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Three top tips for tackling construction employers' video interviews

Got a video interview with a construction employer? Whether you are applying for an engineering, management or surveying job, you need to read this expert advice from Wates on showing your best side.
Video enables companies to interview more candidates.

Graduate employers are increasingly using video for the first interview stage of their recruitment: the Institute of Student Employers found that in 2017 53% of employers used video interviewing, up from 6% in 2012. And employers in the construction industry are following this trend, too. Wates, Balfour Beatty and Network Rail are among those that have switched to video interviews for their graduate vacancies.

This is actually good for your chances of getting an interview. ‘Video allows the employers to interview more candidates than they would be able to via the phone or face to face, while also keeping the process standardised for all,’ says Samena Choudhury, early careers recruiter at Wates.

So what should you expect and how can you be successful? We spoke to Samena to find out.

The format of a video interview for built environment employers

Each employer’s set-up will vary, but in most cases it will not be a ‘live’ conversation with an interviewer. According to Samena, with Wates: ‘Upon starting the video interview there is a pre-recorded introduction from an early careers manager to provide an overview of our programme, tips and clear instructions for the upcoming interview. Abi Cooke, a group project manager and former trainee at Wates, then asks a series of questions. Candidates record their answers in the allocated timeframe and upload them.’

Previous candidates have reported a similar experience during interviews for Balfour Beatty and Network Rail, too. A past video interview candidate at Balfour Beatty reported being asked four questions and having an unlimited time in which to consider the questions.

Samena sees this as one of the main advantages of video interviews. ‘The gap between the question and recording allows the individual time to consider their response, making sure they are saying what they mean and giving the best answer to the question,’ she says.

What your video interviewers will be assessing

The technology may be new, but your interviewers will want to find out the same information as they would in any first interview, regardless of the format. They will be looking to discover:

  • if you really want to work for that company and in that job in particular, not just any construction company – and whether you would be happy in a construction or design role as appropriate.
  • whether you have the skills to be successful in the role (and that you have evidence of those skills)
  • more about you, your experiences and your achievements.

‘In video interviews, we look to see how the applicant presents themselves and how they communicate, as well as assessing the content of their answers,’ says Samena. She will also be gauging your manner: ‘We always look for enthusiastic and motivated candidates to join our business.’

The video interview questions for construction, engineering and quantity surveying jobs

You won’t be surprised, therefore, that the questions you’ll be asked will be similar to those you can expect in any first-round interview, whether held over the phone or face to face.

Wates’ interview is fairly typical: ‘The first section asks about why you decided to apply for Wates and why you applied for the individual position; it also includes some strength-based questions to allow us to find out more about you,’ Samena tells us. ‘The second section of the interview is composed of competency-based interview questions.’

TARGETjobs can’t tell you exactly what motivational questions you’ll be asked, but if you practise answering these questions you’ll be along the right lines:

  • Why do you want to work for the company? What interests you the most about the company?
  • Why have you applied for the job role/graduate programme?
  • What do you know about the company and the job role?
  • Why do you want to work for a contractor rather than a consultant or vice versa?

Competency questions require you to give an example of when you used a specific skill in a certain situation. What these skills will be will depend on the skills stated on the job description or advertisement. Typical construction competency questions include:

  • Tell us about a time when you had to juggle a number of different tasks or deadlines. How did you handle it?
  • Tell us about a time when you worked in a team to overcome an obstacle.
  • Tell us about a time when you had to lead a task or project to a successful conclusion.
  • Tell us about a time when you had to handle a difficult situation. What did you do?

Other strengths-based or more general questions you could be asked include:

Gain tips on how to answer most of the above interview questions with our advice feature ‘Construction interview questions and how to answer them’.

Find out more about competency interview questions and how to answer them.

Read up on strengths interview questions and learn how to tackle them.

Video interview tip 1: research as you would for a face-to-face interview

‘Treat every part of the process like you would if it was a face-to-face interview,’ advises Samena. ‘We expect our candidates to have done some thorough research into Wates and the role you are applying for, and to have a good understanding of the trainee scheme. You can find a lot of this information on our website – but I would recommend that all applicants use our social media channels, too.’

Unlike in a face-to-face interview, though, Samena points out that in a video interview you can have your notes by your side. You could even attach post-its to your screen and the recruiters won’t know!

Prepare for possible questions as you would for any interview, using the above as a starting point.

Video interview tip 2: silence please

You want to create a focused, professional impression, so do make sure that you get the basics right. ‘Select the right surroundings for your video interview – for example, a quiet area with good lighting in which you are unlikely to be interrupted,’ advises Samena. ‘Make sure that the phones or devices you aren’t using to upload your responses are switched off.’

Video interview tip 3: keep your eyes on the prize

‘One mistake candidates often make during video interviews is that they start getting distracted with things that are happening around the room,’ says Samena. ‘I would advise that, while you are doing your video interview, you try to maintain eye contact with the camera.’ It creates a better impression and helps you to project enthusiasm.

‘If you are unsure about how you come across on video interview, don’t be afraid to try a few practice ones on your device,’ Samena adds. ‘You can play these back to yourself and see whether there are any improvements you can make to your technique.’

It’s going well so far

If you are nervous about the technical aspects of video interviews, rest assured that construction companies are doing all they can to make it easy for you. ‘So far it seems that candidates are adapting very well to video interviews,’ says Samena. ‘Many have said the system was easy to use and the instructions were very clear.’

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