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Help! Interview with Public works/County Engineering Position
5

Help! Interview with Public works/County Engineering Position

Help! Interview with Public works/County Engineering Position

(OP)
Hi guys, I'm excited that I got another interview here for an engineering position with the city county(Public works) in their waterworks division.(entry level position) Their main goal is to provide reliable high quality water with responsive customer care. I'm confident about this position except I am worried on the technical questions they may throw at me that will throw me off guard. A bit of a background.. I had 2 interviews in other departments with this organization. One was building safety and the design department. They had a few technical questions for me and I didn't do quite well on them. They also asked if I had my EIT license. Which I didnt then. (April 2017)

Fast forward I have successfully passed the Mechanical based FE exam and now I got this call for this interview a few days ago. I was hoping the experienced engineers on this forum could maybe guide me on how I can improve my chances of killing this interview and be best prepared for any technical questions regarding this industry. I am willing to go back to my text books and read through whatever I need to brush up on some theory if needed. (Alot of it is fresh since I just passed the EIT) Just the technical questions I saw in the past were very job real world related which will stump me a bit.

The previous interviews never turned out to be successful and I got the chance to speak to one of the managers who interviewed me. He said I was really really close the only thing lacking on my end was NOT having the EIT back then. So now I am here with my EIT and updated my resume nicely. I really need to score this job to begin my Engineering career.

Thanks for any advice. I really appreciate it.

RE: Help! Interview with Public works/County Engineering Position

Different country; different industry - so take this with a pinch of salt.

This is an entry level position. A competent interviewer ought to be asking questions around the sort of thing entry-level candidates can be expected to know about, on the principle that the best way to find out about candidates is to get them talking. I could imagine myself using the Flint story as a starting point - there's technical stuff in there; there's customer care stuff in there and anybody with a genuine interest in the Industry is bound to have formed some opinions of their own by now. What else is hot news in the waterworks world at the moment?

Given two equally competent candidates, I find it hard not to favour the one who appears more interested in the things I'm excited about.

A.

RE: Help! Interview with Public works/County Engineering Position

2
Space213, you may benefit yourself more by understanding the job description you're trying to get and doing research based upon that job description. Water has a lot of different aspects, from the foundations to process control.

zeusfaber is right in that an entry level position should not be geared towards answers a seasoned professional would know. Your transcript will tell them a lot about your ability and/or work ethic.

It's been a long time ago for me but I don't remember any specific technical questions regarding the chemical plant being asked. They were curious about my college experience, classes I liked/disliked, current interests, where I grew up, did I really like mathematics and why, etc. I took the FE my last semester and they were interested in my desire to become a PE, which I affirmed. They described the process control department as well as the instrument department. They had to because, as a fresh graduate, I knew nothing. The instrument group was more broadly focused and included the process control piece, if I chose to take it on. I chose the instrument group for the extra learning and responsibility. And, I chose to take on the process control piece. I do not regret those decisions. Many view me as an expert but I view myself as experienced. I love what I do, too, and it helps.

Consequently, I understand economic justification of projects, equipment selection, communication/power/system infrastructure, project management, project phases, control theory, systems, detailed engineering, sales, etc.

My true interest developed in my senior year, when I took control theory. For me, going into instrument and controls was a great fit. There was a lot of luck working for my little taste of control theory and my desire to learn more about it. That is probably not your interest but it may prompt some thought for you over the days leading to your interview.

Think about what your interests are and what you want from life, too, as those relate to your current prospect.

Don't research and use that research to impress. Use it to establish rapport with your potential colleagues because that is the true necessity in this initial interview and beyond. You want to come across as genuine not a con man. It's OK to not know something and to admit that you don't. You're just starting out and the bar, now, should be your college performance, technical interests and aspirations, and your enthusiasm for the job. You know what to do but I wanted to bring those points front and center, in case you neglect them.

Congratulations on passing the FE! That's quite an accomplishment and says a lot about what you learned, your drive, and your work ethic. Be happy for yourself in those. When you are able, take the PE exam because it matters over a long career.

