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Engineering the perfect job interview

by Stephen Montague

job interview

Many of the greatest inventions and technologies around the globe have been created by engineers who bring keen focus to developing solutions for everyday, routine problems.

In the competitive world of job search however, even the best engineers can come unstuck when considering techniques for making an impression beyond technical proficiency.

Recruitment consultants hiring for engineering roles expect you to be precise and detailed oriented; it goes with the territory. So re-work the obvious approach and make more impact by highlighting your “soft skills” - communication, creativity and team spirit - and making them relevant. Here’s how.

Research

First, do plenty of research about your prospective new company ahead of time. Bring your big-picture engineering vision to this task by considering the current issues they may be facing, the problems they are trying to solve and the impacts for their end users. This will help you bring the relevant context to your experience and job-fit in relation to the role.

Good research will also go a long way to helping the interviewer connect with your achievements and suitability for the role. Recruiters want to see that you are interested enough in the position to learn about the company, its values, mission and goals.

Relevance

With almost 40% of qualified engineers in Australia employed in a range of alternate occupations where analytical and problem solving ability is also required, it shouldn’t be too challenging for you to bring laser focus to the information you present in your interview.  As long as you make it relevant to the role or company you are interviewing for of course.

Being ‘relevant’ in your interview starts with knowing your resume thoroughly. It never sounds convincing hearing someone struggle for answers to questions about their experiences, projects or achievements, or worse contradictions with your resume.

Whether you’re explaining implementation of the most complex project details, demonstrating an example of how you foresaw an industry trend or describing the learning outcomes of an advanced degree you completed, know your cv and practice the delivery beforehand.

The business and technology landscape is changing rapidly, and, within that the skill sets of engineers. Recruiters want to see that you are willing, able and have the current aptitude to work in highly innovative environments.

If you are a professional engineer share your ability to lead teams in an innovative and creative way.  Show you are sustainability minded with new and existing technologies in design if you work as an engineering technologist. Highlight your support of teamwork and agile engineering principles for those of you in an engineering associate role.

Relationships

Beyond strong project skills, logical thinking and creativity, there are other qualities and attributes you will be expected to demonstrate in an interview environment.

Team collaboration is an essential part of successful teams and prospective employers want to know that their shortlisted candidates have demonstrated examples of when and how they have collaborated with other engineers and department stakeholders in their work.

“Candidates need to be able to demonstrate that they can partner with stakeholders and deliver on projects within operational environments. From a stakeholder perspective this often involves working closely with shop floor personnel as well as site leadership and they need to be able to communicate effectively at both of those levels.”

Roles for engineers working in a manufacturing environment in particular, require “soft skills” including strong communication and an inclusive solutions-based approach. You may not have thought about this impact, but yes, cohesive people oriented leadership is essential for engineers in all disciplines to effectively deliver productivity growth.

Limit jargon

Many disciplines of engineering come with an excess of jargon. Sometimes, all that science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) knowledge may stifle a clear, succinct and confident interview delivery.

The point is, in this situation, you are not solving a complex problem; but you should definitely be able to discuss the ways you have, and would approach doing so. Your answers don’t need to come with high tech bells or whistles, but do consider and practice how you can effectively describe, to a broad range of interviewers, the great work you have done.

“Engineers are traditionally measured and methodical in their approach to interviews. An area for development would be around selling their experience the right way.”

Of course, in interview situations, it's easy to feel stressed/nervous. The great thing about being an engineer is that you are expert at being fairly even tempered under pressure, right?

So focus on taking the interviewer through examples of your project delivery - these might include continuous improvement initiatives, stakeholder management and tangible achievements that bring their examples to life. Use these questions to come up with a great starting point:

  1. What personal characteristics does it take to be a successful engineer?
  2. Thinking about your existing job, how could you describe successfully solving an engineering problem using the principles of logic?
  3. What are the things that you spend most time on in your current engineering role and why is it important?
  4. Can you describe a time you were faced with a problem that put your engineering know-how to the absolute test?
  5. Is there an example you can share that demonstrates your method of effectively communicating project priorities and deadlines with other teams?
  6. If you joined the company you're interviewing for, what initiatives you would hope to start during the first six months on the job?

 

For more interview advice, get in touch with Stephen Montague (02) 8024 7144.