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Application, CV and cover letter advice for a career with Mott MacDonald

'The ideal candidate will be able to show us that they share our values,' says Melissa Hopper, recruiter at Mott MacDonald

The basic application process for Mott MacDonald’s graduate programmes and internships is the same, whether you are aiming for a career in building services engineering, fire engineering, project management or management consulting. You upload a CV and covering letter, answer a couple of application questions and provide standard biographical and diversity information.

Mott MacDonald uses the application process to find out about you: your interest in the field, your interest in working for Mott MacDonald in particular and your potential for being successful in the field.

So our advice at TARGETjobs is to write an individual, tailored application, as your standard CV and covering letter won’t do. Don’t be tempted to cut and paste answers from previous application forms, either. Mott MacDonald recruiters are adept at spotting this and they will reject your application because of it.

Advice for Mott MacDonald's: CV | cover letter | application question about your greatest achievement | application question about something interesting about you | application question about a technical problem

How to alter your graduate or internship CV for Mott MacDonald

  • Mott MacDonald asks for you to provide a full list of your degree modules elsewhere on the form, so there is no need to include all of them on your CV. Instead, highlight the ones that are most relevant to the scheme you are applying to. You can use the space saved to better describe your work experience or extracurricular achievements.
  • In the past, Mott MacDonald has asked for you to list your responsibilities in the work experience section of your CV, as if you were answering the sentence ‘I was responsible for…’. This is a good approach to take, but don’t stop at listing your responsibilities. Add details to show what you achieved: any quantities or numbers that show the scale of the work, any targets that you met or exceeded, any praise you got from managers and customers, and so on. Your CV should indicate what you are capable of achieving – not just what your duties were.
  • Remember that Mott MacDonald looks for the same set of basic skills in all applicants: methodical problem solving, initiative, independent working, excellent verbal and written communication skills and attention to detail. When writing up each section of your CV, make sure you highlight how your experiences used or developed these skills.
  • Ensure that your CV conveys evidence of your passion for the sector. Emphasise any related work experience, degree modules, research projects, student membership of professional bodies, membership of relevant student societies, and attendance at networking events. You can do this either through formatting (perhaps by using bold or colour strategically) or through how you structure your CV (perhaps having, for example, sections titled ‘environment work experience’ or ‘involvement with professional bodies’).
  • Don’t forget to include your extracurricular activities, as Mott MacDonald’s own application tips suggest that its recruiters are particularly interested in these. If you have lots to write about on your CV and are wondering what to cut, ask yourself whether the item proves that you share the same values as Mott MacDonald (see below).

For more advice on CV writing, see:

How to write a cover letter for Mott MacDonald

The advice from Mott MacDonald is that your covering letter is not just a repeat of your CV. Instead, it introduces you and explains, succinctly, why you want to work at Mott MacDonald and in the sector that you’ve applied for. Mott MacDonald prefers your letter to be three or four paragraphs long. Write a formal letter (remember that Mott MacDonald wants to see whether you can write professional reports). Make sure you:

  • Explain your passion for the particular sector and specialism. What interests you in the built environment sector and how have you developed that interest at university? How would Mott MacDonald help you to develop your passion and knowledge of the subject? Mott MacDonald also prides itself on the advice it gives to clients and its contribution to the latest industry thinking. Take a look at its ‘publications’ webpage and perhaps mention particular papers or research that interest you, relating them to your own studies, career ambitions or desire to make a difference (a key quality that Mott MacDonald wants).
  • Explain how you have the right skills, experience and qualities to thrive on the graduate programme. Start with the skills and attributes listed in the individual job descriptions on this employer hub. Make sure you say how you share its values (see below)
  • Explain why you particularly want to start your career at Mott MacDonald, calling upon your knowledge of the firm.

What you could write about Mott MacDonald

Below are some possible reasons to apply to Mott MacDonald to start you thinking, but you’ll need to do some additional research. You need to think about what is important to you.

Consider Mott MacDonald’s PRIDE

Mott MacDonald’s key values take the acronym of PRIDE: progress, respect, integrity, drive and excellence. Take a look at Mott MacDonald’s ‘visions and values’ webpage for more details about what these values involve.

