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Engineer Interview
Questions

34 Questions and Answers by Allison Atkinson

Question 1 of 34

How would you deal with an upset client?

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Engineer Interview Questions

  1. 1.

    How would you deal with an upset client?

      Many engineering roles, especially in consulting engineering or in smaller companies, will require you to work in an office where you may occasionally answer the phone or greet clients who come into the office. If your role is public facing or client facing, you may occasionally have to deal with a client or a member of the public who is upset with your company. Depending on your position, you may have to deal with them directly, or it may be your job to direct them to someone more qualified than you. In your answer, show your interviewer that you would behave in a mature manner.

      Allison's Answer

      "When people are upset, they often just want to be heard. If a client who was upset came in to the office or called, I would listen to them and try to help them out as much as possible. Depending on my position, I wouldn't promise them anything that I might not be able to deliver, but I would do my best to direct them to the person who could help them."

  2. 2.

    How do you keep track of work so that it gets done on time?

      This question investigates your organization skills. Generally, having a method where you write down your tasks, either on paper or on the computer, suggests better organization skills than a method where you just try to remember things. Regardless of what method you use, show the interviewer that your method is successful.

      Allison's Answer

      "In college I started using a planner system. Each morning, I sit down, review the day before, and write out my tasks for the day. At the end of the day, I check off the tasks I've completed. I find that this method helps me maintain continuity in my work - rarely do I forget to do something."

  3. 3.

    What is your overall career objective? Do you see yourself working in engineering ten years from now? If not, what do you think you will be doing?

      Engineering careers typically follow a management trajectory or a technical trajectory. The management trajectory focuses more on scheduling, communication, and coordinating the 'big picture' efforts of engineering projects. By contrast, technical specialists become experts in one area of engineering, such as cables, semiconductors, bridges, or pavement design. As an entry-level engineer, you may not know for sure which path you plan to take, but you should be able to articulate a narrative that shows your ability to think long-term. The sample answer is for a Civil Engineer interviewing for a Railroad Design position.

      Allison's Answer

      "Since this is my first engineering job, I'm excited to learn about all aspects of working for a railroad. I really enjoy technical design and I know my education and AutoCAD skills will be critical to designing new rail alignments, putting together plans and specifications, figuring out all the drainage, etc. However, I also know that I enjoy talking to people, writing, and looking at the big picture, so I could definitely see myself moving into management or even business development in ten or fifteen years. "

  4. 4.

    What area of engineering do you find most challenging?

      This question could be answered in two different ways: 1) An area of engineering that you found difficult or 2) An area of engineering that excites you. Show the interviewer that you are aware of your disciplinary strengths and weaknesses and that you are capable of performing the job for which you are applying. The sample answer is for an entry-level water resources engineering position.

      Allison's Answer

      "Honestly, I struggled in my structural engineering courses, but I'm glad I had the chance to take them. I know I won't be designing building systems as a water resources engineer, but I will still have to specify concrete strengths sometimes, so it's useful to know how that information is actually used."

  5. 5.

    By providing examples, convince me that you can adapt to a wide variety of people, situations and environments.

      This question mainly applies to engineering positions which have some combination of office work and field work. The time and resources available to solve a problem and the safety requirements to be met may vary depending on whether you are in the field or in the office. This situation also applies in the consulting field because different clients will have different goals, and it is important to be able to approach a problem in a way that makes sense to them. For a strong answer, tell your interviewer about a time when you discussed the same situation in multiple contexts or a previous job or situation that changed every day. The sample answer is for an entry-level position where the applicant had a previous internship.

      Allison's Answer

      "Last summer, I interned at a railroad. Part of my summer was spent working on AutoCAD files in the office, part of it was spent on the railroad doing bridge inspections, and part of it was spent in the shop next to the office learning about how box cars are repaired. Obviously, that experience required navigating several different environments; the weather was often pretty bad when we were out inspecting bridges and I still had to get out there, take pictures, and accurately record what we saw. Working in the office wasn't as difficult physically, but it was challenging to learn a new computer program. Both of those situations were different from the couple days I spent in the shop, where there were pretty strict union rules on what I could or could not do. It was a challenge to learn all these different environments over the course of one summer, but I feel like in doing so, I gained a thorough introduction to the railroad industry."

  6. 6.

    Why do you want a career as an Engineer?

      This question gives you the chance to direct the conversation towards your strengths, your interest in engineering, and your desire to work in the position for which you applied. Avoid giving the interviewer your whole life story, but do provide some background about what initially piqued your interest in engineering. Then, explain why you chose your specific major, and why you are applying for this job. In your answer, show the interviewer the impact you hope to make with your career. This could be general, such as 'improving people's daily lives', or it could be more specific, such as 'contributing to the project to put a man on Mars'. In either case, choose an impact directly related to the job for which you are applying.

