32 Civil Engineering Interview Questions (With Sample Answers)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 23 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you're interested in applying for civil engineering positions, it may be important to prepare for the interview questions you may receive. These questions may test your knowledge of complex engineering topics and ask you to explain your educational and professional background. Learning about these questions may help you secure civil engineering positions more easily in the future. In this article, we discuss 34 interview questions for civil engineering positions and provide some sample answers.

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9 general civil engineering interview questions

Here's a list of general civil engineering interview questions that employers may ask you:

  1. Can you describe some safety precautions you may use when designing and constructing a sewer system in a commercial space?

  2. What's the difference between a drawbar and a shackle?

  3. What are the three components of stress?

  4. How should engineers design bridges that can carry heavy trucks during construction and traffic hours?

  5. What do you think is the biggest cause of accidents on bridges during rush hour traffic time?

  6. What is the shear strength of concrete?

  7. What are the most important properties of a material to consider when structuring it for buildings?

  8. What precautions can you take in design for buildings that may have to withstand earthquakes?

  9. What methods can you use when designing foundations for a new building so that you don't interfere with existing utilities, sewer systems and other structures in the area?

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9 civil engineer interview questions about background and experience

Here's a list of interview questions about your background and experience with civil engineering:

  1. Why did you choose to pursue civil engineering?

  2. In your current position, what level of collaboration with other team members do you use?

  3. Describe a typical day at work at your previous engineering position - include an average workload, level of responsibility and any specific duties you had.

  4. What has been the most challenging project that you've worked on so far?

  5. What makes you think that you're prepared to handle this position well?

  6. Tell me about a situation in which you had to take initiative or responsibility to complete a task or solve a problem - what was the issue, how did you handle it and what was the outcome?

  7. Can you describe a time when you had to adapt to changing priorities and circumstances over the course of a project?

  8. Can you tell me about any courses you've taken that are relevant to this position, or what parts of your education are relevant?

  9. What type of job environment do you prefer - independent or team-oriented?

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10 in-depth civil engineering interview questions

Here are some additional in-depth interview questions about civil engineering:

  1. What is the advantage of reinforced concrete compared with traditional concrete?

  2. What exactly is rheology?

  3. What are the differences between compression and tension in concrete?

  4. Where are typical water-content strengths recorded and how are they measured?

  5. Describe the difference between creep and shrinkage in concrete.

  6. How do you control the strength of rebar in reinforced concrete?

  7. Describe the relationship between concrete strength and its age.

  8. How does one estimate the maximum compressive strength of a reinforced concrete beam?

  9. What are some common ways to waterproof an existing structure? What are some drawbacks to each of these methods?

  10. What is an "I-beam"? What is its purpose and how is it used structurally?

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4 civil engineering interview questions with sample answers

Here are some more interview questions about civil engineering with example responses:

1. Can you list three advantages of using steel instead of wood in a building's structural frame?

Employers may ask this question to determine your ability to reason through seemingly simple problems and to test your knowledge of various building materials. In your answer, clearly describe the benefits of using steel in structural frames as opposed to using wood.

Example: "The three main benefits of using steel instead of wood in a structural frame are durability, lifespan and weather resistance. Steel structures last much longer, can survive harsher weather conditions and can handle larger weights and physical disturbances, such as earthquakes."

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2. How does one estimate the maximum compressive strength of a reinforced concrete beam?

In this interview question, employers may expect you to use a step-by-step technique for calculating the compressive strength of reinforced cylindrical concrete beams. Employers want you to think through the problem and identify the exact steps you can follow to determine the answer.

Example: "The equation to find the compressive strength of any material is: compressive strength, or CS, equals force or load at the point of failure, or F, divided by the initial cross-sectional surface area, or A. Let's say the cross-sectional faces of the cylinder each have a surface area of 25 inches squared and the beam fails at 50,000 pounds of force. You can substitute the force measurement into the equation for F and the surface area for A. Using the formula, the compressive strength of that part of the beam is 2,000 psi."

3. What are some different ways to increase the efficiency of a solar thermal power plant?

This is a common interview question for civil engineers who work on solar thermal plants; employers may like to know what kinds of improvements are possible for these large-scale facilities that use mirrors as collectors to concentrate solar energy on large water evaporation ponds. When answering this question, think through the ways that you can improve the efficiency of solar plants.

Example: "There are many ways to improve the efficiency of a solar power plant by optimising the collection and storage of heat. As with any mechanical or electrical plant system, there's always room for improvement in construction, maintenance and design. For example, one way to increase efficiency would be to increase the size of the mirrors that gather sunlight to concentrate on heated containers full of water."

4. Can you estimate the cost of creating a new residential development in your area?

This is often an interview question that's asked of civil engineers who work on housing developments. It tests your ability to understand the economic factors that influence the planning and construction of housing developments and it also tests your knowledge of local demographics and the actual costs involved with land development. When answering this question, think through a specific scenario that can help illustrate what costs are involved in building a new residential development in your area.

Example: "A typical residential development comes with several costs associated with it. The most obvious are the initial buy-in costs involved with purchasing the land; this usually runs between one billion to ten billion per acre for undeveloped land in my area. Then there's a substantial capital cost for building the actual housing units. Building single-family homes can cost between $10,000 and $20,000 per square foot depending on location and materials used in construction. We can also estimate sales tax costs involved with new housing developments."

5. What is the difference between a water content test and a pourability test?

In this interview question, employers may be testing your knowledge of concrete by seeing if you have the ability to understand how different types of testing are used to measure concrete's strength and durability and ensure it has the correct material properties. When answering this question, it's important to know what some of the more common tests used for measuring concrete's strength are, with examples of each.

Example: "There are three types of tests that are commonly used to check concrete: pourability, stress relaxation and water-content strengths. A pourability test measures how much weight it takes to force a fluid through a cylinder, which is important for ensuring the correct fluid thickness before curing. A water content test measures the amount of water within the concrete, which is during the curing process and for long-term durability."

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