Job interviews can be nerve-wracking, especially for engineers. As in other complex, high-tech industries, your prospective employers aren’t just gauging your professionalism and work ethic; they’re carefully analyzing your technical skills and problem-solving abilities.
Fortunately, engineering interviews do have some similarities from one company to the next, and most hiring managers ask the similar key questions. By preparing ahead of time, you can make sure that even if you’re nervous, your qualifications and enthusiasm for the job come through crystal clear. If you have an upcoming interview (or several), keep the following tips to help engineers prepare for a job interview in mind.
Brush Up on Tech Talk
As an engineer, your technical knowledge sets you apart from other professionals. If you’re interviewing for your first job, your depth of knowledge also will set you apart from other recent graduates. If you just finished your degree — or even if you have a great deal of experience — it’s important to prepare for the job-specific questions your interviewer may ask. Don’t assume that you’ll learn everything important on the job.
Know Your Value
What unique skills do you bring to the table? What experiences have shaped you into the engineer you are today? What other factors make you the ideal candidate for the job? These questions take some serious thought, but you won’t have time to ponder during an interview. Almost every interviewer will ask these types of questions, so consider your responses ahead of time.
Think About Your Weaknesses
Likewise, know your weaknesses and how to frame them. Hiring managers know nobody is perfect, and the way you discuss your shortcomings says a great deal about your character and values. If you can talk about your shortcomings and your plans to improve, you’ll demonstrate a level of introspection and commitment that will set you apart from other applicants.
“Tell me about a time when you solved a challenging problem.” Sound familiar? You’re guaranteed to hear at least one of those types of questions, and the way you answer it is far more important than the story itself. Think of a few different situations during the course of your professional career and education, and consider the ways those situations helped you grow personally and professionally. Write them down if it helps you remember.
Demonstrate Enthusiasm for Your Field
What made you want to be an engineer in the first place? Why do you like the field now? This is a hard industry to learn and master, and most engineers are motivated not just by money, but by personal interests in technology, math and problem-solving. Know your reasons for becoming an engineer, and prepare a narrative that shows off your enthusiasm.
Research the Company
You can show off your skills and explain why you became an engineer. Can you discuss your reasons for applying for a specific job? Better yet, can you talk about the specific roles you’ll fill within the company, the projects you’d like to work on and the issues that may influence your job? In-depth research allows you to be far more specific as you pitch your skills and strengths, and it demonstrates your work ethic and attention to detail — critical attributes for any engineer. In fact, many interviewers will refer to specific departments, projects and personnel within their companies, expecting you to have done your homework.
Create a Follow-Up Plan
Finally, follow-up is an important part of any interview process. Sending a personalized thank-you note to an interviewer is standard practice, and if you’re a fresh college graduate with little to no industry experience, it’s an absolute must. Creating a follow-up plan ahead of time will keep you on track, especially if you’re interviewing for multiple jobs. Have a basic template for personalized messages, as well as a timeline and process for mailing or emailing.