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Industrial Engineer Interview
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51 Questions and Answers by
| Holly Chavez is a multidisciplinary freelance writer and news columnist at Grit Daily. She has a BS in Industrial Engineering Technology and is a former entrepreneur. She specializes in writing about many topics, but her favorite things to write about are

Question 1 of 51

Can you explain the critical path method?

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Industrial Engineer Interview Questions

  1. 1.

    Can you explain the critical path method?

      The interviewer wants to know that you are familiar with the critical path method and that you know how to keep vital projects moving in the face of adversity by using it. Explain the concept by saying, 'The critical path method is a tool used to calculate the length of your project, and it is a sequence of dependent tasks that will form the lengthiest duration. Mapping the tasks allows for tweaking and determining the most efficient timeline possible to finish a project.'

      Tip: Give the interviewer a rundown on how to calculate the critical path in a made-up project..say...with decorating your living room with a friend. You can also show them a print out from a Gantt chart in Microsoft Project you did for the living room project. Examples you did in college and on the job work, too. Explain any tweaks you made for changes in the critical path to prevent scope creep in the printouts. This is also a good place in the interview to let them know of any project management certification you have.

      That being said, certificates such as the Project Management Professional (PMP) automatically show potential employers that you have project management experience and have extra commitment. In light of that, be sure to have that skill on your resume and be prepared to discuss it.

      Holly's Answer

      "The critical path method is a tool used to calculate the length of your project, and it is a sequence of dependent tasks that will form the lengthiest duration. Mapping the tasks allows for tweaking and determining the most efficient timeline possible to finish a project."

  2. 2.

    What is the time value of money?

      Here, you explain the concept saying, 'The time value of money is a demanding subset of economics in engineering economy. At its core, it means money uninvested is money lost. It recognizes that a dollar today is worth more than a dollar years from now because of its accrued interest. Money changes in value, not only because of interest rates but also because of inflation or deflation.'

      Also importantly, your professor may have told you during a lecture that if you want to be a millionaire, it’s best to set aside savings early in life. That way, you can end up getting further ahead because you take advantage of the full power of compounding. Know this and other important takeaways you learned from engineering economy to knock this line of questioning out of the park.

      Holly's Answer

      "The time value of money is a demanding subset of economics in engineering economy. At its core, it means money uninvested is money lost. It recognizes that a dollar today is worth more than a dollar years from now because of its accrued interest. Money changes in value, not only because of interest rates but also because of inflation or deflation."

  3. 3.

    Can you explain some tools you would use for inventory management?

      There is a slew of courses taught on inventory and supply chain management as a subset of industrial engineering, and there are also schools that teach both disciplines alone. Managing inventory is a large part of both, and you can discuss things like the bullwhip effect, the formulas and principles behind economic order quantities (EOQ), and warehouse visuals and organization. The sky's the limit here, so pick an area of warehousing and/or logistics and discuss what you know about inventory management in these cases.

      Holly's Answer

      "I used tools such as correct push-pull strategies and using an EDI system to place orders more frequently and lessen the cost of placing orders. They allowed me to tame the bullwhip effect at my last contract position."

  4. 4.

    Why was there a gap in your employment between these dates?

      Explaining gaps in employment to the interviewer is all about knowing what reasons to share and what ones you should not. Also, be upfront with your answer. One common answer that’s good in this circumstance would be, 'I was looking for a job and was being very selective in my job search.'

      That approach lets the interviewer know you were searching hard until you found the best fit, and it sounds loads better than saying, 'I’ve been searching everywhere for a year and could not find a single company that was interested in hiring me!'

      Other good reasons for employment gaps include:

      -Time taken off to relocate and find employment in a new state or city.
      -Caring for a sick member of the family or raising a young child.
      -Medical or health issues you encountered.
      -Taking time off to pursue further education or professional training.
      -Time off due to a layoff.

      Holly's Answer

      "I have been looking for a job and was being very selective in my job search."

  5. 5.

    Can you describe what you would do or have done when faced with an obstacle in an essential project?

      A lot of the answer is going to depend on the type of obstacle, but pick one and describe how you overcame it. For one thing, the preceding example is a good one, since always seeking advice from your senior when you encounter this type of unresolvable resistance is a good, recognized interview answer. For another, it let’s the interviewer know you aren’t perfect, and you recognized that you couldn’t overcome the problem on your own. In fact, by following this direction, you demonstrated to the interviewer how you can be diplomatic and a critical thinker when a crucial project needs to move forward.

