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Why this matters:

Governments and organizations are frequently called upon to “do more with less.” The ability to prioritize different capital improvement projects and make a persuasive case will become increasingly important in the years to come. A candidate’s response will ideally demonstrate an understanding of civil engineering trends, as well as analytical skills and the ability to identify the most urgent needs.

What to listen for:

  • Progressive ideas like prioritizing economic impact, innovation, and climate resilience
  • Proactive approach to low-cost maintenance to reduce major expenses later on
  • Thoughtful consideration of projects with the greatest impact or sense of public urgency

Why this matters:

Strong competency in computer-assisted design is essential to a civil engineer’s role. Multiple parties, including subcontractors, rely on CAD renderings to understand how plans are created and adapted over time. Effective software utilization enhances communication and productivity, while limiting risks associated with misunderstandings or miscalculations.

What to listen for:

  • Manual, interior, point-to-point, auto-exterior, auto-interior, and end-to-end dimensions
  • Quick, confident recall that shows comfort with one or more CAD programs
  • Description of specific programs used or experience training with new technologies

Why this matters:

As a science that applies mathematics and physics to design and develop structures, a civil engineer must have a strong foundation in algebra, calculus, probability, statistics, and applied mechanics. Candidates with excellent hard skills like math should be able to list one or more vital equations and explain how they would apply to the field.

What to listen for:

  • Confidence that reflects strong aptitude in mathematics
  • Relevant formulas and applications that relate to the type of work your company handles
  • A specific example of a time when a particular formula came in handy on the job

Why this matters:

This question encourages a candidate to share their interests, enthusiasm, experiences, personal goals, and sense of accomplishment. Civil engineering is a diverse field with a variety of opportunities. Another reason to ask this question is to be sure the company has the type of work the candidate finds inspiring and rewarding.

What to listen for:

  • Shared stories that highlight relevant experience and personal attributes
  • Openness to novelty, learning, training, and career development
  • A source of fulfillment and enjoyment that aligns with the company’s opportunities

Why this matters:

Civil engineers are tasked with safety oversight, whether their work is in-office or on-site. They oversee teams of employees and work on projects that can impact the general public. Strong candidates have experience with government compliance, value safety, and display commitment to protecting the company from employee injuries and lawsuits.

What to listen for:

  • Acknowledgement of the importance of worksite safety and respect for employees
  • Clear understanding of worksite regulations, guidelines, and regulatory agencies
  • Description of steps taken, including team communication, to limit worksite risks

 

Why this matters:

A number of obstacles can arise while implementing infrastructure projects. Civil engineers must adapt to changes in scope, complexity, design, material, budget, and deadline. The nature of the work invites additional oversight from community groups and regulatory agencies, which can alter the best-laid plans. Ideal candidates should draw on previous management experience to showcase resiliency and grace under pressure.

 

What to listen for:

  • Clear description of specific experience in navigating challenging situations
  • Problem-solving abilities, open-mindedness, people skills, accountability, and leadership
  • Patience, empathy, and a positive attitude in describing one’s approach to challenges

Why this matters:

Civil engineers face numerous challenges, from the sudden unavailability of spec materials and outdoor work in adverse weather, to disagreements with project managers and poor implementation of safety protocols. Candidates may discuss personal values, working style, personality traits, or preferred work environments in their answers.

What to listen for:

  • The ability to communicate with honesty, self-awareness, and confidence
  • Problem-solving skills and a focus on solvable issues that are not critical to the role
  • Evidence of leadership, initiative, and motivation to overcome challenges

Why this matters:

Civil engineers must manage their time, as well as the time of assistants and construction crews. They must handle the responsibility of completing a project on time and within budget, even when there are delays in testing, securing permits, or conducting inspections. Strong candidates use patience, creativity, resilience, and technology to adapt and improve their ability to manage effectively.

What to listen for:

  • Discussion of effective time management strategies
  • Specific anecdote about a process improvement that aided in time management
  • Willingness to communicate, adjust expectations, and delegate tasks to others

Why this matters:

Leadership is a soft skill that civil engineers must possess, as they are put in a position of authority and oversight, managing entire teams and workflows. Team-building duties often fall to a civil engineer coordinating a project, requiring resourcefulness and the ability to recognize individual strengths. The ideal individual will possess communication and decision-making skills.

What to listen for:

  • Discussion of objective measurements and metrics for comparing individual performance
  • A formal process to analyze experience, project history, and chemistry with others
  • Ability to communicate which values have the greatest effect on work sites
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