In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most common general and specific questions that electrical engineers receive when applying for employment, as well as strategies on how to address them favourably.
As electrical engineering (EE) jobs are considered lucrative and competitive positions in today’s world, most companies are recruiting with the future in mind, and candidates must prove their worth at the interview table.
The questions that come up in most job interviews cut across: general questions that touch upon background, motivations, education, and interests; behavioural questions regarding your behaviour; and technical questions that test your know-how on various theories and concepts.
Knowing how to manoeuvre around these questions is crucial if you want to ace the interview. Here, we have listed eight questions that you are likely to come across.
General questions will be asked first as they are meant to act as icebreakers. These questions pertain to your employment history and your degree/degrees, and answering them requires that you reflect on your reasons for choosing the field of electronic engineering and any interests in your specific field.
Goal: Knowing how a candidate performed while attaining a degree, for example, will indicate to the employer how this interviewee will perform on the job while also highlighting the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses.
Tip: you want to thoroughly go through your resume to review your employment and education history. Think about what makes you unique from other applicants and any special skills that you will bring to the new workplace.
1. Why did you choose to be an electrical engineer?
This question may be customised to suit different job interviews, and it will often set the tone for the whole interview process.
How to answer: Try to impress by elaborating on how you have always been passionate about the field. Touch on what drew you in and explain that you intend to make a great career in EE.
Never talk about getting into the field because you did not have any other career choice!
2. What was your favourite subject?
A variation of this question may be: 'Where did you receive your engineering degree?'
How to answer: Be honest and admit areas of difficulty rather than claiming that you found everything easy. This is also the time to focus on the areas that you excelled in. Talk about how you developed an interest in the subject or what you found interesting about it.
Your interviewer will appreciate your honesty!
3. What is your speciality within your field?
The employer wants to know the industry/field you are good at while also trying to establish if your interest aligns with the company’s. For example, if your area of interest is residential engineering, your skills won’t optimise the organisation’s functioning when you join industrial engineering.
A person soldering on a PCB. Image courtesy of Pixabay.
How to Answer: talk about the internships and projects you have worked on in the past. Be tactful and play to your strengths by all means, but also keep in mind that your expertise should help you sail through this question. Touch on interests and be honest about it. In some cases, back your answers with proof.
4. Where do you see yourself in the next five/ten years?
Since you have already specified your industry/profession, you need to be specific with your answer.
How to answer: map out your career progress and make it clear whether you want to remain in the field or you want to move. In case you are planning to move, explain how you expect your career to progress.
Talk about what you plan to learn in the coming years and mention your personal goals and how they are in line with your professional goals—doing some research (particularly about the firm) will come in handy. Understand the company’s goals and provide answers that are in sync with whatever information you have found.
These questions pertain to how you make decisions and your general behaviour in the workplace. Your answers should be based on your past experiences, especially the lessons from your previous job.
Goal: they are meant to understand how well you can work with others and how you can handle authority.
Tip: be honest about how you carry yourself at work, but don’t go overboard and make yourself look bad. To prepare, find particular examples from your past where you handled professional mistakes/challenges. Also, mention the times when you faced adversity, and you still emerged victorious.
5. Could you tell us about your previous role/responsibilities/projects?
Employers are looking for leaders, and you need to prove to them that you can handle a team. Mentioning your past projects will highlight your leadership skills, your ability to work on complex projects, and the capability to handle several responsibilities at once. The recruiter wants to know if you can be trusted with complex projects or responsibilities.
How to answer: showcase your strengths and knowledge by naming successful projects that you’ve worked on. Expound on your position and responsibilities in those projects to highlight your strengths and leadership skills.
6. What is an example of an electrical issue that you have solved?
The interviewer wants to test your skill and determine how well you can be in the job. They want to know if you are a problem solver who can go over and above what is mentioned on paper.
How to answer: making up a situation won’t cut it. Be honest and go for real examples where you faced a real problem, and you overcame it. You should especially pay more attention to the steps you took to overcome the problem.
Companies are always looking for problem solvers, and anyone who can be a problem solver will be a great addition to the team.
7. How would you handle working in a team/difference in opinion?
You will be required to work in a team, and this means being a good team player and being receptive of other people’s opinions.
How to answer: talk about the positives of working in a team and having varying opinions. Giving examples is much better than making claims that cannot be backed. Your goal here is to establish yourself as a team player and an individual who accommodates different ideas.
A general job application. Image courtesy of Bigstock.
Practical or Technical Questions
These questions will require that you recall whatever you have learned in college or on your previous employment. If you have a speciality, the interviewer will ask technical questions to test your knowledge in your specialised area.
Goal: to assess your knowledge of electrical engineering theories and concepts.
Tip: prepare yourself for questions about theories and concepts in your area of speciality. Be especially ready for situational questions that will want to know how you would respond to problems given certain conditions.
In this section, questions may vary depending on your area of specialisation (power engineering, microelectronics, signal processing, control engineering, etc.), but these are some of the common questions that may come up:
8. Could you list the common cable types for power transmission?
- What is the difference between DC and AC current?
- Explain Norton’s Theorem?
- Why are AC systems preferred over DC systems?
- What is a control system?
- Differentiate between alternator and generator.
- What are the different types of networks in building an electrical circuit?
- What computer software can you use?
- What are the essential primary components of electrical circuits?
- Explain the different types of coupling mechanisms
- Differentiate between capacitor, resistor, and inductor.
- What is slip in an induction motor?
- Relate power engineering with electrical engineering
- Why is back electromagnetic force used for a DC motor?
- What are the primary tools used for measuring electrical parameters in an electrical circuit?
- Differentiate between earth and ground
The interviewer will want to know your opinion and if you can explain different concepts and theories without leaving loopholes. Most importantly, the recruiter wants to know if you have a deep understanding of you are talking about and if you are up to date with the relevant knowledge.
How to answer: give some thought to your purposeful answers and don’t rush through. State facts and avoid half-baked responses that will lead to more questions.
Sometimes, technical questions are the best way to redeem yourself after flopping in general and behavioural questions. Your safest bet is to polish your technical knowledge and to take some time to review the latest information in your field. You also want to maintain confident body language, as it leaves a lasting impression.
Ultimately, most EE employers are looking for the same thing, and are trying to answer their own, fundamental question: is this the best candidate?