How do I prepare for an engineering interview?

February 12, 2021

So how do I prepare for an engineering interview? Well, we've put together this guide to help you through the process, so you are fully prepared!

Interviews can be a daunting prospect, particularly in technical fields like engineering. Impressing an employer during an interview is often the only way to secure a job, so it’s worth putting in the time and effort to practice your interview technique. You might be the perfect candidate for the job, but if you can’t communicate this to the hiring manager, they will never know.

Good interview technique is not something that comes naturally to everyone. Even the most successful people can struggle to put their best side forward. The good news is that you can prepare yourself for an interview. And if you walk into an interview feeling prepared, you’re much more likely to impress.

Engineering interviews can take many different forms. Some employers focus on the technical side of things, asking candidates to complete short tests. Others will focus on soft skills, delving into your work and education background to determine if you’ll fit with the company dynamic.

In this Nolan Recruitment guide, we will look at some of the ways you can prepare for an engineering interview. This will include preparation tips for the weeks, days and hours before an interview. We’ll also look at what you can do after the interview to make a good impression. 

Good preparation is one of the best ways to ensure you don’t have to endure lots of interviews. But don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time, as interview practice is one of the best ways you can improve.

How do I prepare for an engineering interview

The Week Before

As soon as the interview is scheduled, you should confirm the time and the place. This will typically be included in the interview confirmation, but sometimes these details can be missed out. The company might have multiple offices and sites, so don’t make any assumptions about where the interview will take place.

The interview confirmation may also have important information about the style of interview (panel, one-on-one), who you will be meeting with, and if there is a specific dress code to follow. Once the details are confirmed, you can then start preparing for your interview. If your interview is confirmed weeks in advance, leave your preparation for the week before. If you dwell on it for too long, you could create more stress than is necessary.

Review your CV and cover letter

Even if you can take notes into the interview, you should still be well-versed in your work history. Review your CV and make notes about the parts of your work and education history you would like to highlight in the interview. Remember that the interviewer has a copy of your CV, so think about how you can expand this information to give more context.

Many people will send employers an abridged CV that highlights the achievements most relevant to the role they are applying for. Don’t forget to delve into your full work history so that no key points are left out.

Practice popular interview questions

There’s no shortage of example interview questions online. Pick a few that are relevant to your industry and practice answering them alone or with a friend. You should also get familiar with the STAR method of answering questions. This is a highly effective way to structure your answers without leaving anything out. See our past post on this.

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. This method is very effective for situational questions, such as “Can you tell me about a time when you faced conflict in the workplace?” The STAR method helps you to structure your answers coherently, ensuring that you stay on track and don’t miss out on any pertinent information.

Think of a few different situations that you could use as examples for a range of common situational questions. This will allow you to answer these questions with more confidence and avoid having to think of something off the cuff.

The DAY Before

The Day Before

The day before your interview, you might have some nerves, or you may just want to get it over with. If you are given short notice about your interview, you may be cramming all of your prep into the day before. This may be a little more stressful, but not impossible. In which case, you should make sure you don’t forget the following:

Plan your outfit

Choosing the right outfit for your interview doesn’t have to be stressful. As a general rule, it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed. You should also focus on making sure your clothes are well-fitted and free from obvious signs of wear. For women, handbags, shoes and accessories should be discreet and professional. And men should avoid ruining a professional outfit with a backpack.

If you’re not sure about the dress code of the company, call and speak to someone in reception. They will often be more than happy to confirm if the company is casual, smart-casual or smart. Once you have confirmed the dress code, prepare your outfit the night before and make sure it is cleaned and ironed. Also, check that your shoes have been cleaned and polished. Trainers are never a suitable option for an interview. 

Plan your route

Another key aspect of interview preparation is journey planning. No one ever plans to be late for an interview, but it’s still not a great look. Interviewers will accept that some things cannot be avoided, but try to do everything in your power to arrive on time. If you are relying on public transport, make sure you have a backup if one train is cancelled. And if you will be driving, make sure you check the route and confirm parking is available nearby. If the timing of the interview will require you to travel during rush hour, leave a little extra time to account for missed connections and delays. Arriving a little early is always better than arriving late and flustered.

If you are going to be late, you should phone ahead and let them know that you are on your way. If you’re stuck somewhere with limited or no signal, try to send an email to let them know what is happening. If they have back-to-back interviews, they may have no choice but to reschedule. But if they have some flexibility, they may simply wait for you to arrive. No matter what happens, remember to remain professional and calm.

The Hour Before

The Hour Before

Aim to arrive at your destination in good time. If there is a coffee shop or cafe nearby, you could arrive half an hour early and take a moment to compose yourself. Take it easy on the caffeine if you’re prone to the jitters, but if you’re feeling a little sluggish, coffee could be just the thing you need to sharpen your senses. At this stage, there isn’t much else you can do to prepare. All you can do is make sure you look professional and try to keep your nerves in check.

Check your appearance

Before you head into your interview, take a moment to check your appearance. Check your teeth for debris from your last meal, and check your hair for any flyaways. You should also check your clothing for any obvious mishaps like toilet paper on your shoe or chewing gum on the seat of your trousers.

Put your notes away

It’s now time to put away your notes and trust your preparation. If you keep clutching your notes until the last moment, you won’t be in the right frame of mind when you walk into the interview. Trust that you have prepared all you can and focus on calming your mind. A few deep breaths will help to slow down a racing heart and allow you to take control of those pre-interview jitters. 

Aim to announce yourself at the reception area around 5-10 minutes before your interview start time. This is a courteous amount of time to leave. If you arrive too early, you can put the interviewer under pressure to get started early. But leaving it until the last moment to arrive could make you feel flustered.

When you are introduced to the interview team, try to remember their names for your follow-up. The simplest way to do this is to repeat their name back to them. Once you’ve said their name, you’re much more likely to remember it.

After the interview, remember to keep things professional, even if there is a chance for small talk and chit chat. The interviewer will still be forming an opinion of you, so don’t slip up at the last hurdle by saying something you shouldn’t. 

After the interview

It might feel old-fashioned, but it is still considered good manners to send a follow-up note after your interview. Don’t worry about sending a physical note, an email is sufficient. This email can simply thank the interviewer for their time and reiterate your interest in the company. This will also give you a chance to ask any follow-up questions that escaped you during the interview.

If you are working with an agency, you should always follow up with your recruiter. Feedback about your performance might be given to the recruiter instead of directly to you. This can be the best way to get an idea of how the interview went.

If you are unsuccessful, don’t take this to heart. Every interview is a learning opportunity, so if you don’t secure the role, you should ask for feedback and use this to shape your next interview.

Nolan Recruitment is a Specialist Engineering Recruitment Agency. One of the UK's best Engineering & Technical Recruiter

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