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Unlocking Creativity

How to prepare for Mott MacDonald's graduate and placement interview questions

Make sure you do your research. Preparation is the key. – Melissa Hopper, Mott MacDonald

Unusually for an employer of its size, Mott MacDonald does not run formal assessment centres for its graduate and placement positions. Instead you are invited to an interview in the office where the role is based. You’ll be interviewed by managers from the division you are applying to. The format of the interview varies between divisions, some involving written tests or a short presentation. You are informed of the format beforehand so that you can prepare. Don’t worry, though: the interview is designed to be very informal and past candidates have reported that it has been conversational rather than interrogative. As one graduate employee said, ‘It’s primarily a chat to see what you're like as a person.’

Mott MacDonald’s interview questions

According to Mott MacDonald and the reports of graduates who have attended interviews with the company, questions are based around:

  • your competencies and skills – you’ll usually be asked for examples of when you’ve demonstrated particular skills
  • your motivations for applying to Mott MacDonald, wanting to pursue a career in the sector and why you are interested in consulting rather than contracting
  • how you would benefit the company
  • your personal strengths and weaknesses
  • your career aspirations and where you expect to be in the future
  • your knowledge of the company and of what your job will involve
  • what you’ve learned on your course, specific modules you’ve enjoyed and any projects you’ve worked on at university
  • projects you’ve worked on during any industry work experience or placements
  • what you would do in different situations on hypothetical projects
  • your knowledge of developments in the wider industry

Past question about candidates’ technical knowledge include ‘Explain how a centrifugal pump works’ and, for rail, ‘Why would you expect exhaust systems to be located where they are? Why might passenger doors be located at the ends of carriages for inter-city trains?’. Past questions about your skills reportedly include: ‘Tell us about a time when you had to make a difficult decision’ and ‘Can you provide an example of how you resolved a conflict with a real time?’ But bear in mind that questions can change each year and many of the interviewers' questions will follow up on what you wrote on your CV and in your application.

These questions are standard interview territory for an engineering consultancy and you can get further tips on how to answer these types of questions in our advice feature ‘Construction, civil engineering and quantity surveying interview questions and how to answer them’.

The key to success lies in what you do before your Mott MacDonald interview

Melissa Hopper, graduate recruitment manager at Mott MacDonald, tells TARGETjobs: ‘The main piece of advice we’d give to a candidate is to make sure you do your research. Preparation is the key.’

The level of work you do in preparation can make all the difference. If you can, book a mock interview with your careers service. If you are unable to, persuade a friend, relative or tutor to listen to you talk about your reasons for applying, knowledge of the company, aspirations, skills and achievements.

Review your CV and your life

Obviously, you need to review your CV and brainstorm examples of when you used the skills required on the job. Start with those specified in the job description – problem-solving, attention to detail, flexibility, time management etc. If you can then think of examples when you demonstrated other skills that would be useful on the job, such as working under pressure, so much the better.

Review what you know about Mott MacDonald

You also need to have an idea of how Mott MacDonald works as a whole; how your division, team and job role would fit into that; and how your division and job role would contribute to the company’s revenues. Take a look at the company’s ‘Meridian’ and ‘Momentum’ publications, which can be found on its ‘Publications’ webpage. Then look wider around the Mott MacDonald site. Focus on your particular business division and get a sense of the most recent challenges facing that sector, recent project wins and the day-to-day job you would be doing. Remember that if you were in an engineering role much of your job would be focused on design work.

Don’t forget to also look into typical career paths in your chosen profession – for example, the timeframe in which you are to become chartered if you are going for an engineering or cost management role. This will help you to sound knowledgeable about your career aspirations.

Review what you know about the industry and economy

Clarify your own opinions about developments in the construction industry and the economy. Next, consider how these developments in the industry and society at large would affect the day-to-day work in that division. For example, if you want to work in rail, what do you think of the strategy of investing in HS2 rather than spending that money across the UK’s entire rail network? If you want to work in power, what do you think about Hinckley Point and the government's energy policies in general?

Thinking through issues like these will help you come across as interested and informed. This is a good impression to create. Melissa says: ‘We’re most impressed by people with an in-depth knowledge of the business area they’ve applied to work in.’

Why candidates have been rejected by Mott MacDonald

‘Reasons we have previously rejected candidates at interview stage include stating a preference to work for a competitor, arriving dressed inappropriately and arriving late without warning us in advance,’ Melissa tells us. These errors on the part of past candidates are unfortunate, but the good news is that they are easily avoidable.

Our 'How to get hired' articles are written by TARGETjobs editors and writers with job candidates in mind, helping you research and understand employers. Copyright of all material written by TARGETjobs lies solely with GTI Media.
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