How To Prepare For A Job Interview – A Guide For Engineers In Australia
Let us say it right at the start: job interview preparation requires taking it seriously. As the saying goes, ‘by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’. Just like athletes do not turn up to a competition without months of training, engineers should also arrive at job interviews fully prepared.
While it is easy to ask Google to give you some tips and advice on impressing your potential employers, the number of resources available is simply overwhelming. That is why we have asked our recruiters to share the top tips on how civil engineers can improve their chances of getting a job in the competitive Australian engineering market.
Top tips for engineers on how to prepare for an interview:
Know Your Resume
Think of your resume as the starting point for your interviewers that will allow them to come up with relevant questions. It is a window into your experience, education, and critical skills, and you should be able to explain everything on your resume in detail. Make sure the answers you give during the interview do not contradict the information on your resume, as this will raise red flags.
The information your interviewers will focus on:
- Job stability
- Career progression
- Projects, sectors and companies you have worked with
- Unexplained gaps and absences in your employment
- Key duties and skills that relate to the position you are interviewing for
- Qualifications and education
Research Your Potential Employer
When preparing for your interview, you should invest time in learning some critical details about your potential employer – the hiring company. This information will give you a better understanding of the company’s needs and what your interviewers might be looking for in future employees. It will also allow you to demonstrate your genuine interest in the position.
A good starting point is the company’s website. Find the page that discusses their culture, values, and mission. Remember what these are and try to reference them in your interview casually.
Explore the company’s social media accounts on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
Here are some suggestions on what you should research:
- What do they do?
- What are their areas of operation?
- When and where was the company established?
- How many employees does the company have?
- Who are the top people (the leadership team)?
- What projects have they been involved in in the past?
- Have they been awarded new projects recently?
- Is the company growing?
- Who are the main competitors?
- What is the company’s USP (unique selling proposition)?
Find Out Who Will Be Interviewing You.
If you can find out who will be interviewing you, that is an excellent opportunity to learn about them and work out how to engage in a meaningful and memorable conversation.
Suggestions on what you should research:
- position at the company
- connections in common
Practice Makes Better.
Take your time to read and understand it. How do your skills and experience relate to this role? Can you give examples? What are some questions interviewers could ask? Practice answering these before the interview.
For example, some of the questions could be as follows:
- How do you handle conflict? Provide examples.
- How do you get others on board with your way of thinking? Provide examples.
- What are your strengths/weaknesses in your current role?
- Explain a time when you have used your initiative in your current role?
- From a career perspective, where do you see yourself in 3, 5, 10 years?
Read our blog Top Ten Interview Questions for Civil Engineers.
An interview will typically follow the below structure. Please note this can alter depending on the company and seniority of the role.
- Introduction, small talk, setting the tone and establishing rapport.
- Q&A – from the company, questions on your previous experience and vision for your future.
- Q&A – from you, your chance to ask questions from your pre-prepared list.
- Closing, thank your interviewers for their time, reiterate your interest in the role and request a feedback date
If possible, have a family member or a friend run a mock interview with set questions based on your research. You can also practise in front of the mirror.
Analyze and Understand the Position Description.
Read through the position description multiple times and write down the essential skills, traits and abilities you believe you will need to do the job. While some job adverts might be very detailed and provide you with all the information you need, others will require that you do some research and read between the lines.
While it is impossible to predict what questions you will be asked at the interview, the job description will give you a good idea about what might come up.
Questions to ask in an interview:
Think of (sensible) questions that you would like to ask about the role and company. Asking questions serves two purposes; one, you show your initiative and genuine interest in the position. Two, you get more information about the job to assess if it meets your expectations.
You can create a list of questions and take it to the interview, for example:
- When are you looking at starting the successful candidate?
- What is the key impact this role will have within the business?
- What are some of the key challenges someone in this position would face?
- Is this a new role that the company has created?
- What does a typical day look like?
- What attributes does someone need to have in order to be really successful in this position?
- What are the biggest challenges that someone in this position would face?
- What sort of budget would I be working with?
- Do you expect the main responsibilities for this position to change in the next six months to a year?
- Will there be any training provided?
- Will there be opportunities for professional development?
- What metrics will be used to evaluate my performance?
- What are the current goals that the company is focused on?
During the interview:
- Try to relax and be yourself – it will be easier to answer the questions.
- Communicate – remember interviews are about imparting information. Do not answer questions with one word. Give supporting scenarios or further information to help your response.
- Do not lie – nothing kills a job offer faster than a lie. It’s OK to ask for a question to be repeated so you can fully understand it.
- Have a copy of your resume with you for reference during the interview.
- Sell yourself, your skills and experience – be confident. Remember, you would not be in an interview if your potential employer didn’t think you were qualified.
- Be friendly, and act professionally. A company is also looking for the right personality fit for their team and corporate culture – the ability to work within a group is usually a significant prerequisite of any role.
- Know the technical side of your experience.
- Remember to answer questions the interviewers have asked you specifically.
- Avoid discussing salary unless you are asked or towards the end of the interview. Salary is important, but you don’t want it to come across as the only thing you care about. Sometimes it’s best to leave this to discussion for another time outside of the interview format. If it is brought up, do you know what you want and how you have arrived at that?
- Make sure you have the reason you are applying for a new role. Is it for career growth? Is it to be closer to home? Is it to be valued more?
- Follow up with a ‘Thank you’ email if you have the Interviewer’s details or even your HR contact, reiterating your interest in the role and requesting feedback on how you interviewed.
- Even if you are unsuccessful, if possible, still request feedback on how you can improve and why you weren’t successful.
Additional interviewing tips for engineers:
Tips for Interviewing in Person
- Be at least 20-30min early if possible but make sure you are on time, allowing for any hold-ups on the way.
- Plan your route. Where can you park or what train do you need to catch? Will traffic be heavy at that time of day?
- Be presentable. You do not have to be in full formal attire, but you should be neat, tidy and professional.
- Are you cleanly shaven, is your hair neat, clothes clean and tidy, shirt ironed?
- Remember, first impressions count!
- Make sure your phone is turned off or on silent, so you are uninterrupted.
- Make sure you give the appropriate amount of eye contact during the interview.
Tips for Interviewing by Phone
- Speak clearly and pace yourself. When people are nervous, they tend to speed up their speech.
- Find a quiet room to limit external noises or interruptions.
- Answer the call with confidence.
- State your name to avoid confusion. Answering the phone professionally is the first impression you give and an actual example of your communication skills.
Tips for Interviewing by Video
- As above, find a quiet room to limit external noises or interruptions.
- Be conscious of what is in your background. A blank white wall is best.
- Do you have the necessary internet or phone reception to support the video call?
- Make sure you are familiar with the video platform and conduct a test with a friend, colleague, or recruiter, especially if you have not used it before or in a while. Test your audio and camera at the same time.
- Dress appropriately and professionally; treat it as an in-person meeting.
- Set up/log in to the meeting 10 minutes early, noting this may not always be possible as some platforms will require you to be invited or accepted to log in, but be at your device ready.
- Have a plan B method of connection if the connection, audio or platform doesn’t work on the day. Also, in advance, have a number that you can call if issues with connecting arise.
In summary, being prepared for your upcoming interview will give you the best chances of success. Ultimately, if you research the company, practise answering interview questions and know your resume inside out, you can feel confident that you are ready.
ConsultANZ recently had the pleasure of interviewing Eduardo Devia, the founder of a non-for-profit organization Latin Engineers Australia.
While technical skills are the most important part of your engineering CV, it is also necessary to convey your soft skills.