Top interview tips for engineers

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Job interviews can be an overwhelming and, for some, a stressful process but if you prepare effectively and follow our top tips you won’t go far wrong.

Nic Sephton-Poultney, Country Manager at Robert Walters South Africa says, "Your CV will form the basis of the interview discussion so it’s important you can talk at length about everything you’ve done. In particular, expect to talk about experiences you've had in previous roles  – so if you say you have worked on an interesting project for example, expect the interviewer to go into minute detail about it."

If you’re travelling from afar or you’re not sure how long it will take to get there, find a nearby coffee shop that you can put yourself in while you do some last minute reading through your notes

Research the business

Before you go to the interview, spend several hours thoroughly researching the business.

Nic Sephton-Poultney adds, "Don’t leave this until the night before as you may not be able to get the information you need first time round."

You should know about recent financial updates and the basic country/office count, which you should be able to get direct from the company website. But you should also read recent press articles,  engineering journals and the company’s own social media output to add some depth to your knowledge. You may also be able to pick up  some ideas for questions at the end of the meeting. 

Be positive

Be positive about everything that you discuss in the interview, even if it’s an old boss you didn’t like. If you spend your interview complaining about your previous employers, the company will – legitimately – wonder what you will be like if they were to employ you. Employers want someone who is upbeat and willing to meet challenges head on.

It’s all in the timing

Don’t turn up for your interview too early or you may end up sitting in the reception area with little to do but get nervous. But don’t leave it too late.

Laura Pycraft,  a consultant for the engineering & natural resources recruitment team at Robert Walters says, "Aim to arrive around ten or 15 minutes before the interview as it may take some time to get signed in and/or past security.  The interview room may also be some distance from reception. If you’re travelling from afar or you’re not sure how long it will take to get there, find a nearby coffee shop that you can put yourself in while you do some last minute reading through your notes."

Leave salary negotiations to your recruiter

Don’t raise the issue of your salary at an interview unless you are asked. You should have an idea of how much the job will pay from the advertisement.  If you’re worried that your new employer may not be able to match the compensation package you have in mind, you can raise that if you’re offered the job.  Even if you’re asked, don’t give too much away as it may work against you when it comes to negotiations further down the line.

Mirror the mood of the interviewer

Line managers want someone who ‘fits’ in and is able to represent them professionally both internally and externally. With cultures varying significantly from one business to another, mirroring the mood of the interviewer is normally your safest bet. However, don’t allow yourself to be anything other than professional at all times and make sure you come across as enthusiastic about the job. 

Dress appropriately

Although dressing appropriately may sound obvious, some people still get it wrong. A smart suit for men and a trouser/skirt suit or dress and jacket for women will be a safe bet. If you are in any doubt about what’s required, speak to your recruiter – he or she will know their client well.

Work on your key message 

Think about why you should be given the job (which isn’t the same as why you want the job) and write down three sentences that sum this up.  Include some of the words or phrases used in the job description but don’t shoehorn them in unnaturally. Aim to get your key message into at least one of your answers, but if all else fails and you’ve not been able to, do this at the end of the interview by thanking the interviewer for the chance to be considered for the job and delivering your three killer sentences.

Looking to make the next move in your engineering career? Search all our current engineering jobs available.

Or if you have a friend looking for a new job, why not be rewarded for recommending Robert Walters? Learn more about our excellent referral scheme and refer your friend today.

For more career advice please contact:

Nic Sephton-Poultney, Country Manager (South Africa)
nic.sephton-poultney@robertwalters.com
+27 (0) 11 881 2414

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