If you’re recently out of college or making a career switch, and you don’t know where or how to begin the search for the perfect chemical engineering job in your industry, this article was made specifically for you. We understand that trying to secure a good job, especially in a field as complex as this one, can be quite a challenge.
To take the hassle out of your job search, we’ve compiled technical, behavioral, and general question lists for your interview preparation, along with sample answers. After we go through some of the most important chemical engineering interview questions, we’ll share a few online resources where you can browse open positions in this field.
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What Is a Chemical Engineer?
A chemical engineer combines knowledge of the natural sciences with economic and mathematical principles to conduct laboratory experiments and develop new technologies. The chemical compounds they create have various uses in large-scale manufacturing and commerce, from the chemical industry to pharmaceuticals to foods.
Answers to the Most Common Chemical Engineer Interview Questions
The types of questions you will encounter in your chemical engineering interview will depend on the job. In most cases, you can expect technical questions, behavioral questions, and general questions. Taken together, these questions gauge your level of expertise for the role, your general awareness of chemical engineering, and your fitness for the job.
Top 5 Technical Chemical Engineer Interview Questions and Answers
A technical or operational question is designed to test your understanding of chemical engineering principles, theories, and practices. Your answers to the questions posed to you during your technical interview will show the recruiter your level of competence.
What Is Process Control and Simulation?
Process control is all about achieving a high level of consistency, safety, and economy in a continuous production process. A robust industrial control system enables a group of small operators to manage a high volume of harmful compounds and complex processes, obtaining results that would otherwise not be attainable based on human efforts alone.
Process simulation is a model-based representation of how something works. It uses flow charts and diagrams to illustrate the design, development, analysis, or optimization of a unit process. Examples of things that can be simulated in this fashion include chemical plant processes, manufacturing operations, power stations, environmental systems, and biological processes.
What Is a Heat Exchanger and What Are Some Recent Advancements in Heat Transfer?
A heat exchanger is a heat transfer system or device that maximizes the actual heat transfer between two or more fluids or gases. They can be used in cooling or heating. One major recent advancement in heat transfer is the use of cross-flow heat exchangers. This unique type uses heat exchanger tubes to transfer heat between two fluids flowing perpendicular to one another.
List the Branches of Fluid Mechanics and Its Assumptions.
Fluid mechanics is a branch of continuum mechanics. It is subdivided into fluid statics, also known as hydrostatics, and fluid dynamics. While the former is concerned with the study of fluids in equilibrium, the latter is concerned with the study of fluid flow. In other words, fluid statics deals with fluids in a state of rest, and fluid dynamics deals with fluid in motion.
Fluid mechanics is based on the following scientific assumptions.
- The conservation of energy in thermodynamic processes, also known as the first law of thermodynamics
- The conservation of mass
- The conservation of momentum
What Is the Major Difference Between Extractive and Azeotropic Distillation?
The major difference between extractive distillation and azeotropic distillation is whether or not an azeotrope formation is involved.
Extractive distillation is a chemical engineering process in which no formation of an azeotrope is needed to separate the components of a compound. In azeotropic distillation, however, a second azeotrope is necessary to break up the components of the initial azeotropic mixture.
Explain the Concept of Thermodynamics.
Thermodynamics is the branch of physics that studies the movement of heat, pressure, and volume between objects. The thermodynamic process is concerned with the interactions among heat, work, temperature, and energy, and how a change in one of these can generate a change in another.
Top 5 Behavioral Chemical Engineer Interview Questions and Answers
Along with technical questions about your theoretical and technical proficiency in chemical engineering, you’ll be asked behavioral questions geared toward understanding how you’ll react in certain situations. In case you find practice questions for the behavioral interview helpful, below are some common examples.
Have You Ever Worked in a Multi-Disciplinary Team Before? What Difficulties Did You Encounter in Designing a Project Process Flow with a Team?
