Interviewing Tips for an Engineer
by EngineerSalary Staff

After the company invites you in for a site interview, use this list to make the most of the opportunity:

1. Who are you seeing? What is their function? What will they likely be interested in discussing? What were they most interested in during the phone screen?

2. Know the names of the people who will be interviewing you. Practice saying the names if they are difficult to pronounce. Call the company operator if you are unsure of one... they always know how to pronounce the tough ones.

3. There's no such thing as enough preparation for an interview. Find out everything you can about the company - what it makes or does, how well it does it and for how long. Look for current news articles (online) - show you are up to date on information that is currently impacting them. No one cares what happened two years ago. Know their products, and something about their competition, reputation and target market. This will be the basis of some excellent probing questions, and demonstrate you took the time (and had the interest) to research the company.

4. Why does this job exist? What problems will it solve? What is the urgency? What are the functions or issues you can immediately impact? Why do they need you? Is the requirement open because of expansion, promotion, termination or resignation? Try to gather this information prior to the on site interview (from your phone screen notes), and formulate some sample responses.

5. Employers buy experience and specific expertise. They clearly do not want to train experienced engineers to do the job they are hiring for. They expect them to be reasonably productive quickly and contribute to their technical challenges. Think about what success stories you can discuss in the interview; rehearse and tweak them. Be able to easily point to solid evidence of technical and personal achievement. Be ready for common questions like: “How did your current company benefit directly from your individual participation in X?” Be able to tick off a few supporting responses to a question like this -- without any hesitation. Be ready to defend every entry on your resume.

Don't ever say: "I participated on a team". They want to know what you personally contributed to employers during your career, and how your contributions increased with experience. They don't care what a team accomplished, they want to know what you can do... immediately. They are purchasing your personal experience and expertise to accomplish something. They want to hire the "go to" guy of that team.

6. Work out what is appropriate in terms of everything you present, including yourself. Look the part, and you will feel it. Dress as if you are already doing the job. It’s worth calling the hiring manager to ask, if you just don’t know.

7. Second guess (well ahead of time) the employer's "shopping list" from the job posting description - what skills and experience do you have that match? Why are they interviewing you? Can you do the job? Is the job description a manager’s wish list or is each task a hard and fast requirement? How long has it been open? Why is it open?

8. Be your own toughest interviewer. What are the five most difficult questions you will probably have to face? Practice the answers. Practice again. Likely you will use a couple of them.

9. Be upbeat. Employers immediately lock on to negative attitudes, so don't give them any. Don’t beat up your current employer (even if they absolutely deserve it)… it is suspect -- and may preclude an offer. Measure your opinions, and meter them out carefully. People in general dislike overly opinionated individuals... and opinionated engineers are the worst. This could be a deal killer. Go with the flow, and show them that you are a mature, experienced and competent engineer or technical manager that understands the engineering and political environment.

10. Prepare for rejection. On balance you will be rejected more than accepted. Even if you don't get the offer, you can learn a vast amount about your perceived market value, both in skills and dollars.

Use this information to modify your approach and significantly improve your next interview.

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