Mechanical Engineer Interview Questions
Mechanical engineers research, design, build, develop, and test different kinds of mechanical devices. These devices can range from machinery designed to control temperature to devices we use every day, such as motors.
Because mechanical engineering is so broad, it tends to be split into different fields with mechanical engineers specializing in a specific area. However, across the board, mechanical engineers need to be proficient with practical and theoretical engineering, mathematics, and science-based skills.
Mechanical engineer responsibilities may include:
- Analyzing and evaluating products
- Performing relevant research within the industry
- Providing reports and documentation to clients and supervisors periodically
- Developing equipment safety models
- Troubleshooting problems as they arise
- Identifying weak points within a device
Mechanical engineers are pioneers in the development of mechanical devices. In order to maintain high-quality products, a skilled mechanical engineer will:
- Implement creative thinking to optimize performance
- Stay up to date on trends within the industry
- Adhere to strict safety procedures
- Demonstrate proficiency with computer-aided design software
Entry-level positions within the field typically require a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering. However, a master’s degree in mechanical engineering is common within the field as is obtaining an advanced chartering status with the Engineering Council.
If you’re getting ready to interview for a position as a mechanical engineer, you can prepare by researching the company as much as possible. Learn about the 9 things you should research before an interview.
Salaries for mechanical engineers range between $90K and $126K with the median being $107K.
Factors impacting the salary you receive as a mechanical engineer include:
- Degrees (bachelor's, master's, doctoral)
- Years of Experience
- Reporting Structure (seniority of the manager you report to, number of direct reports)
- Level of Performance - exceeding expectations
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Mechanical Engineer Interview Questions
Question: Can you describe the first thing you ever designed, either as a mechanical engineer or before you started working in this field?
Explanation: This is a general or opening question which the interviewer will ask to get you talking, to learn more about you, and to collect information they can use for subsequent questions.
Example: “I actually began designing things when I was still a child. The first design I can remember was a Rube Goldberg-type device that would dispense a piece of candy after several different mechanical steps. Another device I designed was a robotic machine that would collect a tennis ball and drop it into a basket. I did this while working on a team during a competition in high school. Projects like this fueled my interest in mechanical engineering as a career.”
Question: What are the essential skills an engineer should possess?
Explanation: This is a general question the interviewer will ask to gain some understanding of your perspective of the field of mechanical engineering. The best way to prepare for these types of questions is to reread the job posting so you clearly understand the skills the employer is looking for in this role. Your answer should align with the skills you have and those highlighted in the job posting.
Example: "I believe the most important quality an engineer should have is the ability to innovate. You have to look at things differently, developing new ways to accomplish a task that are more effective and efficient. Other important skills include flexibility, focus, attention to detail, and the ability to communicate complex ideas to nontechnical audiences.”
Question: How do you use a process flow diagram in the field of mechanical engineering?
Explanation: This is an operational question in which the interviewer is seeking to understand how you perform a specific task. Operational questions are best answered by walking the interviewer through the process you use or briefly explaining it. You don’t need to go into much detail because the interviewer will ask a follow-up question if they need more information.
Example: “A process flow diagram is an illustration that describes the equipment, product flow, key connections, and the general relationships between various components used to move materials or accomplish a task. It consists of drawings using symbols to describe the key components within the flow and lines between the symbols illustrating the direction of flow.”
Question: Can you explain the different types of fits used in the United States?
Explanation: This is a technical question. Interviewers will ask technical questions to gain an understanding of the depth of your knowledge and experience. Technical questions should be answered straightforwardly and concisely.
Example: “There are three categories of fit used here in the U.S. They include clearance, interference, and transition fit. Clearance fit is described as the clearance between two parts. Interference fit describes the size of two parts to be mated where the hole tolerance is less than that of the shaft tolerance. Transition fit is a combination of the previous two where the tolerance of both components overlap.”
Question: Since you mentioned tolerance, can you elaborate on the importance of tolerance in engineering?
Explanation: This is an example of a follow-up question. The interviewer is asking you to provide additional information related to your previous answer. You should anticipate follow-up questions whenever you provide an answer during an interview.
