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How to Answer the Toughest Engineering Interview Questions with Confidence

Got an engineering interview coming up? Wondering what questions you’ll be asked?

Not to worry, I’ve got you covered. ☺

How does an engineering interview differ from other interviews? Sometimes an engineering interview may require you to take tests, solve engineering problems or give a presentation.

Nearly all of the engineering interviews I’ve had were behavior and/or situation based interviews. You can answer these questions using the STAR method. STAR stands for Situation, Action or Task and Results.

How to Answer the Toughest Engineering Interview Questions with Confidence | Thriving Ambition

To break this down further, the interviewer is looking for:

Situation: Tell me what happened? Describe the situation.

Task/ Action: What did you do in this situation?

Results: How did you resolve the problem? Why was this significant?

Think about it. When you tell a story or describe a situation, you tend to naturally speak in this pattern without realizing it.

In addition to using the STAR method, I like to add an “L” to the end.

Learned: What did you learn from this situation?”

I started incorporating this STAR-L method into my interviewing style in 2013, when I was an entry-level engineer at Boeing. I applied to be a part of a highly sought out 3-year career and leadership development program called LEAP.

For the interview portion, I asked my manager and a Technical Fellow for a mock interview.  (A Technical Fellow is an individual who serves as the engineering authority of their domain. They often resolve difficult engineering problems company-wide.)

After the interview, I asked for feedback. The Technical Fellow suggested that I tell the interviewers what I learned from the situation. This will show them that I’m introspective and I’m serious about growing professionally. It was a great idea, and I’ve used it ever since!

It’s easy to incorporate once you use it few times.

How to Answer the Toughest Engineering Interview Questions with Confidence | Thriving Ambition

To help you prepare, I’ve gathered interviewing questions that I’ve been asked as an engineering candidate and a few I’ve asked as an engineering hiring manager.

20 Sample Engineering Interview Questions:

  1. Tell me about your experience in this industry/field.
  2. How has your experience prepared you for this position?
  3. What do you know about [the engineering discipline you’re interviewing for]?
  4. Tell me about a time you faced a difficult technical problem. How did you go about resolving it?
  5. What kind of problems are you looking to solve? Why are you interested in this position?
  6. How did you build a relationship with your team? How do you get your team members to trust you?
  7. If you were faced with an ethical issue (involving yourself or a coworker) how would you handle it?
  8. If you were faced with a lull in work, what would you do to prevent boredom?
  9. How do you balance competing priorities?
  10. Why do you want to work in this industry?
  11. Tell me about a time you had a difficult customer. How did you handle the situation?
  12. What are you doing to stay current on trends in this industry?
  13. Tell me about a time you went “above and beyond” or over delivered for your customer?
  14. What are your strengths in [the engineering discipline you’re interviewing for]?
  15. Tell me about a time you had to make a decision that affected the team. What was the situation and what did you do?
  16. How soon can you start work?
  17. Tell me about a time you faced a tight deadline, what was the situation and what did you do to meet the deadline?
  18. What is your desired starting salary?
  19. Can you tell me about a time you were criticized for a decision you made? How did you handle it?
  20. Do you have any questions for us? (Hint: You should ALWAYS have questions for the interviewers.)

A lot of engineers and scientists fall into the trap of believing the interview is based on technical ability alone.

Thriving Ambition | STEM Career Coaching How to Answer the Toughest Engineering Interview Questions with Confidence

As a STEM career coach, I’ve heard, “I have a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering and have worked on many R&D projects. The job description was a PERFECT fit for my background. Why didn’t I get the job?”

I tend to remind clients that credentials will only get you to the interview; it won’t get you the job. From there, we’ll plan a strategy to help them to be successful next time.

Interviewers are looking for:

  • Communication – Speak clearly and to the point.
  • Teamwork – Your ability to work with people.
  • Leadership – Not afraid to speak up and do what’s right even when it’s an unpopular idea.
  • Analytical Thinking – Creative problem and solving.

A few things to leave out of your engineering interview:

  • Case studies. We can learn a lot from case studies when researching a topic. In an interview, if you’re asked a question about a situation you’ve never encountered, tell the interviewer what you would do in the situation.
  • Technical jargon and acronyms. Briefly define the technical jargon or acronyms. Don’t assume your interview panel knows what you’re talking about.

In summary, using the STAR-L method and being prepared with answers to some essential interviewing questions will help you ace your next engineering interview!

Stand out in your engineering interview with these additional resources:

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