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Mechanical Engineer Interview Questions

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  1. What was the first thing you ever designed? See answer
  2. How would you explain a car’s wheel and axle system to a layperson? See answer
  3. Why do customers buy a product? See answer
  4. What do you enjoy about working on a team? See answer
  5. What is a new engineering skill you’ve acquired in the last year? See answer
  6. How do you keep from getting bored when doing routine engineering work? See answer
  7. What skills would you say are most important for an engineer to have?
  8. What’s your process for explaining complex designs to individuals with limited technical knowledge?
  9. Do you have experience using any CAD systems?
  10. What is the most successful engineering project you’ve ever completed?
  11. Tell me about a time when one of your projects failed. What did you learn from this experience?
  12. What’s your process for performing a quality check after finishing a project?
  13. Do you have a strategy for prioritizing and completing many projects under pressure?
  14. Explain to me what a process flow diagram is.
  15. Which types of bearings do you prefer to work with and why?
  16. Describe the benefits of projectile motion over rocket motion.
  17. Where would you start if I asked you to make a car from scratch?
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8 Mechanical Engineer Interview Questions and Answers

Q:

What was the first thing you ever designed?

A:

Some of the best mechanical engineers have been creating things their entire lives. Exploring a candidate’s history with engineering can reveal their passion for the field, even if they were using household items as a child to build something small.

What to look for in an answer:

  • A long history of design and innovation
  • Evidence they have been troubleshooting for a long time
  • Passion for engineering

Example:


“I designed a toy car with a functional steering system when I was a kid. I spent weeks on it, figuring out how to create an axle and getting the thing to turn right. I used pieces from other toy cars and screws from around the house.”

Q:

What skills would you say are most important for an engineer?

A:

How a candidate understands their role may differ from how you need them to function within the company. This question helps you gauge if you are both on the same page.

What to look for in an answer:

  • Evidence they have a comprehensive understanding of the profession
  • Confirmation they have thought about their role within the company
  • Self-awareness about what assets they bring to table

Example:


“The ability to be innovative is the most important quality for an engineer. We have to be able to look at things in a new way, even if it means realizing our past ideas are not as perfect as we thought they were. Our job is always trying to top our last design. Being a good communicator is also a good skill, because you have to be able to explain your idea to the rest of your team and get them to buy into it.”

Q:

How would you explain a car’s wheel and axle system to a layperson?

A:

This question assesses how well an engineer can explain complicated designs to people who work in other industries. It’s important that your mechanical engineer be able to articulate their idea to marketing and executive teams in your company before production begins.

What to look for in an answer:

  • Evidence they can communicate complicated designs to other teams in a way that makes sense
  • Willingness to break down complex issues without becoming frustrated
  • Understanding of the importance of communicating engineering points to others

Example:


“Axles serve two main purposes. They help bear some of the weight of the car, and they help the steering system turn your wheels. So, when you turn your steering wheel to the right, the axle helps turn the tires and absorbs any weight shift.”

Q:

Why do customers buy a product?

A:

Ultimately your candidate’s ideas are only of value to you if they translate into a sellable product. Asking them to get into the mind of a buyer will reveal whether or not your candidate has an understanding of what makes something appealing to a buyer.

What to look for in an answer:

  • Indication they understand the necessity to translate complicated ideas to a tangible product
  • Understanding of what consumers are looking for
  • Willingness to adjust their designs to accommodate consumer needs

Example:


“A customer buys a product because it makes their life better. Especially with technology, the product needs to make something easier for them if they’re going to spend their money on it.”

Q:

What do you enjoy about working on a team?

A:

No employee is an island, and certainly not a mechanical engineer. An engineer must work with other engineers on their designs and implementation, and with other internal teams who are managing the production and marketing strategies.

What to look for in an answer:

  • Evidence they have experience working hand in hand with other teams
  • Indication they are willing to accept feedback from other groups in the company
  • Thoughtfulness about the importance of teamwork

Example:


“Working on a design yourself can be rewarding, but it usually turns out better if you have more than one brain offering input. I enjoy working on a team because someone can always take one of my original ideas and add a new element, and I can do the same thing for other engineers. I also appreciate the communications teams because we can figure out together a way to take intricate ideas and make them easy to understand, which is a nice challenge.”

Q:

What is a new engineering skill you’ve acquired in the last year?

A:

Continuing education is an indication that your candidate is committed to excellence and the field of engineering, which will ultimately help your company. This question probes into how they go about staying relevant in the industry and doing great work.

What to look for in an answer:

  • Evidence they continue to pursue new skills
  • Confirmation their specialty knowledge has grown over time
  • Passion about trending fields and potential in engineering

Example:


“I took a course on the design of solar water heating systems a few months ago. As the future of energy moves toward solar, I wanted to be familiar with the components and processes of using solar collector systems to generate energy. A lot of what I learned can be applied to other forms of solar absorption construction.”

Q:

How do you keep from getting bored when doing routine engineering work?

A:

A lot of engineering work can get monotonous, especially if the engineer is designing similar products or components. This question helps you assess how a candidate creates innovation and excitement where someone else may grow bored and quit.

What to look for in an answer:

  • Evidence the candidate persevered through mundane work to create interesting outcomes
  • Thoughtfulness about how to motivate others to consider new ideas
  • Understanding of the vast possibilities of engineering

Example:


“Well, there are always countless possibilities about how to create. One of the best parts of my job is that I get to use tried and true components but assemble them in a new way. I avoid boredom at work by looking for new and improved ways to use the same parts in a more efficient way. Even when that’s not a part of my professional role, I can get that out of my system at home by tinkering on my car or building things in my garage.”

Q:

What's your process for explaining complex designs to individuals with limited technical knowledge?

A:

Mechanical engineers have advanced technical knowledge but must regularly use simple terminology to describe a complex design and its plans to clients. The better a mechanical engineer is at communicating project goals, describing expected outcomes and answering client questions, the more likely they are to win bids and increase customer satisfaction. The ideal candidate should use this question to demonstrate their experience collaborating with clients and their process for describing technical terms in a clear and understandable manner.

The candidate's answer should emphasize:

  • Ability to break down complex terminology
  • Communication and collaboration
  • Professionalism and patience when working with clients

An answer to this question could look like this:

Example:

"My process for explaining complex designs is to schedule a meeting with potential clients. I'll then create a slideshow presentation featuring labeled drawings of each design. As I move through the presentation, I'll point to each labeled part of a design and will use simple terminology to define it, then explain how that part properly functions. I'll then describe the project as a whole and detail how the design will benefit the client directly. Throughout the presentation, I'll regularly pause for questions and ask if clients have any clarifying questions at the end as well."

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    Last updated: Apr 21, 2021