Although the pandemic has radically shaken up most industries since 2020, the demand for maintenance workers has been consistent. Regardless of the state of the world, buildings and equipment still need to be maintained – so for workers who can assess problems, carry out repairs, and undertake preventative work, there’s as much demand as ever! With the right skills and training, it’s possible to make a great living working in maintenance.
But maintenance can be highly technical, and the requirements of maintenance roles can vary between companies. Companies want to be able to trust that their machinery, equipment and spaces will be kept in optimum condition by maintenance workers who know what they’re doing. All these factors add up to create an interview process that can be much more rigorous than you may expect.
Don’t be discouraged! The VisualCV team has put together a guide to the most common interview questions for maintenance workers, along with some helpful advice on how to respond. In this article, we’ll cover the following points:
Maintenance work is a broad church, but at its core, it involves ensuring that an organization’s buildings and equipment are maintained. That doesn’t just mean carrying out repairs on an as-needed basis. It means staying on top of building and machine maintenance to minimize the need for repairs in the future – and it may even mean carrying out decorative work, so that employees can enjoy a more pleasant working environment.
Depending on their specializations and the nature of the company they work for, maintenance workers might find themselves performing repairs and maintenance for heating and cooling systems, plumbing systems, and even electrical systems. They may be responsible for the upkeep of business-critical machinery and equipment – some of which might involve ad-hoc repairs, although staying on top of preventative maintenance is crucial. And they will likely be responsible for adhering to health and safety guidelines applicable in their state or country, both for their own benefit and for the benefit of other employees.
Needless to say, you will need to be familiar with the tasks specified in the job description of the role you want! That could include heating repair, plumbing repair, electrical repair, interior decoration, and cleaning. You’ll also need to have a keen eye for detail, a good level of personal organization, an understanding of good safety practices, and a willingness to work as part of a team.
In the world of maintenance, experience is generally more important than qualifications. While most maintenance roles require a high school diploma, and some may request a relevant qualification from a technical college, you will have a distinct advantage if you have past maintenance or repair experience. If you have the time and resources to obtain them, certifications can also help to bolster your maintenance resume – they serve as proof that you have the skills you need to succeed in the role, and hiring managers tend to take them seriously.
When interviewing for a maintenance role, you need to be able to showcase both your technical skills and your more transferable skills. Hiring managers will likely ask you a mixture of behavioral and situational questions – designed to explore how you react to challenges based on your past experience – and questions intended to draw out your practical experience and qualifications. In this article, because maintenance roles can vary in their requirements and everyone’s experience is different, we haven’t included questions that ask you to describe your experience with particular tools or systems.
We have, however, compiled some of the most common behavioral and situational questions asked at interviews for maintenance roles. We’ve also written up some advice on how to answer them – along with some example answers, designed to get you thinking about how to turn your own experience into strong responses.
Read on, and we’ll give you the hints and tips you need to prepare for your upcoming interview. You’ll be on the job in no time!
When an urgent maintenance issue threatens someone’s work environment, they often worry about the repair process causing further damage. This goes double in work settings where confidential information is kept! Often, the people who work in those spaces feel a keen responsibility to safeguard their work area – which can lead to them hovering unhelpfully while you do your best to fix a maintenance problem.
It’s no fun feeling surveilled while you work, but it’s still important to handle it professionally. Hiring managers ask questions like this to gauge your customer service skills. Can you maintain a professional demeanor and perform your duties, even under the pressure that comes with being closely watched?
Think about what you might have done in the past to reassure people, or to keep them informed of what you’re doing. If you’ve found a way to encourage people to trust you to do your job, so much the better – explain it to your interviewer! But if you haven’t, don’t worry: talk about how you made the effort to set them at their ease, and about how you got the job done despite the scrutiny.
Example answer: “It can be frustrating to feel watched while working, but I try not to hold it against people – I’d be nervous about maintenance works in my space, too. In previous roles, I’ve found that it sets people at ease if you talk to them about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. They’re already distracted from their work by worrying about my presence in their space, so taking the time to explain my process doesn’t cost either of us anything – in fact, it helps me to stay focused on the task at hand.”
Not every maintenance worker is equipped to deal with every maintenance issue. It can be frustrating to acknowledge that a problem is outside your area of expertise, but it happens to everyone, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of! The important thing is that the issue itself gets resolved.
Interviewers ask this question to ascertain whether you can work collaboratively, or whether you let your ego interfere with the needs of your organization. By forging ahead to try and fix a problem you can’t resolve, you could delay the repair process and cause further problems for other colleagues. On the other hand, by acknowledging your own shortcomings and asking for help, you can ensure that the issue is dealt with promptly.
