Your AECOM graduate covering letter: what to write

Your motivation and passion for joining AECOM is gauged by what you write in your covering letter.

AECOM recruiters make much of having streamlined their recruitment process this year. The result is that your CV and covering letter comprise your only opportunity to make a case for why AECOM should hire you, and your covering letter is the only opportunity you have to express a desire to work for the company.

What are AECOM recruiters looking for in your covering letter?

Previously, Adam Phillips, graduate recruitment lead, UK, at AECOM, has told us that in your initial application the team is ‘looking to assess your motivation and passion for joining AECOM, your written communication skills (including your spelling and grammar), your drive and ambition, and your professionalism.' Drive and ambition, he says, is often gauged through the candidate’s industry work experience: ‘More and more students are applying with at least one or two periods of relevant work experience, which does show motivation.’

In your letter you should focus on why you’d be right for the job role, why you want this particular job and why you want to work for the employer. In short, it should both capture you as a person – your experiences, strengths and abilities – and be totally specific to AECOM.

Show how you meet the job description requirements first

For each graduate role it offers – from landscape architect and building surveyor to geotechnical engineer and water engineer – AECOM provides a very specific job description, setting out the role’s requirements and responsibilities. Start by writing about how you meet these, calling upon your modules, projects and other activities to do with your course and what sort of tasks you have completed on work experience. Even if you haven’t done a placement in the exact same discipline, you can still write about how your experience can be applied to that particular role.

Some of the job descriptions specify non-technical skills and attributes. If they do so, make sure you provide evidence of these skills by giving an example of how you have developed or used it in the past.

For example, the bridges engineering division wants you to be enthusiastic, hard-working, ambitious and driven. On top of this, it says that its team values ‘agility, perseverance, communication, forward-thinking and global awareness’. You could demonstrate your:

  • enthusiasm by citing evidence of your interest in engineering – for example, entering professional body competitions, going to networking evenings, keeping up with industry news and so on.
  • hard-working nature by citing how you have maintained a good grade average alongside various other commitments – for example by being an active member of a society and holding down a part-time job while studying or using your holidays for placements.
  • ambition, drive and perseverance by writing about how you have achieved a goal through a sustained period of effort and/or despite facing obstacles, for example through fundraising or training for a marathon. It is also worth mentioning your desire to gain your professional qualification when talking about your ambition!
  • agility, by writing about how you are able to think on your feet and change plans if the circumstances demand it: for example, when carrying out lab work.
  • forward-thinking abilities, by writing about how you have organised and planned things (including coming up with a ‘plan B’ when things go wrong).

You can demonstrate global awareness in your covering letter by writing a couple of sentences about recent global events and reflecting on how each could affect AECOM’s business and how each would affect you in your day-to-day role. AECOM’s ‘Cities Connected’ initiative could give you some good material for this.

Then consider bringing in other skills

If the job description doesn’t specify particular skills – or if it does but you still have room on your one page of A4 – you can also provide evidence of other skills that AECOM seeks. Unlike many other engineering companies, AECOM doesn’t state a core set of non-technical skills, but by reading the graduate brochure, employee review sites and TARGETjobs’ sister publication The Guardian UK 300 you can work out which are the best skills to mention. Skills that struck us as being particularly important to AECOM include:

  • drive and being goal-oriented
  • communication
  • initiative
  • problem-solving
  • teamwork
  • the ability to work independently
  • professionalism and good customer service skills

But you should do your own research and identify anything specific to the role.

Evidence your motivation for working within the job role

It’s worth noting that, when the job descriptions do specify additional skills, they are often related to your desire to work in the job role/business line, so make sure you write a couple of sentences about this. Adam says that throughout the recruitment process, ‘I’d expect applicants to have a good basic understanding of AECOM generally, but a much more detailed understanding of the business lines they are applying to – ie exactly what work this business line does, what projects they have worked on and so on.’ Therefore, go into detail about what aspects of the job you’d enjoy, talking about specific details in the job description and calling upon your course and/or work experience.

Relate your motivation for working with AECOM back to you

A look around AECOM’s website can give you plenty of things to consider when working out exactly why you want to work for AECOM. What particularly struck us was:

  • the emphasis the company puts on ‘making the world a better place’, connecting cities and sustainability
  • the value the company says it places on expertise
  • the training and development opportunities offered (the company goes into detail about this on its job descriptions, so it would look odd if you didn’t include this)
  • the projects

Whatever your reason, it should be meaningful to you. When writing about why you want to work for AECOM, you need to back up your overarching reasons with specific details about the company. You also need to connect the reason back to your ambitions, your skill set, what you’ve studied and/or what you enjoy.  Adam says, ‘Show us how you feel working for AECOM will support you in achieving your short and long term career aspirations.’

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