Thorn Baker EFM_The Top 5 Questions That All Engineers Should Be Asking in an Interview


The Top 5 Questions That All Engineers Should Be Asking in an Interview

Hard Services, Hiring tips

Last month, we wrote about how interviewers can ask the best questions to really understand the people they are looking to hire, and how to interpret the answers to see if the person sat in front of them (in person or via Zoom!) would be a good fit for their organisation.

Joanne Crampton, Head of Thorn Baker Estates, Facilities & Maintenance

Now we’re turning the tables and looking at how an engineer can ask questions that will give a true reflection of the company they might join. After all, in this time of skills shortages (and yes, despite the pandemic there is still a shortage of qualified maintenance engineers on the market) interviews should be a two-way street with every interviewer being willing to promote themselves as an employer of choice.

In reality, however, it appears the balance of power still lies with the employer when it comes to interviewing situations, with a lack of confidence in asking questions about the company’s values and future prospects.

Prior to writing this blog, we conducted a survey of over 6000 maintenance engineers from the FM sector. We asked them how confident they were when it came to questioning potential employers. Although 97% of our respondents said that it was quite or very important that a company’s values, prospects, environment and ethics match their own, and yet only 41% said that they were confident to ask questions about these during their interview.

We’ve outlined below 5 top questions that an Engineer can ask their prospective future employer to help them understand more about their potential fit, and why these questions are important!

1. Why is this position available?

Asking this question is absolutely vital; you absolutely need to understand why the company is hiring right now. The answer you get can give you a lot of information that will help you make a decision to accept an offer. If the answer is due to expansion/ new contract wins, this is a huge plus. The company winning business and expanding its workforce is one that is on the up.

However, if the role is to replace someone who has left don’t be shy in asking follow up questions like: ‘Why did the last person in this job leave?’ You’ll learn a lot about the company and your interviewer depending on their answer.

2. What support is in place for your Engineers?

If you are looking to work for a company that has a good support network in place for its Engineers then listen out for how easily your interviewer finds this question to answer. Our best clients often talk about how experienced and agile their contracts Admin team are. How they go out of their way to help Engineers out on the road; most companies are especially proud of their management mentors and employee wellness schemes.

If however, your interviewer finds it challenging to come up with real examples of support within the organisation you may find that they are of the ‘sink or swim’ mentality. It won’t necessarily be a bad place to work, but it may be an organisation that better suits very experienced Engineers who are used to working entirely self-sufficiently.   

3. What are the expectations required of someone in this role?

This is different from asking about daily tasks and SLA’s. This question will help you understand more about what kind of character and responsibility your potential future employer is looking for.

When your interviewer replies, listen out for how they describe what they are looking for in your personality, problem-solving skills, attitude etc. It will tell you a lot about what kind of environment you could be stepping into. If they explain that their expectations are, for example, you to check in regularly with the office, work late when needed and stay calm in difficult situations, you can reasonably expect that the contract you’ll be working on will turn out to be a challenging one.                                

4. What is great about working here?

Great employers will have great answers to this question. Your interviewer should be the best ambassador for the company (after all, they're usually your first upfront experience of what/ who the company is!). So, if it is a truly great company to work for they will be prepared for this question. An enthusiastic answer with lots of examples about living and breathing their company values, good additional benefits packages, and flexible working policies.

Mediocre employers will not find this as easy to answer – if your interviewer struggles to come up with anything concrete, or only talks about how good the salary is, be wary. Follow up with questions about why your interviewer likes working there, and why they took the job.                                  

5. What future opportunities are available for me?

Bear in mind that ‘future opportunities’ can be a wide variety of things, from promotions, gaining managerial experience to undertaking additional training and skills/ tickets. Lots of companies will consider helping their Engineers become ever more multi-skilled (and paying for the training) is a fantastic opportunity and investment. Others will want their Engineers to be the succession plan for future management opportunities.

The key with this question is again how easily your interviewer finds it to answer – if they have no concrete plans for your potential future development, this will be obvious. Again, it does not mean that you should not take the job if offered – it all depends on what your ambitions are.

It can be easy to make a decision on accepting a job based on facts and figures such as salary and additional benefits, but ultimately it is questions like the above that will help you decide if the company you are interviewing with fits with your expectations and ambitions in the medium and long term.

Do you have a killer interview question to share with our community? Leave a comment below!