Preparing for an Interview with Senior Managers for a Reliability Engineering Position
Organizations around the world are recognizing the value of reliability engineering. Or, they are realizing that creating a durable product that delights the customer is good for business.
Another contributor to the interest in reliable products is the news of recalls. One recall not only distrupts the normal course of business, it may alter the future of the company. It may cause the collapse of the organization. Some do better than others, yet a major, in the news, recall is something to avoid. Creating a reliable product helps.
So you made it past the initial round of interview and have been called back to talk to the senior folks. As with any job interview, being prepared helps you present your best self. Understanding the business drivers motivating an interest in reliablity is essential for your preperation. This is not how to prepare an accelerated test plan type question, rather it is about how the results of an ALT will provide relevant value to the organization.
This topic was actually a question I received the other day. The more I thought about providing an answer, the more I thought this may be a question you will face.
The Basics Count
Show up on time. Dress for the part. Be polite, respectful, and honest.
Relax. Breathe It’s amazing how just practicing beathing just a bit deeper helps you focus, stay calm, and remain poised and confident.
Body posture, dress, demeanor all count. First impressions set the stage and allow the converstaion to explore if you are the right person for the role.
Answer the Question
Clear, succinct, and direct. If you don’t know the answer, say so, and offer to find out and get back to them.
If you don’t understand the question, say so.
Expect hypothectial or unusal questions. Expect questions that don’t seem like interview questions.
For example, an opening greeting may be, ‘Hi, how’s your day going?’, this may be how this person regularly greets everyone, or it may be an interview question. If you respond with a 10 minute diatribe about traffic and finding parking in the area, one, she may not really care (or might a great deal), or two, if your response is long winded, fully of complaints, and unrelated to the reason you are in the room, well that could be bad.
Answer the question with your answer, not the answer you think they want to hear.
A long time ago I received an initation for a day of interviews. The first one was with the director of engineering. He asked how I would work as a reliability engineer when a test revealed a problem with the product. I started with the comment, ‘first I would disucss with the design engineers…’ and before I could finish, he said that I would not work at all with the development team.
Hum… that is interesting. That is not how I think reliability engineers are successful since reliability is primarily designed into a product. I thanked him for his time, 10 minutes so far, and said this isn’t the position for me. I got up and left. That was not the answer he was seeking.
Answer the question not with the right answer, rather with your answer. It will help you both find the person for the position where both will enjoy the experience.
Connect Reliability to What Concerns the Senior Managers
The same advice for those presenting to senior managers as when interviewing applies. Make your point first and quickly. Think executive summary, one page, high level. Have the details ready to support your conclusions if asked about them.
Keep in mind the type and level of decision the person you are talking to has to deal with. How can you, as a reliablity engineering in the organization, help them deal with their day to day decision making.
If asked about your experience doing ALT, you could go into the details about failure mechanisms, physics of failure models, and the calculation of acceleration factors. Or, you can connect how your work and knowledge of ALT helps the senor managers position the product correctly in the market, helps minimize warranty expenses, or helped reduce the risk a product launch decisions.
Understand the business and what drives major decisions. Reliability is important, and rarely the most important factor shaping business decisions. If the company makes consumer product with a major holiday market, time to market may dominate decisions. If working with a high tech feature rich product then technology and innovation may dominate decisions.
You can and should connect how relaiblity activities from FMEA to ALT to those making decisions at every level of the organization. If in a time to market driven organization, HALT provides a quicker way to find reliablity problems reducing the risk of schedule slips. If in a technology driven organization, HALT provides a means to discover novel failure mechanisms or examine alternative solutions effectively.
Keep in mind the organization may have an overall time to market focus, yet the person you are talking to may most care about cost. Listen and adjust your connections of reliablity engineering to what is important to the organization and to the person in front of you.
Your preparation on how to relate common reliability activities to value for the organization and customer within different business driving situations provides you the flexibility to demonstrate the value you bring to the organization in a meaningful way.
It’s Time for You to Ask Questions
Remember a job interview is not a radio talk show interview about your new book. The person asking you quesitons wants to know you before deciding to offer you a position or not. You also have to walk away from the interview knowing the organization and the people well enough to decide if you would want to work there or not.
It’s a two way process. Sure, you don’t have a decision to make till they provide an offer, yet it’s the interview where you can learn about the organization.
Listening to the questions asked of you may provide insights on how the organization works, priorities, and expectations for the role. Yet, you should ask questions, be curious, and explore the elements that are not clear.
Ask about why they want to hire a reliability engineer? Ask about priorities near and long term for the organization. Ask about how decisions are made and what information is expected to make those decisions. Ask about risk tolerance concerning reliability. Ask how they know they are on the right track and how reliability fits into that plan.
Basically, if you leave the interview with unasked questions, you may have missed a chance to inform your decision about the offer later.
Relax, Breathe, It’s Just and Interview
If you had met this person by chance at a coffee shop, you may easily greet each other, talk about the weather, the quality of the coffee, and what you do for work. Sharing a table you may easily spend the time with another interesting person.
You would smile, be polite, respectful. You would not have to worry about breathing. Nothing is on the line in the coffee shop discussion.
Remember during the interview you are just talking to another person. They have hopes, plans, concerns, and motivations. They want to know more about you, just as you want to know more about them.
Smile, relax, and most importantly, breathe.