Continuous Improvement Engineer Interview Questions (With Sample Answers)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 9 June 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.

A continuous improvement engineer works with project managers and specialists to help find ways to improve projects at an organisation or company. Understanding what kind of questions an employer may ask during an interview for continuous improvement roles and knowing how you can answer them may allow you to give effective answers which can increase your chances of finding a job. In this article, we discuss the three main types of questions you may hear during a continuous improvement engineer interview, provide some examples of these questions and share a few sample answers that you can use to prepare for your own interview.

Related: Interview Question: 'When Have You Improved a Process?'

General continuous improvement engineer interview questions

Interviewers usually ask continuous improvement engineer interview questions to understand more about your work style, values and soft skills. Here are 10 examples of general questions that a hiring manager may ask during the earlier section of a continuous improvement engineer interview:

  1. Tell me about yourself.

  2. How did you hear about this position?

  3. What do you believe is the most important skill for a continuous improvement engineer?

  4. Do you prefer to work by yourself or with others?

  5. How well do you respond to tight deadlines?

  6. Can you tell me about your greatest achievement?

  7. What's your management style?

  8. How does this particular position fit into your long-term career goals?

  9. What are your thoughts about failure?

  10. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Related: How to Answer "Where Do You See Yourself In 5 Years?" Interview Question (With Examples)

Background and experience interview questions

After a few general questions, the interview may start to ask you questions about your background and previous work experience as an engineer. This is an opportunity to link their questions with some stories that help highlight your relevant skills and qualifications. Here are 10 examples of continuous improvement engineer background questions:

  1. How many years have you worked as a continuous improvement engineer?

  2. Is there a project you worked on that you're particularly proud about your performance?

  3. What are some attributes that make you an effective continuous improvement engineer?

  4. In your opinion, what was the greatest challenge in your last position?

  5. Tell me about a time when you had a disagreement with your supervisor.

  6. Please explain any strategies you have for completing deadlines.

  7. What steps do you take when beginning a new improvement project?

  8. Have you ever successfully managed a large project?

  9. What are your technical qualifications for this role?

  10. What's the main role of a continuous improvement engineer?

Related: 5 Types of Interview Questions (With Sample Answers)

In-depth continuous improvement engineer questions

At the end of an interview, employers may ask you more detailed questions that directly refer to the continuous improvement engineer position. This section can include technical questions or hypothetical situations that you may encounter during the job. Here are 10 examples of in-depth questions:

  1. What are the eight main production wastes and how can you reduce overall waste in the workplace?

  2. Can you tell me the difference between a lean activity and a cost reduction activity?

  3. What's Takt time and how can you use it when managing a process?

  4. Describe how you may use value stream mapping to encourage improvements.

  5. What's flow control?

  6. How would you handle a challenging client while working as a continuous improvement engineer?

  7. How much knowledge do you have about financial statements and how you can apply them to operations?

  8. What would you do if you can't complete a project because you're waiting on a key piece of work from a colleague?

  9. What's 5S and how do you use this concept in the workplace?

  10. Define materials requirement planning.

Related: Takt Time: What It Is and Why It's Important (With Example)

5 interview questions with sample answers

Here are five sample questions that you may hear during a continuous improvement engineer interview, including examples of how you can answer these questions:

1. Have you ever used a colleague's feedback to make production improvements?

An interviewer may ask this question to determine how well you respond to criticism and assess if you can effectively use feedback to encourage personal growth. This is usually a question where the hiring manager wants to hear a story about your past experiences. Consider answering this question honestly and think of a time when you applied feedback to your duties in the past.

Example: '**When I first started as a process engineer, my manager asked me to determine how to reduce waste in our production. While I worked on the problem, a colleague mentioned how much of our inventory goes to waste during the production process. During a step of the production, the employees had to do some guess and check work, which caused a lot of inventory to go to waste. So, I worked with the production team to find a new way to complete that step of the production and my colleague's feedback saved the company a lot of money.'

Related: A Complete Guide on How to Handle Criticism at Work

2. What's the most creative idea you've had to improve production?

The hiring manager may ask this question to evaluate your ability to develop new and creative ideas. It can also allow you to show an interviewer your ability to think about solutions quickly and implement improvement strategies. When answering this question, try to include statistics or other facts to effectively demonstrate how your idea improved the production.

Example: 'While working for my last employer, I noticed that a lot of employees were coming back from lunch a little tired and sluggish. Though it didn't halt production, the afternoon was definitely a lot slower than the morning. So, I talked with my manager about incorporating different strategies into the afternoon. This included an additional 10-minute break and a coffee machine in the break room. Because of those changes, employees had more energy in the afternoon and we increased production speed by 25%.'

Read more: How to Give a Creativity Example in an Interview in 4 Steps

3. Have you ever made a recommendation that others didn't agree with? How did you respond?

It's possible that an improvement engineer might face communication or collaboration challenges during their employment. The potential employer may ask this question to understand how you respond to those challenges. Focus on how you made your recommendations while still maintaining a professional and positive work environment.

Example: 'After analysing the production process, I gave my recommendations for improvement to my manager. During the staff meeting, the industrial engineer rebutted my recommendations, saying that my changes would actually cost the company more money overall. After the staff meeting, I talked with the industrial manager. I noticed his thought process wasn't exactly right, but I also realised he had a point about a couple of things. We compromised on the recommendations, and I made the changes. Our manager was very pleased with the results.'

4. Tell me about a time when your idea for improvement didn't work.

An employer might ask this question to see how you correct any mistakes during your work. It's important for them to understand why the mistake occurred, how quickly you noticed it and how you solved it. When you answer this question, be honest about any solutions you tried that didn't work. Tell the employer what caused the problem and what you learnt from it.

Example: 'I thought I could improve a step in the production by switching out a more malleable material for the one we were using. The hope was that it would make the production a little easier for the employees. It seemed to work for a bit, but during the quality assurance test, we noticed the product wasn't as sturdy as before. It would fall apart more easily and didn't always hold its shape. I quickly notified my supervisor of the mistake and we went back to using the old material. Thankfully, we caught the problem in the testing phase.'

5. Have you ever realised a problem was going to take longer to fix than you first thought? How did you tell your supervisors?

When working as a continuous improvement engineer, you may address a problem within a particular deadline. This question allows an interviewer to determine how you may react when working on a problem that may require you to work past your expected deadline. When answering this question, explain the steps you may take to solve this challenge and demonstrate your ability to proactively talk to your supervisors when facing time constraints.

Example: 'My manager once asked me to speed up production by helping the other engineers develop a new manufacturing machine. The machine's production wasn't supposed to take more than three weeks to build. Unfortunately, the prototype was damaged during initial testing and we had to start from the beginning. Once I knew how much longer it was going to take, I quickly informed my supervisor and let her know. She understood and appreciated that I was so quick to update her on the situation.'

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