The role of a mechanical design engineer is one that we often see companies hiring for in the electronics and embedded systems industry. Combining creative thinking and theoretical engineering expertise, it’s a position that focuses on the initial stages of product development and can involve a lot of collaboration when coming up with new design ideas.
If you’re a mechanical design engineer applying for a new role, you’re likely wondering what the best way is to prepare for your interview. In this article, we share a quick overview of the role and responsibilities it entails, and then give advice on common interview questions for mechanical design engineers and how best to answer them.
What is a Mechanical Design Engineer?
Mechanical design engineers design and develop new mechanical components and products across a range of different engineering sectors. They focus on creating the initial design specifications for different things, conducting research and refining their designs before these instructions are passed onto the next stage of development.
A mechanical design engineer usually has a background in general mechanical engineering, but will have specialised in working in the design stage of product development. They will often work as part of a team of other engineers and designers, either collaborating on designs or creating design documents and doing preliminary research to come up with new component ideas and testing and refining these.
Design engineers in the mechanical engineering industry need both technical and creative abilities to thrive in their roles. They need to be able to come up with ideas for new mechanical components, but also understand the properties, benefits and limits of the materials and elements that they’re going to use in the final product. It’s this combination of technical expertise and creative thinking that makes the role of mechanical design engineer so popular.
What Does a Mechanical Design Engineer Do?
Mechanical design engineers can work in a variety of industry sectors, from automotive design to industrial development. Below is a breakdown of some of the general responsibilities that might belong to someone in this role.
- Respond to briefs for new products and come up with initial design ideas
- Conduct research to inform designs and ensure technical accuracy
- Refine and adapt initial designs based on feedback and additional research
- Study existing mechanical designs and come up with improvements
- Use CAD to develop product designs and run simulations
- Share product designs with other engineers to gather feedback
- Record test and simulation data to inform design updates
- Consult relevant safety and function specifications to ensure design compliance
- Document the design process
- Present design ideas to colleagues and clients/shareholders
- Oversee physical product development and testing
- Work to project timelines and within the project budget
- Deliver technical design reports and documentation
Mechanical Design Engineer Job Interview Questions
One of the best ways to do well in a job interview is by preparing for the kinds of questions you’re likely to be asked. Not only can this help you to feel more confident and relaxed before the conversation, but it also helps to ensure that you mention all of the key things you’d like your interviewer to know about your skills and experience.
Below, we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked interview questions for mechanical design engineers, explained the purpose of each and given examples of how best to respond.
Why did you choose to study mechanical engineering?
The majority of mechanical design engineers study mechanical engineering at university, and if you’ve listed this on your CV then your interviewer is likely to ask you about it. This is a great opportunity to talk about where your interest in this industry sector started and demonstrate your enthusiasm for certain kinds of mechanical design.
It’s also a good way to start talking about the first design projects you started working on as part of your mechanical engineering degree. You could share some of the work you were most proud of or just talk about a project that made you realise that this was the career path you wanted to go down.
What is your CAD system of choice? Why is that?
Mechanical design engineer interview questions will often include queries about the kind of CAD experience you have and your favourite systems to use. The interviewer will be looking to find out whether you have experience with the system currently used by their company, but don’t worry if you have experience with something else. What matters is that you know how to use the different features of CAD software, and can explain why you like these features on a particular system.
This is another example of an interview question that you can use as a vehicle to talk about a previous project. When you’re talking about your CAD experience, explain why a certain system was particularly useful for a task and why.
Do you have experience working in any other industries? What have you learnt from them?
Mechanical design engineering is a job that can be done in quite a few different industries, as plenty of businesses need mechanical products and components designed for them. If you’re applying for a job in a new industry, this question gives you a great opportunity to talk about other work you have done and the skills you have gained.
You want to shape your answer so that you’re showing how work in other industries has prepared you to succeed in the job you’re applying for. The interviewer is asking so that they can gauge whether you’ve got the right background for the role, and you need to show them that what you’ve learnt is transferable.
Talk about the first engineering design you produced. What did you learn from it?