All the best in your interview. I'm sure you'll do a great job.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC
NSPE-CO, Central Chapter
Dinner program: http://nspe-co.org/events.php

RE: Help! Interview with Public works/County Engineering Position

While it's tempting to put things like, "Familiar with EPANET," or similar, if you do not actually have "familiarity" with something, don't take credit for it.

I saw something similar to that on a resume and I asked, "Oh, it says you're familiar with NVThermIP, what sensors did you model with it?" The hangdog response was, "Oh, I never actually used it; I watched someone use it." Bazinga!

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Help! Interview with Public works/County Engineering Position

(OP)
lacajun,

thank you for taking the time out and sharing your past experiences and what I should look out for. I can never be too perfect and want to make the best impression. I just want them to know I really want this job. I have to rehearse my resume because I know they will ask me to describe what I did in my summer internship and Senior design project which was a re circulation optimization project for a local working company.

When it comes to describing what is on your resume how long should answers be when elaborating? There can be so much detail and at times I can jumble words. I plan to do my own mock interview a few times to get a flow. Its been 6 months since the last interview. The public works department has various engineering departments within them and this will the be the third department calling me in this year. So I hope it works out.

thanks again!

RE: Help! Interview with Public works/County Engineering Position

(OP)
zeusfaber,

great points! I have already started looking into it. Thank you

RE: Help! Interview with Public works/County Engineering Position

Space213, all young people need help, when getting started. Glad to pass on a little experience.

If you want them to know you really want this job, tell them and tell them why. Your reasons need to be in alignment with what they need and what benefits your career over the long haul.

Engineer your future and take the time to do it now. Do some research and discern your interests. Most people don't do that because it's work. I was one of those. Had I understood its importance 30 years ago, my career would look different than it does today. Spend some time thinking about what you want to do 5, 10, 15 years from now. You may not be Bill Gates but your life matters just as much as his.

What kind of legacy do you want to leave? Everyone leaves one.

What do you want to be doing at 10AM on a Monday morning 5 years from now? Who do you want to be doing that with?

How much responsibility do you want in your career? Do you want to be an engineer that repeats one year of experience 40 times? Do you want to have work assigned to you for 40 years? Or do you want to be a change maker? Do you want to find ways to improve X and work to make that happen?

You are the only one with the answers to those questions. You're bright and educated, which, coupled with a good work ethic, gives you the tools to engineer your future. Never underestimate the power of a good work ethic.

It isn't easy to do and that's why some don't do it. Had I recognized the importance of career planning, life planning, etc. years ago, I would have taken the time to do it. For a lot of reasons, I took a laissez-faire attitude about too much and I don't like the way that's worked out. You don't have to work out every detail overnight. Remember your plan is dynamic and will change as you accrue life experiences. You're going to change and hopefully in the positive direction. Remember that and don't be too rigid in your planning. Treat it like an engineering problem for life, which doesn't have tight tolerances.

I've watched some get caught up in making perfect decisions about life stuff and miss life stuff. Perfectionism causes a desire to pursue and make the absolute perfect decision. There are lots of answers in life. Pick one. Run with it. Adjust as needed.

In answering questions about past projects/work, cover enough for them to understand your role, your problem solving abilities, some of the technical hurdles you overcame, how well the team functioned, etc. You can always explain, if they want more information, they can ask. You don't want to overwhelm with detail but you need to cover the relevant aspects as they relate to what you pursue with them.

We all jumble words. Don't worry about being perfect or making impressions. No one is and impressions change. This whole aspect of perfectionism in interviews and job performance is way off base, in my mind. Perfectionism is not attainable and prevents some people from making and taking calculated risks. I worked with an engineer like that because he thought failure equaled a doomed career. But, the work still had to be done and it provides learning curves. So do the work. You're an engineer and you're paid to solve problems, even ones you've never seen before.

I hear the anxiety of 3rd interview, 6 months, and perfectionism. Relax. Do your prep work. Be yourself. If it is not meant to be, be grateful for the opportunity to interview (remember to thank them for the opportunity) and expand your search. You cannot force things to happen or wish them into being. You're an engineer. Be confident in your abilities as an engineer, which your graduation from a school of engineering and your EI status demonstrate. And remember, every engineering graduate has a lot to learn at the beginning of a long career. You're no different than anyone else on this, or any other, engineering forum.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC
NSPE-CO, Central Chapter
Dinner program: http://nspe-co.org/events.php

RE: Help! Interview with Public works/County Engineering Position

While planning is good, do be flexible and don't get hung up with following the plan to a "T," which just isn't going to happen. People often get so infused with "THE PLAN," that they feel failure for missing even a tiny little bit of it. And, OMG, what happens when sh!t happens? Are you a complete failure then?