Example: "Tolerances are critical in the field of mechanical engineering. Nothing can be designed without considering tolerances between the materials and components. Not only are tolerances vital to the design, but they can be used during quality inspections to reduce cost and facilitate manufacturing of the components.”
Question: What are some of the computer programs you use in your work as a mechanical engineer?
Explanation: This is another operational question. Not only is the interviewer seeking to understand the types of computer programs you use, but they are also interested in finding out if the applications you use align with the programs their company uses. You can prepare for these questions by doing thorough research on the company and its practices before the interview.
Example: “I use several different tools and software in my work. The first is Mathcad which gives me the ability to do math within a document as well as add relevant images and text to explain my work. When I need to perform a more complex numerical analysis, I use MATLAB. I use many different 3D CAD software, including SolidWorks, Unigraphics NX, and Autodesk Inventor. Another tool I like is Finite Element Analysis (FEA) which is useful to any engineer needing to perform structural analysis. The software I probably use the most is Microsoft Excel along with Visual Basic for Applications. VBA is the programming language built into all of the Microsoft Office products and is useful for automating Excel files.”
Question: Can you discuss some of the essential guidelines for designing castings?
Explanation: This is a technical question about a particular topic. As a mechanical engineer, you can anticipate that the majority of the questions you will be asked will be technical questions. You should prepare for these by reviewing your critical practices, tools, and information you use in your work before you go to the interview.
Example: “There were several key guidelines you need to follow when designing castings. These include designing casting while keeping simplicity as the first criteria, keeping the section thickness as uniform as possible, averting sudden changes in thickness, avoiding large flat surfaces as these are difficult to create, and using curved shapes to improve the stress handling of the casting.”
Question: Can you describe a universal coupling and how it is used?
Explanation: By now, you should recognize this is another technical question. As the interview progresses, the technical questions will become more specific and more complex. This signifies that the interviewer is gaining confidence in your capabilities and is willing to explore more specific topics. You should be prepared for this by doing thorough research and practicing before the interview.
Example: “Simply stated, a universal coupling consists of a pair of hinges connected by a cross shaft. It is used to connect two shafts whose axes are inclined to each other. An example of this would be a car where the driveshaft connects to the rear axle through a universal coupling.”
Question: Do you prefer to use pneumatics to control the machinery you design, and if so, why?
Explanation: This is another technical question about a specific topic. In this case, not only are you being asked about the issue, but the interviewer would also like to understand the rationale behind your answer. During an interview, you should carefully listen to the questions so your answer addresses everything about which the interviewer is asking.
Example: “I prefer to design in pneumatic systems for the devices I engineer whenever possible. Pneumatic systems are usually cheaper than other control systems, such as electromechanical or hydraulic systems. They are also faster, less complex, more efficient, and less messy if they develop a leak.”
Question: Can you explain mechanical refrigeration?
Explanation: This is yet another technical question. You should be prepared for this based on the job posting and the research you did on the organization’s products and engineering practices. While refrigeration is not required for a lot of engineering jobs, it is vital to this organization’s products. This illustrates how to prepare for specific job interviews.
Example: “Mechanical refrigeration involves removing heat from a specific device or location by utilizing a heat exchange system. Typically, the air is removed from the area and condensed. The heat from the condensed air is exhausted, and the condensed air, which is cooler, is sent back into the area. The refrigeration system can be cyclic, non-cyclic, magnetic, or thermoelectric, depending on how the refrigeration is applied.”
Additional Mechanical Engineer Interview Questions
What is the difference between metal and non-metal materials?
What is the relation between strain and stress?
Imagine you are in a boat, floating in a pool of water. If you throw a large rock from your pocket into the pool, does the water level in the pool rise, drop, or stay the same?
How would you handle another engineer disagreeing with your design in front of peers?
What is your experience with computer-aided design software?
How would you explain what you do as a mechanical engineer to an 8-year-old child?
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A word of warning when using question lists.
Question lists offer a convenient way to start practicing for your interview. Unfortunately, they do little to recreate actual interview pressure. In a real interview you’ll never know what’s coming, and that’s what makes interviews so stressful.
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