Mott MacDonald’s graduate recruitment manager, Melissa Hopper, tells us that, ‘The ideal candidate will be able to show us that they share our values.’ So it would be a good idea to give examples of times when you acted in accordance with those values when writing about why you are right for the role. These examples don’t have to relate to your course or work experience: training and fundraising for a half-marathon, say, shows that you have the drive to achieve a goal.

Consider the employee ownership structure

Mott MacDonald is owned by its employees rather than shareholders. Melissa says, ‘Our staff won’t take on projects if they don’t think it’s the right thing to do. They believe in acting ethically. Being employee-owned means the people here work for each other, not for shareholders. It also gives you flexibility. If a policy isn’t working, we’re in a position to change it.’ This ownership structure is not common in the construction industry (although rival Arup also has the same set up). Does this structure make you want to work for Mott MacDonald? If so, say so.

Consider the training on offer

Mott MacDonald highlights the thoroughness of its training in its job ad. It is not enough to simply say that the nature of this training appeals to you – you need to use examples of your skills and achievements to explain exactly why you would perform well under this particular training method and why you should be given the opportunity to do so.

Consider the design-focused nature of the work

As a consultancy, Mott MacDonald focuses on the early and design stages of projects. If you are going for a construction or engineering role, avoid giving the impression that you’d rather be out working on site. This is easy if you’ve completed a placement with a consultancy – explain why it suited you. If you have completed work experience with a contractor, however, you can still explain how that experience has shown you that you’d prefer working in consultancy.

How to answer Mott MacDonald’s application questions

You can type your answers directly into the form, but it is best to write them in MS Word (or a similar program) first in order to avoid spelling errors. Mott MacDonald advises that you keep to a total of 200 words when answering the questions, but there is no enforced cut off. Don’t cut parts of your answer that prove you would be a good recruit in order to keep to 200 words, but don’t allow any waffle to creep in.

Mott MacDonald application question: what has been your greatest achievement to date and why?

There are two elements to answering this question well: choosing the right achievement and explaining properly why it was an achievement. Our advice is to pick an achievement that says something unique about you and how you respond to hard work, obstacles and setbacks. Remember that an achievement by definition requires effort, skill and the courage to go out of your comfort zone. Great achievements to mention could include:

  • Raising money for charity and exceeding your target
  • Training for a marathon and beating your personal best
  • Building your confidence through teaching English as a foreign language or taking part in a public speaking competition
  • Winning a closely fought student election
  • Volunteering your time to work with disadvantaged children who went on to exceed expectations.

Passing your driving test, being the first in your family to go to university or gaining a 2.1 are all brilliant achievements, but probably won’t make you stand out from the hundreds of other applicants – unless you explain how doing so was an achievement in a unique way.

Because ultimately success is all in the telling. Whichever example you choose, you need to explain why the goal was important to you, the reasons for pursuing it and why it wasn’t going to be easy, what you had to do in order to achieve it, how you dealt with difficulties, how you found the motivation to keep going, the skills you developed and the scale of what you achieved.

Mott MacDonald is clear: you can choose an example of something you achieved as part of a team, as long as you write about it in the first person and are very clear about what you personally contributed.

Mott MacDonald application question: tell us something interesting about yourself that demonstrates your interest and passion in your chosen field

Note here that Mott MacDonald is looking for one thing about your interest in the sector or job role that you are applying for; this is not the time to re-state all of the evidence of your interest that you’ve written about in your covering letter. How do Mott MacDonald recruiters define ‘interesting’ in this case? Probably something that gives them an insight into you. If you are stumped, consider whether you could write about any of the following:

  • What drew you to the sector and the field in the first place
  • Any industry awards, bursaries or competitions that you’ve won or reached the final for
  • What you learned about yourself (for example your strengths and preferred ways of working) while on work experience, when being involved with a relevant student society or when attending a networking event
  • How you approached a research project or dissertation.

Whatever you write about, make sure you provide detail about how and why it proves your passion.

Mott MacDonald internship question: please tell us about a time when you have used your technical skills and knowledge to solve a problem

Most students will probably pick an example from their course, so if you are able to write about a project you worked on during work experience or when on a joint research project with industry it will help your answer stand out. No matter the example, however, make sure you go into detail about what your technical skills and knowledge were, how you applied them and what the results were.

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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