Many, including myself, had plans, but got side tracked, and wound up in an even better place than what we might have if we stuck to "THE PLAN." The main thing of importance is that most days, you are glad to get out of bed, and glad to go to work, because you are doing something that you're surprised that people are paying you to do. So, don't reject deviations from "the plan" outright, consider them for their inherent pros/cons, independent of whether they match your plan.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Help! Interview with Public works/County Engineering Position

Similar to IRStuff, it's good to work out the major themes, but you should try to stay flexible in the details. Doing this means asking some of the questions that lacajun provides in her second post. I equate it to the outlines you write to prepare an essay, work out the top level header lines and leave the sub-bullets open for adjustment.

My recent job interviewing experience started much like yours, it was for a junior process design engineering position; I am three years out of school and I hope this job will be the start of my engineering design career. I looked forward to my interview a lot, and when I met my to be hiring manager, I started the Q&A portion by stating my desire for the position and highlighting why I'd be a good fit for the team. If you are earnest in your interest, I think you can't help but come off as genuine and that will certainly be a plus. I thought I would be asked in depth questions about organometallic molecular synthesis, control system strategies, and advanced process safety concepts. I had only one interviewer ask technical questions and they were all university level questions that were meant to see if I was worth the time to train up. I believe that is the philosophy your interviewer will take.

I was able to speak with people at the company before even applying for the job through networking to understand what type of engineering skills would be needed and developed. I find that first round interviews are a good place for this because they are easy conversation starters and valuable for you to understand if you'll like the job. If you can discern the types of problems you'd work on via the job posting, it would be good to go see if you can find info relating to those areas. Maybe you can even find some scenarios that were discussed on Eng-Tips to see what thought process, equipments, calcs are germane to what you will see.

Best of luck for your interview and remember to relax before you go in - you want your energy under control so you can put it to use, not get used by it! Hope to hear good news from you soon.

RE: Help! Interview with Public works/County Engineering Position

I concur with the last few posts regarding remaining flexible in both your career and personal life. I do a bit of collegiate mentoring and one of the biggest mistakes I see regularly is fresh grads painting themselves into the proverbial corner by limiting their job search to places, industries, and positions that are comfortably familiar. They graduate and only/mainly look local for jobs they know they can do. JMO but to be truly successful as an engineer you need to bounce around the country and industry while you're young and learn as much as possible before family commitments and age start slowing you down. Years of "experience" makes for impressive introductions to non-engineers but in 5-10 you will start noticing many senior engineers who've done as lacajun put it, one year's experience 40x and had rather disappointing lives bc of it. I was rather fortunate when I started, my first position was miles outside my experience, ability, and comfort but such a rare, special opportunity that I couldn't say no or quit. I worked my backside off 60+ hours/week for five years and spent most of my personal time besides on job skills and knowledge, made a name for myself within the company and industry, created a stack of patents and papers, and am far beyond most peers 10 years into my career at my third employer. I'd encourage you to always be conscious of your own learning vs time curve and realize that whenever the learning slows its time to move on. Personally I also wouldn't go back for a third interview. Move on, gain experience elsewhere, and if you decide to revisit working there in a few years then make them regret passing on you. In reality you can either be the experienced hot-shot with the bright future who moved back or the kid who reapplied and begged until hired. The first moves up, the second moves out during the first headcount reduction.

Regarding interviews, my best advice is always to get comfortable and be yourself. Going into an interview you should know every detail written on your resume and cover letter cold, what it says and what it doesn't. When asked a question you dont want to repeat your resume you want to expand on it. I've had two sentence bullet points lead into 30 minute discussions and also had my resume be completely ignored. Regardless of how it seems to go ask for a tour of their facilities, carefully demonstrate a basic understanding of their process, and ask a few questions of things you don't know about....IOW show that you're genuinely interested in what they do.

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