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With a number of transformational highway projects underway, such as the A14 Improvement Scheme and the M1, M6, and M4 Smart Motorways, there are plenty of job opportunities for highway engineers in the UK. And whilst the skills-short engineering market makes it more candidate-led, that doesn’t mean employers are any less particular about the kind of highway engineers they’re looking for.

Aside from having the right experience and qualifications, employers expect highway engineers to have certain qualities. Joe Wilson, Director of Highways at Matchtech, shares the top five attributes employers look for in highway engineers.

1. Problem solving – If you’re a believer in Murphy’s Law (“anything that can go wrong will go wrong”), you probably expect challenges to arise. But, these challenges are what great highway engineers thrive on as problems give them a chance to think outside the box and come up with solutions. Whether there’s a mistake in cost estimation, construction issues, or other project setbacks, creative thinking is key to overcoming challenges. When solving problems, it’s imperative that highway engineers provide accurate and clear information to their team to avoid further issues down the line.

2. Excellent communication – With work spanning multiple projects that each have several different stakeholders, the ability to liaise and communicate with people in both professional and public settings is vital. Employers want self-starters who use their initiative and can confidently interact with a range of people, whether they’re from the local authority, a consultancy, or simply a local resident.

3. Eye for detail – Designing schemes takes a lot of calculations and a lot of time, so the ability to spot errors or gaps is essential. To prove your thorough approach in an interview, describe a time when you noticed something that needed correcting and what the consequence of your finding was – if it saved time or money, it’s bound to impress the interviewers.

4. Visualisation – Engineering involves much more creativity than many people realise. Highway engineers need to be able to visualise the end goal of large-scale, complex projects. Great highway engineers often have an aptitude to follow specific and rigorous design processes once a project goes to site to ensure that everything runs smoothly and is how they visualised it.

5. Project management – The best highway engineers are able to evaluate the project they’re working on to estimate the amount of resources required, overall cost, and time it’ll take to reach completion. Ensuring that everything is completed on budget, by the deadline, and in compliance with the relevant laws and regulations is a key part of being successful in this role.

The most successful highway engineers are able to combine a mixture of these skills to ensure that projects are delivered on time and within budget. Perfecting these qualities will set you apart from others applying for the same roles as you and ensure that you stand out during the interview process.

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