It’s that time of the year again …. so we thought we’d revisit the questions that will almost certainly come up at some stage.
This may be the only chance you get, throughout the whole assessment process, to engage a senior member of staff on a one-to-one basis. Some of the questions you’ll be asked will be predictable and others more bizarre (If we offer you an all expenses paid weekend with no financial limit what would you do?). Either way it’s a good idea to go into your interview with an idea of how to answer the questions most likely to come up.
1. Why do you want to be a surveyor?
Now we’re not fobbing you off but why exactly are you applying for the job? You’ll undoubtedly know the answer to this question but don’t make the mistake of not practicing an answer. You know you’ve got a strong chance of being asked something along this line, don’t fall at the final hurdle by being unprepared.
The most common replies are: ‘I’m passionate about real estate’ (be aware this can sound a little disingenuous) or ‘I’ve always wanted to be a surveyor, right from being a young child’ (again, unless this is true and you’re prepared to justify it, you’re probably best off avoiding this reply).
The better way to answer this type of question is to look at the job as a whole, including the range of the work involved and an overview of the industry, then match it to your own skills and interests. If possible, back it up with relevant work experience that has given you an insight into the corporate world.
2. Why this firm over our competitors?
Even if this question isn’t asked, it’s really important to get across exactly why you want to work for the company. You’re looking for something that differentiates it from its competitors and appeals to you. The aim, regardless of how many firms you’re applying to, is to tailor your answer to each individual company.
Do your research, the company’s website is a good place to start. Most of the large firms will have a section where they set out what makes it different from their competitors. Which brings us on to the second part of this answer. Make sure you know who their competitors are and be prepared to justify why they’re not your preferred choice. Next read up on any deals they have recently completed and try to get a handle on their workplace culture. More often than not these interviews take place at the end of an assessment day, so round up by letting them know that your initial impressions have been confirmed by your experiences with the people you’ve met throughout the day.
3. Which recent industry related news story or event has most made an impression on you?
It’s fairly inevitable that your interviews will at some point focus on what’s happening in the commercial world. Your ‘commercial awareness’ (not just the awareness of what’s going on but also an understanding of how this impacts dealings with clients) may be a question that you’re asked directly. However, even if its not, it’s your job to make sure that you demonstrate your understanding.
So, if you’re asked for your opinion on the outcome of the EU referendum, make sure you relate your thoughts back to the potential impact on the company’s clients; how it may alter the nature of the way the company conducts its business; and what are likely to be the main challenges facing them. Surveyors, whether they are client-facing or client-side, don’t operate in isolation so show that you understand the bigger picture.
4. Give me an example of when you demonstrated …..?
Competency questions are almost guaranteed at some point in your interviews. The typical surveyor-related competencies include commercial awareness, time and project management and team work. Another favourite is to ask you how you deal with failure or pressure.
Commercial awareness answers should always include anything you’ve done that had an element of the ‘bigger picture’ to it, such as work experience where you’ve had to provide a customer service. Time or project management and team work are easy to relate back to your university/academic studies or extra-curricular activities (if you do both, then the balance between the two is a good example). Finally when answering questions on failure, you obviously need to focus on something that didn’t go as well as planned but place the emphasis on lessons learnt, how you recovered and what you’d do differently next time round.
5. What skills do you have that would make you well-suited to life as a surveyor?
Aside from the typical skills mentioned above, surveyors need to be committed, driven and organised with good analytical skills. They also need good people skills and an ability to solve problems. Make sure you back up your skills with an example of how/when you’ve put them into action.
6. How do you see the profession evolving?
Technology, globalisation, personalised services, competition and mergers are all things you should consider. Look at the firm/company you are applying to and consider the impact of each. Obviously this will varying from company to company.
7. Do you have any questions you’d like to ask us?
Don’t bother with questions on how much holiday you’ll get, how many hours you’ll work or anything you they’ve already spent time putting into their graduate recruitment brochure. Also try and avoid saying no. It might seem like this question is just a way of wrapping things up, but this is your chance to show your interest in the job on offer and to get across anything you haven’t yet had a chance to say.
Questions about the company’s strategy and structure are good at this point or if you know in advance the name of the person who’ll be interviewing you, a search will show you which department they’re from and you can tailor your questions around that.
Don’t forget the basics: handshake, introduction and departure. Always thank the interviewer, even if it’s been the worst hour of your life and don’t forget to maintain eye contact and smile!