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Ed Shryane and Sixty London

Five tips on getting a graduate QS job, by a graduate quantity surveyor

Edward Shryane is a graduate quantity surveyor at Gardiner & Theobald LLP. He recalls the process through which he got his job and shares what he learned from the experience.
At his interview Edward was asked for his opinions on the current economic conditions and how they were affecting the industry.

Quantity surveying job hunting tip 1: apply to the right graduate schemes – don’t limit yourself but don’t spam

Quantity surveying graduate jobs are competitive so it is worth remaining open-minded about whom you could work for – consider both consultancies and contractors – while making an effort to search out the best jobs for you. ‘I would suggest that applicants do not limit themselves to just one or two employers when applying,’ says Edward.

But remember not to spread yourself too thinly. You should aim to give yourself the best chance in this competitive environment without over-stretching: well-considered, well-researched applications are key. Make sure that you are answering the employer’s specific questions or writing a tailored CV and covering letter – don’t copy and paste. ‘I worked hard to prove that I was the right candidate for the scheme,’ Edward recalls. You can improve your chances by choosing the right environment for you, playing to your strengths and highlighting your suitability for the particular scheme and company.

Quantity surveying job hunting tip 2: get enough work experience to compare and contrast

There are a number of formal quantity surveying internships and placements available (mostly for penultimate-year) students, but any construction work experience you’re able to find will be valuable, not just in quantity surveying. ‘You never know what will come of it,’ says Edward. ‘It stands you in good stead during the application process as you will have already made some connections, in addition to providing a wider range of conversation matter for your interviews.’

Really selling your previous experience – highlighting what you’ve learned about yourself and the skills you’ve developed – will help to give you the edge in applications and interviews. ‘Being able to compare and contrast different situations you have been in looks really good!’ Edward adds.

If you’re struggling to secure yourself an internship, you can try applying for work-shadowing at smaller companies. You can also demonstrate your interest and knowledge of surveying by entering essay competitions run by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and other professional bodies.

Quantity surveying job hunting tip 3: prepare for graduate interview questions on yourself and the economy

It’s possible you’ll get an unexpected interview question or two but for the most part it’s possible to anticipate the sorts of things interviewers will ask you about. You are likely to get questions on why you want to work for the company and why you want to be a quantity surveyor. They also might try to test your knowledge of the industry; Edward, for instance, remembers that he was asked for his opinions on the current economic conditions and how they were affecting the industry. Mixed in with this you should expect some questions designed to find out more about you as a person: ‘I was asked “Where do you see yourself in five years?” and “What do you enjoy doing in your free time?”’ Edward recalls. You should also be prepared to discuss anything you’ve mentioned in your CV.

Quantity surveying job hunting tip 4: show your quantity surveying interviewers who you are

‘They weren’t trying to catch me out,’ Edward says of his interviewers. ‘They were just trying to assess my personality and what I could bring to the firm.’ Nerves are normal, but interviewers usually try to put you at ease. Try to act naturally and reveal your personality – and remember that interviews are opportunities to find more out about the company and work out whether you’d like to work there.

Quantity surveying job hunting tip 5: remember your transferable skills

Employers want well-rounded individuals who can perform well in all aspects of their job. The skills required won’t all be directly related to the most obvious features of the job description. Edward, for instance, works with many different clients so communication and people skills are essential. He has also found basic computer skills to be important: ‘I use Microsoft Excel virtually every day in the office so being good with the program means that I can use my time as efficiently as possible.’

Employers’ interview questions will be designed in part to draw out the skills required for the job, but you can make a conscious effort to emphasise what you have to offer. Identify softer skills that would be useful in the role and industry, and make a point of talking about them where possible. For example, you can mention them when answering questions such as ‘Tell me about yourself’ or bring in additional skills when giving examples to competency-based questions.