Applying for graduate (engineering) job advice please

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  • Applying for graduate (engineering) job advice please
  • legend

    Graduate programmes will generally have set steps in the application process with no alternative. I know that if you tried another way with my work you would just be referred back to the application process every time.

    What sort of processes have you been through so far? Online application forms or further into the process than that?


    I am not an engineer, but do have a graduate job. I got my job through ringing up a shortlist of companies that I wanted to work for (about 15-20 I think). Then I did it again 3 months later.

    From all these phone calls I got 1 interview for a job that was never advertised and as far as I can tell I was the only one interviewed. Got it no problem.

    Persistence is the key- oh and think like an employer- what do you think they want? is a 1st more important than practical experience in their eyes??


    My initial focus was on graduate programmes, I applied to all the ones I could find which I was interested in, but never got any further in the interview process. I must have been doing something wrong???

    I can believe practical experience is far more important than a university qualification. I was just hoping that would open some doors for me. The phoning up idea is the sort of advice I was after! Thanks!

    Premier Icon iain1775

    Where you based and any particular part of the industry your more interested in?
    Contracting, consulting, roads, rail, utilities etc?
    I work for Balfour Beatty and we have a very good graduate programme, happy to forward a CV on
    Iain dot Leyland at bbusl dot com

    Premier Icon honeybadgerx

    Hi, I work for a medium sized multi-disciplinary consultancy in the north east, so can hopefully shed a bit of advice (or at least try)…

    – Firstly, have you had your CV proof read by a few different people? I can be good to get different viewpoints. Also, are you re-writing it for each job you apply for? Make a list of key attributes/experience noted in the advert and tailor your CV around these, most importantly stating what experience you have with them, even if it was just a project at Uni. Call a company up and ask to speak to someone about the role prior to applying, this lets you know a bit more about the role and puts your name on the radar. Don’t forget a covering letter!

    – Don’t just consider the big boys (Atkins, Motts, etc.), look at medium sized contractors/consultants too, good place to look is on the NCE website (for jobs as well).

    – Have you tried a recruitment agency? Despite the often bad press there are some good ones out there and some companies only use agencies.

    – LinkeIn; set yourself up a profile, keep it business focussed and have a look around on there – don’t be afraid to drop people emails at companies you’d like to work for, nothing ventured nothing gained.

    – Nag! Don’t just send in a CV and hope for the best, most places will receive hundreds, often pre-sorted by HR folk, so if you want to stand out call up and ask how the applications are going, if they’d like any more info, etc. etc.

    – What sort of role are you looking for? Are you just looking for consultancy work or would you consider a specialist contractor? There can be very interesting work at the latter, and although it can be high pressure it can also be very rewarding.

    – Don’t forget to stress what makes you a likeable and interesting person and a team player. Mention mountain bike adventures you’ve been on, charity work, etc. Nearly all of the people I’ve seen leave companies (either out of their own choice or otherwise), have been because their personality just didn’t fit in and they couldn’t work effectively in teams. Try and show some examples of this, companies look for staff retention and really don;t want to be re-advertising a position three months down the line.

    Hopefully the above is a starter for ten. Feel free to get in touch if you want to chat any further.


    I’m based south of london. Geotecnical design is my main interest, so if you know anyone in Balfour Ground Engineering that would be very helpful! I’ll drop you an email tomorrow Iain. Thanks for the help!


    Some top advice there honeybadgerx! Thanks!

    Premier Icon honeybadgerx


    As it happens I’m a geotech engineer (unfortunately we’re not recruiting at the moment), and I only moved into this job a few months ago (as it happens working for an old mate), but when I was looking around there was a huge demand for geotech engineers up in Scotland, would you consider re-locating? I’d suggest giving WSP and CH2M Hill (Halcrow) a call as they were looking to expand a fair bit, and I think Atkins are also looking to grow. I can also recommend speaking to Matt Thompson at Penguin Recruitment.


    I’m looking to apply for a graduate civil engineering job. Once I’ve picked out a job advertised, what is the best (proactive) way to go about applying.

    Just applying online alone hasn’t worked for me so far. Should I be ringing people up? Trying to arrange a visit? What should I be doing?

    I’ve got a 1st class MEng in civil and structural engineering, I’ve done a placement year. I’m currently working as a maths teacher because my initial attempt of applying after uni didn’t get me very far. So I should be a fairly strong applicant? Shouldn’t I?

    So what do I need to do to get the job I want?

    Premier Icon NZCol

    Do you like travel – happy to pass a CV to people here who are looking for geotech grads….Wellington/Auckland and of course the hotbed of geotechnical excitement, Christchurch !


    If you don’t mind a move, look abroad, far better opportunities than I understand are in the uk right now. I moved to Vancouver 5 years ago and I was told at the time I could have easily moved to Aus/NZ too as they were crying out for people.


    All above points are very valid. It just takes a bit of perseverance and perhaps taking a job that you don’t really want just to get you started. I had to start with a Contractor when I was looking for consultancy work when I graduated as a QS as there wasn;t a lot of jobs around. It’s stood me in good stead – stayed for a few years and then moved on.

    On the Oz/Canada thing – I’m over in Oz at the moment and it’ll be hard to break into this market at the moment due to a slight downturn in capital investment slowing things down and some more pressure on the whole visa process.

    Premier Icon iainc

    Smatkins – drop me an email, address in profile


    Hi Smatkins

    Firstly, this is my first post on STW but I didn’t join just for this! I also have an interest in Woodburning stoves, sheds and of course mountain biking (although from what I can tell there’s not much chat about the latter on here!)

    Anyway, back OT, I’m a Senior Civil Engineer with a large consultancy based in South London. From experience, recruitment agencies can be useful but not particularly so in the graduate market. As you know, there are a lot of grads finishing uni and the industry is still a bit depressed (although some areas are showing signs of growth) and jobs *can* be few and far between.

    From my experience I would say contacting the companies directly was your best bet. Look on their websites for specific roles you are interested in and contact them about those, highlight anythig you have done that makes you stand out in that field. If you want to work in geotechnical design, say so and mention anythign you did at Uni that help feed this desire (final year projects etc.)
    As you can imagine we got lots of CVs for our graduate programme so anything you can mention that makes you stand out is a bonus.
    I did some interviews for summer interns earlier in the week but my boss sorted the CVs beforehand. Anyone who put ‘Institute’ of Civil Engineers rather than ‘Institution’ went straight in the bin apparently. These little things matter so make sure you proof check the CV and get others to read it through as well.

    I also did searches on LinkedIn of the potential applicants so if you have something on there make sure it is relevant and shows you in a good light.

    Lastly, if you have any contacts within the industry, now is the time to touch base with them and find out what’s going on. We find out about vacancies before they get released and can sometimes bypass the HR filtering process if we like the look of someone…

    With than in mind, if you want to send me your CV then my E-mail should be in my profile.

    All the best, Dan


    What lovely friendly people we have on STW 🙂

    I’m afraid I can’t be much help – neither an Engineer nor Graduate!

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