Discussion Thread

  • 1.  Entry-Level Interview Questions

    Posted 01-09-2023 10:47 AM
    I recently volunteered as an interview panelist for high school mock interviews, and it got me thinking about the typical interview questions.
    I'm interested to hear others' thoughts on interview questions.

    How helpful are the standard interview questions in assessing a candidate, especially with so many articles telling people how to answer them?
    (tell me about yourself, greatest strength, greatest weakness, a time you overcame a challenge, etc.)

    Have you ever asked or been asked a non-standard question that was really good?

    What is the worst or least helpful interview question you've asked or been asked?

    Do you have any other entry-level interview tips?

    Heidi C. Wallace, P.E., M.ASCE
    Tulsa, OK

  • 2.  RE: Entry-Level Interview Questions

    Posted 01-10-2023 02:37 PM
    Hi @Heidi Wallace!
    I have helped some fellow coworkers do mock interviews to help prepare them for the real job interviews. In doing so, I have come across many interesting questions​. Here are a few that stuck with me:
    • If you were a wild animal, which animal would you be and why?
    • If I were to ask 5 of your coworkers about you, what would be one thing that they would ALL say?
    • How do you prioritize your workload? *(See below for answer advice)
    • If you could have any job with this employer, which job would it be and why?
    As for interview tips, here are a few that I have personally used in the past:
    • It is better to "over-dress" than to "under-dress"
    • Talk slower than normal when answering questions. Most people are nervous during an interview which can cause us to speed up the process so it can be over sooner. This typically leads to talking faster and more erratically.
    • Be prepared with backup information. I always bring a copy of the job posting, my resume, a list of all college and educational courses I've completed, and a notepad that has questions on it that I want to ask the interviewer.
    • If possible, I do some research on the employer and the person who will be interviewing me.
    •  At the conclusion of the interview, I will ask about the timeframe for the decision and if any next steps are needed.
    • One thing I like to do after the interview has been completed is that I like to ask the interviewer about something that is not related to the interview, but is related to the work they do. Typically the person who interviews you is at least your supervisor if not someone at the executive level. Face time with these people is very limited, so this is a good opportunity to ask them some questions related to your role or potential role, or how they look at things from a philosophical standpoint, or how they personally handle adversity, etc. Since the interviewer is usually someone who looks at things from a high level, it is usually a good idea to ask them some high level questions. This allows the interviewer to see you as more than "just a number cruncher" but someone who could one day take on a larger role or responsibility.
    * However, the best tip I have found (so far) is how to answer the question "How do you prioritize your workload?" or something similar. The answer I have found to be most effective is to know the organizational structure and where the position you are interviewing for falls in that organizational structure. For example, lets say I am interviewing for an Engineer II position, that reports to an Engineer Manager I position, who reports to an Engineer Manager II position, who reports to an Engineering Director position. My response to the question "How do you prioritize your workload?", would be "I try and keep the Engineer Manager I position happy sometimes. I keep the Engineer Manager II position happy most of the time. I keep the Engineering Director position happy all the time." (Use peoples names, not their titles if possible). In my experience, this usually blows the socks off the interviewer. I even had one of them tell me "I have been holding interviews for over 15 years and that is the best answer that I have ever heard for that question."

    Great topic!

    I am interested to hear what advice others have!

    Doug Cantrell P.E., M.ASCE
    Professional Engineer
    Durham NC

  • 3.  RE: Entry-Level Interview Questions

    Posted 01-10-2023 07:45 PM
    Thanks for the response! I've only ever actually interviewed for internships (and no desire to interview on the horizon), so I'm never totally sure what advice to give when someone asks.

    Heidi C. Wallace, P.E., M.ASCE
    Tulsa, OK

  • 4.  RE: Entry-Level Interview Questions

    Posted 01-11-2023 08:02 AM
    Heidi, what a great question! When I was in college prepping for my first internship interview, I wasn't exactly sure how to prep for the questions that would be asked and what questions to ask. I definitely utilized the internet and my dad, since he's been around the block a time or two.

    Doug, I wish I would have been able to reference your response when I was in college! I completely agree with your tips!

