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Chemical Engineer Interview Questions

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  1. Chemical engineers often need to work with both unit operations and unit processes. Can you tell me, in your own words, the difference between them? See answer
  2. As a chemical engineer, you have some knowledge of the basic components of raw materials. Can you tell me about the material requirement planning process? See answer
  3. Some of your responsibilities as a chemical engineer may relate to efficiencies. In your own words, can you explain the philosophy of “just in time?” See answer
  4. Different industries use different types of equipment, but there are some basics you know from your training. Can you describe some common chemical engineering equipment? See answer
  5. We’d like to know a bit about your interpersonal skills. Can you tell me how you deal with professional conflicts in the lab to ensure a swift resolution? See answer
  6. What approach would you take if a process that used to work perfectly started having defects? See answer
  7. What safety measures do you implement in the workplace to keep everyone involved in the production process safe from volatile chemical reactions?
  8. Explain the best practices for disposing of hazardous waste generated during the production process.
  9. How do you balance practical operational needs with environmental protection practices?
  10. Do you have any experience responding to volatile chemical reactions or spills on a job site? How would you determine the cause of the accident and adjust processes to ensure future safety?
  11. Who do you consult with when deciding on the best, most efficient layout for chemical processing equipment?
  12. What is flow control and how do you determine the production capacity of each step in the manufacturing process to optimize productivity?
  13. Are you comfortable planning processes involving combustible materials?
  14. What would you do if a new regulation banned the use of one of the primary chemicals involved in our production process?
  15. Have you ever been able to come up with a profitable use for a byproduct of the chemical manufacturing process?
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6 Chemical Engineer Interview Questions and Answers

Q:

Chemical engineers often need to work with both unit operations and unit processes. Can you tell me, in your own words, the difference between them?

A:

This question deals with the differences between two basic aspects of chemical engineering. Most chemical engineers with any training or knowledge of the subject should be able to give you some idea of this contrast in their own words. The answer deals with mass, concentration, energy and reactions. You can use this question to test the potential hire’s introductory knowledge on the subject. What to look for in an answer:

  • Specific knowledge of how the principles work
  • Ability to explain the processes clearly and concisely
  • Concrete examples of the items

Example:

“Unit operation involves changes that occur such as evaporation or distillation. Unit process involves chemical reactions such as oxidization or reduction of a compound.”

Q:

As a chemical engineer, you have some knowledge of the basic components of raw materials. Can you tell me about the material requirement planning process?

A:

Chemical engineers often work with raw materials in various ways. They use chemical reactions to separate, combine or alter these materials and how they behave. Your candidate should be able to use material requirement planning to determine how much of a basic material is needed for production. The individual should also be comfortable using special computerized tools to help them gauge these amounts accurately and reduce waste. What to look for in an answer:

  • Understanding of material requirement planning
  • Process used to ensure accurate planning for necessary materials
  • Strategies to correct errors that may happen

Example:

“Material requirement planning allows me to take a look at the amount of a finished product the company wants and provide raw materials to meet that goal.”

Q:

Some of your responsibilities as a chemical engineer may relate to efficiencies. In your own words, can you explain the philosophy of “just in time?”

A:

Companies want their chemical engineers to do their jobs while looking for ways to be more efficient and reduce unnecessary waste. Many chemical engineers use a particular philosophy as a way to gauge their own efficiencies and take steps to improve things when necessary. A good candidate should be able to describe this lean manufacturing process. What to look for in an answer:

  • Precise understanding of the “just in time” philosophy
  • Specific examples of applying it to lean manufacturing
  • Willingness to make changes

Example:

“‘Just in time’ philosophy is all about managing both time and resources to increase the bottom line. I apply several lean manufacturing techniques regularly.”

Q:

Different industries use different types of equipment, but there are some basics you know from your training. Can you describe some common chemical engineering equipment?

A:

Even a basic chemical engineer should have some knowledge of the most ubiquitous types of equipment used in their field. This question can help you test the general knowledge of your potential hire and see if they’re ready for any entry-level positions. Specific types of equipment can vary across specializations, but many of them share some basic things in common. What to look for in an answer:

  • Knowledge of chemical engineering equipment
  • Understanding of how and when to use each piece
  • Familiarity with the latest industry trends

Example:

“I use various separators in my job to keep individual chemicals from reacting to one another and absorbers to analyze different chemical gases.”

Q:

We’d like to know a bit about your interpersonal skills. Can you tell me how you deal with professional conflicts in the lab to ensure a swift resolution?

A:

Although many chemical engineers will work in a lab setting, they may still have colleagues with whom they must interact. Companies might make them crucial parts of a team as well. It’s important that your new chemical engineer is able to work in these environments with ease. Look for responses that tell you about the applicant’s personality and how they might fit in with the company. What to look for in an answer:

  • Willingness to share ideas with others
  • Interest in fostering congenial professional relationships
  • Ability to adapt and think critically about problems

Example:

“I spend a lot of time in the lab, but I really like getting to know my fellow chemical engineers and working with them.”

Q:

What approach would you take if a process that used to work perfectly started having defects?

A:

Chemical engineers must have a strong understanding of the different factors that could contribute to problems with a chemical engineering process. In addition to developing new processes, chemical engineers should be able to resolve ongoing issues and make adjustments to their process designs to account for problems. This question helps interviewers target a candidate's troubleshooting and problem-solving ability. It addresses each candidate's knowledge of industry best practices and their ability to apply them to a practical environment.

A good answer would include:

  • Example causes
  • Research skills
  • Problem-solving

Here is one possible response:

Example:

"First I would look for any potential changes in the machinery or environment that could have impacted the process. I'd interview employees on the production floor to understand the nature of the descent. I'd look into changes in temperature, humidity, light exposure and other external factors."

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