If you’re hiring a systems engineer to help manage the technological aspects of your organization, it’s important to ask the right questions in an interview to pinpoint your best candidate. But before we get into Q&As, let’s talk about what is expected of a systems engineer so you can steer the interview in the right direction.
What is a Systems Engineer?
A systems engineer is responsible for overseeing the engineering, management, and business aspects of a system or a project, ensuring that all parts are working and all levels in the process are flowing smoothly. A systems engineer is more concerned about the big picture than the actual steps themselves, but also takes under their wing details like scheduling, pricing, and technical and manpower obstacles to a project’s completion. A systems engineer monitors not just the production itself but also the needs of the end user, recommending product updates and upgrades down the line as consumer appetites change.
Given this wide role, an effective systems engineer would be one who can solve complex engineering problems using systems engineering skills, develop tactical solutions at every level of an organization, manage multiple departments, and understand future trends. Your systems engineer interview questions should revolve around this person’s ability to perform across various levels while keeping a close eye on the big picture.
Here are 10 systems engineer interview questions that will help you uncover a quality hire.
Top 10 Systems Engineer Interview Questions
Maximize your time and land the best candidate by asking the right systems engineer interview questions. Here are our top ten.
1. Have you ever worked in a group where an individual didn’t contribute? How did you handle the situation?
This question will reveal a would be systems engineer’s willingness to step in and take charge of what might otherwise be an unproductive situation. Can the candidate pull their own weight and also keep others in check?
2. Describe a time when you’ve had to resolve a conflict in the workplace. How did you handle it, and how’d you feel about the outcome?
As one of the top systems engineer interview questions, this helps demonstrate the candidate’s leadership style. Can they thoughtfully and candidly reflect on an uncomfortable office situation and describe the results of the encounter? Was it a positive or negative experience, according to the interviewee?
3. Describe a time when you had to deliver a presentation as a systems engineer. How did you manage to explain technical details to a non-technical audience?
A seasoned systems engineer will typically know how to explain highly technical information in layman’s terms. Can the candidate tailor information to a diverse audience? When posing this systems engineer interview question, ask the candidate what the specific technicalities were and how they effectively rephrased them for an unfamiliar audience. A qualified systems engineer can “water it down,” so to speak, for non-engineers!
4. As a systems engineer, have you ever found yourself having to learn a technology in order to perform a task essential to your job responsibilities? Explain.
This is one of the best systems engineer interview questions — as it allows the candidate to demonstrate their relentless pursuit of knowledge. Does the candidate embrace a self-teaching approach to some aspects of the role? Do they keep up with industry news and tech updates to stay in-tune with the day-to-day job tasks?
5. Have you ever done something on the job that you felt quite proud of, but no one else really knew about?
An excellent systems engineer knows how to keep the back-end technology working. But not everyone in the company will acknowledge or even know about the inner workings of a system engineer’s duties. A quality candidate will understand this and will also practice humility — so dig deep on this one to discover an instance of behind-the-scenes “heroism” on the candidate’s part.
6. Someone informs you that the website is slow. As a systems engineer, how do you troubleshoot the problem? At what point do you ask for help?
As one of the top systems engineer interview questions, this allows the candidate to walk you through a step-by-step troubleshooting process. Does the candidate feel confident they can resolve the issue without needing extra assistance? A great systems engineer will be able to tackle a wide range of technological hiccups that may arise in your organization.
7. How do you usually approach new project requests?
Management and organization are hallmark skills of a good systems engineer, and asking this question will provide valuable insight into the candidate’s work style and behavior. You can follow this up with the question “What if you are asked to handle multiple new projects at the same time?”
8. Are you open to continuing education?
Part of a systems engineer’s responsibilities is to make sure that they are up to date with the latest developments in the industry. By asking this systems engineer interview question, you get to gauge the person’s willingness to expand their knowledge and maybe even try new processes that are different from what they have been used to. Change is inevitable, especially in the world of technology, and your new systems engineer should demonstrate the willingness to learn more, re-learn old processes, and pivot when necessary.
9. As a systems engineer, what tests do you implement when you evaluate a system’s performance and functionality?
This systems engineer interview question looks into the candidate’s technical skills and checks if they are knowledgeable enough to handle your company’s requirements. Ask them to describe their process step-by-step or give an example from experience on how they assessed performance for a certain project. Aside from giving the best technical answers, the candidate should be able to explain in a simplified manner that’s easy to understand.
10. What is one project that you completed as a systems engineer but feel you could have done better?
The systems engineer’s job does not always end up perfectly and at some point in a person’s career they will have wished they performed a task another way. This gives the interviewer insight into the candidate’s self-awareness and sense of accountability. It also reflects willingness to improve and to conduct a review of one’s own work to enhance future processes.
What other systems engineer interview questions would you add? Let us know — and contact TruPath for your company’s hiring needs.
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