How to get hired at Thales

Want the training and security of a graduate scheme? Show me the passion, says one leading player, as Thales expects way more than good exam results.

Thales employees, young researchers, preparing a thesis in optronic at the TRT (Thales Research & Technology) Student & Young Professional asked Victor Chavez, deputy CEO of Thales UK, the aerospace, defence, security and transportation firm (with 68,000 employees worldwide) how you'd make it into the organisation's graduate development scheme.

"It's interesting to see how it's evolved over the years from when I was a graduate and all you needed (was to) have a good academic qualification, but certainly we look to a rather broader range of skills now," he says.

Importance of soft skills

"We're looking for slightly broader individuals who we have then taken through into our graduate development programme. We need our engineers to be not just great engineers and really passionate about what we do and who we are, but we also need them to have good commercial skills.

"There's a lot we do as part of that graduate development programme to broaden them further, making sure they develop their creative skills.

"Graduates of today are becoming ever more demanding as individuals. They are starting to understand themselves, the importance of employability-type skills and their extra-curricular activities.

Both sides have started to think more carefully about these softer skills.

"I think it's difficult to prove (the effect on a company's profitability of nurturing these softer skills) but if I were to go out to ask the businesses there's no doubt in the mind of the individuals there that that is the case. The benefit to having engineers who have a really good understanding of the commercial dimension - there's no dispute that's essential," Chavez continues.

"We also take a really good look at the individuals' leadership potential. In my day engineers were engineers and they didn't need to be leaders. They weren't expected to be leaders."

Now, Thales looks at their abilities in leadership from bottom - team and project leadership - to the top.

How to get on the scheme

"I think getting into a graduate scheme, getting employed - good interview practice is important. Really do your homework about the organisation you're approaching; find out as much as possible; don't be afraid to make phone calls to talk to people in advance," says Chavez. "It comes back to your broader CV, which you develop through your school days and university days; to have as much breadth to show you're different from the run of the mill - and to show enthusiasm.

"Everybody should be capable of conveying (their) passion for engineering. One of the things we find when I talk to the graduates in Thales is what attracted them is (that) we do really real engineering; fantastic, cutting-edge stuff that excites them."