Impressing in quantity surveying and building surveying technical interviews
Have an RICS-accredited undergraduate or postgraduate degree? At an interview or assessment day most surveying graduate employers assess your competency in your discipline, as well as how you think through and then solve technical problems. How they do this will vary from employer to employer. Many ask you technical questions as part of a wider interview, but a few could assess your technical knowledge as part of an assessment day. Whether you are faced with interview questions or an assessment centre exercise, the basic preparation you should do is the same.
Graduate building surveying and quantity surveying technical interview questions
Interviewers from top building surveying employers shared with us some of their typical technical questions. These include:
- What is the process to follow for party wall agreements?
- What is the process to follow for dilapidations negotiations?
- What typical defects would you expect to find in a Victorian building?
- What typical defects would you expect to find in a 1960s building?
You would then face follow-up questions on, for instance, the typical defect you have identified.
Past quantity surveying technical questions at JLL have included:
- Could you tell me some procurement routes you are aware of?
- How would you measure a gross internal area of a building?
At Arup, quantity surveying applicants undertake a 30-minute technical exercise prior to their interview, which will then include a discussion of their approach to the exercise.
At both quantity and building surveying interviews, you can expect to be asked about what interested you most in selecting the career and, if you have relevant work experience, about a projects you worked on. ‘We are likely to ask about interests and passions arising from the applicant’s academic training and any supporting work experience,’ says Helen Gough, lead director of JLL’s London buildings and construction team. ‘Clearly, any dissertation is likely to form the basis of questions too.’
How to prepare for technical surveying questions
The best way to prepare for technical questions is to revisit the basics of your knowledge and understanding: review your course notes, the findings of any course projects and dissertations, and what you learned from any work placements. Recruiters will not try to catch you out with advanced and complicated problems; they want to see that you have a solid grounding and methodical approach that you can build on through studying for chartership with RICS and the firm’s own training.
‘Be prepared and do some basic research prior to your interview,’ advises Aman Rai, graduate recruitment advisor at Arup. ‘The exercise is based on the fundamental skills that a quantity surveyor will have; they are practical and not theoretical. Remember to brush up on the basics and you will stand a good chance.’ Arup also presents candidates with a reference guide to assist them with the exercise.
Since technical interviews also test your confidence and communication skills, you might like to prepare by doing explaining basic principles and approaches to a friend, family member or careers advisor. This will help you to become more familiar with clearly articulating your thoughts.
How to answer technical surveying questions
How important it is that you give the ‘right’ answer to a question depends on the nature of the question. If you are asked a simple, factual question, then of course you should be able to give the right answer. However, for many other questions employers are more interested in how you think and how you reached your conclusions. Blaine Perrotton, an interviewer of graduates, internal APC assessor and a member of the cost management team at JLL, says: ‘A strong candidate may not necessarily know all the technical detail, but will show an understanding and a methodical approach to how they answer a question.’ Bear in mind, too, that there might not even be an objective ‘right’ answer; instead, the question might be asking for your subjective judgement. The best thing you can do is to follow your instincts and not to get hung up on whether the answer is correct.
As interviewers are interested in your analytical thinking, explain your reasoning as you give your answer. Explain what further information you need, what you deduce are the key issues to follow up on and the logical steps you would take to get to an answer. If you prefer to explain technical concepts via diagrams, take a notepad in with you.
However, do not waffle! Answers should be concise; recruiters suggest that someone who talks too much without giving the answer will not be viewed favourably, since they clearly do not know it and are trying to disguise this. If you are stumped, admit the limits of your knowledge and make a reasonable suggestion instead. ‘A strong candidate will say that they do not know the answer as opposed to trying to guess,’ says Blaine.
If you really want to impress, however, take into account commercial concerns in your answer where appropriate. ‘A strong candidate will be able to demonstrate a commercial grounding in how we allow our clients to realise the potential from their property,’ says Helen. So, for example, if you are discussing what advice you would give to clients about repairs (building surveyors) – or if you are discussing the pros and cons of using different materials (quantity surveyors) – the cost and time factors should be included in your discussion.
Remember that a company is prepared to train you and that recruiters expect your knowledge to increase as you study for chartership. They are just looking for potential.