So, you've graduated and applied for a role at an engineering firm or for an engineering graduate scheme, and they've given you an interview, but what should you expect from an engineering interview? And how do you prepare for one?
Depending on the role you’ve applied for there may be several steps to the interview process, such as:
Telephone interview – this is often used as a preliminary screening process, and in a large company, this may be conducted by a member of the HR team. However, in a smaller firm, your potential manager or the business owner may conduct the phone interview.
Video interview – some engineering companies may use a video interview instead of a telephone interview as a screening process, especially if the role is abroad or if you live some distance away from their offices.
Face-to-face interview – depending on the role, a face-to-face interview may be the last step of the process or the first. Not every engineering organisation will start with a telephone or video interview. A face-to-face interview might be with an individual or a panel of people, which could include someone from HR, a technical engineer, the manager for the role and, in some cases, even the business owner. When you attend a face-to-face interview, you may be asked to do an assessment, which might include technical questions as well as testing your writing and maths ability.
Technical interview – depending on the job you've applied for; you may be asked to do a separate technical interview. Typically, at least one experienced engineer will be present for this, or it may even include a panel of engineers. The idea behind this interview is to get a handle on your technical abilities and experience.
Before you go into any type of interview, ensure you have done your research on the company you are interviewing with. Take a look on their website, read the company's ‘about us’ page and take a look at any case studies or key projects you can find. Also, research the organisation's size and take a look at their blog or LinkedIn page for the latest company news. As a last-minute reminder, just before the start of the interview, make sure you read over the job description again, so it's fresh in your mind.
General engineering graduate interview questions
Whatever type of engineering you do, you may find that there are a series of common questions that you can expect to be asked. Below are a number of typical engineering graduate questions that your interviewer may ask during the course of the interview. Don’t rely on these examples alone to prepare for your interview as they can vary.
Why should we employ you?
What the recruiter is really asking here is ‘why are you the best fit for the role?' Make sure you're familiar with the job description and know what they are looking for in terms of skills and experience and demonstrate to them, with examples to back you up, why you are the ‘best fit'.
What interests you about the role?
With this question, what the employer is really asking is ‘how much do you know about this graduate engineering job.' This is where your research will come into its own. Pinpoint the aspects of the job that appeals to you the most. You can also talk about past and current projects you know that the company have been involved in that interest you. Remember to tie this into your own skills and experience.
Why have you chosen to apply to us?
The engineering recruiter may ask this question to establish what you know about the company; do you really want to work for them? It may also help them get a feel for how well you will fit into the culture of the company, as well as showing an understanding of how your skills relate to what they do. This is another question where any previous company research you have done will help. If relevant, mention one or two of their key projects, show that you share the firm’s values and link it back to your own experience and skills.
What do you enjoy most/least about engineering?
What your interviewer is trying to establish with this question is your general attitude towards work. The best way to tackle this sometimes-tricky question is to talk about what part of your engineering degree you enjoyed best. Or, if you did a year in industry, talk about what you enjoyed most and least about that role. When speaking about your favourite parts, make sure you are being honest, as your passion will show in your voice. When detailing what you enjoyed least, tell the interviewer why you found it difficult or didn’t like it, explain how you overcame this. Try and turn it into a positive.
What personal characteristics do you feel are necessary to be a successful engineer?
With this question, the interviewer is trying to get a feel for your character. The best way to answer this question is to pick three or four characteristics and explain why you think they relate closely to the role. You can also describe how someone you have worked with or one of your lecturers displayed these qualities and how you’ve learned from their example.
What new engineering speciality skills have you developed during the past year?
This is a question you may be asked to determine how proactive you are when it comes to learning new skills. Answer this question by detailing any skills you may have picked up during university or since you have graduated. Explain how you’ve obtained them and talk up your willingness to learn.
What would you consider to be your greatest success in using your skills to solve an engineering problem?
This is a two-pronged question; the interviewer is trying to establish how you apply your problem-solving abilities and how you approach your successes. With this question, it is best to draw on a specific example – whether that’s a project at university, one you worked on during a year in industry, on a summer programme, or a personal engineering project you've been working on.
Technical interview questions
Your technical expertise and your ability to problem solve are central to many graduate engineering jobs. This means that as part of the interview process you may have to do a technical interview. Depending on the organisation, you maybe ask technical questions as part of your general face-to-face interview or you may have a separate technical interview. The process may also include a test, or you may have been asked to prepare a presentation beforehand.
Technical interviews are there to test your knowledge and how well you can explain technical concepts and the principles of engineering. One way an interviewer may do this is to get you to explain a complex technical concept as though you are explaining it to a child or to someone who knows nothing about that concept. Another way you may be asked to display your technical know-how is by being given an engineering drawing of a product that the company sells, and they may ask you to explain its components and operation.
Whatever you are asked to talk about in your interview, ensure you avoid the use of jargon and acronyms and always bring it back to your experience and contributions to any team effort you've been a part of.
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