5 things employers look for in engineering graduates

As September approaches, and back to school adverts litter the high street, in the world of engineering two exciting things happen: first year engineering students begin to prepare for years of study to land their dream job. Secondly, graduates start intensively looking for opportunities either as a general engineer or within their specialism, after well-earned summer vacation.

This makes now a perfect time to ask exactly what employers look for in engineering graduates. Whether you’re a student looking to gain important experience while you study, or you’re a graduate wondering what things you need to include on your CV, then look no further.

We have compiled feedback from graduates after their interviews and spoken with a team of Hunter Selection’s experts: David Biggs (Senior Consultant, Cardiff Team) Emma Hardman (Senior, Consultant South West Team) and James Clarke (Regional Manager of the Midlands and Northwest) to find out exactly what traits and proficiencies employers are most keen to see in graduates.

5. Location

While it is true that some companies will pay extortionate amounts to relocate the best candidate for a job, these are for the most part exceptional circumstances. When it comes to graduate positions employers tend to favour locals. This means that you may have better luck applying for roles where you grew up or where you studied than you will for positions in parts of the UK that you have never even visited.

If you’re really struggling to find a job because both your university and hometown are in places with few job prospects, it may be worth looking to move somewhere with a thriving engineering economy first.

4. Enthusiasm and personality

It’s a cliche, but a ‘can do’ attitude is perhaps the most important personality trait a candidate can have, especially from someone at the start of their career. Employers want the assurance that you’ll be willing to go the extra mile to get the job done, and setbacks are not going to phase you.

Being friendly is just as important. Whether it’s a role where you deal with customers directly or a role where you work as part of a team, employers will always seek out individuals who have a good personality. So, smile and introduce yourself to everyone you meet during the interview, you’d be surprised how important these little things can be. Being friendly and approachable could be the thing which lands you your dream job, over the competition.

3. Grades

There are some things you just can’t fake, and having a good grade is one of them. In engineering, a 2:1 is often the minimum requisite grade employers list on job adverts. However, individuals with a 1:1 will always float to the top of the pile of applications. If you’re still in your studies heed this warning now to work hard to get the best grade.

If you’re a graduate who attained a 2:2 or 3rd then you may find your graduate employment options more limited. This means you may have to seek out additional qualifications or find more placements to gain practical experience that makes you a contender.

Those graduates who secured jobs, but didn’t achieve top grades, told us they were successful at interview because they talked about what they would do differently if they could go back in time. For example, talking about module options that would have been better suited to their skillsets. This is where it’s even more important to include information about relevant projects you worked on and any extracurricular activities you did.

2. Placement history

Whether you’re currently a student being harangued by lecturers about the importance of work placements, then it is for good reason. Employers will always favour graduates who have got a demonstrable history of experience within the engineering niche you’re applying for. If you’re certain that you want to work in one particular area of engineering, then try to get as much experience in it as possible. However, if you are undecided exactly which road to go down, cast the net wide. Get as many placements as you can in different areas, to keep your options open. Doing a placement will likely help you decide exactly what you do want to do, so it’s a win-win!

The king of placements is of course the sandwich year. So, if you’re looking to apply for a role next year and you’re certain of what kind of engineering specialism you want to achieve, then be sure to look out for courses that offer a year in industry placement.

1. Eagerness to train and develop

Finally, just because you have graduated from university does not mean it is the end of your education, in fact you could say now is where the real learning begins.

Employers are always looking for candidates who want to further develop, gain more experiences, and learn new techniques. So, show your dynamism — talk about work-based training you’re interested in and other ways you want to develop over your career. It proves to the employer that you are an individual worth investing in.

Are you a graduate looking for their big break? Click here to get in touch with Hunter Selection to see if we can find the right graduate engineering role for you.