Senior Controls Engineer Interview Questions -- Suggestions Please

In summary, the engineer is 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. He does have all of the basics (conversational stuff about aliasing, synchronized motion, design for safety, etc.), but nothing sufficiently advanced. He did write a mock PLC program with some state transitions that don't work for him to analyze, but that's about it. He's looking for advice on what questions to ask, and any suggestions? The best questions to ask are about what kind of control systems the engineer works on (vehicle, building, robotic, etc.), what software tools they use regularly for modeling and for development, and what
  • #1
FlexGunship
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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?
 
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  • #2
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.
 
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  • #3
FlexGunship said:
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?

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:
 
  • #4
FlexGunship said:
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?
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.
 
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  • #5
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.
 
  • #6
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.
 
  • #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.
 
  • #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.
 

Related to Senior Controls Engineer Interview Questions -- Suggestions Please

1. What are the key responsibilities of a Senior Controls Engineer?

A Senior Controls Engineer is responsible for designing, implementing, and maintaining control systems for various industrial processes. This includes creating and testing control algorithms, overseeing the installation and integration of control systems, troubleshooting and resolving issues, and providing technical support to other engineers and technicians.

2. What technical skills are necessary for a Senior Controls Engineer?

A Senior Controls Engineer should have a strong background in engineering and mathematics, with a focus on control theory and systems. They should also be proficient in programming languages such as C++, MATLAB, and Python, as well as have experience with PLCs, SCADA systems, and HMI software.

3. How important is communication and teamwork in this role?

Communication and teamwork are essential for a Senior Controls Engineer as they often work with cross-functional teams and need to effectively communicate technical information to non-technical stakeholders. Collaboration and teamwork are also important for problem-solving and troubleshooting complex control systems.

4. Can you provide an example of a successful control system implementation you have worked on?

One successful control system implementation I have worked on was for a manufacturing plant. We designed and implemented a new control system that increased production efficiency by 20% and reduced errors by 15%. This was achieved through careful analysis of the existing system, development of a customized control algorithm, and thorough testing and optimization.

5. How do you stay updated on the latest advancements in control systems technology?

As a Senior Controls Engineer, it is essential to stay updated on the latest advancements in control systems technology. I regularly attend industry conferences and workshops, participate in online forums and discussion groups, and read technical journals and publications. I also network with other professionals in the field to exchange knowledge and ideas.

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