      Allison's Answer

      "I initially became interested in engineering after participating in robotics club in high school. I loved learning new skills in math and science and getting to actually apply those ideas to make something happen. Ultimately, I chose to major in civil engineering because I enjoy spending time in the outdoors and I like seeing that my projects have a direct, immediate impact on people's lives. In structural engineering, I've found I can combine my initial interest in programming, that I developed in robotics club, to model complex structural systems in buildings that people use every day. "

  7. 7.

    What do you dislike about being an Engineer?

      When answering this question, stay positive and tell the interviewer how you have worked around the elements of engineering that you dislike. Choose something that is unlikely to affect your performance in the position for which you are applying. The example answer is for a sales engineering position.

      Allison's Answer

      "As crazy as it sounds, I've never been that excited about complicated math problems. However, I find I do well with getting to know people and their needs and figuring how to meet them. For that reason, I've decided to go into sales engineering as opposed to design engineering, because I know I will enjoy my job."

  8. 8.

    What academic courses have you taken that will benefit you in this position?

      This question gives you the opportunity to share any specific knowledge you might have and to find out more details about the specifics of the technical work you will be doing. The example answers are for a civil engineer applying for a structural engineering position and a mechanical engineer applying to a material handling engineering position.

      Allison's Answer

      "In undergrad, I took Concrete I and II, Pre-stressed Concrete Design, and Steel I and II. In Concrete I and II, we did column design, beam design, and both one-way and two-way slab design. In Pre-stressed Concrete, we looked briefly at both pre-tensioned and post-tensioned members. The class was part design and part analysis; there was some design for flexure, both working strength and Allowable Stress Design, and also design for shear and torsion. Since this position is for a structural engineer that specializes in concrete, can you tell me more about the types of projects I will be working on?"

      Allison's Answer

      "While my Mechanical Engineering degree has taught me problem-solving skills and the general idea of how mechanical systems work together, I also have a community college certificate in Automation Controls. This program specifically focused on Programmable Logic Controllers and Electrical Circuits at a level of hands-on detail that was less common in my more theory-focused engineering program. With this knowledge, I know I'll be able to actually troubleshoot the PLCs and keep the plant up and running. It will also improve my ability to communicate with operators, since we'll be speaking the same language."

  9. 9.

    What single project or task would you consider the most significant accomplishment in your career so far?

      Choose a project or task that showcases a combination of your technical and leadership abilities. Additionally, don't be afraid to let your interest in the project shine through. If the project which you choose is not relevant to the job you are applying for, try to draw a connection between the two.

      Allison's Answer

      "My most significant accomplishment so far is the development of an Asset Management Plan for the sanitary system for a small town. I created a system to rate the town's pipes and structures and worked with another engineer to review the town's GIS database and pictures to find the ratings and create the plan. Overall, it was a great opportunity to put my technical skills, knowledge of sanitary systems, and writing abilities to work."

  10. 10.

    How has your previous work experience prepared you for this position?

      Show the interviewer that you have progressive career development by explaining how your previous work experience has prepared you for this position. If you've had any previous experience in the industry for which you are applying, such as an internship or other non-engineering role position, mention it here. If you've worked primarily in customer service, show how this experience has attuned you to noticing customers' unique needs. If you've had a previous internship where you learned an applicable skill, now is the time to mention it. The sample answer is for a civil engineer applying for a field engineer position in the construction industry.

      Allison's Answer

      "I spent the summer after my sophomore year in college building houses with a residential builder/general contractor in my hometown. While residential construction is different from heavy civil work, I'm now more familiar with what it's like on a construction site. Often, my boss put me in charge of keeping track of material deliveries and confirming that everything arrived correctly. I also learned about the importance of taking pictures and confirming measurements for as-built drawings. I look forward to doing similar work, albeit at a larger scale in this position."

  11. 11.

    Describe a difficult project and how you overcame it.

      Some engineering work is routine, but difficulties will often arise. Some projects may require you to deal with difficult clients, return faulty parts from a supplier, navigate unclear permitting instructions from government agencies, or the problem you are assigned to solve may just be inherently challenging. When answering this question, show the interviewer that you are capable of working through problems using the resources available to you and that you do not give up at the first sign of difficulty.

      Allison's Answer

      "My team's senior design project was very open-ended. We were supposed to design an app that helped children develop fine motor skills. The client's vision was for a very simple interface, but our professors wanted us to come up with something more complicated. On top of that, the app was supposed to be developed using iOS, which none of us had done before. So, the difficulty of the project came from the end goal being unclear and the method of getting there being totally new. We found that frequent check-ins, with the client, with our professors, and with each other was the key to making sure we were all consistently moving in the right direction. I set up the regular meetings in Outlook and made meeting agendas and sent out the minutes afterwards to make sure this happened."