      Holly's Answer

      "I once had an obstacle with a stakeholder when setting up a manufacturing cell with a new layout that streamlined processes. The resistance pretty much came from unclear goals and responsibilities within the team I approached. I knew it was important to not get emotional and complain since that could hurt future projects with this manager and his team. I approached it from every project management trick imaginable, but I finally had to realize that executive management, including the president of the company, were the only ones that could overcome the obstacles and move forward. Formal meetings then ensued to work it all out. The project was large-scale, and after that first experience, I made sure that we had stakeholder buy in and more experienced and prepared teams. After doing so each time, we never faced that obstacle again in the five years of transforming the manufacturing floor."

  6. 6.

    Explain how you have used critical thinking previously.

      The interviewer will want to see a real example of when you've used critical thinking in your work. These are those tough questions to think of an answer on the spot, so it's good to practice all of these scenario-based questions before your interview.

      Holly's Answer

      "I know that critical thinkers are focused on constantly engaging in upgrading their knowledge and engaging in independent self-learning. And I think this describes me to a tee. I’m like a sponge and always want to learn more. When the newest version of AutoCAD is released, I always read the update notes and view a comparison between the older version and the newer version."

  7. 7.

    Can you explain what is meant by Takt time, Cycle Time and Lead Time?

      In another interview question, we discussed how a pull system is considered by some to be superior to a push system in production. Likewise, managing a pull system isn’t possible without keeping a continuous flow of work going. It is important that an industrial engineer knows how to manage these big threes of the production system since they ensure that product comes off the end of the line as often as it should – which in turn, maintains optimal product flows and the pull system.

      Takt time is sometimes called the heartbeat of production in a lean production system so you will need to understand it and know the formula behind it in an interview. The same goes for cycle time and lead time, as both are important to manage production flows and forecasting requirements.

      Holly's Answer

      "Takt time is a customer demand calculation. It is defined as the production rate needed to finish an item and meet demand. For instance, if you receive a new order for a product every six hours, then the team needs to complete a product in six hours or under to meet customer requirements (orders). If a product takes longer to build than it’s Takt time, something must change, such as design, buffers, manpower, technology or tools used, etc. That’s where industrial engineering solutions come in. To calculate Takt time, you need to divide the Total Available Production Time by Average Customer Demand. Cycle time is the sum of the elapsed time it takes to transfer a unit of work from the start until the finish of a physical process. It is defined by the customer and the firm. Lead time, which is an essential part of the planning process, is defined as the time it takes to prepare and produce material and ship it to the customer. In other words, it is the initiation to completion of material in a production process."

  8. 8.

    Do you have to perform a task in order to understand how it works?

      This question posed by the interviewer is used for determining what type of learner you are. There are three main cognitive learning styles: auditory, kinesthetic and visual. Of the three learning styles, experts agree that visual learners do the best in engineering fields. Industrial engineers must often observe a process or procedure in order to understand it. Afterward, they will analyze it and approve it. Kinesthetic learners will most likely have the most trouble in this type of job since it is tactile learning – meaning the person learns by carrying out the physical activity, rather than watching demonstrations or listening to a lecture.

      You can start out by saying, 'I’m a kinesthetic learner' if you are. As you can probably tell, there might be an issue if you don’t explain that it’s not a hindrance. To get around this, say, I am normally a kinesthetic type of learner, but I overcame this tendency in college. In college, I had to learn other ways of conducting my studies since you can’t always learn by doing.'

      'Through my process of using industrial engineering tools, the process of observation, taking detailed notes, statistical analysis, and my experience, no one would ever know I’m a kinesthetic learner. In short, it’s not a hindrance at all.'

      Also, if you feel you're not the strongest in this area, a letter of recommendation from your current or former employer or college professor, that expands upon your knowledge and/or experience in process observation and continuous improvement, can speak volumes, too.

      Then again, if you know that there will be no issue at all, simply say, 'My track record on my resume speaks for itself, and I do not need to perform a task to understand how it works.'

      Holly's Answer

      "My track record on my resume speaks for itself, and I do not need to perform a task to understand how it works."

  9. 9.

    Can you tell me about your process of identifying and correcting flaws in production?