This type of question will test your ability to collaborate with others. Having strong teamwork skills and interpersonal skills will always be viewed as an important component of your competence and productivity. You have to portray yourself as someone who can efficiently blend in with a team and still stand out as an individual.
Someone might say, “Yes, I worked with teams at my previous job and in college. I even headed a few projects. In one instance, my teammates and I designed a process flow for a waste heat recovery project. The major difficulty we faced was implementing the final result and syncing our schedules because we all had individual projects. However, we delivered a great result.”
Describe a Troubleshooting Exercise You Conducted. How Were You Able to Identify the Defaults and Communicate Your Findings?
This behavioral interview question measures your ability to problem-solve. Troubleshooting is an important skill for every chemical engineer. Be cautious with your response. Focus on how you solved a problem, not how you struggled or failed at a troubleshooting task.
Someone might say, “At my last job, I was asked to do performance analysis on one of the company’s plants. I started with a routine check for safety, health, and environmental issues, and I found a few glitches. I implemented a temporary fix and notified my supervisor of my discovery. With his permission, I conducted experiments and used models to find a long-term solution.”
Have You Ever Worked with MATLAB Software? Let’s Hear Your Experience.
This question measures your ability to adapt to change and your willingness to learn. Someone might say, “Yes, I have. I learned MATLAB for my last job and used it to write basic scripts. I also used it to analyze and organize my data sets. It made it easy for me to create algorithms and deploy applications across web systems and servers.”
What Are the Models or Methods You Employ to Meet Deadlines?
Time management is essential to any employer. Knowing how to schedule your projects to meet deadlines is a skill you should possess. You could say you use a combination of calendar reminders, task managers, a time tracker, and a notepad to structure your daily tasks and optimize your work time.
What Is Your Experience with Presentations? Have You Ever Had to Present a Complex Project to a Room of Non-Experts?
This question tests your interpersonal and communication skills. You could say, “At my last job, I delivered a presentation to my department managers. Most of them were unfamiliar with engineering terminology, so I ensured my presentation wasn’t filled with unnecessary jargon. When I couldn’t avoid these terms, I explained them using simple words.”
Top 5 General Chemical Engineer Interview Questions and Answers
General interview questions are used to learn more about you and why you want to work with the company. However, you should understand that the employer is looking out for specific words and phrases in your answers. Below are five common interview questions of the general variety.
Can You Tell Me About Yourself in Three Words?
Questions like these are supposed to give the employer insight into your personality and how it will affect your productivity. You should be direct, brief, and honest, but still smart with your response. You could say, “I am self-motivated, trustworthy, and attentive.” This shows you’re dedicated to your craft and have no problem taking initiative.
Describe Your Daily Routine in Your Last Job.
Your employer might pose this question to know how structured or relaxed your previous job function was. It will tell them how hardworking and committed you are to personal growth. Phrase your answer in a way that portrays you in a good light.
Why Do You Think You’re a Good Fit for This Position, Aside from Your Obvious Qualifications?
This is a personal and difficult question, and it deserves an honest answer. The employer can tell if you’re giving a generalized answer just to secure the job. You should speak from the heart and wrap your answer around a pivotal aspect of your life or a unique fact about the company. This will show them how thorough and dedicated you are.
How Do Your Values Align with This Company?
Conducting a background check on your recruiter will educate you on the company’s mission, vision, and values. With this information, you can see if the company’s values align with your own convictions. This is how you know a company is the right fit for you, and it will help you form an answer to this question.
Do You Have Plans to Further Your Education?
Questions like this test your ability to think holistically, not just for yourself but also for the company. Your employer wants to know if you’re a visionary and if you prioritize your career above all else. It helps the employer determine your ability to discern what constitutes a worthwhile investment and what doesn’t.
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Tips to Prepare for a Chemical Engineer Interview
1. Develop a Proper Understanding of the Job Function
Once you have been shortlisted for an interview, compare the job functions against your current skill set. This is a good time to refresh your existing skills and find resources on the web or professional communities to reinforce your weak areas. Remember, other qualified applicants will be competing for the same position.
