Five tips on getting a graduate QS job, by a graduate quantity surveyor
Try to get enough industry work experience to compare and contrast
There’s no doubt about it: getting industry work experience is difficult and the formal placements are competitive. Any industry work experience you’re able to find will be valuable. ‘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 – showing 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.
Apply to the right schemes: don’t limit yourself but don’t spam
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 – 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. If you feel it is right for you, your application should come more naturally.
Expect graduate interview questions on yourself and the economy
It’s possible you’ll get an unexpected 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.
Show your interviewers who you are
Nerves are normal but do try not to get intimidated; remember that you shouldn’t feel under attack. ‘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.’ Use your interviews as opportunities to find more out about the company and show them who you are.
Remember your transferable skills
Employers want well-rounded individuals who can perform well in all aspects of their job. Think about the skills you have that could prove useful and how you can demonstrate these. They 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 programme means that I can use my time as efficiently as possible.’