PCB Design Interview Questions That You Should Be Prepared For

August 12, 2020 Cadence PCB Solutions

Key Takeaways

  • Different types of interviews to prepare for.

  • Interview topics you should develop for questions.

  • The design tools you use matter.

A man welcoming an interviewer or interviewee

A welcoming attitude is the best first step in the interview process

Interviewing someone, or being interviewed by someone else, is one of those things that most of us would rather avoid. This is understandable, but do you realize that we all are involved in the interview process one way or another on a regular basis in our lives? For example, when you bought your last car you probably asked the sales associate a lot of important questions, and at your last medical checkup you were probably asked a lot of personal questions.

We are involved in interviews all the time without realizing it. The question is, how good at it are we? Do we ask the right questions in order to steer the conversation towards the answers that we are looking for? Are we able to respond quickly and succinctly to questions that put us on the spot? Are we able to take those skills and apply them in the world of PCB design to the interview process? If you’re not sure, then these recommendations for PCB design interview questions will help.

What Kind of Interview Are You Preparing For?

The word “interview” usually brings to mind the process of looking for a job. That perspective is only natural considering that is the side of the interview table that the majority of us are most familiar with. There are, however, other types of interviews as well. You may be interviewing someone to work for you or you may be vetting a service provider such as a PCB contract manufacturer. Interestingly enough, many of the questions in these interviews will be the same.

Before we look at those questions, let’s go through some basic interview tactics first:

  • Be prepared before you start. This isn’t just a matter of having a list of questions, it is also knowing what it is that you are looking for and what you expect the results to be.

  • Make the person you are interviewing with feel comfortable. An interview shouldn’t be a matter of ambushing someone to get the right answers. Instead, it should be an honest exchange of information to evaluate whether or not there will be a good fit.

  • If you are being interviewed, you should be prepared with examples of your work as well as questions about the company culture and workflow.

  • If you are interviewing others, set a realistic schedule and agenda for your meeting. You want to spend enough time so as to cover the topic thoroughly, while at the same time not repeating the same questions.

  • Finally, don’t be afraid to blow your own horn when you are being interviewed. If what you’ve done is important, make sure that a potential employer knows about it. After all, no one else in the room is going to know about it. Just be careful that you don’t blow that horn too loudly or too long.

Next, let’s take a look at some of the questions that you should consider.

3D PCB layout showing components and traces

Components and traces on a 3D PCB layout

PCB Design Interview Questions You Should Consider

It would be pointless to list specific questions for you to prepare for as those will change with each interview that you are involved in. But, here are general topics that should help you to be prepared for questions that you could ask or be asked during your next PCB design interview:

  • Experience: 

If you are being interviewed, you can expect a lot of questions related to your experiences. You need to be prepared to answer those questions in detail to give your potential employer a full understanding of who you are. On the flip side, if you are interviewing someone for work, you need to have a thorough list of questions that will fully flesh out their experience and define their intent. Ask them about their education and prior places of employment. The same goes for interviewing an assembly house. You will want to find out as much as possible about what kind of work they have done in the past to determine if they can handle what you need to have done.

  • Capabilities: 

Although this question is more targeted towards vetting a new service provider, you should also expect it in job interviews. You need to know what a vendor or a potential employee can do, so prepare questions that will cover the needs that you want to be highlighted. For instance, can your manufacturer handle a tight schedule for a prototype build, or does your engineering prospect have experience with rigid-flex designs? And when you are interviewed count on being asked what exactly it is that you are capable of doing. Be prepared to give honest and direct answers as no one wants to find out after you’ve been hired that you weren’t completely up-front with them.

  • Interests: 

Questions in this category are designed to round out your knowledge of the interviewee. For a vendor that you are vetting, it is good to know their company culture to ensure that your two companies can work smoothly together. Likewise, for the PCB designer candidate that you are interviewing, you need to know if they will fit into your company culture. If you are the one being interviewed, be prepared for these types of questions as well. Your desire may be to focus on your understanding of design, but your prospective employer is also going to be testing you to see how well you will fit in with them.

  • Responses: 

These questions can take many forms. In some interviews, I’ve been asked to respond to someone critiquing my work, while in others I’ve been asked how I would respond to a co-worker that was difficult to get along with. These questions are designed to find out how you are going to fit in with the company workflow and whether or not you will enhance or detract from that process. For prospective employees, you will want to ask them the same type of questions to ensure that they understand what will be expected from them. These are good questions even for service providers as you need to know how they will work with change requests or other problems that might slow down production.

As you can see, these questions can be easily adaptable to whatever interviewing scenario you are working with. There is one set of questions that we haven’t covered yet, and that is technical expertise. 

A schematic sheet shown in OrCAD

Knowing design capture systems like this can help during the interview process

The Tools Matter

If you are looking for work as a PCB designer, or if you are looking for PCB design work to be done for you, how that work is to be done should be one of the top questions covered in the interview. Most employers are looking for designers with experience in the best design tools and successful manufacturers will be those who can work together with you using the same systems. That is why CAD system experience is so important to the design interview process.

With OrCAD PCB Designer, you have one of the most popular PCB design systems available today. With OrCAD, you have access to libraries, schematic capture, and SPICE tools, as well as all of the PCB layout features that you will need to be successful with your next PCB design interview.

If you’re looking to learn more about how Cadence has the solution for you, talk to us and our team of experts.

About the Author

Cadence PCB solutions is a complete front to back design tool to enable fast and efficient product creation. Cadence enables users accurately shorten design cycles to hand off to manufacturing through modern, IPC-2581 industry standard.

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