This is not a conclusive compilation of questions you will get asked but it may give you an idea of the type of questions that often appear and even if they don’t ask you, it’s not a bad idea to sort the answers out in your head anyway.
With an allowance for the various ways that these question may be asked, here are a few of the most common ones.
Why do you want this job?
This is one of the most common questions and possibly the important. The employer is simply trying to see if you have done your research on them, so you need to tie your knowledge of them to your own skills and interests. For example, an interviewee with a small firm of surveyor might say:
“I’m always keen to take on a high level of responsibility and I feel this is more likely to develop with a firm of your size. It also offers me the opportunity to build really close working relationships with both clients and colleagues and I’ve found through my past work experience that this makes for a better and more effective work environment.”
If they have a website or have recently been in the press, you should always try and find out what it is the employers prides themselves on such as their training scheme, their clients, their public image, etc. before you go for your interview.
Read our blog on Commercial Awareness for more help.
Can you tell us about a situation in which you successfully lead a team.
This is one of a number of competency type questions you are likely to be asked. Surveying is a people based business and your future employers will want to see if you have any people management skills and whether or not you can organise, lead and motivate a team. They are looking to see how you get on with other people, what role you take in a group and whether you are able to deliver your targets.
Your job is to explain what the situation was, what your role in it was and any problems which arose and how they were tackled. Always round up on a positive and let your interviewer know what you learnt from the experience. Remember you’re not applying to be the CEO, so examples such as group projects at university; the Young Enterprise scheme or being team leader in a bar or restuarant are all good examples.
Just focus on how you can give examples of your leadership skills such as planning, decision making, listening and persuading, and what personal qualities helped you succeed in the task. Make sure you don’t make yourself sound like the local dictator!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Try to avoid vague or general answers such as “I would hope to have developed my skills further and work my way up the career ladder” or “I would expect to be in a senior position”. This is your chance to show that you have done your research on the career routes open to you and that you understand the APC process, so you need to be specific. This isn’t about limiting your options or tying you down to just one branch of surveying, it is simply to give the interviewer some idea of what you have in mind and that you understand the processes involved.
Use the employer’s graduate recruitment information to gain an idea of the career paths available and supplement this with APC knowledge found on the RICS website.
What are your weaknesses?
The answer is not beer, vodka, pies or chocolate and the trick here is to give a strength disguised as a weakness. The problem is that answers like “I’m too much of a perfectionist” or “I push myself too hard” can sound really clichéd and interviewers will have heard it all before. If they do apply to you, then you should give examples: you could say that your attention to detail make you a little too single-minded in your drive to get the task done.
A better strategy is to choose a weakness that you have improve and describe what you did. For example: “When I first started uni, there were a number of competing priorities such as sport, coursework, exams, my part-time job and application deadlines for work placements that I needed to balance. Now I use a task management app to keep track of all my jobs, so I can organise my time and prioritise my tasks, which has really helped.”
Don’t say you haven’t got a weaknesses you will look at best arrogant or lacking in self-awareness and at worst a liar. You should also avoid using a skill that is required as part of the job as your weakness.
Who else have you applied to or had interviews with?
This isn’t just the interviewers checking out the competition, they are also looking to see how consistent you are being with your career applications and whether you are genuinely interested in the job on offer. If you have applied to one large real estate agency it is reasonable for the interviewer to assume that you will be applying to them all – what you need to emphasise is that the job for which you are being interviewed is your first choice.
You should make sure that the names of other companies that you give are not from a wildly different sectors; don’t list jobs that are of less interest to you than the one you are being interviewedl nor should you list companies who have rejected you.
Why did you choose your university and what factors influenced your choice?
If in reality you had no choice in the University you ended up in you should steer the conversation round to your choice of course rather than institution. The reality is this question is less about your choice and more about the decision process and your reasoning skills.
What are your strengths?
This question may also turn up as “Tell me about yourself“, “Give me three words that best describe you” or “How would your friends describe you?” This is your chance to sell yourself. Make a list of three or four of your best strengths and try to back them up with examples of where you have had to use them. The trick is to look at the job requirements and tie them into your strengths, whether that is your skills, abilities, experience or personality. Any strengths you have on your list that match the employers requirements are the ones you should promote. Common examples are: team player, great interpersonal skills, dependability, reliability, leadership skills, ability to come up with a solution to a problem etc., etc. Don’t just focus in on university life, or the sports field you should link your answer to examples from as many different parts of your life as you can.
What has been your best achievement?
Unless there are circumstances that make your case special, don’t say getting into uni or getting your degree, you need to distinguish yourself from the other candidates. Once again it should tie into the skills required by the job such as determination, initiative, organisation, or team work. Examples would be things like: Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award – especially the expedition and community service parts; organising a fund-raising event; training for and completing a coast to coast cycle ride etc.
Have you got any questions?
At the end of the interview you will probably be asked if you have any questions of your own. If it hasn’t already been discussed, you can ask about the training, arrangements for professional exams and career development. You may even ask whether they pay for your APC training; you shouldn’t however ask how much holidays you’ll get or what the corporate entertainment is like!
Other common questions are:
- Why do you want to join our company?
- What would you do if …….. happened?
- Why did you choose surveying?
- Are you prepared to work anywhere?
- Describe a situation in which you had to use your initiative /resolved a problem / took responsibility.
- What are your hobbies?
- Tell me about your final year research project.
- Describe an event you have had to organise.
- What is your usual role in a team?
- Describe a situation where you had a difficult decision to make.
Remember to smile and maintain eye contact.