Tracey Buchan
Graduate Programme Manager at Kier Group PLC.


I think most employers are well aware that there are limited relevant work experience opportunities currently and so this element is less of a focus. Individuals need to think about selling transferable skills they have acquired from other areas such as part-time work, voluntary work, clubs etc. Here are a few things I would say can make or break an application. The examples below are based on genuine applications I have received.

  1. If sending a speculative CV ensure you refer to the correct company in all correspondence. I am aware that students will clearly be contacting lots of companies but I have had covering letters in the past that tell me how much the individual wants to work for XYZ company as they are the most regarded in the business –not great if I work for someone else. Even worse if your personal statement boasts about attention to detail being your forte.
  2. Along the same lines if you have tailored your CV to a company’s strengths ensure that you amend it appropriately a recent example I can give is where a Civil engineer was telling me how much he wanted to work in a consultancy role and aligned his strengths to that but Kier is a contractor!
  3. Keep a list of who you have applied to, Even if applying by e-mail keep your wording business and professionally appropriate – I have had CVs forwarded where the wording on the e-mail was “hiya I have attached my CV have you any jobs? Cheers”
  4. Think about your e-mail address – Mrloverman@ may raise a titter amongst your friends but is not a very professional image to give a perspective employer.

If you manage to secure an interview:

  1. Arrive in good time and smartly dressed – take responsibility for your travel. I always send directions advising interviewees of how to find us, nearest train station etc but have had calls asking what time the trains run whilst you could argue the candidate was being thorough it doesn’t demonstrate much initiative.
  2. Do a bit of research on the company – basic but often overlooked.
  3. Crucially learn what a Construction manager, surveyor whatever actually does, I have interviewed people who haven’t been able to “sell” themselves as they are too vague over the tasks and responsibilities appropriate to the position they have applied for. If you are applying against a job description read it.
  4. Sound interested – the hardest thing to quantify or put down in writing is there is often just a spark about someone, when all else is level in terms of qualifications and suitability they are the successful candidate.

When asked what would make them automatically reject a candidate, employers said:

CVs with spelling mistakes or typos 61%
CVs that copied large amounts of wording from the job posting 41%
CVs with an inappropriate email address 35%
CVs that don’t include a list of skills 30%
CVs that are more than two pages long 22%
CVs printed on decorative paper 20%
CVs that detail more tasks than results for previous positions 16%
CVs that include a photo 13%
CVs that have large blocks of text with little white space 13%

Tracey Buchan