      This question drills down on critical thinking and problem-solving skills. You want to let the interviewer know that you are capable of doing this by answering,

      Holly's Answer

      "Initially I observe the current process and interview stakeholders to identify the problem using the 5 Whys. Then I identify the root cause using a Fishbone Diagram. Next, it’s on to Corrective Action Plan time, where I perform 'Plan -> Do -> Check -> Act -> otherwise known as the PDCA Cycle. Follow up is oftentimes an issue so I follow up later at a predetermined time to verify and validate that the production flaws are corrected."

  10. 10.

    Are You Willing to Travel or Relocate?

      It may be a sign of the times, but travel and relocation are almost always on the table for new jobs. This is especially true in industrial engineering, where a job may require you to travel to start up a sector of the company. In this role, you may be providing training, documentation, or any other requirements to get the new business sector off the ground.

      Be honest with the interviewer, but you should probe them for more details. The office, department, or even the whole organization may be moving in the near future, and that could be the reason behind this line of questioning.

      About the travel, you could say something such as, 'Off the cuff, I’m up for about 70 percent travel in this position, but can you give me more details about how much travel is involved with the position and where I will be traveling.'

      Regarding relocation, it is a difficult decision to make if you don’t have all the facts. As we mentioned previously, the entire department could be moving soon, and the position could initially or eventually wind up in another country. Relocation is a completely personal decision; however, keep in mind that a willingness to travel raises your stock. Find out more by asking the following, 'It is really hard to make an informed decision about relocation without knowing the details. Can you tell me more?'

      Holly's Answer

      "Off the cuff, I’m up for about 70 percent travel in this position, but can you give me more details about how much travel is involved with the position and where I will be traveling."

  11. 11.

    What are the 5 Whys, and why are they important?

      Remember when asking your parents why over and over was a bad thing? Well, later in life, it turns out that’s not so bad. Enter the 5 Whys, an important method that uses root cause analysis to determine what is causing production issues.

      Holly's Answer

      "The 5 Whys are an important part of lean problem solving and quality management. In practice, the first 1-3 Whys you ask about the cause of an issue don’t answer the root cause of the problem. To get to the bottom of it all, you have to ask 5 Whys. You’ll get to what’s truly behind the root cause of the issue as you get to the fourth and fifth Whys. Later when a countermeasure is realized, you follow it through to prevent the problem from happening again."

  12. 12.

    Can you explain the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic rewards? Which one is better?

      There have been many studies conducted on what motivates people to work toward achieving greatness. It’s tempting to say it’s always about money, but it isn’t. Explain their important differences by saying, 'Extrinsic rewards are financial rewards given to employees like bonuses, benefits, and pay raises. Intrinsic rewards are psychological rewards that workers get from performing meaningful work and doing it well. Intrinsic rewards align company goals and objectives with the sum of employees’ quality of life. They are better long-term since it has been proven that they foster and instill the desire for excellence, top performance and genuine engagement that advances work culture and the firm.'

      Holly's Answer

      "Extrinsic rewards are financial rewards given to employees like bonuses, benefits, and pay raises. Intrinsic rewards are psychological rewards that workers get from performing meaningful work and doing it well. Intrinsic rewards align company goals and objectives with the sum of employees’ quality of life. They are better long-term since it has been proven that they foster and instill the desire for excellence, top performance and genuine engagement that advances work culture and the firm."

  13. 13.

    What is your biggest weakness?

      Describing your biggest weakness sounds easy, doesn’t it? After all, you could answer that question by saying that sometimes you are a workaholic, something that can be viewed as a weakness and strength at the same time. And what boss doesn’t love that?

      However, your interviewer will see right through this type of answer, and it actually makes you seem unprepared – or even worse – calculating. Also, the manager over the position you’re applying for might want someone that values a work-life balance versus an employee that will quickly burn themselves out due to their tendency to overwork. You never know, and it’s best to be safe and forthcoming with your answer.

      Luckily, Internet job sites abound with listicles regarding the right kind of answer to this question – so familiarize yourself with them if you want to do well during this part of the interview.

      A few good sample answers can include 'I focus too much on the details' or 'I have a hard time letting go of a project.'

      Then, ask the interviewer if they would like you to explain how you overcame these weaknesses. Letting them know something really concrete that you’ve done to improve a weakness is impressive to an interviewer, also. An example, if you feel you need some work in the communication area, you could say, 'I’ve joined Toastmasters to constantly improve my communication skills. My colleagues and supervisors say the difference in my communication today vs. in the past is the difference between night and day.'

