3 Behavioral Questions You’ll Hear in an Engineering Interview

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If you are an engineer preparing for a job interview, chances are you will encounter behavioral interview questions. The behavioral interview allows a hiring manager to gain an in-depth understanding of your engineering experience and how you will fit on the team. 

Behavioral interviews also give you an opportunity to highlight your expertise and speak about the impact your career has made. Following is a sample of a few questions we think you should be ready to answer and discuss. 

We’ll follow this format for each:

  1. First is the question. However, keep in mind that an interview “question” is often expressed as a command prompt or statement. Our first one is a good example. 
  2. Next, we’ll explain why this question is asked or why it is important to the hiring manager. 
  3. Lastly, We’ll guide you on how to answer or respond to the question or command. 

Tell me about a time you made a mistake on the job. 

Why hiring managers ask this: 

Engineers are the key to driving our world forward. While mistakes happen, the implications of errors in the Engineering world have potentially catastrophic consequences. When a hiring manager prompts this, they have several things in mind they’re looking for. 

  • First, they want to know that you can acknowledge and take accountability for any mistakes. 
  • Second, they want to see how you handle discussions around mistakes. Basically, how did you handle it organizationally and interpersonally? Are you solution-oriented, or do you spend more time on blame and defense?
  • Third, when a problem exists and the responsibility is yours, how does it impact your working relationships? Do you work with your team or colleagues, or do you isolate yourself or others? What is your approach to handling your mistakes vs. how you handle others’ mistakes? 
  • And fourth, what kind of learner are you? How do mistakes fuel your learning and future work? Some people can’t get over mistakes, while others can learn and adapt at impressive speeds – and quickly move on from their mistakes. 

How you should answer: 

No one likes to talk about their mistakes. But a thoughtful response to this type of prompt can demonstrate how you would be an excellent fit for their team. Next time you get a similar question during an interview, try this approach.

  • First, explain any necessary context. What was the project? Why was your team or company engaged in it? You should discuss your example without blaming or throwing anyone under the bus. If your example requires you to express blame, then pick another one. 
  • Next, dive into the specifics of your mistake. Share the facts and explain what happened. Take accountability where appropriate and convey why you think you made the mistake in a way that leads you into the last part of your answer. 
  • Finally, close the loop and share how you rectified the mistake.. What steps did you take to resolve it? Were there any positive impacts for your team or company related to the resolution? Discussing the entire process, from mistake to the solution, demonstrates your engineering expertise in times of stress and allows the hiring manager to picture you as an integral part of your team. 

What’s the most challenging project you’ve worked on? 

Why hiring managers ask this: 

Engineering projects are notoriously complex. Hiring managers will want to use this question to gauge several things about your approach to project work. They’ll want to know what you think is challenging. How well can you describe the project, its stakeholders, goals, and so on while being succinct and demonstrating your knowledge? Hiring managers will be looking to see how well you understand project lifecycles. What do you understand about planning and design on complex projects, scheduling, testing, reporting, and so on? 

How you should answer: 

Your answer to this question is a significant opportunity. And a good hiring manager will glean a lot from what you say. So, for this question, we recommend you follow the S.A.R. method in your response. There are three parts:

  1. Situation 
  2. Action 
  3. Result 

Note: To get a sense of the opportunity here, think about what you could learn about a person’s skills and experience if they walked you through a complex project, start to finish. As they described the project, its various phases, deliverables, stakeholders, and roles, how much insight might you glean into their working knowledge and expertise? 


You’re going to walk the hiring manager through the entire project you choose to discuss. And in case this isn’t obvious, pick a successfully delivered project. Using a project with challenges, disruptions, or crises is fine. But final success is critical. 

To describe the situation, first present the project, its phases, and stakeholders. Tell what made the project particularly challenging? What was your thought process and approach to getting started? What were the team dynamics? 


The next part is “the how.” How did you accomplish the various phases? How did you address challenges and unexpected problems? Don’t forget to include any obstacles that arose because hearing how you work with others to address them will be valuable to the hiring manager. 



Finally, discuss the outcomes – for you, the product, and the stakeholders. You’ll be wrapping up your answer when you get to this part. Often, this question may elicit other questions in the hiring manager’s mind – especially if they liked what you were saying. So feel free to ask if there is anything they would like you to speak on in more detail. . 

How do you tackle the administrative tasks of an engineer? 

Why hiring managers ask this: 

Engineer’s roles come with their fair share of administrative duties like paperwork and reports. When a hiring manager asks this question, they want to know how you incorporate these mundane tasks into your workflow and if you understand why they’re essential. 

How you should answer: 

Keep your answer straightforward and upbeat. The last thing a hiring manager wants to hear is someone complaining or negating the importance of these necessary tasks. Discuss your thought process and how you prioritize. You want your answer to demonstrate that you’re willing to jump in and perform every aspect of an engineer role. Neglecting these types of tasks can jeopardize projects and teamwork – so make sure your answer conveys that you understand how important they are.  

We hope this gives you more insight into interviews with hiring managers in engineering. And if you’re exploring the next steps in your engineering career, we invite you to partner with us at Kelly – The Experts at Hiring Experts. Nearly 80% of our Engineering recruiters have engineering backgrounds. That means we know what’s most important to you. Get started and explore our engineering opportunities. 

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