Apply successfully for one of AECOM’s UK & Ireland 2020 graduate opportunities and you will be invited to a technical assessment. What this will involve will depend on the business group or team you have applied to. Most teams will invite you to an interview that includes technical and behavioural/competency questions. A few will invite you to an assessment centre that may include a combination of the following:
- a group exercise
- a technical and behavioural interview
- a presentation
- a technical written exercise.
No matter what you face, the one thing that is certain is that the interview questions will be mostly focused around the specific business line that you are interviewing for. There are some things you can do before your AECOM interview or assessment day to make sure you come across at your best. Charlotte Jeffrey, a graduate mechanical engineer in AECOM’s building services team, says: ‘What helped my interview nerves the most was lots of practice. My boyfriend took me through multiple mock-interviews, using typical graduate interview questions as a basis.’ Joël Thai, an engineer in AECOM’s water asset management team, advises: ‘Do your research and make sure to say how you could help the company.’
Technical interview tip 1: research the business area you’re applying to
Some questions are likely to focus on what you know about your chosen business area. Past candidates report being asked what a particular job role (not necessarily the one they’re applying to, but one in the same field) would involve as part of the team at AECOM. For example, an applicant to a graduate bridge engineer post – part of the transportation division – was asked: ‘What is the role of a CDM coordinator?’
If you have work experience related to the business area, it will obviously help you form an answer. Think about the job you had and your individual responsibilities, as well as those of the more experienced professionals in your team. Think back to the technical decisions they’d made.
If your work experience was in a different business area, or you haven’t got any related experience, you’ll have to research the area in more detail: start by looking at the AECOM website and reading their employee profiles on their careers webpages.
Doing this research will also help you to answer the motivational question that some previous candidates report being asked: ‘Why have you chosen this business line?’
Technical interview tip 2: prepare examples from your degree and internships
Your university project work will be a common topic for discussion, as this will help to show your interviewer that you have technical knowledge about your subject area. The questioning may begin by being quite open; previous candidates report being asked ‘How will your studies help you in this job in AECOM?’, ‘Tell me about some group projects you’ve been involved in’ and ‘What is your final-year project on?.
But you are also highly likely to be asked in-depth questions relating to your practical experience on your course and to explain the general principles behind your project work. Adam Phillips, senior early careers recruitment lead, UK & Ireland, at AECOM, says: ‘Referring back to your university notes is key.’ Bring examples of previous work or university projects if you think it’d be advantageous to do so.
AECOM recruiters also want to get a sense of how you’ve gone about tackling challenges. The projects you have worked on during your degree will give them a good sense of this. It will help you to prepare if you can think of an example of a project where you had to use technical knowledge or skills to overcome a difficulty or obstacle. These can come from your degree course or your internship.
Technical interview tip 3: be prepared to be unprepared
As Adam says: ‘You will be tested technically so you need to be able to think on your feet.’ You will need to remain calm and work through answers from basic principles. Past interview questions that AECOM candidates report being asked include:
- ‘Name all types of energy a building uses during build and post-occupancy.’
- ‘A factory considering a CHP system currently has gas and electricity supply. Sketch the flow diagram before and after the proposed CHP and calculate the cost of gas and electric before and after CHP and calculate the payback period of the CHP.’
- ‘Name common ways a building can be made more energy efficient.’
- ‘Give me some examples of structural detailings.'
A structural engineer also explained that they were given a practical exercise on designing a structure for a client, in which they had to define a structural system.
Technical interview tip 4: familiarise yourself with AECOM’s projects
Research a few projects related to your chosen role in which AECOM has been involved; this could be in the UK or further afield. London’s Olympic Park and Crossrail are among those in the UK. Having examples will strengthen your interview in two ways. First, it’ll demonstrate your genuine interest in the industry and AECOM specifically. And, second, it’ll also enable you to incorporate them as examples in your own responses to technical questions.
For example, if asked to ‘Name common ways a building can be made more energy efficient’, you could support your answer by discussing AECOM’s work on the University of Nottingham's GSK Carbon Neutral Laboratory, citing some of the methods AECOM used to maximise the building's energy efficiency.
Technical interview tip 5: ask your own technical questions
You will be given time at the end of your interview to ask your interviewer questions. Prepare these in advance, and do draft some technical ones, alongside more general ones. Perhaps you’ve applied for a graduate engineer role in AECOM’s power division and would like to know more about the technical preparation that precedes wind farm development or the challenges faced by the division in trying to communicate complex technical information to regular members of the public, and how this is overcome. Joël advises candidates: ‘Ask questions – show that you want to learn more about the company.’
Don’t forget to prepare for the motivation and behavioural questions
Your interview will not focus on just technical topics. You can expect to be asked about your reasons for applying to AECOM and about the skills required for that business line – you may be asked traditional competency questions (‘Give an example of a time when you demonstrated…’,) hypothetical questions (‘What would you do if…?’)’ or behavioural questions (‘How would you react if…?’).
AECOM are also likely to be interested in your character and how you'd work with other engineers: Holly Brown, a graduate civil engineer in AECOM's water resources and infrastructure team, says that her interview was 'more about the kind of person I am and how I would fit in the team.'
Previous candidates report being asked the following:
- ‘Please introduce yourself.’
- ‘Why have you applied to AECOM and this business line?’
- ‘Where do you see your career in five years’ time?’
- ‘How can AECOM contribute to society?’
- ‘How would you build a relationship with a new client?’
- 'What do you understand by the term leadership?'
- 'Give us an example of your management skills.'
- ‘What are your strengths and weaknesses?’
- ‘What did you learn on your internship?’
- ‘What would you do if you weren't happy with a decision made at a meeting?’
- ‘What are your career ambitions?’
Yet there is no guarantee these questions will come up in your interview and you should also prepare examples of times when you developed other skills required by AECOM. From all of its graduates, AECOM states that it seeks: ‘teamwork, the ability to communicate effectively, the confidence to challenge and ask questions, the ability to prioritise, and creative and innovative thinking’.
When being asked about your desire to work for AECOM, connect your company research back to your ambitions, your skills set, what you’ve studied and/or what you enjoy. Adam says, ‘Show us how working for AECOM will support you to achieve your short- and long-term career aspirations.’