Graduate covering letters for civil engineering, construction and quantity surveying jobs

13 Feb 2024, 17:10

Our tips and templates reveal how to write a great covering letter for an entry-level job in construction – whether the vacancy is in engineering, management, design or surveying.

A notepad on a denim-clad lap

As a construction job candidate, you should always write a covering letter (sometimes referred to as a cover letter) to accompany your CV if you are applying via email. You may also be asked to submit a covering letter or personal statement if you are applying via an online application form, although this is rarer.

Many careers advice websites provide template covering letters, but merely copying these is unlikely to get you an interview. A successful cover letter should be tailored to the vacancy and the employer you are applying to; if it isn’t, the employer will question your motivation and not want to meet you. So we use a sample construction graduate job advertisement to provide you with example cover letter paragraphs, taking you step by step through the process of writing an amazing covering letter.

1. The opening: how to begin your built environment covering letter

If you are writing your covering letter directly into an email window or text box on an online application form, your letter should be in email format (no address or date required). If you are writing a covering letter in a MS Word document or similar and attaching it to an email, write it as a formal letter with your address and a date.

Start your covering letter using ‘Dear’. Apply to a named person, rather than ‘Sir/Madam’ if you can. A large construction employer usually specifies how to address a covering letter to them on their recruitment FAQ webpage. However, if a name isn’t provided, you can always ring up the office’s reception and ask them for one.

Then say which job you are applying for and where you found the job ad.


Dear Mr Smith,

I am writing to apply for your assistant site manager job, as advertised on

2. Why you would be a great hire

You should start this section with an introductory sentence about how you have the right mix of skills and experience to thrive in the role – but what you write after that should vary according to the role you are applying for.

This section should show that you have as many of the essential and desirable qualifications, skills, attributes and experience sought as possible. So, you will need to have a copy of the advertisement or job description nearby. Use a highlighter to pick out the skills and experience requested, so that you don’t forget to write about any key requirements that you fulfil.

Next, think of examples of when you have developed the skills and demonstrated the behaviours required. If possible, you should also say how you have experienced some of the job tasks or have the potential to do so. You want to say that your experience of doing X means that you will be able to do Y on the job description.

Your examples do not have to come just from your degree or from construction-related work experience; they can come from any area of your life, including part-time jobs, gap year experiences and extracurricular activities.


Let’s say that the job ad requires the following…

The role

You will assist on various packages of housing developments, delivering packages on time and to budget. You’ll ensure that teams adhere to the highest standards of health and safety, and that the best practice in sustainable development is pursued.

Alongside gaining in-depth training in aspects of site management, you will spend a month working in the commercial and planning divisions of our business to ensure you gain a good understanding of project management.

What we are looking for

Having studied construction project management, civil engineering or a related discipline at undergraduate level, you will have great leadership, relationship-building and communication skills. You should also take a lateral approach to problem solving.

This is an example covering letter paragraph that uses a summer placement to show how this candidate fulfilled the academic requirements, had previous experience of a key job task and had developed good communication and relationship-building skills…

I believe I have the right combination of academic background, skills and work experience to be a successful site manager at your company. On my summer placement with A Smith Contractors, undertaken during the penultimate year of my BSc in construction management, I worked as a trainee site manager on the formwork, reinforcement and concrete package of a new airport terminal. I helped to review work on site, checking that health and safety standards were adhered to and raising breaches with subcontractors. This developed my relationship-building and communication skills because I understood that my communication with them had to be confident, matter of fact and respectful if I wanted to gain their respect and agreement. They responded positively to my approach and breaches weren’t repeated.

Note how we have used the same language as that of the job advert, including ‘relationship-building and communication skills’ instead of ‘teamworking and interpersonal skills’ and ‘adhered to’ instead of ‘kept’. This helps to convey to the recruiter that you are a good fit for the role.

Observe, too, how we have given them just enough information about the placement (the employer, the project and the package) for them to see the candidate in the role without needing to turn immediately to their CV, but we haven’t included everything from the candidate’s CV. We have also gone into some detail about how the candidate has built a good relationship – we have shown their thought processes and given the result of the interaction (a positive reaction and no repeat) – to prove that the candidate really does understand how to build relationships.

