Interviewing is a skill, one that adapts to the candidate and position involved in the interview. Hiring managers who interview candidates for oil, gas, or nuclear engineering positions keep both the candidate and the position in mind when they interview, and tailor their questions accordingly.
Here are ten great questions to ask engineering candidates in the energy industry – along with answers that should raise “red flags.”
- “Describe a challenge you faced on the job. How did you overcome it?”
This question provides a glimpse into the employee’s past work, as well as his or her ability to face challenges and to assess the results.
Answer to Watch Out For: “I have faced many challenges in my career, but I’ve always overcome them.” Vagueness tells you the candidate doesn’t have a ready example available – perhaps because he or she never tackled a challenge.
- “Tell us about [a recent project]. How did you approach this one?”
Choose a project from the candidate’s resume to plumb their planning and execution skills and to test whether their role in the project is as described.
Answer to Watch Out For: Any response that doesn’t match what is on the resume or is vague as to details and specifics. Candidates who have no listed projects you can ask about should also raise concerns.
- “What new engineering specialty or skill have you developed in the past year?”
Engineering is a constantly evolving field. Passionate engineers enjoy the chance to keep learning new things.
Answer to Watch Out For: “I’m always learning new things.” Candidates who resort to vagueness instead of describing an exciting new concept or skill are probably letting learning take a backseat.
- “Do you have any patents? If so, tell me about them. If not, do you see yourself pursuing this? Why or why not?”
Engineers enthusiastic about their patents or about landing a patent will describe their work and plans in detail. Those who have chosen not to go this route should provide a rational, detailed explanation of their alternative goals.
Answer to Watch Out For: “I haven’t really thought about it.” This shows a lack of planning, which implies a lack of dedication.
- “When have you had to teach others about what you do? How did you approach this?”
Engineers don’t merely apply technical knowledge. They are also called on to explain their projects to non-engineers, a skill that requires patience and thorough communication abilities.
Answer to Watch Out For: “I often talk about my work with others.” Few people keep their work a complete secret, but what you want to know is how effectively the candidate explains his or her work.
- “When have you failed?”
Engineers who can recover from failure and learn from their mistakes will eventually succeed in their fields, and have the commitment to learning needed to succeed in the long term.
Answer to Watch Out For: “I have made many mistakes in my career, but I have always bounced back.” This answer tells you only that the candidate hasn’t analyzed any of his or her past mistakes – not a sign of commitment to growth.
- “How would you deal with an awkward situation involving another team member?”
Engineers focus on technical skill – but they need people skills as well. Ask this question to assess their interpersonal abilities.
Answer to Watch Out For: “I get along with everybody.” Candidates who say this have either failed to deal with team members constructively or haven’t worked long enough to have encountered awkwardness.
- “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
Engineers with a career plan will be able to give details about their goals and strategy for rising in the ranks of your company.
Answer to Watch Out For: “Where I am now,” or any vague response. Strategy and goals are key here.
- “What would you like to ask us?”
Enthusiastic candidates will probably have more questions than they have time to ask. They’ll want details about the job, how they can improve, and what the hiring manager likes about the company.
Answer to Watch Out For: “I don’t have any questions,” or “When can I take vacation?” Promising candidates want to know about the job, not getting away from it.
- “Why should we hire you?”
Enthusiastic candidates will give specific reasons that fit the job description and may ask for the job outright.
Answer to Watch Out For: “I have the qualifications you’re looking for.” You already know this, or you would not have invited the candidate to interview.