      Letting them know something really concrete that you’ve done to improve a weakness is impressive to an interviewer, also. For example, if you feel you need some work in the communication area, you could say, 'I’ve joined Toastmasters to constantly improve my communication skills. My colleagues and supervisors say the difference in my communication today vs. in the past is the difference between night and day.'

      Holly's Answer

      "I had to learn to start asking for feedback. I found out I wasn’t able to recognize my weakness of time management. After discussing it with them, I focused on the problem. The most effective actions I took to overcome my weakness included building buffers and learning how to prioritize better."

  14. 14.

    What do you like about being an industrial engineer?

      College gives industrial engineers a well-rounded education, and the field is broad and encompasses vast aspects of the industry. There is a lot to like when you are an engineer because of it. Meanwhile, you don’t need to respond with something such as, 'I like the money.' Of course, all of us like money, so don’t pigeonhole yourself with a shallow answer like that.

      Holly's Answer

      "I like a few things about engineering, mainly: I can work in a variety of fields and projects. That way, things stay new, and I will never get bored. Also, I can use mathematics, statistics, computer science, and other tools of the trade to help people make more informed decisions and profit. Lastly, It represents the best of business and engineering."

  15. 15.

    Can you tell me what total quality control (TQC) is? Also, tell me what standards are used in this practice?

      This is a technical question, and the interviewer wants you to define TQC and provide the relative information. It’s always best to answer technical interview questions as straightforward as you can with little to no embellishment, providing just enough information.

      Holly's Answer

      "TQC is designed to meet or exceed the customer’s expectations, and its main objective is to aggressively cut down or eliminate the occurrence of non-conforming products. This is accomplished by departments, managers and employees focusing on quality at every step of the process, resulting in products that are 100 percent free of defects once they roll off the end of the production line. Here, you focus on process verses inspection. The beauty in TQC is that the product only needs to be inspected at the very end. ISO Standards 9001 through 4 deals with varying aspects of the TQC process."

  16. 16.

    What problems are involved with queuing theory?

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  17. 17.

    What do you know about our (XYZ Company)?

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  18. 18.

    How do you manage large amounts of data and information?

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  19. 19.

    Why did you leave your past job?

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  20. 20.

    Where do you see yourself in five years?

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  21. 21.

    What project management tools do you use for remote teams?

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  22. 22.

    What is the difference between stress and pressure?

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  23. 23.

    Do you enjoy documentation?

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  24. 24.

    What does the standard deviation tell you?

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  25. 25.

    Can you explain Autofacturing?

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  26. 26.

    How would you do a time and motion study when you have little information about how long something would take to build?

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  27. 27.

    What can you tell me about a Warehouse Management Systems (WMS)?

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  28. 28.

    What metrics would you use to drive change?

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  29. 29.

    Can you tell me about other companies you are interviewing with?

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  30. 30.

    How do you handle being put on the spot in a meeting?

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  31. 31.

    In this position, you may be asked to eliminate or cut down on waste and make processes more efficient. Tell me about your background here, and what you might do to achieve this?

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  32. 32.

    Can you tell me what the seven quality tools are for process improvement?

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  33. 33.

    Do you have any questions for me?

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  34. 34.

    Describe a time when you made the workplace safer?

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  35. 35.

    Tell me about yourself.

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  36. 36.

    What are your salary expectations?

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  37. 37.

    Can you tell me the way you would optimize plant layout for the best results?

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  38. 38.

    Can you tell me the difference between a pull system and push system? If you can, which one is better.

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  39. 39.

    Can you explain the main methods for calculating costs when it comes to production environments?

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  40. 40.

    What is Productivity?

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  41. 41.

    What was your score on your NCEES Fundamentals of Engineering Exam?

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  42. 42.

    What is meant by the poisson process?

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  43. 43.

    What do you do to manage your time and stay on schedule?

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  44. 44.

    What resources do you utilize to keep abreast with the newest engineering tech and developments?

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  45. 45.

    Can you explain how you’ve brought an out of control process back into control?

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  46. 46.

    Can you tell me who W. Edward Deming was?

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  47. 47.

    What relevant experience do you have for the position?

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  48. 48.

    How important are statistics to Industrial Engineering?

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  49. 49.

    What is your experience preparing process flowcharts?

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  50. 50.

    Tell me about a time and motion study you have done. What did you learn from it?

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  51. 51.

    Can you describe projects you worked on and what you enjoyed and didn't enjoy about them?

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