    I'll add just a couple more tips/advice I've found helpful:
    • I found it beneficial to remind myself that just as much as I was getting interviewed, I was interviewing the interviewer/the company just as much. I think this helped reframe the situation to help ease some of my interview anxiety. The situation was no longer a one-sided judgement (where the interviewer/company was making a judgement whether to hire me or not); it became a two-sided judgement (where I would also decide if I the team/company was someplace I'd like to work).
    • Ask for examples. This can be a great way to determine the sincerity of the statements. It help to determine if what the interviewer is saying is just what the company wants them to say/advertise or if they actually believe it/buy-into it. For example, I have typically followed up "can you explain/elaborate the culture?" with "and provide an example of the culture in practice." If they have a hard time coming up with an example, it might be an indicator that there might be some discrepancies in what they are saying and what is practice.
    I hope some of these tips can help! Definitely looking forward to hearing more!

    Madison Anderson A.M.ASCE
    Kenosha WI

  • 5.  RE: Entry-Level Interview Questions

    Posted 04-16-2023 11:09 AM

    Hello everyone,

    I have followed several of these example preparations for interviews myself over the years, and I think they have been pretty helpful. A good intuition on what questions to expect from the interviewer, along with pages of notes has allowed me to work through provide plenty of personal, elaborate answers to the questions.

    From there, I have developed some of my own tactics as well:
    1. Do most of the interviewing back outside of the interview. There's plenty of time before meeting with the company to research the reputation and history of a company, and afterwards to learn more about the people working there.
    2. Always take notes during the interview. This is to show and be focused on my end, because when I'm not receiving questions, I am receiving information.
    3. Have at least 3 questions to ask back. This is the company's chance to stand out to me, along with really getting to know the interviewer(s) before the next step in the interview process.

    Alexander Granato A.M.ASCE
    Indianapolis IN

  • 6.  RE: Entry-Level Interview Questions

    Posted 01-12-2023 12:40 PM

    I would say that some of the standard questions can be useful to try and get a sense for how candidates have and would handle tasks or problems. Maybe instead of "a time you overcame a challenge", try giving them a scenario and ask them how they would respond or act in a given situation. For example, a former boss gave me during the interview, they asked if I was installing a sewer (this was a construction related role) and the water main was in the way, how would you deal with it, step-by-step. That way it's more of an apples-to-apples comparison across applicant. 

    A former colleague got this tricky question, would still work for entry level positions. They were applying for high level DPW job. There was a number of folks sitting in on the interview. The interviewer said that they would need a good memory and be able to juggle many different projects and interact with a variety of stake holders. They of course replied they could do that and that they have a good memory. Come the end of the interview, the interviewer brought that point back up and asked if they could repeat everyone's name that sat in on the interview (4 or 5 individuals).  Luckly, they did and passed that question. 

    Most important tip would be to make sure you have your own questions for an interviewer. There are loads of articles you can look up to give you some advice on this point.

    Christopher Dzidek P.E., M.ASCE
    Program Manager - Design
    Boston MA

  • 7.  RE: Entry-Level Interview Questions

    Posted 01-12-2023 09:36 PM
    All the responses here have been great!
    Here is one tip that I used during my Entry Level interviews.

    I spent 10 minutes before the interview writing questions I had about the firm, workload, and such and I took that notepad out during the interview to take notes. This allowed writing any questions that came up or points I wanted to elaborate on at the 'questions' portion of the interview.
    My logic was that I was interviewing them as much as they were interviewing me. 

    I'm not sure if this is typical. What do you think?

    P.s. I got that job!

    Daniel Bressler EIT, A.M.ASCE
    Structural Engineer
    Brooklyn NY

  • 8.  RE: Entry-Level Interview Questions

    Posted 01-18-2023 08:33 PM
    A lot of great answers here. I would agree that most companies will appreciate that you are interviewing them just as much as the other way around. Not only is it acceptable, I would say its preferable because it shows the candidate wants to be selective in their own job choosing, is able to think, and is taking the opportunity seriously. 

    If you ever want to throw a minor curve ball their way, bluntly ask the interviewer(s) "so, do you like working here?" and see if the comment flusters them. This is not always a tactful approach to job interviewing, but I have done it before in a lighthearted manner and have found the resulting answers worthwhile and telling about the personality of the person answering the question.

    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer