By: Leslie Stevens-Huffman
At some point during an interview, the engineering manager is bound to ask: “Do you have any questions for me?” This is your opportunity to showcase your motivation and cultural fit, and to prove that you’re ready to contribute from day one.
Wouldn’t it be helpful to know what engineering managers really want you to ask? We caught up with a few managers who shared these examples of questions they wish you would ask them during a job interview.
“What I really wish engineers would ask about would be what I like about working at my company – what really gets me out of bed in the morning to come into the office,” explained Pat Sweet, a product manager at Bombardier Transportation and blogger, who responded to our questions via email.
“I’d also like to hear questions about office culture,” he added. “Even better, I’d love it if candidates asked to have a real work preview, so that they can actually see what the work is really like before any decisions are made in the hiring process.”
Sweet wants engineers to consider whether the environment and culture align with their own values and interests before making a commitment – and he’s not alone. In a recent survey, some 65 percent of engineering managers said that cultural fit is important when evaluating professionals for contract or full-time positions. More importantly, 58 percent say they listen to the candidate’s questions to gauge their suitability. Here are a few more questions you could ask to explore your cultural fit.
- – How would you describe your management style?
- – From your perspective, what are the strengths and weaknesses of this firm?
- – What’s your internal communication style?
- – How does your firm view contractors?
- – Is risk-taking encouraged? How does your firm deal with failure?
- – How do you celebrate successes – and when was the last time you celebrated?
- – How do you balance deadlines with innovation and quality?
- – What are the key organizational values and principles that I should pay attention to?
While you don’t want to seem overly confident during an interview, engineering managers like it when you think and act like a member of the team who can contribute from the outset. Posing impact questions shows that you’re thinking about how you are going to use your skills and knowledge to solve engineering problems – and that you’re ready and willing to step into the driver’s seat. FYI, a sense of personal responsibility was cited as a key attribute by 79 percent of the engineering managers in the survey. Some questions you might ask include the following.
- – How does this role and project contribute to the firm’s larger goals?
- – What is the largest problem facing the current team that needs to be addressed immediately?
- – I think I could help your team with that problem. Tell me more about what they’re already doing to fix it.
- – What types of skills and expertise are you looking to fill with a contract engineer?
- – What are some of the challenges or roadblocks I might encounter?
- – If you hire me, what would your top priorities be for me?
It doesn’t matter how many engineering teams you’ve worked on, to succeed, you’ve got to learn new rules and assimilate smoothly. Managers want you to ask questions about the structure and personalities on the team you’ll be joining. It shows that you are willing to respect their rules and adapt as necessary to foster productive working relationships. Some questions to ask include:
- – How can I make sure that I get off on the right foot with my teammates?
- – How often does the team meet and how do they prefer to communicate?
- – How would you describe the team chemistry and dynamics? Who are the key players?
- – With whom will I be working most closely?
- – What will be my role on the team?
- – What other tips would you offer me?
Putting yourself in the engineering manager’s shoes is the best way to come up with insightful questions that show preparation and forethought. Perhaps most importantly, asking the right questions can separate you from other engineering candidates.
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