It’s not enough for today’s engineers to possess strong engineering knowledge. They must be prepared to take a holistic approach to any engineering concept they’re working on, an approach that considers an entire company’s vision and outlook. This perspective allows engineers the versatility and vision to handle issues directly related to engineering as well as those that go beyond it.
Because of this, showing the ability to take a holistic approach is a key part of the interview process. A Master of Engineering Management (MEM) degree can prove crucial to developing this knowledge base. Students and working professionals who earn an advanced engineering management degree learn to broaden their understanding in key areas. This can make it easier to meet the demands of modern engineering leadership, including how to address issues that arise in areas outside the engineering department.
Engineers who hold an MEM are more aware of how their work affects the rest of the company, making them more qualified not only to lead but also lead in a way that inspires trust. Engineers with an MEM who are on a career advancement track can confidently answer any interview questions that come their way.
Engineering Interview Questions
Individuals who interview engineers for potential jobs or promotions are interested in the skill sets and experiences that candidates can offer their organizations. Candidates need to be able to demonstrate their soft skills and hard engineering knowledge during the interview process.
An engineering management degree applies to a variety of fields within engineering, such as chemical, electrical, civil, and mechanical engineering. Moreover, this degree is designed to help students knowledgeably lead teams. Typical classes focus on leadership, specific engineering technical knowledge, and communication across a broad range of positions — all competencies that can assist students with obtaining a leadership position.
Leadership means taking charge. Leaders of engineering departments need to be masterful communicators and lead by example to make sure the department runs as efficiently as possible. Engineering managers represent the department to the rest of the company and are responsible for proving the department’s worth. Leadership in engineering also includes understanding the human element of engineering just as much as the technical side.
Engineering leaders are adept at inspiring others to approach each project with the company in mind. This spirit of collaboration can build toward projects that are consistently finished on time and on budget. This dependable teamwork can ultimately help a company achieve its goals with greater efficiency, which can also play a key role in helping a business stay at the top of its industry.
Example Engineering Interview Questions
Earning an MEM prepares graduates for a variety of questions from recruiters, department heads, and HR personnel. Some questions are designed to gauge engineering knowledge, while others are built to assess soft skills. Typical questions include the following:
How Would You Approach an Engineering Issue You Haven’t Seen Before?
This question allows candidates to show how they apply problem-solving skills to fix unique issues. It can also provide them with a chance to mention specific tools or resources they may have used in the past to tackle the issue. Candidates should be able to show that they aren’t afraid to back down from challenges and can face new challenges with confidence.
When Have You Demonstrated Leadership in the Past?
Hiring departments for management positions look for candidates with previous experience leading group projects. This gives them information to effectively assess leadership and teamwork skills. Candidates should be able to describe their leadership experience working with colleagues.
What Steps Would You Take to Avoid On-the-Job Mistakes?
Engineering errors can have a wide range of consequences, from costing a project time and budget resources to creating situations that lead to hazards and danger. Candidates should be able to detail the measures they use to build an environment that’s safe and primed for efficiency — two elements that are essential for quality leadership. When this question is asked, it can also allow candidates to display thoughtfulness in building a safe environment.
How Do You Deal with the Routine Tasks of the Role?
Engineering roles often involve important yet rudimentary tasks. This question allows candidates to acknowledge these parts of the job as important. Such an acknowledgment can enable candidates to show interest in all aspects of the engineering role, which can fit within the context of taking an appropriately holistic approach to engineering.
Essential Skills for Engineering Management
Hiring committees for engineering leadership positions typically expect candidates to be able to answer engineering interview questions about their skills in some of the following areas. Questions may differ depending on the type of engineering job, but leadership positions in engineering typically require candidates to be practiced in these skills:
- Detailed and Big-Picture Understanding: Engineering managers oversee the daily production of their departments and focus on big-picture goals. Good managers meet with their team daily and help advise them on company and career goals.
- Delegation: Delegating tasks means putting trust in employees, and helping them develop the creative and strategic ability to positively affect a company. Given the size of jobs that engineering teams undertake, team leaders need to delegate tasks to their most trusted engineers to foster company growth.
- Self-Management: Managers need to hold themselves to an even higher standard than the people they manage. Engineering managers need to be organized, set goals for themselves, and consider themselves representatives of their companies.
- Communication: Engineering managers must ensure clear communication is taking place within their departments and with the rest of the company. They also need to be able to clarify performance expectations, project goals, and company needs.
Job Options for MEM Graduates
An MEM can help prepare engineers for a job in a variety of industries. Degree holders may seek to advance with their current employers, or they can look to transition to engineering management opportunities elsewhere. Below are six jobs typically suited for those with an MEM degree:
Engineering Project Manager
This position revolves around not just managing engineers but also managing every aspect of a project. This may include everything from erecting skyscrapers to overseeing the building of new railway systems. Engineering project managers need to obtain either the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) or the Project Management Professional (PMP) certifications.
PayScale reports that the median annual salary of an engineering project manager was about $96,200, as of July 2022. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that engineering management jobs will grow 4% between 2020 and 2030.
Engineering Functional Manager
The functional manager has control over the entire engineering department. This position isn’t usually affiliated directly with any of the project teams but oversees all of them from a broader standpoint. The functional manager makes sure that project managers have the resources to complete projects.
PayScale reports that the median annual salary of an engineering functional manager was about $119,100, as of July 2022.
Systems integration mostly applies to the field of information technology engineering. The systems integrator ensures all relevant technology within an office operates smoothly. This individual might also design and implement different types of automated software, depending on the business.
Systems integrator engineers earn a median annual salary of about $80,000, according to June 2020 Payscale data. Computer systems analyst jobs are projected to grow by 7% through 2030, according to the BLS.
Configuration management is about tracking and updating all of a company’s hardware and software assets. Any future changes to the company’s technological system will need to be anticipated. The configuration manager stays on top of these systems and prepares for any necessary changes.
PayScale reports that configuration managers earned a median annual salary of about $89,100, as of June 2022. Computer and systems management jobs are projected to grow by 11% through 2030, according to the BLS.
Contracting Officer’s Technical Representative
When the U.S. government needs to hire a private contractor to complete a job, a contracting officer’s technical representative (COTR) is brought on to serve as a liaison. The COTR is employed by the government or by the state to ensure a contractor meets every technical requirement outlined in the contract.
The median annual salary for a COTR is about $64,300, according to July 2022 PayScale data. After being hired by the government, a prospective COTR must complete Federal Acquisition Certification in Contracting Program.
Director of Project Management Office
Some organizations implement a business model that includes a project management office (PMO). Directors of PMOs serve as the go-to resource for project managers. They have a solid understanding of the company’s goals and how each project comes together. They’re also responsible for hiring and delegating employees to different project teams. They are required to obtain Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.
PayScale reports that PMOs earned a median annual salary of about $144,700 as of July 2022.
Starting Your MEM Today
Earning an MEM is a great option for current engineering students and working professionals alike. An MEM sharpens and increases knowledge about engineering, but more importantly, it can expand the ways in which engineers can apply their knowledge to other areas. Engineers with their MEM often become leaders within their companies. Engineers who possess an MEM are better prepared to answer interview questions for engineering jobs with confidence. They’re able to draw from a wide spectrum of knowledge, making them great candidates for advancement.
Ohio University’s online MEM is an excellent choice for anyone with an engineering background looking to transition to a higher role or leadership position. Students may complete the program entirely online, adding convenience and flexibility to their academic pursuits. Learn more about furthering your career today.