Speaking about your engineering experience is a great way to help the interviewer get to know you better in a mechanical engineering job interview, as well as helping you to demonstrate how you approach different tasks.
In this question, the interviewer wants to hear you describe your approach to a design, but also wants you to demonstrate how you’ve learned from the experience. Explain what the design project involved, what you did to complete it, and how you used the experience to grow as a designer and improve the next project you worked on.
What has been your most successful engineering project?
One of the most common mechanical design engineer interview questions is asking about previous successes in other jobs. The interviewer wants to know what you’re capable of by asking about your top work, but they also want to get to know more about you and what makes you tick as a designer.
In your response, explain what the project involved and any key decisions you made that influenced the success. If possible, you should also demonstrate your analysis skills by explaining what it was that made this project so successful and any learnings that you took away from the experience.
Have you ever worked on an engineering project that failed? What happened?
Another of the very common engineering interview questions is asking a candidate to talk about a time when they failed and how they overcame this. This helps the interviewer to see that you’re aware of mistakes or flaws and that you can use these setbacks to learn and improve.
Be honest about what happened when a project failed and explain what led to this to show the interviewer that you have good critical awareness. Focus your answer around how you moved on from the failure and what it taught you and ideally how you then applied these learnings to something else.
Talk about a time you’ve made a mistake at work. What did you do to recover?
Following on from that last question, an interviewer might ask a mechanical design engineer this to get a better idea of the candidate’s critical awareness and ability for self-reflection. Being able to own up to a mistake demonstrates honesty, but you should focus on what you gained from making the mistake instead of just what went wrong.
Explain the choices that led up to the mistake and then how you realised what was wrong and what needed to be changed. Show how you took accountability and the key takeaways you got from the experience, and then how this has helped you improve as an engineer as a result.
Do you have a process to check for flaws? Can you explain it?
Mechanical engineering interview questions will often want to focus on understanding how a candidate works, which includes learning about their processes and approaches to design tasks. This question involves explaining how you ensure the quality of your designs and requires you to talk through your checking process. Try and use an example here to better illustrate your point, ideally explaining how this has previously helped you to highlight things that needed improvement.
What’s your process for prioritising projects?
A mechanical design engineer might often have several different tasks on the go, and the ability to stay organised and manage your priorities is very important. The interviewer wants to hear about your personal process for meeting deadlines, assessing priorities and successfully managing your time, and this is another instance where the best kinds of answers will also come with an example to back up your reply.
How often do you update your knowledge of engineering principles?
Finally, interviewers tend to be looking for talented candidates that demonstrate a genuine interest in their industry and profession, which is what this mechanical design engineer job interview question is focusing on. Be honest about how much personal development work and research you do outside of the role, but be sure to mention anything from the articles or newsletter you read to the kind of hobbies that feed back into your work.
Mechanical Engineering Technical Interview Questions
As well as the behavioural, situation and experience-based questions we have given examples of above, a mechanical engineering interview will also often include a technical component. In some cases, you may be given a separate technical interview as part of the recruitment process, testing you on your specific knowledge of mechanical design concepts.
There are plenty of different types of mechanical engineering technical interview questions you could be asked in these situations. Below is a selection of examples that will give you an idea of what you may be required to answer, and should revise before your interview.
- What is machine design?
- What is the difference between fundamental and derived units?
- What are bearing metals and what should be their mechanical properties?
- What is the difference between stress and strain?
- What are the different types of mechanical joints?
- What is the stress-strain curve?
- How do you calculate the factor of safety?
- What is a process flow diagram?
Some engineering candidates find the technical element of a job interview the most challenging stage of recruitment, whilst others are more apprehensive about having to talk about themselves and their experience. No matter where you need more support, preparing answers to common questions and reading up on the kinds of things you might be asked will help you to feel more prepared and hopefully help your answers to come out sounding more relaxed and knowledgeable.
If you’re a mechanical design engineer looking for new career opportunities, KO2 is a specialist recruitment agency that can help you find the perfect role. Take a look at our current mechanical design engineering roles, or get in touch and speak to a member of the team about how we can help.