Civil engineering is one of the most common disciplines of engineering. Civil engineers are charged with the conception, design, building, supervision, operation, and maintenance of different infrastructure projects and systems. Given their critical roles, they are always in high demand.
This article will look at some of the commonest interview questions on civil engineering to help you land a job. Prepare to be assessed on your skills, experience, attributes, and behaviors.
Also, make sure that you work on your interview skills before stepping into the interview room. Take a look at the following questions:
1. Why Are You Interested in This Position?
What made you apply for the job? This is usually an opening question that interviewers ask to act as a foundation for the questions to follow. It may also seek to ascertain whether you are a good fit for the job right from the start. Be smart and sell yourself.
I am an experienced civil engineer with vast knowledge of infrastructural designs and maintenance. The job description for this position, therefore, fits my expertise. I also believe that I have all it takes to excellently perform the roles that this position outlines and increase value to your company.
2. What Are the Roles of a Civil Engineer?
Do you understand your job description? Civil engineers are different from other engineers, given their unique roles in construction. When answering this question, you can either use the provided job description or list some of your roles in your former workplace.
Civil engineers are mainly tasked with planning, designing, and overseeing the construction and maintenance of different structures such as airports, roads, and power plants. They are generally grouped into two: consultants and contracting engineers. The former work in office settings where they primarily plan and come up with the necessary project design outlines, whereas the latter implement these designs during construction. (You can include other roles. However, do not be too wordy)
3. What Are the Qualities That a Civil Engineer Require to Be Effective?
Every job has its unique set of qualities, even though some may cut across. While answering this question, think about some of the qualities or traits that have played a significant role in your career as a civil engineer. This will help you mention only role-specific attributes.
A civil engineer should be an excellent decision-maker and problem solver, given the nature of their job. They must have incredible organizational and writing skills to handle large work volumes. One must also have good leadership and communication skills since they are at times tasked with leadership roles. Other skills are Math skills and creativity.
4. What Is the Main Challenge That You Faced During Your Last Role? How Did You Manage It?
Every job has its fair share of challenges, which you are expected to overcome independently or solve with the help of your employer. This question seeks to understand whether you are a good problem solver who can think outside the box to come up with solutions or not. Convince the interviewer that you are the right person for the job.
The main challenge that I faced during my last role was dealing with clients who suggested taking shortcuts to finish the projects faster. Some also offered alternative means and ideas that would see them save money. I had to stand my ground and convince them that it was unethical and damaging to my company’s reputation. Most of them understood. For those who did not, I referred them to senior management.
5. Describe Your Daily Routine
What do you usually do as a civil engineer? The reply to this question depends on whether you are a contracting engineer or a consultant. All in all, pick out a busy day and describe it to the interviewer. Also, do not mention irrelevant activities such as dropping children to school.
My day starts early and how it proceeds depends on the issues that need to be tackled. I am a contracting engineer, and therefore, most of my day is spent on the construction site. I report early and hold meetings with the workers and supervisor to discuss what needs to be done or improved. I then ensure that all safety requirements have been met before commencing work. I will then guide them on the building of the structure and supervise whatever activity they undertake. When called upon, I may report to the office to brief senior management on our progress and even prepare reports when needed.
6. Briefly Describe Your Experience
The interviewer wants you to summarize your experience in civil engineering. Be wise to mention a few unique roles in some of the places you have worked, the positions you have held, and a few other things that may bring out the value in you as an employee.
This is my sixth year as a civil engineer. I started as a junior engineer working under a team of senior engineers. I was tasked with relatively lighter tasks, such as ensuring that all the safety requirements were adhered to before construction commences. In my third year, I was made a lead engineer tasked with overseeing a team of other engineers. I have since held interim management and supervisory roles, which have helped me in this career.
7. What Is the Right Strategy and Mindset Required for This Role?
Every job requires a unique way of working and perspective. This question is usually asked to ascertain whether you are the perfect fit for a given job. We advise that you mention a strategy and mindset that has seen you succeed in this field. Be wise to mention only job-specific strategies and mindset.
I have realized that the best strategy in this job is to prioritize teamwork. A company cannot successfully execute engineering projects without the input of different parties. As a civil engineer, I have realized that making everyone in the construction team feel special gives them the push and morale needed to post excellent results.
