Essential Engineering Interview Questions

50 Essential Engineering Interview Questions

You probably know to practice common interview questions before your interview, but you might not know that engineering interview questions are unique. Engineering interviews are more technical than interviews in other fields, but less technical than tech interviews with coding challenges. Interviewers are often most interested in assessing your thought process. And when you do face technical engineering interview questions, they will be tailored to the specific type of engineering, such as electrical or mechanical. Practicing generic interview questions found online will never be as effective as practicing specific engineering interview questions that may actually be asked by your interviewer. Generally, you’ll face 3 types of questions:

Types of essential engineering questions

As the Senior Engineer at Tesla and now a mentor at Pathrise, I’ve interviewed hundreds of candidates throughout my career. For behavioral questions, I’m looking for succinct answers that demonstrate cultural values and soft skills. Technical questions and brain teasers show me how the candidates think and communicate their ideas. Candidates that were familiar with engineering interview question format and common questions consistently outperformed others candidates and landed the job. That’s why I’ve worked with Pathrise to make a list of common engineering interview questions asked during real engineering interviews. Practice these questions to go into your interview with confidence and impress your interviewer.

Technical Interview Questions

Unlike software, many engineering interviewers don’t ask technical questions at all. 80-90% of questions will usually be behavioral. Especially in entry-level (or coop) mechanical, and electric engineering roles. If you’re an early engineering grad, you probably won’t be grilled with technical challenges like a software engineer. And if you are asked technical questions, they’ll usually be based on skills stated on your resume or fairly straightforward scenario questions just designed to assess how you think. You might even be asked mostly brain challenge questions than highly technical questions.

Since technical questions are designed to assess your approach to problem solving aloud, prepare for technical interviews by practicing real engineering questions aloud. Deliver your answer to a friend or a mirror as if explaining them to the interviewer. You may want to review core engineering principles, but likely only the skills and concepts on your resume will come up. But even if you aren’t given a technical question, referencing core engineering principles will prove to the interviewer that you’ll make an impact in the role.

Technical Engineering Interview Questions:

  1. Basic concept questions: explain strain, stress, simple loading cases such as cantilever beams, thermal expansion, material properties, buckling, heat transfer, fluid mechanics, etc.
  2. Schematic: Here is an engineering design (p&id, electrical schematic, etc)–tell me what’s going on?
  3. How would you redesign or improve the design of an office chair?
  4. Describe how you would design a light pole with a traffic light on a cantilever beam. What type, size, and shape of material would you use for the pole? 
  5. Describe in depth a technical project you worked on.
  6. Draw the shear and moment diagrams of various beams in bending.
  7. Share some simple stress formulas (nothing worse than My/I).
  8. Schematic: Given a schematic of a power tool, explain the function of the tool and how it works (how the motor transmits power to achieve. How one gear turns another etc).
  9. Do you know Autocad?
  10. Describe lift in your own words
  11. You mentioned on your resume that you’re familiar with [some engineering skill or concept like basics of power systems]. Can you explain this to us?
  12. You’re driving on the road and all of a sudden, you notice a sudden loss of power. What do you check?
  13. Mechanical scenario question: You have two tubes that are placed inside each other such that they share the same surface plane on both ends. They are sufficiently sized such that they can be approximated to have an equal volume and surface area at all cross sections. They are different materials. Let’s call them steel and aluminum. The materials don’t matter. Just that they are not the same. They are standing upright on a table and loaded from above. Assume there is no interaction between the tubes other than the loaded and constrained faces. What is the percentage difference in stress between the two parts? (The answer is not a number).
  14. Explain the difference between center of lift and center of gravity.
  15. Explain turbulence and airfoil.
  16. Describe the stress strain curve for a metal.

Behavioral Interview Questions

Most engineering questions will be behavioral, especially at junior levels. Yet many engineering job seekers don’t prepare beforehand, or just glance over questions without actually practicing their responses. They’re confident that they’ll be able to communicate an answer in the moment. But planning to “wing” your questions is risky and ineffective, even if you glanced at questions beforehand. Interviewers are often seeking extremely specific answers that align with their values and mission. Using the STAR method with correct interview etiquette will help you land the job.

Star method

Behavioral Technical Engineering Interview Questions:

  1. How do you keep yourself updated with engineering?
  2. Tell me about your favorite past engineering project.
  3. What motivated you to pursue a career in engineering?
  4. Describe a time when your design, schematic, or prototype failed. How did you respond to it, and what lessons did you learn from that experience? 
  5. How do you balance safety and quality assurance with tight deadlines?
  6. How do you approach communicating complex engineering concepts to non-technical stakeholders?
  7. Describe a time when you had to work collaboratively with other teams or departments to implement security measures. How did you ensure effective communication and coordination?

General Behavioral Interview Questions that Appear in Most Interviews

Some simple behavioral questions will come up in every interview in some form. You can be certain that your interviewer will ask you to tell them about yourself, talk about conflict, and work with others. Since these will almost definitely come up, you can prepare an example from a real-life work scenario to answer the question with the STAR method.

General Behavioral Questions:

  1. Tell me about yourself.
  2. Tell me about a time you solved a conflict at work.
  3. Share an example of how you were able to motivate employees or co-workers
  4. Do you prefer to work with a team or independently?
  5. Describe a situation where you had to lead a group that had difficulties. How did you handle it?
  6. Have you handled a difficult situation with a coworker? How?
  7. How do you collaborate with others?
  8. If there was one obstacle or issue that you could foresee that might prevent you from hitting a deadline, what would it be?
  9. Tell me about a time you went beyond what was expected.
  10. If you know two improvements need to be made but can only make one, how would you prioritize?
  11. What do you do when you are procrastinating?
  12. Talk about a time when you had multiple requests from different people in the company. How did you handle them?
  13. How do you defend your opinion to team members and stakeholders?
  14. How would you handle a situation where you were getting a lot of negative feedback in the middle of a presentation?
  15. How do you make a case for your vision and opinion?
  16. What advice would you give someone younger than you who is trying to come up in the field?
  17. What do you do if you disagree with your boss?
  18. What was the biggest takeaway from your current job that you’ll carry throughout your career?
  19. Why do you want to change jobs?
  20. Talk about your approach to solving complex problems.
  21. Do you find that you often get overwhelmed at work? How do you combat that?
  22. Who has influenced you in your career?

Preparing the questions before you arrive at your interview will make sure you don’t freeze up and give you the confidence you need to lead the conversation. Engineering interviewers are primarily trying to see how you think–practicing beforehand will actually empower you to clearly communicate your problem solving process in the moment, since you won’t be anxious or stuttering at every question.

Engineering has been amongst the highest paying college majors for decades, with high demand and incredible job security. However, competition can still be fierce, especially for engineering roles at top companies like Tesla or SpaceX.

Pathrise is a career accelerator that helps people land their dream job in tech. Our expert mentors work 1-on-1 with you to help you optimize your resume, ace interviews, and negotiate a higher salary. On average, our fellows double their interview scores and get 3x more interviews. It’s free until you land a job.

Apply today.

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Check out our other Interview Questions to prep for your next interview:

Patrick Bohan

Hi, I'm Patrick, I write about the job search. After graduating from Cornell, I became a content lead at UBS where I helped professionals at Fortune 500 companies understand their stock options, salary, and benefits. When I'm not writing about the hiring process, I write novels for teens.

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