Interviewing an Engineer


Becoming a successful engineer involves facing challenges and overcoming adversity.  This week you will interview an upperclassperson, faculty member, or professional engineer.  Ask them about a challenge they have had to overcome in their path towards becoming an engineer.  

This assignment requires preparation from you, so be sure to start this assignment early in the week.

Step 1: Contact your Interviewee

You may ask an upperclassperson, faculty member, or professional engineer to participate in the interview with you.  If you know someone who fulfills one of these roles, feel free to ask them, people are more likely to say yes to an interview if you know them personally.  If you do not know someone, this will be a great opportunity for you to meet some new people.

Once you have someone in mind, you can ask for their participation in person or over email.  Here is an email template you may use:

        Hello [their title and name],

My name is [your name] and I’m a freshmen engineering student at CU enrolled in COEN 1500: Introduction to Engineering.  I am interested in learning about your experiences in becoming an engineer, especially some of the more difficult challenges you have had to overcome.  I was wondering if you had time in the next week to meet for 15 minutes to talk.

Thank you,

[your name]

You should allow people up to 24 hours to respond.  If someone does not respond back in that time or isn’t interested in being interviewed, email someone else.  It is your job to be persistent and find someone to interview this week.

When you get a response, give the interviewee a set of times you will be available to conduct the interview.  Once you have set a time, confirm a location for the interview.  Make sure the location is quiet enough to carry a conversation and easily accessible.


Step 2: Prepare for the interview

Print or write out the questions you want to ask the interviewee beforehand.  Here is a list of possible interview questions:

Your assignment this week will be to record and reflect on the answers your interviewee gave you.

Step 3: Conduct the interview

Arrive on time and prepared for the interview.  This is not a formal interview, so you do not have to wear formal clothes.

You are not required to record the interview.  If you think taking notes during the interview helps, you may do so.  However, before you takes notes or record, make sure it is okay with your interviewee.  If they are uncomfortable with recordings or note-taking, do not use that method and ask what alternative methods they would be more comfortable with.

The interview should be brief and concise, around 15 minutes.  Be respectful of people’s time: if you scheduled a 15 minute interview, do not take longer than 15 minutes.  Since you are the interviewer, it will be your job to move from question to question and keep yourself and your interviewee on topic.

Step 4: Wrap-up

When you are finished with the interview, thank your interviewee.  Thank them for their time and conducting the interview with you and tell them how much you appreciated meeting with them and learning about their experiences.  Thanking your interviewee is very important, since it shows you appreciation for their time and effort.

Assignment: D2L Survey

Once you are finished with your interview, you will record and reflect on the interview in this week’s D2L quiz.

Here are the D2L Survey questions.  You can use these to shape the questions you will ask your interviewee.

  1. Who did you interview?
  2. What role are they in or what do they do? (Electrical engineering student, Security engineer at CableLabs, etc)
  3. How did they get started in engineering? (This can be a short summary of how they got interested or got into the field.)
  4. What are some of the challenges have they faced in becoming an engineer? Describe what challenges or issues they faced with they studied engineering in college, got their first internship, went into the field of engineering, etc
  5. What was the most difficult challenge for them? Some challenges are easier than others, what was hardest, more challenging, most surprising, etc challenge?
  6. How did they overcome that challenge? Describe the process they went through, what resources did they use, were they successful?
  7. What was the most surprising thing you learned from this interview? Reflect on this challenge the engineer faced.  What did you learn?  What did you not expect? How can you use this for your benefit?