At a number of different points in the career of an automotive engineer, you will probably have to engage in job interviews with hiring managers in order to seek out gainful employment. Since this is an opportunity to advance your career, you’ll always want to put your best foot forward and present yourself in the best possible way.
A really successful interview will enable your interviewer to envision you as a productive member of their automotive company, and this is what you should strive for during every interview. There is no question that the interview process generates anxiety and discomfort for anyone being interviewed, but if you approach the whole process as a skill which you can learn, this can become a repeatable skill rather than an uncomfortable experience. Here’s how you can turn the whole interview process into a repeatable skill that can help further your career.
Prior to the Interview
Before actually participating in an interview, you should know your resume thoroughly, so you won’t get caught off-guard by any questions posed by an interviewer. Be prepared to discuss everything on your resume, especially questions about your education, your accomplishments, and your experience in the automotive industry.
You should have a list of references prepared, ideally which includes previous managers and supervisors and be sure to alert each of these individuals before using their names. If possible, you should try to learn something about who it is that will be interviewing you, and try to have some understanding of their professional background and interests. This may help you anticipate lines of questioning, and when it comes time for you to ask questions, you should have some ideas already prepared.
Make sure to research the automotive company you’re interviewing with so that you have a good understanding of where they fit in the overall market. You should also know what type of engineering challenges this company is faced with, so you should browse through all available news reports which reference the company.
Try to plan some key talking points ahead of time, for those occasions when the interviewer asks you to tell more about yourself and your interests, or about previous projects which you have worked on. It’s a good idea to practice answering some of the anticipated questions out loud because this has been proven to be more effective than simply rehearsing those answers in your mind.
Have some idea about how you intend to sell yourself to this company and to convey to them why you would make a good addition to their team. By preparing yourself in this way, you stand a much better chance of offering solid responses to questions put to you by an interviewer. Make sure to dress professionally as well.
Despite the fact that many work environments today are business casual, you will probably be expected to dress up for an interview. Don’t arrive more than 15 minutes early, and don’t bring electronic devices to the interview with you.
During the Interview
Always make sure to shake hands with your interviewer, smile, and be sure to make good eye contact. Keep in mind that first impressions are extremely important, so do everything you can to maximize that initial impression. You don’t have to provide instant responses to questions, and in fact, it’s better if you take a moment to consider before answering. Try not to be overly verbose, because that’s often an indication of nervousness.
Try to be as specific as possible about your work experience and the results you have achieved, and feature your own contributions to projects you have worked on. If you’re asked a question that you legitimately don’t know the answer to, it’s okay to admit that you don’t know the answer, and in fact, it’s much better to say this than to try to bluff your way through a bogus response.
Throughout the interview, be honest, upbeat, and positive, so that you create a good overall impression about yourself. When given the opportunity, make sure to ask a couple of questions of your own which show that you have researched the company and are familiar with its operation. Avoid asking about benefits or compensation, because these will generally be discussed at a second or third interview. However, it’s perfectly okay to ask any questions about opportunities for advancement or various career paths that might be available within the automotive company.
Be sure not to exaggerate your accomplishments, because a good interviewer will recognize this quickly. It’s much better to state your accomplishments with a dose of humility because this will almost always impress an interviewer more. You should never talk negatively about prior managers or previous positions because this could be taken as a sign that you don’t get along well with others, or that you tend to get caught up in office politics or personal differences.
Try to be as comfortable as possible, and don’t sweat it too much, because this will become obvious to your interviewer. If you really can’t get comfortable at all when you’re being interviewed, it’s likely that this just isn’t the right opportunity for you, and these aren’t the kind of individuals you want to be working with. Keep in mind that you are also interviewing the hiring manager while he/she is interviewing you, so it has to be a good fit for both of you.
After the Interview
Make sure to thank your interviewer for providing you with an opportunity to present yourself, and within 24 hours of your interview, you should make sure to send a thank-you note to that person. Emails are the best vehicles for sending your thank-you note, because it will be delivered much more quickly than a letter going through the post office, and it will have a much more immediate impact.
While the interview is still fresh in your mind, you should consider which parts went fairly well, and which parts might have been weaker. Be prepared to shore up any weaknesses if you are given a second interview, and be prepared to follow up on any specifics which were originally discussed.