Top Ten Interview Questions for Civil Engineers

Top Ten Interview Questions for Civil Engineers

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We have put together a list of ten commonly asked interview questions for civil engineers in Australia and New Zealand.

Preparing for an interview can be daunting enough without the confusing and overwhelming amount of information Google throws at you when you search ‘How to prepare for an interview?’

You must be ready to answer both technical and soft skill questions. To find out the difference between these skills, read our article, Soft Skills vs Technical Skills in Engineering, here.  

Question one: We noticed you have a few gaps in your employment. Can you explain these gaps?  

A gap in your employment can often be a red flag to your potential employer. If you have not specified the reason for this gap on your CV, the interviewer will ask you to explain why you have taken time away from employment.

The best way to approach this question is to be honest. After all, employers are also humans and understand that sometimes people need or choose to take a break from employment. Whether it’s caring for a young child or a relative, dealing with a health problem, furthering your education or travelling, it’s essential to give a short explanation to the hiring manager without going into too much detail. 

Question two: Why did you leave your last job? Why do you want to leave your current position?  

If there is one question we can guarantee will come up in your job interview, it’s this one. Why? Because your potential employer wants to know if you will stick around if they give you a chance. It will also give them a good idea of what factors might cause you to leave a job and if this can be avoided. 

Your interviewer will want to know: 

  • Did you leave for a good reason? — Maybe your project came to an end, or the company was in financial trouble and had to let staff go. Or maybe you had to move to another city for family reasons. 
  • Did you leave voluntarily, were fired or made redundant? — The interviewer will try to determine if there were any performance issues. 
  • Did you leave on good terms? – Can the Interviewer get references from your previous manager? 
  • Were you unhappy in your previous role? We all have career goals, and looking for a new position to meet these goals is expected; however, if you are interviewing for a similar role, your potential employer will likely see you as a risky hire.  

When answering this question, remember not to badmouth previous employers. Speak factually and politely about your previous employers, even if you didn’t leave amicably.

Question three: What are your strengths and weaknesses in the workplace?  

This classic question makes many civil engineers uncomfortable as it requires them to talk about themselves and be self-critical. However, the purpose of this question isn’t to make you feel awkward and to put you on the spot. The interviewers want to understand how confident and aware you are of your behaviours.  

To help you answer this, let me present the question differently. What are you good at and enjoy in your job vs what would you like to improve or feel you need more training?  

Remember, there is no right or wrong answer. It is your personal view of yourself and how you work.  

Question four: Can you give any examples of times that you have demonstrated leadership skills, and how would you describe your preferred leadership style?  

If you are interviewing for civil engineering management or team leader position, be sure to prepare for this question. If you are an entry-level employee, it is a good idea to take note of situations where you have taken the lead for a particular project or task.  Reflect on the leaders you have had in the past and consider what kind of leader you would like to be. Jot these down for reference! There will be a day where you might want to make the transition to a management role, and you will need to demonstrate that you have what it takes.  

Unsure what type of a leader you are? Here are some common examples of leadership styles.

Autocratic – You tend to make most of the decisions without needing much input from your team. You like structure and rules and discourage out-of-the-box thinking. While this leadership style might sound somewhat negative, it can be beneficial when projects need to be delivered quickly and effectively.

Authoritative – You are a confident leader that sets realistic expectations, energises, and engages your team. You take the time to explain your vision, not just issue orders.   

Pace-Setting – You are a very driven person that leads from the front. You assume that all employees have the same level of self-motivation as you, so you set the bar high and push the team to meet deadlines. 

Democratic – You trust your employees and seek their advice before making an informed decision. This kind of leader has a significant focus on team spirit and will inform their team of any factors that affect their work responsibilities.

Coaching – You like to work with your team to develop their skills and unlock their full potential. You give people the guidance and space to make mistakes and learn from them.  

Affiliative – You pay attention and gives emotional support to your team members. You are interested in collaboration and encourage harmony within the workplace.  

Laissez-Faire – You tend to let your team do what they need to do and have a  hands-off approach to leadership. You trust your team to do their job with little direction. 

Please note that this list is not exhaustive. Make sure to do your research, reflect on your skills and prepare examples of your leadership qualities. Your interviewer wants to get an idea of your definition of being a leader.

Question five: Have you managed budgets and had to be involved in needing to make cost reductions?  

When it comes to infrastructure projects, meeting the project budget is equivalent to success. Your interviewer will want to know:

  • the size of budgets you have managed  in the past
  • instances of when you saved the company money by controlling costs
  • budgeting and forecasting software you have used/are familiar with
  • your experience of dealing with stakeholders.

Question six: What has been the most challenging engineering project you’ve ever worked on?

How well can you manage stress? How do you behave when a challenging situation arises? Do you have skills that allow you to complete a difficult task successfully despite unexpected obstacles?

When answering this question, you should be as specific as possible and give examples.  You can use the STAR method to provide a brief summary of the situation, your role in the situation, the action you put into place to resolve the issue, and how the issue was resolved as a result.

Question seven: Can you describe a situation when you have had to deal with confrontation with a client or co-worker?  

No one likes confrontation, but unfortunately, it is an aspect of work that can’t always be avoided. This question is intended to understand how you cope under pressure and how you deal with conflict. The interviewer wants to know if you can resolve an issue professionally and respectfully.

Question eight: Where do you see yourself five years from now?  

This question serves several purposes. Firstly, the interviewers want to know what kind of commitment you will be offering to the company. Does your future vision fit in with what the company can provide you with, or does it seem like the position will be short-term value? 

Your new employer will commit time and money to train and upskill you. They want to be sure that their investment won’t be wasted. This question is also a chance for you to show your ambition as companies want to hire civil engineers interested in progress and development. 

Your answer does not have to be very detailed as nobody can predict the future, but it should give the interviewer an idea about your career goals and show your eagerness to learn and develop your skills.

Question nine: Why are you interested in working for our company?  

While this question does not always come up, we have decided to include it on our list because civil engineers sometimes forget to prepare for it, and it is hard to make up the answer on the spot. 

To be able to answer this question, you will need to do some research beforehand. Go to the company’s website and social media channels (for example, LinkedIn or Facebook pages) and read about their current and future projects, values, team culture and approach to doing business.

You don’t have to go into great detail when answering this question, but you should demonstrate that you have been proactive and are genuinely interested in their company aside from simply needing a job to pay the bills.

Question ten: What do you think this job entails?  

To answer this question, make sure you have requested a copy of the job description, read the document in full and attempt to summarise it in your own words.  

Showing that you understand the job requirements or what you think the job will entail can help the interviewers appreciate your expectations and manage these. It will also help correct any misconceptions of the position, so you aren’t hired thinking the job is something that it isn’t.  


There you have it!

Our ten interview questions for Civil Engineers will help you prepare for a job interview and make you feel confident and ready to take on any challenge. Remember to always ask for feedback on how you interviewed, even if you are successful.  

Good luck! 

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