experience leading kaizen events?

      How to Answer

      Leading kaizen events is often an integral part of the function of a CI engineer. As with structured problem-solving methodologies, each company will likely have a specific and preferred method for completing kaizen events. For this reason, it is less important that the candidate shows a specific understanding of an exact method, but rather that they highlight their skills in facilitating teams and driving improvement. Kaizen events are usually completed with the core-team over a period of hours or days; however, the event's success is usually predicated by the level of preparation and follow-up by the facilitator. This is the time for the candidate to demonstrate their effectiveness as a team facilitator rather than an individual contributor. This would be a good time to include specific data points that show success as a facilitator.

      Answer Examples Have Been Hidden

      Please upgrade to view

  • 25. How does the concept of Heijunka apply to day to day operations in a manufacturing setting?

      How to Answer

      Heijunka is the concept of level-loading a process or operation. This concept is related to the aspirational goal of single piece flow in all processes. This question is meant to evaluate the candidates practical understanding of these concepts. A good answer will express the candidates understanding of these ideas as an ideal-state vision, while demonstrating their ability to work within the constraints of a real-world system to develop a practical solution.

      Answer Examples Have Been Hidden

      Please upgrade to view

  • 26. What is your ideal career path, how does this position fit into your long-term career aspirations?

      How to Answer

      CI engineers can be ideal for advancement into a variety of roles. Their skillset is desirable because they are trained in methodologies to solve problems and make improvements that could be applied in many fields. The exact aspiration of the candidate is less important than the fact that they are interested in advancing and that they are thinking of how they will continue to develop. This is an ideal time for the candidate to further express the mutual benefits of this position for the candidate and the company.

      Answer Examples Have Been Hidden

      Please upgrade to view

  • 27. Please explain your understanding of cause and countermeasure.

      How to Answer

      This question is meant to evaluate the candidates ability to apply a structured way of thinking when solving problems. As mentioned before, western thinkers tend to focus on solutions before a problem is fully understood. This way of thinking leads to expensive and ineffective solutions to problems. It is important that a CI engineer fully understands what is causing a problem and implements a solution that prevents a problem from occurring rather than just focusing on treating symptoms of the underlying problem.

      Answer Examples Have Been Hidden

      Please upgrade to view

  • 28. When going to a new area, you will be faced with many problems of different types and scopes. How would you decide what to work on first?

      How to Answer

      There are many correct ways to prioritize one's work, but it is important for the candidate to demonstrate that they will consider the impact as well as the difficulty of projects when prioritizing their work. It is important to remember that workplace safety ALWAYS takes precedent to other items. Assuming there are no pertinent safety projects, then tasks should be prioritized based on impact, cost, and lead-time. There is no magic formula, the engineer just needs to justify their thinking in a reasonable way. For example a project with a relatively small business impact that carriers no cost and that can be implemented on the same day, may be prioritized ahead of a large impact project that takes weeks to complete. It is also important to remember the impact of team-member morale and buy-in. A project with a difficult to measure business impact that will improve the rapport with the team and lead to additional idea generation may be prioritized ahead of other items with a more measurable effect.

      Answer Examples Have Been Hidden

      Please upgrade to view

  • 29. How do you use structured problem solving to make improvements?

      How to Answer

      There are many ways to use structured problem solving to solve problems and make improvements. Oftentimes different organizations have different methodologies they prefer, they will likely even have different methodologies they apply depending on the type problem at hand (i.e. cost savings follow an A3 approach while quality issues are solved using an 8D). Since the company will likely offer detailed training on their preferred methodology, the intent of this question isn't to determine if the candidate is an expert at a specific problem solving approach. Rather, the question is used to determine whether the candidate has experience using a structured methodology to solve problems. It is common for western-thinkers to focus on solutions before they fully understand a problem, for a CI engineer it is imperative that a problem is fully understood before a solution is generated. This is an ideal time for the candidate to demonstrate their understanding of cause and countermeasure thinking.

      Answer Examples Have Been Hidden

      Please upgrade to view

  • 30. Tell me about a time when you engaged other team-members and utilized their feedback to make an improvement.

      How to Answer

      When considering a career in CI, it is important to remember that this is a softer discipline than many other areas of engineering. A successful CI engineer has to engage people and work with teams to develop solutions that the people will buy in to. Often, the human aspects of a solution are just as important as the technical aspects. This question is an attempt to measure a candidates understanding of this. A good answer should focus on explaining how the candidate is an expert at engaging others and listening to their feedback to solve problems. This is not the time for the candidate to harp on their own ideas, but rather to explain how they can facilitate improvement through team engagement.

      Answer Examples Have Been Hidden

      Please upgrade to view