How will you do this? How to answer ...

How to ace those tricky questions for Consulting Engineers

It is not always easy to answer the client’s questions, particularly in open meetings, video calls or face-to-face communications. Some people are good at thinking fast and giving good answers, but maybe they have been asked before. They have built up a rehearsed a formula to respond that works for them.

Take note, absorb them into your memory bank and for sure you will gain confidence and be more effective in the face of tricky situations and build trust in your client relationships.

How to answer: How will you do this?

Often, we will be asked to describe how we will approach a particular design problem or issue. This can happen in project meetings and almost always when we are pitching for new work in an interview. Being able to respond to this kind of question well can be immensely powerful.

You can do this skillfully, without fail, if you learn to draw from the library in your head - even if your experience is limited.

If you can talk about a subject with an accompanying visual in your mind, and if that visual is drawn from real experience, then you will feel confident about what you are saying - because we have been here before and you gain comfort from that. This is a good trick.

When someone asks you “How will you do that?” you need to think first of any situation that you have faced that was similar in any way to use as an example. Of course, at first, maybe you don't have any similar examples to match with the one in hand. But, practice and persevere. This is a powerful technique and soon you'll be able to bolt together more than one previous experience to get to something that is relevant to the question you are being asked. You’ll get good at it and it will improve your communications no end.

It is powerful to answer a question with an example.

“How are you approach this problem?”

Reply: “Well, it is similar to the work we did a XYZ Industries on their ABC Project.”

You need to draw some comparison and one that is not stretching it too far. Something like: “They had a similar challenge of a tight schedule…” is a good choice. As you talk the client through your answer you'll have a movie in your mind of the XYZ industry project, or whatever, and this will strengthen your confidence in the delivery and can help convince the client that you know what to do. Practice makes perfect, so practice. By learning how to use your own database to draw pictures in your head will really help.


  • Think of an example.

  • Picture the example in your mind.

  • Use the pictures in your mind to guide you through the story with confidence.


It gets easier to think on your feet, the more that you are exposed to tough questions. Techniques can be learnt that help you to avoid making knee-jerk commitments. Knee-jerk answers will probably make your situation worse for you. Try to hold your nerve and give yourself time to think. Analyze and make a rational decision.

Authored by Paul Lengthorn

Chartered Engineer, MBA, BEng, member of the Institute of Asset Management (IAM) and independent practicing Consulting Engineer

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