10 Essential Engineering Interview Questions and Answers

Updated: June 18, 2023

After reading this article, you’ll:

  • Grasp the importance of preparation for an engineering job interview, and recognize the value of providing specific, detailed responses using examples from your educational and professional experiences.
  • Understand the balance between technical knowledge and behavioral skills in engineering interviews, and be better equipped to handle both types of questions effectively.
  • Gain a comprehensive understanding of potential interview questions, ranging from discussing previous projects and future goals to dealing with challenges and demonstrating ongoing professional development.

For problem solvers and fixers, a career in engineering offers daily opportunities to analyze, design, install, and test products and systems. While much of your day will be spent behind the computer (or the drafting table), you’ll first need to polish your interview skills to land your dream job. Once you’ve crafted a perfect resume and cover letter, ace your engineering interview with these 10 essential engineering interview questions and answers. Remember to practice these before your interview time.

1. Tell me about a time when a project or assignment didn’t go as planned. How would you approach the situation differently in the future?

This behavioral interview question serves a dual purpose. First, a good engineer can solve (almost) any problem, and your interviewer is trying to understand your approach to problem solving. Second, they’re checking that you learn and grow from your mistakes. In your response, share a specific example that demonstrates your ability to bounce back when things go wrong:

“Last semester, I had a group project that took about six weeks. We agreed to divide and conquer, so we were all working independently. Around week four, we finally met up, and quickly realized that one of the group members was not pulling his weight. In fact, he’d done practically nothing. I took charge and emailed the group to set up another meeting to discuss the issue. Ultimately, that person dropped the course, but by addressing the problem head-on, the group was able to divvy up the remaining work and complete the project on-time—but it came with a lot of stress and long nights. If I could do it again, I would schedule weekly check-ins with the group to assess our progress and ensure the project was on-track—and I’ve done that with all group projects since.”

2. What do you enjoy most and least about engineering?

Your interviewer is human and knows that no job is perfect. Every role, and every industry, has some more- and less-desirable components, so be honest in your response. When you pick your least-favorite activity, try to choose something that’s not a core responsibility of the job, and remain enthusiastic throughout.

“I really love the design work in engineering, the face-to-face interaction with clients, and the opportunity to see projects come to life. If I had to pick one thing that I don’t enjoy as much, I would have to say it’s preparing contracts. Still, I appreciate that contract preparation ensures that I get to do all the things I do love.”

3. Where do you see yourself five years from now?

Your new employer is going to invest a lot of time and money in your training and development, so they really want you to stick around. While you could be anywhere in five years, a strong response to the five-year question will convey that you expect to be with this company and want to grow with them. Demonstrate your enthusiasm and ensure your response follows a natural career progression from the position you’re being interviewed for to future opportunities with the organization:

“I’m really excited to be kicking off my career as a junior engineer here. I have a lot to offer, and I have a lot to learn. Once I’ve mastered the technical skills necessary to move onto a more senior position, I’d like to assist with larger projects. I know that you encourage professional development here, and I’d eventually like to pursue my master’s in engineering. Then, I can take on a senior engineering role with this company.”

4. What new engineering skills have you recently developed?

An interviewer asks this question to gauge whether you take the initiative to keep your knowledge and skills up-to-date. Engineers have to keep pace with frequent changes in the industry, as well as technological advances. Demonstrate your dedication to keeping things fresh by sharing your latest learnings.

“Since graduating a couple of months ago, I’ve been searching for work and also training myself on Civil 3D. I have a basic knowledge of Civil 3D from school, but I thought that upgrading my skills would be a valuable investment in my career as an engineer.”

5. Why are you interested in a position with our company?

This is your interviewer’s way of asking, “Why us?” While they know that you’re probably interviewing with other organizations, this is your chance to demonstrate that you’ve done your research and have a genuine interest in this specific company. Prepare an impressive answer by reviewing the company’s website, social media posts, and recent press releases. Then, craft a response that reflects your personal connection to the company:

“A lot of organizations pay lip service to diversity, but you really act on it. There are plenty of places hiring engineers, but you’re the only company I’ve seen that has the numbers to back it up. As a minority, working for a company that values all types of people with varied experiences is important to me. I think it creates a more inclusive culture, and I think it leads to the best solutions for clients.”

6. Tell me about a time when you became aware of a hazardous workplace condition. How did you handle it?

Workplace safety is paramount in engineering organizations. Your answer to this behavioral interview question needs to assure your interviewer that you have a high level of respect for safe work practices.

“I once saw a colleague laying an extension cord in the office. It crossed a high-traffic hallway and posed a trip hazard. I think it’s always best to confront the person directly as opposed to escalating it to their manager, so I approached the person and said that I thought the cord was unsafe. They agreed, and I helped them secure it so it was no longer a hazard.”

