“Help! I’m applying for Engineering placements/summer internships now”…

Relevant work experience isn’t essential for getting a graduate engineering job but it certainly helps. You might have opted for a 6-month industrial placement as part of your MEng degree, or are thinking about a summer internship to gain practical experience….and are now fretting about all those application forms to be completed this semester. Or are you are in 2nd or 3rd year and curious as to what is involved? Help is at hand.  We’ve asked some engineering recruiting managers what they look for…what will make your application stand out? This is what they said:

  1. Demonstrate your passion for engineering with examples from outwith your coursework

Some evidence that the student is interested in engineering outwith their coursework. Participation in teams such as Hyped or Formula Student or home hobbyist projects with Arduino or similar is good to see. Also, a cover letter which shows that the student has at least taken the time to read our website demonstrates an interest in the company”.

Mairi Torrie, Project Manager and Principal Engineer, indie Semi-conductor

“Artemis looks for students with a passion and aptitude for engineering beyond what’s required to complete university coursework.  In our experience, the most engaged students have an interest in subject matter and projects beyond their coursework and this passion and excitement gives an indication of what they are capable of doing beyond the necessity of completing a degree”

Alasdair Robertson, Commercial Director, Artemis Intelligent Power Ltd

  1. Tailor your applications

 “Effective applications are those which demonstrate the close match between you and the job role and between you and the employing organisation.  The stronger the match, the more likely you are to be recruited.  In order to match yourself, you need to really understand the job role and be able to demonstrate (with evidence, i.e. examples) how you have the required skills, experience and background and how your values match those of the company.  To do this requires research, which itself takes time.  But you need to do it!  So don’t cut corners, rather make fewer applications. Be selective and only apply for those you really want – then give them the time they deserve.  And of course, check your spelling and grammar – twice – and get feedback from a careers consultant.”  With applications, it is definitely a case of quality over quantity.”

Matt Vickers, Careers Consultant, University of Edinburgh

Mark Newland, a consultant at specialist recruitment agency STEM Graduates agrees: “Candidates need to understand role they’re going for,” he says.  “That means more than just checking website. For example, use LinkedIn to find a profile of the interviewer.”

Explaining your motivation is important too.  Why does this kind of internship or placement appeal and, more specifically, why with this organisation?  This means finding out more about the company and demonstrating an understanding of their technology, their challenges and the broader sector in which they operate.

Daniel Castro-Rodriguez, Technical Manager Process Engineering, GSK: “I will be looking for their motivation. Why a placement in a pharmaceutical company and specifically in GSK? What would they like to achieve? What challenges are they looking for? Motivation for leadership – not a must but useful to understand an applicant’s expectations”

  1. Don’t just DESCRIBE your skills/experience- explain the IMPACT of your contribution

Daniel from GSK suggests your cover letter includes statements like;

“As the treasurer of the XXX society I was in charge of the budget for that society, allocation of funds and controlling expenses. I reported to the society’s board quarterly, etc. I achieved savings of X%, I got sponsorship from X for event Y, etc.”

“As the captain of the XXX team I led the organisation of the attendance of the team to competitions at X, Y and Z tournament”,

“In my summer placement I worked in a team dedicated to improve yields in our process. I developed the software for the DCS and, working with the automation team, implemented. I involved chemists as well as quality and SH&E representatives through the whole process. We achieved an X% increase in the yield”

  1. Show a passion for something…and especially the company you are applying to!

Employers’ views differ in how important it is for graduate scheme applicants to have engineering work experience. Some pointed out that while they valued it, they were happy to consider graduate applicants who can demonstrate they have the required skills by drawing on examples from other areas of their lives; extra-curricular activities, volunteering, part-time work or work experience outside of engineering.

Mairi from indie felt that “If a student has not undertaken an industrial placement or internship I would want to see some information as to why this is on the application. We obviously look at the grade achieved – a 2:1 or first is preferred – but we also want to see that the student has had some sort of extra-curricular life as fitting in with colleagues on a social level is almost as important as technical ability”.

Carol Geddes Operations Manager from Sweco agrees; “Relevant experience is valuable but not essential. Fit with our culture is just as important. Can you work well with others? Are you enthusiastic and energetic? Are you curious? Do you have the confidence to approach others and are not afraid to ask questions? This plus common sense goes a long way”

Alasdair from Artemis looks forevidence of a passion for engineering and a drive for knowledge and skills in general.  This doesn’t have to be specifically related to their degree but could come through extracurricular activities, hobbies and other interests.  An interest or excitement about any activity can give a strong indication about their ability to be creative and their motivations for success”.

Image Sagoodi on Pixabay, CC0

Want to hear more? Come along to Careers in Engineering fair in the Sanderson Building on Wed 31st October from 1.30pm. Reps manning the stands are often recent graduates from Edinburgh and will be able to share their own top tips- ask them!


The Careers Service works with the School of Engineering and student societies to deliver sessions on Finding and applying to placements, including preparing for interviews.  Check MyCareerHub for details.


For further support, call in at the Engineering Careers Drop-in on Thursdays of teaching weeks, 1-3pm, by the Eng Inn, café.  No appointment is needed – simply wait your turn.

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