5 Tricky Engineering Job Interview Questions

February 6, 2017

Going through an engineering job interview process when applying for any engineering job is a requirement. It is through this process that a candidate is assessed whether he or she is fit for that job or not. That’s why a lot of the engineering job interview questions you’ve encountered or will encounter are often directed toward knowing you. They are often tricky and they will test your perspectives on things like promotions, salary or vacation leaves to name a few. And of course, the job interview tests your skills as well, at least based on your answers.

[Image Source: Pixabay]

There are a lot of tricky job interview questions and we’ve listed five that are often asked in any engineering job interview.

1. Tell me something about yourself.

Among all engineering job interviews questions, this is often the first question asked. Can you remember what your answer was to this question?

Often, this question’s purpose is not to talk about your personal life and past achievements, but to talk about how you see yourself and what your future vision is. It is more about why you want to be in the position you are applying for rather than your background’s relevance to the position.

Some interviewers use this question to make the first connection. Through your answers to this question, interviewers can determine your level of confidence and your communication skills. As well as your intentions.

So how should you respond to this question if you’re an engineer?

Instead of talking about yourself, your skills and related work experiences, focus on talking about them, their products and services and share your ideas on how you can help them grow their business or further develop their product. Remember that your skills and experiences are on your resume, so you don’t need to repeat what they already know. I mean, that’s why they invited you to the job interview; they already know you have the basic knowledge and experience to do the job, and instead they would like to know why you’ve chosen the field of work you are now applying for, and why you want to work for them.

Remember not to beat around the bush. Answering this question doesn’t have to take too long so be direct and polite. Use the START Method as your guideline.

2. What are your weaknesses?

A tricky job interview question! And certainly, it’s not only an engineering job interview question. You wouldn’t want to be talking about your flaws in front of the interviewer, right? You would prefer talking about your strengths to impress him/her so you can get that engineering job. But this is one of those questions that always pops up in interviews, and you absolutely must answer it. We are all human beings, and we all have flaws.

So what’s the point of this? Why are interviewers asking this question? Don’t they want someone to pass the job interview and get the position? Yes, they do; this question is aimed to figure out if we are self-aware, or we’re just self-centered.

This interview question will help employers select the best candidates with the right mindset and personality. This question helps them find out if the candidate can admit a weakness. But admitting a weakness alone is not enough. If you are the candidate and you admitted a weakness in time management, you will fail!

So what is the right thing to say?

Well, the best way to answer this question is to talk about a weakness that you know you can eliminate soon, let’s say by practice and repetition. What do I mean exactly? I’m saying you should always mention a weakness that is a ‘hard skill’ and not a ‘soft skill.’

Here’s an example, you could say:

My weakness is that I am a workaholic. I feel my day is not complete without checking off all stuff that is on my to-do list. But I’m sure I can turn this weakness into a strength. I can use my being workaholic to ensure all my work for the day is complete before I leave the office.

And that would be a terrible answer!

Here’s a much better, logical and straight-forward answer:

I understand that you’re ideally seeking a candidate who has five years of experience in designing 2D & 3D parts in AutoCAD. I only have three years of direct experience in this area. However, I’ve always been able to meet all design specs and submit my designs on time. I’ve been designing such parts using other software as well.

Keep your answer focused on a technical skill that you don’t quite have, however you can learn.

During job interviews when you are asked a question about your weaknesses, your job is to demonstrate your technical knowledge and to provide examples to prove your point.

Once again, your answer to this question should be a hard skill (which is tangible and can be learned). If or when you choose to include a soft skill as your response, the employer would  know that it is tough for you to change; as it is tough for anyone to change their personality, behavior and or approach to workplace or life.

I understand this might still be vague and difficult to comprehend. So feel free to reach out to me directly, and I’ll give you some more ideas that match your professional experience and the jobs you’re interviewing for.

3. Describe yourself in one word?

This question will help an interviewer see how you perceive yourself in one word. It will help them assess your personality type. This often comes with follow up questions so choose the best one-word description of yourself.

Here are five words that I use to describe myself: Assertive, Confident, Driven, Optimistic, Passionate.

Remember that you must be comfortable with promoting your best self. You should be confident in selling your skills. If you don’t feel right saying good things about yourself, why should anyone else?

I recommend taking this Personality Assessment Test.

I also recommend this book; it will help you figure out and understand your personality archetype and which one words will describe you the best. The book is called: How the World Sees You: Discover Your Highest Value through the Science of Fascination, Written by: Sally Hogshead (You can quickly purchase and download the audio version.

4. Why did you leave your last position?

Hiring managers or interviewers ask this question to know if the reason you left your last position was of your doing. They want to make sure you are someone they can trust. The best way to answer this question is to be honest, clear, and transparent.

Never try to lie about what happened. Not even a white lie. A lie is a lie, and the interviewers will most likely know right away that you’re a liar. And even if you manage to fool them there and then, they’ll find out exactly what happened to you while speaking to your references, before they give you an offer of employment.

Honesty is the most attractive characteristic any person can have. Honesty creates an impression of trust. When you trust someone, you’ll know that even if that person makes a mistake, they’ll come forward and be honest about it. Especially if you’re an engineer, any possible mistakes you make on an engineering job could be a dangerous one. And mistakes are reasonable too; no one gets everything right the first time. We make mistakes, we learn from them and those lessons we learned help us create a new solution.

So how can you answer that question?

Write down exactly why you left and then consult someone who can evaluate your answer before you go to any engineering job interview. You’re ought to see and hear your answer from the interviewer’s side. What you say is important, but many times what is more important is how you say it. Do I believe you or not? And how’s your body language when you’re answering the question? Does it look like you’re comfortable with your answer or not?

To get a better understanding of communication, learn more about UCLA Professor of Psychology Albert Mehrabian who studied the importance of communication.

5. How do you deal with pressure or stressful situations?

We know just sitting there to answer these engineering job interview questions are stressful. This particular question is a tricky one for engineers, because they are often faced with tough deadlines to finish a task and mostly tasks that can create tragic results if done wrong. Remember the fact that mistakes are ok and occur often. This question is asked to see how well you deal with different situations. It’s a test of attitude.

What would you do if you are under pressure? Will you pull back when you are under pressure or will you push forward to find a solution? Will you create havoc or will you be part of the team? Will you give up after a few tries or will you be obsessed with finding the answer?

The best way to respond to this question is to display your confidence assertively. Look directly into their eye and say:

I don’t ever give up. I’ve been under pressure a lot, and I’ve never given up. I’m obsessed with finding a solution regardless of how much time it takes.

Be Obsessed or Be Average. That is the title of a book by Grant Cardone, that I highly recommend you read to develop a thick skin and mental toughness required to reach the highest level in your career.

These are five tricky questions often asked during engineering job interviews. As a candidate, an engineer or not, you must always be prepared. Wear that confident smile and answer wisely.

About The Contributing Author:

Nader Mowlaee is an Electronics Engineer, Engineering Career Coach & Life Coach who’s inspired by Motivating Confidence in Engineers and helping them reach their career goals. Reach out and connect with him on Linkedin or Facebook if you want a deeper awareness of how to answer interview questions authentically so you can experience more fulfillment and succeed in more engineering job interviews.

Engineering Job Interview Questions


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