As for the right mindset, one needs to be result-oriented. The final work judges an engineer’s worth. We must, therefore, focus on the last results when going about their roles.
8. Mention a Challenge That You Foresee in This Role
Always ensure that you have conducted a level of research before stepping into the interview room to know some of the challenges faced by professionals. When answering this question, make sure that you are honest with the interviewer.
I do not always term them as challenges but small obstacles that we can easily overcome. I have gone through your company’s work policy, and I am glad that you have curbed some of the problems we as civil engineers face. However, I have realized that you have a long chain of command regarding site decision-making, which can be pretty inconvenient if faster decisions need to be made. I am sure that you have your reasons for such policy and would be willing to adhere to it, but we can always work on a different means in case of anything.
9. How Do You Stay Motivated at Work?
This is a common question in interviews that seeks to understand where you get your push from. When answering such a question, do not mention the extrinsic rewards that the job offers, such as a good salary or promotions. It would help if you used this opportunity to sell yourself.
I am passionate about structures. I always looked at large buildings in awe when growing up and even dreamt of owning one. Therefore, whenever I am tasked with a construction project, the passion deep within acts as a fuel that sees it to completion. I also love working with different people and getting to know more about them and their differences. My job brings me so much joy that I am always motivated.
10. In Your Experience, What Are Some of the Problems That Using Pumping for Concrete Work Brings?
This is a technical question assessing your experience in a specific area of civil engineering. Make sure that you are eloquent and straight to the point. Also, answer this question confidently to convince the interviewer that you indeed understand your area of expertise.
The main problems that pumping causes in concrete work are segregation and bleeding. This is usually caused by the force exerted by the pumps. However, these problems can be corrected by increasing the amount of cement to enhance cohesion. Also, properly selecting aggregate grading can help improve the pumping ability of concrete, thus preventing these two problems. ( You can start by explaining how the pumps lead to these problems. Just make sure that you use the correct vocabulary)
11. Why Did You Choose to Pursue Civil Engineering?
This is a common question in lots of interviews regardless of the profession. Your interviewer wants to know what inspired you to join this field. Is it the money or a burning passion for structures? Keep in mind that there is no correct answer as people have unique reasons for their decisions in life. However, do not mention any material reason just to be safe.
I come from a family where people love Math. Both my parents were math teachers, and therefore, I grew up seeing them solve mathematical equations and lots of puzzles. My dad always urged me to think creatively when tackling an issue and even inspired in me a quizzical mind that is constantly exploring how different things are structured and their working mechanism. I decided to pursue civil engineering when I realized that it aligns with everything I had grown up seeing.
12. Why Do You Want to Work for Us?
Just like the previous one, this is also a common question in interviews. Your answer will reveal whether you have researched the company and can pick a few pros that excite you. We suggest that you bring out the details that make the company different from others and also show that you have researched before rendering your application when tackling this question.
I want to be part of your organization because of your fantastic reputation. You have been lauded repeatedly for your efficiency and excellent work culture, which allows employees to grow. Most of your former employees still speak proudly of this company even in their new places of work, which makes me believe that you will better use my skills and experiences here.
13. What Is Your Number One Priority as a Civil Engineer?
This question seeks to reveal just how well you are aware of some of the essential job qualifications. If possible, craft your answer in a way that captured the company’s values and mission statement. Also, make sure that you are sincere when giving your answer.
As a civil engineer, my utmost priority is making sure that my designs are safe for both the public and the environment. I believe that the health of the public and the environment come first regardless of the situation. I also prioritize the safety of my construction team. This not only does justice to my reputation but also gives me the fulfillment that I need in this job.
14. What’s Your Secret? How Do You Ensure That Your Work Environment Is Safe?
Even though some civil engineers work primarily in office settings, others (which should include you) create time to supervise ongoing field projects. Here, the interviewer wants to know if you understand the importance of construction site safety and whether you can protect the company and employees from accidents and lawsuits by adhering to it.
