Skills shortages across UK engineering are well-documented: lobby group Engineering UK estimates that the skills deficit costs the nation a hefty £27bn a year. Ironically, however, this does not mean that aerospace engineers will find job-hunting easy: many major design cycles are already complete, and manufacturers and operators are battling with economic factors and shrinking government budgets. Graduates encounter competition from an international peer group for that elusive first job, and established chartered engineers have to work hard to maintain a marketable skill set.
With these challenges in mind, we have asked career and recruitment experts for their top tips on how to be the stand-out candidate and land the perfect role.
1 Prepare for take-off: research thoroughly
Spend time reviewing your skills, the market and employers’ requirements before you despatch your CV.
Graduates are generally expected to have a 2:1 degree and above, with Masters degrees also becoming desirable, says Rosalind Azouzi, head of skills and careers at the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS).
Experienced engineers, meanwhile, will find that skills in composites and additive layer manufacturing, to meet the challenge of new production methods, are sought after, as are mechanical and electrical engineering skills, maintenance and after sales experience.
Candidates who evidence ‘soft skills’ (in leadership, teamwork and communication) are in demand.
“In addition all applicants should be able to display cultural awareness”, says Azouzi,“and work well in teams. Engineers work with a variety of people—it’s a global supply chain.”
2. Calibrate your CV
“The purpose of a CV is to get that interview, not a job,” says Jonathan Young, director, international talent acquisition, Lockheed Martin UK.
Young explains that each CV should answer the specifics of the job for which you are applying, in order to provide relevant, and honest, detail for discussions at interview.
“Tailoring your application to the job you are looking at is fundamental”, says Young, who also advises that candidates read recruitment ads carefully -- you could be a better match for a job opportunity than the job title implies.
“Study the details in the job description”, he says, “and highlight where you fit, and exceed, expectations.”
Standard advice about CVs being no more than two pages will always apply, as will asking a fresh pair of eyes such as a non-engineer or someone who doesn’t work for your current employer, if it reads well. Do not send a CV which is too embedded in the culture of your current employer (“don’t use their acronyms for example,” says Young).
At the RAeS, Azouzi says that soft skills, as well as technical skills, need to be evidenced, and she advises a separate section for this purpose, explaining how they have added value.
3. First interview: surpass the standard
Prepare for interview by rehearsing with a trusted friend. Your aim is to go into the interview with plenty of examples of when you showed leadership and problem-solving abilities, and added value.
Telephone interviews precede many first interviews; ensure that you have your CV to hand and can expand upon the detail on it. Always re-read the job description before any type of interview, adds Young, and prepare examples of projects you have worked on which highlight how your skills meet the company’s needs.
Speak clearly and with honesty in a first interview to show that you have integrity. “Essential in safety-first environments”, says Azouzi.
First interviews, which are usually overseen by an HR manager and conducted by a line manager, are also an opportunity to illustrate that you are more than a series of bullet points on a CV, as Peter Rabey, director of specialist recruitment consultancy X4 Group, points out.
“People buy from people”, he says. “Some of the best people are recruited from CVs that don’t match up exactly, but managers want to work with them.”
4. Second interview: be your best self
If you are invited for a second interview you may be asked to complete a practical challenge, or give a technical presentation.
Alternatively, you could be asked to an assessment centre to be observed working on a task alongside other candidates. Beware of trying too hard here says Azouzi.
She recommends that applicants take a calm approach to assessment centres. “Be calm, friendly and let other people speak”, she says, “in other words be your best, professional, self.”
Outstanding candidates show integrity and are not thrown by awkward questions. “The one question you will always be asked is ‘what are your weaknesses’,” says Young. “Be honest about your development needs and give a good explanation. This shows self-awareness.”
5. Smooth landing: be successful in your new role
The work doesn’t stop when you are in post. Outstanding candidates build a network with new colleagues.
“Keep your enthusiasm for the new role, while listening to others,” says Young. “Build relations within your team and find ways of working within it.”