7 things employers look for in engineering graduates

December 21, 2021

When you are searching for your first engineering role, you might assume that having the right qualifications is enough to land you the role. In the modern workplace, employers are looking for a culture fit as much as they are looking for skills and experience.

With this in mind, let’s explore some of the most common qualities that employers look for when hiring engineering graduates. By understanding what employers are looking for, you’ll find it much easier to tailor your applications to roles. You should also find it easier to prepare for interviews

Career mindedness

Engineers are capable of solving real-world problems. They are imaginative, innovative, passionate, and curious. They can turn knowledge into practical solutions to some of the most challenging problems that society faces today. And they know that their career relies on always being ahead of the curve.

The best engineers have already started plotting out their careers and know what steps they need to take to get where they want to be. This allows them to match their career aspirations to employers that will help them achieve their goals. Career-mindedness is an often-overlooked skill to demonstrate on your CV and during an interview

Technical ability

Engineers are some of the most well-paid professionals and for good reason. They are skilled in several technical skills that are in high demand. For engineers to succeed in the job role, they need to be well-versed in the technical skills required for the role. 

They need to be able to talk confidently about the technical side of their role and answer technical questions on the spot. Technical questions are not trick questions intended to catch you out, rather, they are an opportunity for the employer to determine if you have retained the information you learned while studying.

Communication skills

Engineers and developers need to be able to communicate effectively and efficiently with their peers and clients. Especially in the engineering world, where a lot of what they do is done remotely, through email or chat.

Communication skills are necessary for engineers because they have to use them on a day-to-day basis in their jobs. Engineers need to speak clearly and concisely so that they can convey information accurately. They also need strong listening skills so that they can fully understand the intent of the client or other engineers.

Leadership skills

Engineers are often faced with complex and high-pressure decisions. However, they need to be able to make those decisions as quickly as possible to keep up with the fast pace of the industry. You may need to be able to take initiative and lead a group, which requires excellent emotional intelligence, communication skills, problem-solving and teamwork skills. You can demonstrate leadership skills by taking part in group projects at university.

Critical thinking

Critical thinking skills are important for engineers. They need to be able to identify the consequences of their design decisions and recognise when they need assistance. Critical thinking can be demonstrated through work experience placements or group projects at university.

Engineers who possess critical thinking skills can recognise when they need assistance and when they should authorise others to take over. For example, when engineers diagnose an issue with a product, they should be able to ask the right questions and determine what course of action needs to be taken next.


While specific skills are useful for doing the job, employers also want to see that you have the enthusiasm to sustain your interest in the long term. Employers want to hire graduates who are exciting about the prospect of a career in engineering, not just ones that recognise there is money to be made.

Your enthusiasm for engineering will be evident from your extracurricular activities and your work experience. If you have filled your summers with engineering placements and independent engineering projects, you’ll be well on your way to demonstrating your enthusiasm for the sector. If you make it to the interview stage, this is the ideal time to share your enthusiasm.

Commercial awareness

Above all else, every engineering company is a business, and they want to hire staff with commercial awareness. This might mean something different for different roles. For example, you might need good negotiation skills for a client-facing engineering role. You might also need presentation skills when working with key stakeholders. And you could also need budgeting skills in certain roles.

Understanding the role of your engineering sector in the wider market will also help you to stand out. For example, being able to demonstrate an understanding of how supply chain issues will impact an engineering project will set you apart from the less commercially aware competition. A simple way to show this is to stay on top of engineering news so that you have plenty to talk about in an interview setting.

Nolan Recruitment is a Specialist Engineering Recruitment Agency. One of the UK's best Engineering & Technical Recruiter

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