7. Can you describe a situation where you dealt with a difficult client?

At any company, you’ll be working with a lot of different people in a lot of new situations, and your interviewer wants to ensure that you can get along with everyone and stay cool under pressure. You can use the STAR method for this classic interview question. In your response, briefly describe the negative part of the situation, and then concentrate on how you resolved it and kept the client happy.

“At my summer internship, I didn’t do a lot of engineering work, but I did do a lot of contract preparation. There was a difficult client who kept pushing back on the contract terms, and it was delaying the project. After exchanging a few emails and phone calls, I asked the client to come in and meet with the project team and me. I thought a face-to-face meeting would help defuse the situation and reassure the client that we wanted to make them happy. It worked, and we were able to move forward.”

8. How do you keep yourself organized?

Engineers are always juggling multiple projects. Staying on top of those projects—and keeping them on time and on budget—is critical. Your answer should reflect your organizational and time management skills, your ability to meet deadlines, and your flexibility. Clearly state how you keep track of your various tasks and how you separate the less-important projects from the urgent ones. Assure your interviewer that when it gets busy, you’ll be able to manage the work.

“I pride myself on being a very punctual and organized person. Last semester, I took a full course load, got straight A’s, and also worked a part-time job. I was only able to do that by keeping a super-detailed schedule every single day. I use Excel to create project schedules, whether it’s for class or work, and my phone calendar keeps me on track. If something unexpected arises, I can easily shift priorities and rework my schedule.”

9. Why should we select you for this position?

Your interviewer has probably seen at least a handful of candidates with the same qualifications as you. This is your opportunity to sell yourself and highlight what differentiates you from other engineers out there. And don’t be modest:

“In addition to having a strong foundation of technical skills that I’d bring to the role, I am extremely driven. I’m always looking for a better solution—for the company and the client. And while a lot of my fellow engineers prefer to stay behind the scenes, I love working with people. I find so much satisfaction in helping my colleagues and clients. I’m confident that this role would be a perfect fit for my skill set and personality, and I can’t wait to contribute to your strong workplace culture.”

10. What is your greatest weakness?

The interviewer knows that everyone, including you, has a weakness—and probably more than one. Be honest and support your responses with clear examples and/or concrete results. Don’t be too negative, and be sure to choose a skill that isn’t essential to being a good engineer. Then, focus on how you’re working to overcome the weakness to be a better worker. If you’re still stressing, check out our full guide to handling the greatness weakness question.

“While I love one-on-one interactions, I have a tough time talking in front of larger groups. It’s pretty intimidating, and I tend to get a bit tongue-tied. However, I’m working to improve and get more comfortable. Last month, I enrolled in my local Toastmasters Society to build my confidence. I can already see a difference in how I present to large groups, and I know I’ll keep improving.”

Technical Interview Questions for Engineers

In addition to the general engineering interview questions above, be sure to review questions for your specific discipline, be it electricalmechanicalcomputer, or civil engineering. Regardless of the type of engineering job you’re applying for, technical knowledge will be crucial. Interviewers often ask technical questions to assess your understanding of the principles, concepts, and procedures that are fundamental to your field of expertise. Below are some potential technical questions that may be asked in an engineering interview:

Mechanical Engineering

Can you explain the second law of thermodynamics?

What software tools are you comfortable using for design and how proficient are you in using them?

Can you explain the process of heat treatment and why it’s important?

Electrical Engineering

How can you minimize power loss in electrical systems?

What programming languages have you used for microcontroller or embedded system programming?

Can you explain the difference between a single-phase and a three-phase system?

Civil Engineering

Can you discuss the factors that influence the selection of construction materials for a project?

Describe a situation where you had to analyze structural blueprints. How did you ensure they complied with the established specifications and safety standards?

How do you calculate load-bearing capacities for different materials?

Computer Engineering

Can you discuss how you would set up a distributed database system?

What is your preferred programming language and why? Can you share an example of a complex problem you’ve solved using this language?

Can you explain how encryption and decryption work in securing data communication?

Chemical Engineering

Can you discuss the process of converting raw materials into a final product in an industry you’re familiar with?

What steps would you take in a process simulation for a chemical reaction?

How do you perform a mass balance in a system with chemical reactions?

For each of these technical questions, make sure you can not only answer accurately but also demonstrate the real-world applications of these concepts. Employers want to see that you can apply your knowledge practically, beyond the theory you learned in school. Always refer back to your experiences and highlight situations where you applied your technical skills to solve real-world problems.

Remember, while these questions are specific to certain fields, they are meant to serve as a general guide. The actual questions you face may be more complex, based on the specific role you’re applying for. As a result, be sure to thoroughly review the job description and brush up on your core technical skills before your interview.

Make sure you practice your answers and review the interview basics, and you’ll be well on your way to engineering a successful career.