Unusually for an employer of its size, Mott MacDonald does not run formal assessment centres for its graduate and internship 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 and you’ll meet your future team. The precise interview structure varies between divisions; in the past some have included written tests, a short presentation or a technical/design task. You are informed of the basic format beforehand.
Mott MacDonald’s new strengths interview
This year Mott MacDonald has switched to a strengths-based interview format. Strengths questions focus on gauging ‘what you enjoy doing and what you are good at’, as Mott MacDonald says, and crucially how that fits with how you may perform in the role in the future. So essentially, instead of asking for a time when you have previously demonstrated a skill or acted in accordance with a value, strengths questions are designed to discover:
- What you enjoy doing and what you are good at
- Whether you would feel motivated and energised working in the role and for Mott MacDonald
- Your ‘go to’ responses when you are faced with a situation that is likely to crop up in the role
- Whether you are a good fit for Mott MacDonald’s ethos and values.
The questions are therefore likely to fall into the categories of:
- Why you have applied for the programme and to Mott MacDonald
- You, your personality, what you value and what motivates you
- How you’d act and behave in different situations.
You can find out more about the thinking behind this type of interview in our strengths-based graduate interview special feature.
However, even though Mott MacDonald has adopted a strengths-based approach in general, it’s possible that you will also be asked technical questions, as well as to provide more detail about what you wrote on your CV.
What questions am I likely to be asked at a Mott MacDonald interview?
Previous graduate candidates have reported being asked 12 strengths-based questions. Example questions they give include:
- Given the choice to do the right thing or to follow the rules, which would you choose? And why?
- How do you understand making a mark on the world?
- When was the last time you had to explain a complex concept to someone?
- How would you handle a difference of opinion at the office?
However, it would also be wise to prepare for questions along the lines of:
- What motivates you?
- What would you do if a client wanted to change the brief?
- What would you do if a client was unhappy with the standard of work undertaken?
- Are you a big picture person or a details person?
- How do you go about making a ‘difficult’ decision?
- How do you cope with very busy periods followed by very quiet periods and vice versa?
- How do you cope with pressure?
- Why have you applied to us and in this role?
- What could you contribute to the company?
- What do you know about us?
- What trends are affecting the industry currently?
- Tell us about your work experience/course/final-year project.
- What does sustainability mean to you? How important is it to you?
Past question about candidates’ technical knowledge include:
- Explain how a centrifugal pump works
- 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?
- A town is looking into building a bypass of a major road going through it. What factors would you have to consider?
Bear in mind that we are not guaranteeing that any of the above questions will crop up in your interview. And, in fact, the point of some of the strengths-based questions, such as the ‘doing the right thing v. following the rules’ question above, is to hear your instinctive, gut-feeling response rather than a prepared answer. However, you can still use these questions to get you into the right frame of mind so that you are not totally non-plussed on the day.
How to get ready for Mott MacDonald’s interview
The level of work you do in preparation can make all the difference. Book a mock interview with your careers service. If this isn’t possible, persuade a friend, relative or tutor to take you through a selection of the above questions.
Review your strengths, weaknesses, drivers and values
As Mott MacDonald is interested in what motivates you and what you do well, you should do some self-reflection. Look back at all aspects of your life to date – your experiences in education and academia; your extracurricular activities; your part-time jobs and work experience; your personal and social relationships – and consider what drives you in life, what is important to you, and what your strengths and weaknesses are. If it’s hard to know where to begin, try answering the following questions:
- When are you happiest?
- In which sort of environment and in which circumstances do you work the best? For example, do you need an urgent deadline to motivate you or would that stress you out? Do you work best in silence or to music? Alone or in a team? With a clear set brief or with the freedom to define your own brief?
- What are you particularly good at? What are you not so good at?
- What makes you miserable, angry and/or stressed?
- What does ‘success’ mean to you?
- What motivates you to achieve something? When do you tend to lose motivation and why?
- Who do you most admire and why?
- How do you like to be treated by others? How do you treat other people?
Make sure you think, too, of some actual examples when your strengths were most on show, when you have demonstrated the skills that Mott MacDonald seeks and when you have acted in accordance with its values. Your interview answers will be enhanced if you can call upon an example to illustrate your point, even if you are not directly asked for one.
Review what you know about Mott MacDonald
Mott MacDonald’s own interview tips, which you can download from this employer profile, stress that you need to have done your research on the company. And in fact, Melissa Hopper, graduate recruitment manager at Mott MacDonald, has told us: ‘The main piece of advice we’d give to a candidate is to make sure you do your research. Preparation is the key.’
Revisit the research you did for your initial application and take it a step forward. Gain 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 ‘publications’ webpage. Then look more widely 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 may become chartered if you are going for an engineering or cost management role.
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 your chosen division. For example, if you want to work in rail, what do you think about the latest political developments with HS2? If you want to work in fire engineering, how do you think the Grenfell Tower inquiry may change regulations? If you are wanting to work in highways or bridges, do you think that Brexit could mean there will be more work available in UK infrastructure?
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 graduate 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.