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Construction and building services
A picture signifying how difficult it can be for graduates to know where to start when answering construction application questions.

Good and bad sample application answers for construction jobs

Aman Gill, a graduate recruiter at Arup, analyses sample answers to civil engineering, quantity surveying and construction graduate scheme application form questions and says whether the candidates would be invited to an assessment centre or interview.
Recruiter from Arup: 'I'd like to see more than one reason for wanting to work for us.'

Application form question: Why do you want to work for our construction/engineering/surveying company?

Candidate’s answer:

I want to work for you because I’ve been impressed by the work you have done and I’d really like to contribute to your projects. The way in which you managed the costs on the South Asian road development project, ensuring that the project was delivered to budget, indicates that I would be working with some of the best construction workers in the world. It would be fantastic to gain chartership alongside such professionals.

Recruiter's assessment:

I like the fact that this candidate mentions a specific project and says what impressed them about it, as it shows they’ve done some research. However, they could have expanded on this a little more. It’s also good that they mention chartership as most employers will be aiming to get their graduates professionally accredited. I’d like to see more than one reason for wanting to work for us though and, although ‘projects’ is a good answer, it’s a little obvious so they should back it up with other points – for example, liking the focus on a range of clients or the company’s strategy.

Verdict:

Yes – an invitation to interview is sent out.

Application form question: Give an example of a difficult problem that you have had to recently overcome.

Candidate’s answer:

I once had 3 assignments to hand in in one week and because i was working on the other 2 i hadnt finished the 1 worth 50% of the module the night before, and i didnt have enough reference material, on top of this i also had a bar shift to do. i didnt know what to do, but i spoke to my friend who worked for the pub too and switched shifts. i then did some more internet research and stayed up all night to get it done.

Recruiter's assessment:

This candidate should have used a spell check or asked their careers service to proofread their application before submitting it. The spelling and grammar that we see on application forms does not go unnoticed, and it’s important to get it right. Although the candidate provides information on the problem they experienced, why they experienced it and what they did to resolve it, it also shows that they struggle to manage their time and may have difficulty in prioritising their workload.

Verdict: 

No – they're not invited to an interview.

Application form question: Describe a time when you’ve worked closely with others.

Candidate’s answer:

Since my first year at university, I have been part of The Thespians Club. I was lighting designer for three productions. In each of these, I worked closely with the director and set designer to decide which lighting effects to use and when. I spoke with the director about any moods he wanted to create and any dramatic moments that would be enhanced by a lighting change. I consulted the set designer to work out the best place to position the lights. I then worked out a plan of the lighting to be approved by the director.

Next, we had to hang the lights in the appropriate places and I coordinated a team of three helpers to do so. Together, we arranged a system of how we were going to safely climb ladders and attach the lights. On the nights of the production, I worked out a rota of people to operate the lights. Before each show, I tested the lights and tried to solve any problems. For example, one night one of the lights was broken but I managed to replace it in time for opening curtain.

Recruiter's assessment:

This is a good response as it provides several examples of when the candidate has worked with others. For example, we see that not only can this person liaise with others to reach a common goal, but also that they can take direction and coordinate others’ work. This demonstrates the ability to lead a team as well as work within one. It also briefly illustrates the candidate’s ability to work on their own by testing and fixing issues without the need for support from the wider team.

Verdict:

Yes – an invitation to interview is sent out.

Application form question: What are your career aspirations?

Candidate’s answer:

I want to work for a leading construction firm, to progress in the company and to gain a professional qualification. I’d also like to work abroad if an opportunity comes up.

Recruiter's assessment:

Clearly, this response is far too short. This candidate needs to elaborate on their reasons, eg why is gaining a professional qualification important to them? Which professional qualification do they have in mind? How would it benefit the organisation? Additionally, I’d leave off the aspiration to move abroad unless the role that you’re applying for gives the opportunity to work abroad. Most vacancies or graduate schemes are an investment in a UK business.

Verdict:

No – they're not invited to interview.

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