Asking for help is also an amazing learning opportunity for anyone. We all have things we can learn from other people, and interviewers look for candidates who understand that. Call attention to your ability to learn from your colleagues, and you’re guaranteed to impress your interviewers.
Example answer: “In my previous role, I had to address an issue with the plumbing in an office bathroom. I wanted to address it quickly, because bathrooms are heavily trafficked, but I specialize in electrical and heating repairs – plumbing is outside of my comfort zone. I soon realized that if I pressed ahead alone, I would risk making the problem worse. I asked a more experienced colleague to help me, and he took the time to coach me through the repair process. I learned something new, the repair was completed in great time, and my colleagues were thankful to have their bathroom back quickly!”
Maintenance standards are always changing, particularly as technologies develop. In practical terms, this means that a maintenance worker’s training is never really over. There’s always something new to learn, and interviewers will want to know that you’re prepared to stay on top of it all.
This question is intended to measure how proactive you are about lifelong learning. Do you read about new maintenance developments in newspapers or online? Do you attend relevant conferences or meet-ups with other maintenance workers? What about certifications – do you seek out new opportunities to learn skills, or to refresh your knowledge of a particular field?
If you do any or all of the above, this question will be a breeze for you. If not, it may be worth your while to think about what more you could be doing to stay up to date with your industry. Employers will expect you to take the initiative when it comes to your professional development, so get ahead of their expectations now!
Example answer: “I’m an avid reader of blogs about maintenance news, and I also try to keep up with new research papers relating to plumbing and electrical work. I’m a member of a local maintenance workers’ social group, and we usually end up discussing new developments in the field at our get-togethers. And of course, I make a point of keeping all my certifications up to date! The industry is always changing – it would be irresponsible of me not to keep up.”
Maintenance work can sometimes be disruptive to other workers. Whether you’re performing an electrical repair that requires a temporary power shut-off to an office full of administrators, or repairing a machine that forms an important part of someone else’s workflow, it’s important to be aware of the impact your work has on others. If you don’t pay attention to the unintended impacts of your work – however necessary your work may be – you could hurt your working relationships with other teams.
Part of maintaining a good working relationship, even when creating an inconvenience for another colleague, is communication. People are more receptive to disruption when they understand why it’s taking place, and when they know it will ultimately result in a favorable outcome for them. As such, any good maintenance worker will need to be able to explain what they’re doing to colleagues – even colleagues with no background in technical or maintenance work.
If you can draw on past experience of explaining technical information to non-technical colleagues, this is the place to do it! It’s a great way to demonstrate that you have the communication skills necessary to thrive as a maintenance worker. And if you don’t have that experience, think about other times when you’ve had to explain a complex concept to someone unfamiliar with it – the basic principles of how you did it will apply just as well to this scenario.
Example answer: “People get understandably frustrated when their work is disrupted for maintenance and they don’t understand why, so I’ve always tried to explain to others why I need to do what I’m doing! When I’ve done this successfully in the past, I’ve tried to avoid getting bogged down in the technical details. I find the simplest possible way to explain the problem and its consequences, and then the simplest possible way to explain what I need to do to fix it. I’ve also found that it helps if you can compare the technical fault you’re repairing to something your colleague understands. I once explained an electrical wiring fault to a HR officer by comparing it to the hiring process, and she understood the urgency much better after that!”
You might think it would go without saying, but you’d be wrong: safety is absolutely vital for maintenance workers, whatever they are working on. Strict adherence to safety regulations helps to protect maintenance workers themselves from injury; it helps to protect non-maintenance employees who might need to access or pass by the work site; and it helps to protect the employer from any liability in the event of an accident. Any maintenance worker, no matter how experienced, should make sure they stay up to date with the latest safety requirements.
Interviewers ask this question because they want to be reassured that you will take safety seriously while working at their organization. This particular question is fairly open-ended, and you should use that flexibility to explain how and why you take safety seriously. Think about what you do to ensure compliance. Then think about why you do it – being able to explain the reasoning behind your safety practices will show that you understand the subject thoroughly.
If you have prior experience as a maintenance worker, talk about times when you have gone out of your way to ensure a safe work site. If you don’t, you could consider talking about any training you have experienced, and what it taught you about health and safety. Whatever approach you take, remember that this is something your employer will take very seriously; you should take it seriously, too.
Example answer: “I know how crucial it is for maintenance staff to adhere to safety regulations, for their own safety as well as the safety of others. I was taught during my training to review the relevant safety guidelines before each maintenance job, and I still take the time to do that today – it helps me to keep safety at the forefront of my mind while I’m working, and encourages me to do a better job. I also review any changes to Occupational Health and Safety standards as they are published, so I can always be confident that I’m doing everything I can to protect the people around me.”