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Estimator Interview Questions

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  1. I know there are several metrics involved when it comes to making an estimate. Can you take me through some of the most important ones? See answer
  2. Our estimator may need to present finished reports to upper management from time to time. How would you ensure these complex documents are understood clearly? See answer
  3. As an estimator, you need to be able to provide detailed estimations for a project within set deadlines. How do you manage your time to complete your job duties within deadlines while also maintaining quality estimates? See answer
  4. There are many software programs out there that estimators might use to help them figure out costs. What programs are you familiar with?
  5. Some professional estimators devise their own methods or ways of thinking about approximations a company might need. Can you tell me what your personal process is like?
  6. Many of your cost estimates for a project might be off if something doesn’t go according to plan. In these situations, how do you revise your numbers?
  7. Based on your previous experiences as an estimator, who do you find it helpful to consult with to estimate project costs and resource needs?
  8. You complete the estimation process and present your client with the projected overall cost needed to complete a project. However, they want to know how to alter the project to support their more limited budget. What do you do?
  9. What types of construction projects or business initiatives have you completed estimations for?
  10. What estimation project are you especially proud of and why?
  11. Has a client ever become upset and wanted to know why they cannot complete a project within a specific deadline or budget? If so, how did you approach the situation?
  12. How would you rate your mathematical skills as an estimator? What examples can you provide?
  13. What knowledge do you have of one or more industries that you can contribute to your estimation projects?
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6 Estimator Interview Questions and Answers

Q:

There are a lot of software applications out there that estimators might use to help them figure out costs. What programs are you familiar with?

A:

People in this industry have access to a host of electronic tools that can help them produce accurate results. This question tests your potential hire’s basic computer skills and knowledge of the kinds of technology estimators might find useful. The interviewee should be able to name a few specific programs and some of their key benefits when it comes to getting accurate numbers.

What to look for in an answer:

  • Software that might be useful to an estimator
  • A few primary benefits of these programs
  • Basic knowledge of computer applications

Example:

“I like ProContractor Estimating because it allows me to see actual item costs and make comparisons to approximations I’ve developed. Sage is also useful if I want a suite of programs that integrate with things like accounting or project management.”

Q:

I know there are several metrics involved when it comes to making an estimate. Can you take me through some of the most important ones?

A:

Depending on the type of company you have and what projects are involved, these professionals might need to keep track of several numbers or categories at once. This question tests the potential hire’s experience in the field and tells you a bit about their thought processes at the same time. You can search for analytical skills and metrics that might work for you.

What to look for in an answer:

  • Specific details for measuring processes
  • Keen analytical skills
  • Why certain metrics might be beneficial

Example:

“Before I begin anything, I measure the productivity of a company itself to determine how well it might meet the demands of a particular project. I’ll also look at how much profit an investment might return for you and the actual costs involved. These metrics improve fulfillment and prove certain values.”

Q:

Our estimator may need to present finished reports to upper management from time to time. How would you ensure these complex documents are understood clearly?

A:

Part of your estimator’s job may be to present a completed data set to the higher-ups at your company. A finished report needs to contain accurate information, but it also needs to be easy for people who aren’t in the industry to understand. This question tests your potential estimator’s communication skills and ability to distill data into a manageable form.

What to look for in an answer:

  • Good interpersonal and communication skills
  • Good presentation skills
  • Ability to make cost estimates and metrics easily understood

Example:

“Some metrics can be specific and full of jargon. I break these down on paper to make them clearer while keeping the same meaning. If something is still confusing, I can be there to show the benefits of the estimate to anyone at the company.”

Q:

Some professional estimators devise their own methods or ways of thinking about approximations a company might need. What is your process?

A:

Not all estimators use the exact same process to get to an accurate cost analysis. This question shows your candidate’s analytical and numerical thinking skills. It is also a chance to have the potential hire take you through some of the most important steps they use to estimate a project. You can determine their suitability for your company and particular ventures.

What to look for in an answer:

  • Specific methods for providing an estimate
  • Analytical and critical thinking skills
  • Where they might fit best in your business

Example:

“The first thing to do is look at the particular things you will need for your next project. Once I am familiar with them, I can gauge their estimated costs. It is also a good idea to look at necessary support or equipment. I have expertise in projects involving construction.”

Q:

Many of your cost estimates for a project might be off if something doesn’t go according to plan. How do you revise your numbers?

A:

This question gets at the heart of the estimator’s ability to deal with any issues that arise during any phase of a specific plan. It isn’t necessarily the fault of the professional that numbers are off. How the potential hire handles that and what plans they have in place for rectifying it will show you their ability to think quickly and re-analyze a situation.

What to look for in an answer:

  • Traits that point to quick thinking
  • A process for going over data again
  • Steps to prevent possible future errors

Example:

“One of the best ways to avoid this is by running fresh numbers each time. Some estimators use old data to get an approximation when they should be getting new information for each project. If a plan contains multiple units, I will go over them. Assessment of possible risk factors is also crucial. I would allow for fluctuation to try to reduce future problems.”

Q:

As an estimator, you need to be able to provide detailed estimations for a project within set deadlines. How do you manage your time to complete your job duties within deadlines while also maintaining quality estimates?

A:

Estimators need to make intelligent decisions regarding labor and resource needs, overarching costs and potential risk factors. This question helps interviewers learn more about a candidate's ability to evaluate various information within a given timeframe.

A candidate's answer should emphasize:

  • Time management skills
  • Ability to communicate deadline conflicts
  • Commitment to making quality estimates

Here is an example of a quality candidate answer:

Example:

"I make sure that I adhere to deadlines by structuring my schedule up until the set deadline. This gives me daily goals to focus on, like doing research, making calculations or consulting with industry professionals. If I don't have the information I need, I communicate with the construction manager to get an extension until I can make an educated estimate about one or more project components."

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