This is an example of how you could write up an extracurricular activity on your covering letter to show your skills…

I used my leadership and lateral problem-solving skills when organising the Christmas social of my university hockey club. We had dinner booked for 30 of us at 7.30 but the restaurant cancelled, with just six hours to spare. Not wanting to cancel the event as it was the only time before Christmas that everyone could make, I phoned six restaurants but none could fit us in. No one’s hall of residence was big enough to do a DIY event, but I then found that the gym space where we did our indoor drills was empty and so booked it. I asked people to bring a beanbag and a bottle. I then organised a team to decorate the space and load their phones with Christmas music. For food, I decided to take orders for takeaways. People said it was one of the best Christmas events.

Note here how the candidate explains their thought process to demonstrate their problem-solving skills and how stressing what they contributed (‘organising’, ‘decided’ etc) demonstrates leadership, but if you are short on space you don’t have to provide so much detail.

Hint: don’t say how you don’t meet requirements, even indirectly. For example, avoid ‘Although I have not had experience of leading a team, I did have an instrumental role when I…’ The recruiter’s first impression is one of negativity. Instead just write ‘I played an instrumental role in a team when I…’.

If you have an outstanding achievement that doesn’t relate to a competency on the job description, still include it, but only after you’ve written about how you meet the required competencies; that’s what the recruiter wants to find out.

3. Why you want the job at that employer

You need concrete reasons for applying, not just ‘I need a job and you seemed like a prestigious employer’ (even if there is a grain of truth in that). Find out:

  • the type of employer and the broad work it does: whether contractor, consultant or property developer, for example
  • notable, recent and landmark projects (especially in the division/team you are applying to)
  • the company’s business strategy and recent appearances in the news
  • developments that interest the company, such as off-site construction or sustainability
  • the employer’s values
  • the training and development available for graduates/interns (particularly in relation to your professional qualification).

Then connect your professional interests (for example, an interest in sustainability), your values and your career ambitions to what you have discovered. Use detail from your research to make your desire to work there sound even more genuine.

Ideally, you should give more than one reason for wanting to work for the company – depending on how much space you have. If you are applying for a role working on one type of project, as our fictional job is, you should also express enthusiasm for working on that type of project.


You could start this section with a sentence summarising your reasons for wanting to work for the employer and then go on to expand on each point or you could take each sentence separately.

I want to work for you because I share the views of Jane Smith, your CEO, that ‘everyone’s life is brighter when you have a well-built home’ and I am interested in your approach to sustainability. My sister has recently moved into a new build and seeing the happiness it has brought her has made me even more determined to work in housebuilding. I want to work on your residential projects because the 5-star rating you received from the Home Builders Federation suggests I would be learning from the best professionals in the industry. My interest in sustainability, which is demonstrated by my final-year project on how climate change could affect the life-time health of tall structures, means that I am particularly impressed by your success at meeting your 0% to landfill waste reduction policy.

I am also attracted by your rotational approach to training; being able to also experience the commercial and planning aspects of the business will help me meet my long-term ambition of becoming a senior site manager.

See here how we have linked research (the CEO's quote; the 5-star rating; waste reduction policy) with the candidate’s personal interests (the sister anecdote; the final year project; the career ambition). Don’t be afraid to bring in your unique story about your interest in construction.

4. The end: how to sign off your covering letter

Refer recruiters to your CV and let them know if there is a time in the near future when you can’t be contacted.

If you have addressed the letter to a named person, sign off with ‘Yours sincerely’; if you have addressed it to a Sir/Madam, use ‘Yours faithfully’.


I have attached my CV for your convenience and I look forward to hearing from you in due course.

Yours sincerely,

Alison Thorpe

Do a final check on your covering letter

Check that your covering letter – whether in email format or document format – doesn’t go over one page of A4. Then double check for errors and, if possible, get it reviewed by a careers adviser.

Next: search similar graduate jobs

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