Preparing for Situational Interview Questions as an Engineer

Situational interviews are very similar to behavioral interviews in the sense the hiring manager will ask you to address specific situations you have previously experienced on the job. Interviewers like situational questions because they provide a window into the way you approach challenges on the job. Use these tips to prepare for a situational interview in the engineering field.

Use the STAR Technique

A great way to answer situational questions is to work through the problem using the “STAR” technique. STAR stands for situation, task, action, result. Instead of a task, however, you’ll focus on a problem in a situational interview. If you use the STAR approach, you can be sure all your bases are covered in your answers.

Define the Situation

First, offer a brief overview of the situation. Provide some background including the firm you were working for, your role at the time, the problem you faced and the process you used to gather information. Background information is important, but don’t spend too much time on the setup.

Describe the Problem

Next, outline what went wrong in this specific situation. Was it an unexpected issue or a problem that could have been avoided? Make sure to describe the problem clearly as well as the stakes you faced in working out a solution.

Outline Your Actions

After describing the problem, outline the action you took to resolve it. This is the most important part of your answer, so it’s ok to go to into detail. Talk about the steps you took to create a plan of attack and the reason you used that approach. Problem-solving rationale is a critical success factor for engineers and hiring managers will be paying close attention at this phase of your anecdote.

Describe the Results

Make sure to connect your problem-solving ability to a successful outcome. Discuss the way your plan took the team through to a solution that helped the project. For example, perhaps an unforeseen accident occurred on the job site, potentially setting the project back several weeks. If your solution ensured the project was still completed on time, without sacrificing quality, showcase that result. Remember, hiring managers are looking to uncover the value you will bring to the firm.

As you move through a situational interview, keep in mind the skills, values and abilities listed in the job posting. Frame your responses in a way that illustrates you are the ideal candidate for the job.

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