  12. 12.

    Tell me about your experience in dealing with routine engineering work. How do you keep from getting bored?

      After a while, most engineering positions develop some element of routine. When answering this question, remain positive about your work and avoid implying that you quit your job or become disagreeable as soon as something is no longer exciting for you. Instead, tell the interviewer how you remain engaged.

      Allison's Answer

      "I enjoy the challenge of learning something new, but I also enjoy being able to do what I know well. I believe you can always improve, so even on routine projects, I try to practice a new software skill or find a way to work more efficiently."

  13. 13.

    How has your education prepared you for this position?

      Show the interviewer that you can connect academic theory to practice and that you know the general academic disciplines that are used in the industry for which you are applying. For a strong answer, summarize your education and then tell the interviewer how you plan to use your education and how you hope to refine your knowledge in the position for which you are applying. The example answer is for a Civil Engineer applying to work in the construction industry.

      Allison's Answer

      "My program in civil engineering generally exposed me to the discipline. I took introductory classes in water resources, structures, and geotech. As a construction engineer, I anticipate seeing how projects drawing on these disciplines are built. I knew I wanted to work in construction, so I took my elective courses in Cost Engineering and Construction Scheduling. Since I'm applying for a position as an estimator, I believe much of this coursework will directly transfer to my position. I know I want to work in construction for several years, and I anticipate taking a PE review course before applying for licensure or potentially pursuing a Master's in Construction Management."

  14. 14.

    Have you ever been overloaded with work?

      Most engineers have been overloaded with work either in school or at a job. While nobody likes being overloaded with work, keep your answer positive by focusing on your time management skills. Avoid blaming others for any stress caused due to having too much work.

      Allison's Answer

      "Recently I was responsible for keeping a manufacturing line up and running and also for installing capital projects. It was often difficult to find time to work on the capital projects while still putting out the daily fires on the line. I learned that when I'm overloaded with work, I can work overtime for a while to get the situation under control, and then see if I can improve the processes I'm responsible for in order to help reduce my future workload."

  15. 15.

    How do you decide what gets top priority when scheduling your time?

      Most engineering positions will require you to juggle varying deadlines. These deadlines may be internal, such as a design review with the project manager. Or, they may be external, such as ensuring a piece of equipment arrives before a plant shut-down day or a presentation is ready for the next client meeting. When answering this question, show the interviewer that you can balance deadlines and estimate the amount of time it will take you to finish a project. If you use a system to categorize your tasks, such as the Franklin Covey Time Management Matrix or a planner, mention it here. Additionally, if you are applying for a scheduling position, discuss your formal knowledge of project scheduling, such as the Critical Path Method, Design Sequencing, Construction Sequencing, Fast Tracking, etc.

      Allison's Answer

      "Personally, I use a planner to keep track of the deadlines for my projects. I try to categorize tasks according to their urgency and importance and make sure I take care of the urgent and important tasks first. However, I know schedules aren't just dependent on me, and I think it's important to have regular project update meetings with the team so we know what is holding us back and what we need to get done in order to move forward. I anticipate working closely with my manager to determine which of my projects is the highest priority for the company. As far as individual projects go, does your company typically use software such as Microsoft Project when creating schedules?"

  16. 16.

    What was your biggest disappointment as an Engineer?

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  17. 17.

    What was your greatest accomplishment as an Engineer?

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  18. 18.

    What is your philosophy towards work?

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  19. 19.

    What excites you the most about a career as an Engineer?

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  20. 20.

    What engineering skills have you developed or improved on in the past year?

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  21. 21.

    Tell me about the most challenging engineering project that you have been involved with during the past year.

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  22. 22.

    What trends are you aware of in this industry? How do you think trends should fit in with standard projects?

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  23. 23.

    What do you think will be your weakness in this position?

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  24. 24.

    What programs related to this position are you able to use?

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  25. 25.

    Why did you choose this discipline of engineering?

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  26. 26.

    Describe the most significant written technical report or presentation that you had to complete.

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  27. 27.

    Tell me about a problem you faced recently where you were unsure of the answer. How did you research the problem and find a correct solution?

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  28. 28.

    What are you doing to keep current in technology?

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  29. 29.

    What do you feel is the most important skill an Engineer should possess?

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  30. 30.

    What are three personality traits you believe an Engineer should have?

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  31. 31.

    Tell me about a time when you influenced the outcome of a project by taking a leadership role.

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  32. 32.

    What do you do when your time schedule or project plan is upset by unforeseen circumstances?

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  33. 33.

    What have you done to further your own professional development in the past 5 years?

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  34. 34.

    Are you happy with your career as an Engineer?

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