Scaling the interview hurdles as a fresh engineer
SCALING THE INTERVIEW HURDLES AS A FRESH ENGINEER
By: ‘Yemi Olopade
I have noticed from experience, interviewing young Engineers, how unprepared most of them are for the job market. Many of these things are within your control.
As we are in a lockdown, let me give some tips that may be of help.
If you are an engineering student or graduate, it is important to know the peculiarities of your field. The engineering profession requires a balance of knowledge and experience. Being a student or undergraduate doesn’t even excuse you.
It is important for you to know not just about your particular Engineering field but also other related fields and how what they do interact or ties into your own field. For instance, a mechanical engineer should have a good knowledge of electrical systems. You shouldn’t get stuck on a pump job just because you don’t understand its electrical wiring.
This is why our educational engineering training cross path.
Most employers are no longer willing to train fresh grads. And those who are would likely tie you down with bonds. It is a discussion for another time. In spite of this, nobody expects you to be an expert at the initial stage of your career.
But there are things you have to put in place.
1. Be sure to understand the basics and fundamental principles of your engineering field and other related fields. This means you’ve got to pay attention to your studies. The fundamentals of engineering are the same all over the globe.
2. Develop the ability for research. You’ve got to look beyond the classroom. Consult textbooks. Use the internet. There are YouTube videos that have done a good job of demystifying engineering principles with simple applications.
Don’t limit yourself to what is being taught in the classroom.
3. Avoid the pitfall of chasing money. Don’t be that guy who goes to spend his three months SIWES in a bank because of the pay. As an electrical engineering student, you would be better off with the “radionic” in the open market. As a mechanical engineer you are better off with dad’s mechanic. Put your ego aside. You would learn a lot more from those road side technicians than you would in a big factory in that short period.
What the “radionic and the roadside mechanic will teach you is closer to what you are learning than what they will show you in a Nestle plant. And it will reinforce your fundamental knowledge of Engineering.
Keep in mind that Engineers may seem to have delayed gratification but we end up making a load of money if we do the right things at the right time. It is a trade-off, especially if you were not born with a silver spoon. Today’s pain will lead to tomorrow’s gain.
4. It is not just about the experience. It is more about the impact. I see many claims on CV that the owner can not defend. Not because they didn’t have the experience, but they failed to learn the really important things.
There are qualities which an engineer should have;
– Willingness to get one’s hands dirty
– Ability to ask the right questions that elucidate
During an interview, if you tell me you did your IT in Mikano, I will likely ask you to tell me the major components of a diesel generator. What tools did you use in servicing and repairing them. How do you determine when to service?. I have seen instances where a person who claimed to have done his IT with the service team of such a company can not mention three tools they used.
If you claimed to have worked in a process industry like NBC, your interviewer will likely ask you to explain the processes involved in making Coca cola. Then he may go on to pick an instrument and ask you to explain what you know about it.
This line of questioning will vary depending on the company and the role you are interviewing for.
If you are interviewing for the role of instrumentation engineer for instance, I may ask you to tell me about some of the instruments you’ve come across in the NBC process. I would expect to hear things like;
Temperature & pressure transmitters
I may go on to ask you to tell me more about any of these. Say I am considering you for my mechanical team on the pump side, I could ask you to tell me what you know about pumps and the different types of pumps you saw or worked with in NBC.
This is where I expect you to tell me about chemical dozing pumps, centrifugal pumps, long-coupled pumps, bare shaft etc. I am only trying to find out how curious, attentive to detail and willing to learn you are.
It is also important for you to know that you can control, to a large extent, the direction which your interview will take by the information you provide in your CV and your answers.
Don’t claim what you cannot defend. It would be embarrassing.
If you are asked a question you don’t know the answer to, tell them you don’t know. You can go on to tell them the Engineering principle you think relates to the question. This will show that you at least know the principle you just haven’t had an experience in that regard. It will boost your point.
Observe the basic rules of good conduct in an interview such as;
– Dress corporate. Being an engineer doesn’t excuse us from wearing a good suit when the occasion demand it. Engineers are required to attend negotiation meetings, project meeting and contract signing meetings. You won’t be expected to wear coverall to such events. I have interviewed too many engineers who dressed shabbily.
– Smell good
– Sit straight. It projects confidence.
– Don’t argue. It gives the impression of not being teachable
Other skill sets that may come handy are;
– Driving. I always tell people that driving is a survival skill. It could also make a difference between getting the job and not.
We recently hired two young engineers on the same day. It happens that one of them knows how to drive well while the other can’t.
Many of the engineers they met in the company happen not to know how to drive too and since their team lead who knew how to drive left for a training abroad, they’ve been jumping buses in spite of the abundance of vehicles for their use.
When they found out that one of the new guys could drive, they started taking him out more when they go to support clients in different industries because they needed him to drive. It gave him the opportunity to learn more than the other person.
I once hired a lady for a sales job which was dominated by men because it involves driving a pickup truck when she told me at the interview stage that she once drove from Lagos to her village in the east.
– Presentation skills. Engineers don’t just interact with machines. We are required from time to time to interact with people. It is important to have a good knowledge of office tools like Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Projects. You will need them for reporting and presentations which are key to our work.
– CAD skills can really boost your employability.
– LinkedIn. Connect with people in your field. Write articles and posts on things you know or have learnt. Follow organisations you will like to work with and take note of the things they do and the areas where they work. I have found the platform great for job search.
– Be wise in your interactions on social media. Many employers now check out their potential hires’ activities on social-media. Imagine how embarrassing it would be if you have called someone on the interview panel an idiot on Twitter in the past.
Please note that I have only addressed those things that constitute pitfalls for young engineers.
This is not to say you should not prepare for other typical interview questions like:
– Tell us about yourself
– Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years
– How do you think you can add value to this company
– What is your salary expectation
It is important to disabuse your mindset. Don’t let anyone tell you “there are no jobs” out there. As someone who works with a company that supports over 200 industrial processes across sectors, I can authoritatively tell you there are millions of jobs in Nigeria.
You only need to be at the right place at the right time with the right skills set.
In a bid to support you during his lockdown, my team has put together a series of webinars for students, graduates and working class.
Follow Greenpeg Engineering on LinkedIn
Ours is a team of young, creative, innovative and passionate engineers that I am so proud of. We support industrial processes across sectors with Engineering procurement, support and maintenance services as well as technical manpower development.
We have one of the most sophisticated instrumentation and automation training facility in the country.
We work in partnership with some of the biggest OEM brands in the world:
I wish you the best in your endeavour.
Business Development Manager Greenpeg Engineering