The interviewer is almost as nervous as the candidate in most interviews. You might wonder if you look confident enough, if you will hire the right person, or if you are asking the right engineering interview questions. The last question is arguably the most crucial part to worry about when you’re interviewing candidates.
The best engineering interview questions to ask candidates should be questions that reveal they have the skills required for the job. If you need a problem solver, ask questions about past experiences. If they need to have a specific skill set, ask them directly about their skills.
There are six major branches of engineering which include Electrical, Mechanical, Civil, Management, Geotechnical, and Chemical with many different subcategories under each main branch of engineering such as Structural or Biomedical engineering.
This article will get into the top engineering interview questions to ask candidates, eight types of interview questions, how to choose the questions you ask, and then will list excellent questions you can choose from. Let’s jump right in.
Top 11 Engineering Interview Questions to Ask Candidates
- What do you enjoy most about being an engineer?
- What was your very first engineering design?
- What is your favorite CAD design software and why?
- Have you developed any new engineering skills recently?
- What is the most important skill for an engineer?
- What are the most important qualities for an engineer to have?
- Explain what makes an effective engineer in your eyes.
- Tell me about a recent engineering problem you solved.
- Have you ever made a big engineering mistake at work?
- Have you ever been unable to solve an engineering problem?
- Tell me about an engineering problem you successfully solved that required outside the box thinking.
Types of Interview Questions for Engineers
There are eight types of questions you can ask candidates in an interview. They each have their own purpose and will reveal something specific about the candidate.
- Behavioral. These questions show how the candidate acted in a situation in the past so you can make judgments about how they might act in the future. You can ask them something such as, “Can you tell me how you…?” You can ask them how they handled a situation or completed a task.
- Brainteaser. Brainteasers cause the candidate to think quickly and are usually mathematical questions. Complex brain teasers can show you who has excellent mathematical capabilities and who falls short.
- Case. These are problem-solving questions that will make the candidate analyze the situation quickly.
- Competency. These questions reveal the candidate’s competency, including communication skills, leadership, confidence, and flexibility, to name a few. You can ask them directly about one of these skills (“How have you demonstrated flexibility in the workplace?”) or make it a little more abstract (“Tell me about a time you step out of your comfort zone”).
- Credential Verification. Credential verification relates to the candidate’s resume. They’re questions about GPA, previous jobs, and other credentials they have provided.
- Experience Verification. These are similar to the credential verification questions, but, instead of asking about jobs and grades, you’re asking what they did in those jobs or how they earned those grades. You can ask, “What did these classes teach you?” or “What did you do in this job?”
- Nonsense. You may or may not like asking silly questions, but they can reveal that the candidate is a free thinker, capable of thinking outside of what they rehearsed before the interview. Questions range from “What is your favorite type of animal?” to “If you had a superpower, what would it be?” or anything in between. They might throw your candidate off guard, but this can show you if they’re prepared for sudden changes.
- Opinion. Opinion questions include “What is your greatest strength?” and “How would you respond to this situation?” They give the candidate a chance to subjectively show themselves to you to convince you why they’re perfect for the job.
How to Choose Your Interview Questions
It can be overwhelming to choose which questions to ask potential candidates. You only have so much time with each person, so you need to find out enough specific things about the person to make a judgment call about them.
To decide what to ask, think about what you need to find out about the candidate, and what you need to ask in order to find it out.
- What kind of person do you need? Do you need a creative thinker who can adapt to any situation? Brainteaser, nonsense, and case questions might be helpful.
- What traits would the ideal candidate have? Imagine the perfect employee. Are they a leader? Flexible? Do they show up on time? Ask questions that will prove that the candidate has these ideal qualities.
- What questions would reveal useful answers? Don’t choose a question if you don’t understand how it will show a helpful response. If you don’t think, “What beverage best describes you?” will be useful, then don’t ask it. If the candidate’s resume shows that they have been out of college for a few years, asking about their GPA might not be useful, either.
Engineering Interview Questions
Here is a list of excellent questions to ask your engineering candidates. Since there are six branches of engineering and hundreds of subcategories stemming from each branch, not every question will apply to your situation; however, they should be able to point you in the right direction.
General Interview Questions
General interview questions are a great way to get to know your candidate. They can be experience or credential verification questions, opinion questions, or even nonsense questions.
Some great questions to ask are:
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- What would you do differently if you could redo the last five years?
- How would your friends (family, coworkers, professors) describe you?
- What are your greatest strengths/weaknesses?
- What do you do when you fail?
- What makes you the perfect candidate for this job?
- Tell me something interesting about yourself.
- How do you spend your free time?
Branch-Specific Engineering Interview Questions
These questions are critical for finding the right person for the job. They’ll vary greatly depending on your branch of engineering and the position you’re looking to fill. When choosing specific questions, consider the specifics of the job that the candidate will need to know.
Questions to ask:
- Why did you choose to study [engineering branch]?
- Why do you want this position?
- What was your first ever design?
- Have you ever considered working in a different engineering branch?
- How did you respond to a problem when working in [branch-specific situation]?
Hard Skill Engineering Interview Questions
Hard skills are the skills that can be learned in a classroom or by practice. In engineering, hard skills are necessary. Asking questions about what hard skills the interviewee has can help you find the right person for the job.
When asking these questions, be specific about the hard skills. If you’re doing interviews to find a software engineer, ask questions directly about programming languages or specific codes.
- What skills have you recently learned?
- Tell me about a time you failed (or succeeded) with [skill].
- What skills would you like to improve?
- What will be the most challenging part of this job for you?
- What is the best project you’ve worked on?
Soft Skill Engineering Interview Questions
Soft skills are the “people skills” many employers want their employees to have. Leadership, problem-solving, and teamwork are among the long list of soft skills you probably want your employees to have.
Competency, behavioral, and even nonsense questions can show you whether the candidate has the skills you’re looking for.
Questions to ask include:
- Tell me about a time you solved a work conflict.
- Are you an organized person?
- How do you deal with difficult coworkers/clients?
- Do you consider yourself to be a nice person?
- How would you fire someone?
- What color describes you?
When interviewing candidates, it’s important to think about the type of person you’re looking to hire. They need to be able to complete the tasks the position will require. Your job as an interviewer is to find out if the candidate meets the requirements.
Don’t stick to general questions that can be asked at any job. Tailor the questions to the job position. Ask engineering interview questions that will reveal what the candidate knows about the work, what skills they have, and whether or not they are a people person.
If you need someone who is quick on their feet, ask “strange” questions that they aren’t expecting so they can show you that they’re easily adaptable.