The basic application process for Mott MacDonald’s graduate programmes and internships is pretty much the same, whether you are aiming for a career in building services engineering, fire engineering, project management or management consulting. First of all, you create an account; watch a video about Mott MacDonald; answer some basic eligibility questions and fill in a diversity form; and upload a CV and covering letter. Next, you are sent a strengths-based online test. Then you complete an application form, which requires answering a couple of application questions.
Mott MacDonald uses the application process to find out about you: your interest in the field and graduate programme you are applying for; your interest in working for Mott MacDonald; 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.
- Instead of listing all of your degree modules on your CV, 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: ‘a methodical approach to problem solving’, ‘the ability to use your initiative to undertake tasks efficiently and independently’, ‘excellent verbal communication skills, which allow you to confidently liaise with clients and team members’ and ‘excellent written communication and attention to detail and [the ability] to demonstrate good report writing’. Mott MacDonald also looks for ‘drive, reliability, creativity and the willingness to continually learn’. When writing up each section of your CV, make sure you highlight how your experiences/activities have used or developed these skills, attributes and behaviours.
- 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:
- Our construction engineering CV advice and graduate CV template for engineers
- Our CV advice for aspiring management consultants.
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:
- Address it to the ‘early careers recruitment team’. Sign off with ‘Yours faithfully’.
- 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 videos and its ‘publications’ ‘news’ and ‘views’ webpages; 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 profile. 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 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 – that you will be on the ‘Accelerate Your Future’ programme. It is not enough to simply say that the nature of this development programme 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 for a consultancy.
Mott MacDonald’s strengths-based assessment tool is created by Capp. Capp defines a strength as ‘something you do regularly, that you do well, and energises you when doing it’ and Mott Macdonald states that the assessment involves video-and-scenario-based questions and a ‘numerical element’. Mott MacDonald stresses that you are not expected to prepare; however, it may be worth you getting familiar with online tests by accessing our practice ones, especially numeracy tests and situational judgement tests. It is also definitely worth reflecting on what you do well and what you find motivating and energising.
For more advice on strengths-based assessments:
There is no word count for your answers to the application questions, but you’ll need to strike a balance between giving sufficient detail and context for the recruiters to fully understand your answers and to recognise your talents, while avoiding waffle. Previously, Mott MacDonald has advised aiming for around 200 words per answer; use this as a guide, but don’t cut parts of your answer that prove you would be a good recruit in order to keep to 200 words.
The precise questions you ask will vary according to the role. Below are two questions from previous years. Hopefully, our tips on how to answer them will give you ideas on how to answer the ones for this scheme.
Previous 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.
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.
Previous 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 as 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.