2. Refresh Your Knowledge of the Company
Having a solid understanding of the company’s history, structure, culture, and recruitment style will help you prepare for the interview and for the role. Being well prepared increases your chances of being hired, as it gives you an idea of what the interviewers want to know, how they’ll phrase their questions, and how to come up with the best possible answers.
3. Stay Confident
At this stage, you’ve done all you can. The only thing left is to care for your mental health. You can’t allow yourself to drown in worry and anxiety. Stay hopeful and ensure you have enough rest the night before your interview. It will help you stay refreshed and feel good about the whole experience.
What Skills Should I Put on My Chemical Engineer Resume?
Several technical skills are necessary for a successful career in chemical engineering. Our list will guide you through the top engineering skills that will help your resume stand out to employers.
Proficiency in Natural Sciences, Math, and Economics
To build a successful career in chemical engineering, you need more than just an in-depth knowledge of chemistry and chemical reactions. You should be adept in other natural sciences like physics and biology. You should also be a natural in number-related disciplines, including mathematics, economics, and statistics.
While knowledge of chemistry will help you conduct chemical experiments and define chemical processes, physics and mathematics courses will help you understand the underlying scientific principles and achieve practical results from your experiments. Statistics will help you interpret your results, and economics will help you reduce maintenance costs.
Analytical reasoning involves applying a combination of critical thinking, research, and communication in identifying problems, developing processes, and coming up with solutions.
Chemical engineers should be able to analyze complex processes into simpler and smaller components. This will help them derive solutions to economic problems, such as how to save on the cost of production or how to make a manufacturing operation more efficient.
Computer and IT Skills
Nowadays, chemical engineers require technical competence in the use of specific software. The technical skills necessary for a chemical engineer include database management tools, data visualization software like Excel, communication tools, knowledge of different operating systems, and programming.
Apart from having working knowledge in the use of Visual Basic Applications (VBA) and MATLAB, you should be able to use more sophisticated programming technologies like C++, C, Java, and Python, to name a few.
How to Find Chemical Engineering Jobs
Securing a good job doesn’t need to be a stressful experience for a chemical engineering graduate. We want to help make your job hunt as seamless as possible. Below are the best job search sites to find ads for chemical engineering positions.
The American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE)
AIChE provides chemical engineering job seekers with opportunities for internships, entry-level jobs, and senior-level roles. It lets you search through the CareerEngineer job board and post your resume so employers can find you. It also posts articles and webinars to keep readers informed on chemical engineering career tips and relevant developments.
The Chemical Engineer
The Chemical Engineer job board was established by The Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE). This platform connects job seekers with recruiters. All you need do is sign up for the job alerts, upload your CV, browse jobs, and discover who’s hiring. Current jobs are featured from all parts of the country for both beginners and seasoned job seekers.
Engineer Jobs is a popular online job platform dedicated to helping engineering graduates from diverse engineering disciplines secure jobs in various industries. You get to search jobs by location and job title, and the board will provide you with a list of notable options.
Chemical Engineer Interview Questions FAQ
You should be familiar with the processes involved in chemical engineering. You should also be able to define chemical engineering concepts and terms like fluid mechanics, isochoric process, the laws of thermodynamics, carbon sequestration, organic solvents, mass transfer, heat transfer coefficient, production process and management, environmental regulations, and others.
Yes, they do. Technical interviews are an essential part of the recruitment process. It is a way for the recruiter to validate the experience and skillset listed on the candidate’s resume.
Yes, you can say it’s hard. Generally speaking, chemical engineering is both a challenging and rewarding career. You get to solve problems that affect every facet of our daily lives, as well as problems that have serious economic and global implications. That counts for a lot.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary for chemical engineers in 2020 was $108,540. Among all architectural and engineering occupations, according to BLS, chemical engineers were the fifth-highest paid, after petroleum engineers, nuclear engineers, computer hardware engineers, and aerospace engineers.
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