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Insightful Interviews: Favorite Questions Asked by Engineering Managers

By: Leslie Stevens-Huffman

Some engineering mangers favor traditional ice-breakers like: “Tell me about yourself,” or “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” Others ask insightful questions to assess an engineering contractor’s cultural fit and their technical skills as well as their ability to handle a particular project during an interview.

“I never ask superficial questions,” says Dianna Sabo, manager of Project Engineering for Zodiac Seats U.S. LLC. “I ask about their frustrations with design and engineering, because the engineer’s answers help me determine whether they’re a good fit for our environment.”

We spoke with managers and reviewed actual interview questions posted by professionals on engineering blogs and sites like Glassdoor, EngineerJobs.com and Engineers World Online to assemble this collection. There are thousands of questions to choose from, so we hope you’ll share your favorites after reading our list.

Questions to Assess Cultural Fit

  • Describe your favorite engineering project and why you liked it.
  • Are you willing to work with hot fluids at over 300 degrees at dangerous pressures up to 5,000 psi?
  • What’s your favorite part of the project lifecycle?
  • Describe a stressful environment.
  • What single project is the most significant accomplishment in your contracting career, and why?
  • What motivates you to do your best?
  • What kind of person would you refuse to work with?
  • What qualities do you look for in a contract opportunity and an engineering firm?
  • What are some of the areas you would like to improve professionally?
  • Would you back-stab someone to get ahead?
  • Describe a time when you were in a group and had to overcome opposition.
  • Why should I hire you over other contractors?
  • What level of documentation are you willing to do as part of this project?

Questions to Assess Problem Solving Skills

  • How would you design a public library system?
  • How would you design a camera for a blind person?
  • Tell me about your greatest success in using logic to solve an engineering problem.
  • Describe an experience with a difficult client. How did you handle it?
  • How many ping pong balls fit into a 747?
  • How would people communicate in a perfect world?
  • Give me an example of a time when you applied analytical techniques to define problems or solutions.
  • If the project scope or a component is changed mid-stream, what actions do you take?

Questions to Assess Technical Knowledge

  • Here’s one of our products. Explain how we manufactured it.
  • How do you test a paper cup?
  • How does a computer work?
  • How would you test an aircraft radio?
  • What do you know about ARP 4754, DO-160, DO-178B and DO-254?
  • Do you have experience in IMA platform systems?”
  • What is the resulting tension on a pacemaker lead if someone knocked the pacemaker off a table but managed to hold onto the lead attached to the pacemaker?
  • What design tools are you familiar with?
  • What is the most technical job you’ve performed?
  • Can you comment critically on a programming language?
  • Describe how a thermocouple works.
  • What checks and balances do you use to limit mistakes?
  • Using the components of a pen, if you could make another item, what would you make?

“I ask candidates if they’re familiar with geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T) because we use that system,” says Sabo. “Then, I pick their brains about how they’ve used it, to see how much they know. You can learn a lot about a candidate by asking insightful questions and listening carefully to their answers.”

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