Careers rarely develop the way we plan them. Our career path often takes many twists and turns, with particular events, choices and people influencing our direction.

We asked Elaine McGarrigle from CRH plc to give some advice for people considering this job:


Elaine McGarrigle

Mechanical Engineer

CRH plc

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  Elaine McGarrigle

The most important skill that a person in my position can have is communication.

One needs to be able to communicate effectively with people of all levels in order to do a days work. I think that this is the most important quality, to be able to fit in well with people, everyone from the operators to the senior management, one needs to be able to read them and how best to communicate with them.

An interest in basic engineering and in the heavy machine industry.

It is important to realise that working as a mechanical engineer in Irish Cement does not generally involve sitting at your desk all day. It involves alot of hands on, on-site work so a person needs to be prepared to get their hands dirty.

Another quality that is important is to be willing to learn. Even after a number of years in college, one needs to be eager to learn the ins and outs of a new environment; how cement is made, what equipment is involved, what generally goes wrong and how it is fixed.

Everyone will help and teach you but you need to open your mind and be prepared to take it all in.


Realists are usually interested in 'things' - such as buildings, mechanics, equipment, tools, electronics etc. Their primary focus is dealing with these - as in building, fixing, operating or designing them. Involvement in these areas leads to high manual skills, or a fine aptitude for practical design - as found in the various forms of engineering.

Realists like to find practical solutions to problems using tools, technology and skilled work. Realists usually prefer to be active in their work environment, often do most of their work alone, and enjoy taking decisive action with a minimum amount of discussion and paperwork.
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Writing a Cover Letter

Your cover letter is the first thing a recruiter or potential employer will see, so it has to make a strong impact.

The purpose of a cover letter is to introduce your CV in the best way possible. There is no such thing as the perfect cover letter, but following a basic pointers will help make your letter a worthy build-up to your CV. It should make a strong impact - strong enough to make the reader want to know more about you.

Each cover letter you write should be tailored to suit the particular job you are applying for. It’s your opportunity to demonstrate that you are the right 'fit' for the right job.

Examine your career history for specific examples of how you can demonstrate you have what the employer is looking for - e.g. the job advertisement says "This position requires an outgoing person with demonstrated capacity to work in a team". The keywords here are "outgoing", "demonstrated" and "team". Show you meet these essential criteria to increase your chances of an interview.

Your cover letter should be in line with your CV by highlighting the most relevant aspects in relation to the position. Don’t rush writing the cover letter. If you don’t impress with the cover letter you are leaving yourself open to being passed over for the job simply because another candidate wrote a better one!

Stages of Writing a Cover Letter

Paragraph 1 - Explain why you are writing. Make sure it entices the reader to read on. If you are replying to an advert, say where and when you saw the advert and if there is a reference number, quote it. Ensure you have researched the company, job and current industry trends before writing the cover letter.

Paragraph 2 - Briefly explain your job and, if applicable, qualifications (professional and/or academic). Don't give too much away or they may not want to go on and read your CV. If you are replying to an advert, make sure the skills you specified are reflected in your CV.

Paragraph 3 - Say why they should employ you and why you would be a good employee. Tell the company a little about themselves (e.g. "As the largest publishing company in Ireland"), to demonstrate you know something about them.

Paragraph 4 - Propose an action plan. Say you would like the opportunity to meet them for an interview and that you'll await their response, and you will call in a few days to see if this is appropriate. You don't have to leave the ball in their court, although be wary of seeming to 'pester'. If say you are going to call, then make sure that you do.

Points to note

  • Make sure your cover letter is addressed to the right person at the right address
  • Ensure that you spell everything correctly! Also check for grammar and bad punctuation - one mistake could mean your application is rejected in favour of another candidate
  • Do not use ‘sir’ or ‘madam’ - do your homework and locate the appropriate contact information on the company website or LinkedIn for more information
  • Include all of your contact details, including address, phone numbers and email. Make it as easy as possible for the prospective employer to contact you. If they can't get in touch with you, you may not get to the interview stage
  • If you are posting your application, write and print your cover letter on good quality paper that matches the paper of your CV. Avoid coloured paper! For best results, stick to good quality, white or cream paper.
  • Use bullet points where possible - it will be easier and faster for the reader to scan. You should still include a proper introduction and ending though - bullets should be framed by proper paragraphs.
  • Make sure your letter is bespoke - customised to the particular job for which you are applying. Pick out specific traits or skills mentioned in the job ad and demonstrate why you think you are suitable.
  • Ensure that your cover letter is short, succinct and to the point - there is no reason to duplicate the details shown in your CV.

Finally, don’t use long words and complex language just to impress – use the kind of language you would normally use.

Never get someone else to write the cover letter for you, although it can be useful to have someone who knows you to read over it and give feedback.