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Senior Controls Engineer Interview Questions -- Suggestions Please

  1. Mar 31, 2015 #1


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    I'm interviewing someone for a senior controls engineer position (this is the same position I hold now). I'm having a hard time coming up with technical questions that would separate him from a less experienced guy but can still be answered within the span of a short interview.

    I have all of the basics (conversational stuff about aliasing, synchronized motion, design for safety, etc.) I think... but nothing sufficiently advanced. I did write a mock PLC program with some state transitions that don't work for him to analyze, but that's about it.

    Any suggestions?
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2015
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 2, 2015 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Why not ask about hobbies?

    Sometimes you'll find peoples hobbies can be transferred to on-the-job needs or can indicate the type of controls engineer you're looking for.
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2015
  4. Apr 2, 2015 #3


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    What kind of control systems do you work on? Vehicle, building, robotic, etc.? What software tools do you use regularly for modeling and for development? If we knew a bit more about the job, it would help in coming up with interview questions... :smile:
  5. Apr 3, 2015 #4


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    Give him an example of a time that a design did not work or failed over time. Ask him how he would go about approaching the problem and solving it.
    His approach to the problem might indicate how technically strong he is.
  6. Apr 3, 2015 #5

    jim hardy

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    Ask him to describe some control problem he's solved.

    That'll place him in a comfort zone, speaking about something he knows well, and he'll be more inclined to open up.
  7. Apr 3, 2015 #6


    Staff: Mentor

    You could also ask him abut some system you're working on now and discuss it like peers asking for input from a fellow engineer.
  8. Apr 3, 2015 #7
    Jim Hardy's suggestion is what I would do. But I understand the need to ask the same questions of all candidates.

    Thus, you might discuss some recent issues with control systems security and ask how it is different from safety policies and design methods. Perhaps you could get the candidate to discuss what they like or don't like about ISA-99 (IEC 62443), NERC CIP, or the NIST SP-800 series of documents. If they're not aware of any of these efforts, then clearly they've been living under a rock for quite a while --and you might want to find a different candidate.
  9. Apr 4, 2015 #8
    After decades of interviewing engineers, I have finally settled on the best way to choose them.
    The most important issues are how well they will get along in your group, what work experiences they have had and how good they are at solving problems.
    Sure, there must be a high level of skill for your position but that's easy to determine in about 5 minutes.
    I agree with those who suggest letting them talk about their projects and drilling down as best you can.
    Let him sell himself. Ask about problems he's solved.
    I think the worst thing you can do is think up problems and scenarios for him to solve in an interview.
    It's a waste of time that could be better spend finding out about his experiences.
    These tests are great for new graduates but you don't really want to hire them for senior positions.
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