Whether you’re a rising star still working your way up or an established engineer ready to move on to a new challenge, interviews can be daunting. Aside from the interviewing skill set you would need in any field – quick thinking, job knowledge, a personable demeanor – there are some specifics every engineer should know going into the interview. Here are some tips to help you land that position and make your interviewer’s job easy.
Hone Your Listening Skills
Most people could stand to become better listeners, but when working in technical fields, it’s critical to listen closely. Hiring directors are looking for responsive, attentive, detail-oriented people in technical roles, and you can only demonstrate that if you answer what’s asked of you instead of what you think you heard. To become a better listener, try rephrasing what someone asks you before answering the question.
Ask the Right Questions
Interviewers are sometimes deliberately vague in their questions. This isn’t because they intend to trick you; they want to see how you respond to incomplete instructions. If you’re given a scenario and asked how you would handle it, ask for more detail if you don’t think you have all the information you need to give a complete answer. By clarifying what the interviewer wants to know, you demonstrate your aptitude for intelligent, responsive problem-solving.
Focus on “Why” as Well as “How”
Remember solving word problems in grade school? It may have been the first time you saw the instructions to show your work, but it was far from the last. Interviewers also want you to show your work and explain why you took the approach you did to a problem as well as defining how you’d solve it. The reasoning behind your methods is as important as the methods themselves, especially in an interview that showcases your logical and analytical abilities.
When asked to provide a solution within a scenario, double-check your results to see if you’ve made any critical errors in logic or execution. Your interviewer wants to watch your entire problem-solving process, and that should always include a check of your work. Go through an example with the interviewer if there’s time; if you feel you don’t have enough time to go through every step, explain the highlights.
Learn about the Company
You’ve probably done a fair amount of homework about your prospective employer already, but the interview is an excellent opportunity to discover more. Ask about the company’s philosophy, professional culture, and goals – aspects of the organization you’re unlikely to get from reading third-party information. One caveat here: Avoid asking about aspects of the company that benefit you, such as benefits and bonus packages. Ideally, you want to show that you’re a good fit with the organization, and asking too many questions about what the company can do for you doesn’t demonstrate that. You’ll have plenty of time to ask once you’ve aced your interview and gotten hired.