One of the things that I treasure the most as a civil engineer is the safety of my construction team while working on a project. I prefer leading by example. Therefore, whenever I visit a site, I always ensure that I am in the proper safety clothing to set the pace for the other employees. I then confirm whether everybody has their PPEs on and that all the tools are safely tucked away. If the construction team lacks the proper protective equipment, I will stop the construction until that is sorted. Lastly, I make sure that all the construction guidelines in The Occupational Safety and Health Administration Directive are followed to the latter.
15. What Would You Do If a Completed Construction Causes an Accident?
This question seeks to reveal your character and whether you are the right candidate for the job. While answering this, make sure that you give a straightforward answer and are as sincere as possible. Also, show that you value your work ethic and would know what to do in such a situation.
Given that the liability in such a scenario is an ethical issue, I will inform the upper management swiftly since the company is obligated to be held accountable. Informing the upper management also serves as a lesson for the company, who will be more careful to avoid similar future errors that can cost its reputation and make it short-lived.
16. What Is Your Relationship with Clients?
The interviewer wants to know how you interact with clients. This question also seeks to reveal whether you can deal well with clients with different desires and levels of tolerance. Convince the interviewer that you can communicate well and maintain a happy and satisfying relationship.
I believe that the client is one of the most important parties in the entire construction process. They play a significant role right from the planning stage into the design, construction, maintenance, and operation phases. They must therefore be held high and their input respected.
I have managed to acquire several skills given my years of experience in this field that helps me relate well with clients. I have the patience and sincerity required when interacting with clients. I am also knowledgeable in this field and can therefore sustain discussions with clients.
17. In Your Opinion, What Is the Biggest Challenge That Civil Engineers Face?
The interviewer is testing your mastery of the industry. Are you aware of the challenges that civil engineers grapple with? Ensure that you are honest with your potential employer, who will probably listen for clues on how you will resolve the conflicts.
Having been in this field for seven years, I can confidently say that the biggest challenge we face as civil engineers face is dealing with clients who try pushing us to take shorter routes to save time and money. Some believe that their alternatives are the best and do not want to be convinced that this is usually a dangerous and unethical means of structural construction. Gaining the cooperation of such parties takes lots of effort. At one point, I even turned down a client with the consent of my company to protect my reputation and integrity.
18. Could You Explain What Bending Movement and Shear Force Are?
This is a technical question. The interviewer is trying to assess just how good you are at your job. When answering this question, make sure that you leave them convinced that you understand your work as a civil engineer. Also, make sure that your answer is straightforward and can be understood by everyone on the interview panel.
A bending movement refers to the reaction that a structural element undergoes on the application of an external force or a moment causing it to bend. The most common element that undergoes this phenomenon is the beam.
The sheer force refers to the force in the beam that acts perpendicularly to the longitudinal axis. The ability of a beam to resist this force counts more than its ability to withstand an axial force, which acts parallel to its longitudinal axis.
19. What Is the Minimum Curing Period?
Like the previous one, this is also a technical question that seeks to reveal whether you understand your craft. Curing is a necessary process when working on concrete and may have fatal consequences if not done right. Show the interviewer that you are knowledgeable of the curing process.
There are different curing durations depending on what has been used to build the concrete. For ordinary Portland Cement, IS 456-2000 Recommends that the curing duration of the concrete should not be less than seven days. This duration should not be less than ten days for Mineral admixtures and OPC concrete exposed to dry and hot weather conditions. For concrete with mineral admixtures in hot and dry weather, this duration should not be less than 14 days. (You can shed more light on these. However, make sure that the durations are well captured)
20. What Are Some of the Field Tests That You Use to Check the Quality of Cement?
This is a technical question testing on a specific issue. As a civil engineer, you must ensure that your cement has the best quality, which can only be ascertained by running a few tests. Mention some that you have used and therefore clearly understand.
There are several means of checking the quality of cement. Some of the common attributes to look out for are color and physical properties. The proper cement should be grey in color with a light greenish shade. The texture should also be smooth, to be ascertained by rubbing it between the fingers. A hand insert in a heap of cement should also feel cool, and when a pinch is thrown in the water, it should float for a while before sinking. Lastly, cement of the highest quality should be lump-free.
These are some of the most familiar questions in civil engineering interviews. Given that this is a discipline in engineering, always expect most of the questions to be technical. All in all, make sure that you prepare well and answer questions confidently. We wish you all the best in your upcoming interview!