“Help! I’m applying for Engineering placements/summer internships now”…

Relevant work experience isn’t essential for getting a graduate engineering job but it certainly helps. You might have opted for a 6-month industrial placement as part of your MEng degree, or are thinking about a summer internship to gain practical experience….and are now fretting about all those application forms to be completed this semester. Or are you are in 2nd or 3rd year and curious as to what is involved? Help is at hand.  We’ve asked some engineering recruiting managers what they look for…what will make your application stand out? This is what they said:

  1. Demonstrate your passion for engineering with examples from out with your coursework

Some evidence that the student is interested in engineering outwith their coursework. Participation in teams such as Hyped or Formula Student or home hobbyist projects with Arduino or similar is good to see. Also, a cover letter which shows that the student has at least taken the time to read our website demonstrates an interest in the company”.

Mairi Torrie, Project Manager and Principal Engineer, indie Semi-conductor

  1. Tailor your applications

 “Effective applications are those which demonstrate the close match between you and the job role and between you and the employing organisation.  The stronger the match, the more likely you are to be recruited.  In order to match yourself, you need to really understand the job role and be able to demonstrate (with evidence, i.e. examples) how you have the required skills, experience and background and how your values match those of the company.  To do this requires research, which itself takes time.  But you need to do it!  So don’t cut corners, rather make fewer applications. Be selective and only apply for those you really want – then give them the time they deserve.  And of course, check your spelling and grammar – twice – and get feedback from a careers consultant.”  With applications, it is definitely a case of quality over quantity.”

Matt Vickers, Careers Consultant, University of Edinburgh

Mark Newland, a consultant at specialist recruitment agency STEM Graduates agrees: “Candidates need to understand the role they’re going for,” he says.  “That means more than just checking a website. For example, use LinkedIn to find a profile of the interviewer.”

Explaining your motivation is important too.  Why does this kind of internship or placement appeal and, more specifically, why with this organisation?  This means finding out more about the company and demonstrating an understanding of their technology, their challenges and the broader sector in which they operate.

“Any experience gained can be useful.  Where it comes to life is the way you then add this information to your CV, or talk about it at interview.  Prior to going through the selection process spend some time thinking about what you’ve done and then the skills you needed to develop or demonstrate.  For example, did you come up with new ideas, design a new way of doing something which made improvements or saved money?  This would come under ‘creative thinking or innovation’.  Of course this is only one ‘competency’ and there are many more but it’s a starting point.

In the experience you’ve had, what did you really enjoy doing, get motivated by and therefore work hard at?  Was it working with people, doing analysis, planning & organising etc?  Try to think about what you enjoy before applying for roles”

As an employer I’m keen to hear about your experience, what you enjoy doing and then why you’d be interested in working for my organisation. 

Jillian Burton, Graduate Programme Manager, Frazer-Nash Consultancy

  1. Don’t just DESCRIBE your skills/experience- explain the IMPACT of your contribution

Daniel from GSK suggests your cover letter includes statements like;

“As the treasurer of the XXX society I was in charge of the budget for that society, allocation of funds and controlling expenses. I reported to the society’s board quarterly, etc. I achieved savings of X%, I got sponsorship from X for event Y, etc.”

“As the captain of the XXX team I led the organisation of the attendance of the team to competitions at X, Y and Z tournament”,

“In my summer placement I worked in a team dedicated to improve yields in our process. I developed the software for the DCS and, working with the automation team, implemented. I involved chemists as well as quality and SH&E representatives through the whole process. We achieved an X% increase in the yield”

Daniel Castro-Rodriguez, Technical Manager Process Engineering, GSK

  1. Show a passion for something…and especially the company you are applying to!

Employers’ views differ in how important it is for graduate scheme applicants to have engineering work experience. Some pointed out that while they valued it, they were happy to consider graduate applicants who can demonstrate they have the required skills by drawing on examples from other areas of their lives; extra-curricular activities, volunteering, part-time work or work experience outside of engineering.

“With industrial placement applications, we look for candidates with a desire to gain first-hand experience within the construction industry and develop transferable skills which are not traditionally taught through typical university course content.

For graduate applications who do not have any previous industrial placement experience, we would be looking for candidates with a real passion for fire engineering, which involves problem solving, technical writing and creative thinking.” Scott McEwan, Fire Engineer, Glasgow, OFR Consultants

“We want you to flourish as a brilliant engineer with a strong commercial understanding. Our hope is that you might become an important part of Osbit as we develop our business. So your success will determine our success as we grow together.” Dr Tony Trapp, Executive Chairman at Osbit

Mairi from indie felt that “If a student has not undertaken an industrial placement or internship I would want to see some information as to why this is on the application. We obviously look at the grade achieved – a 2:1 or first is preferred – but we also want to see that the student has had some sort of extra-curricular life as fitting in with colleagues on a social level is almost as important as technical ability”.

Want to hear more? Come along to Careers in Engineering fair in the Sanderson Building on Wed 30th October from 1.30pm. Reps hosting the stands are often recent graduates from Edinburgh and will be able to share their own top tips- ask them!

The Careers Service works with the School of Engineering and student societies to deliver sessions on finding and applying to placements, including preparing for interviews.  Check MyCareerHub for details.

For further support, call in at the Engineering Careers Drop-in on Thursdays of teaching weeks, 1-3pm, by the Eng Inn, café.  No appointment is needed – simply wait your turn.

(Image credit: Sagoodi on Pixabay, CCO)


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