Graduate scheme applications to Barratt: tips to impress the house builder

What does Barratt’s graduate application process involve and what do recruiters want to see in your application, assessments and interviews? We spoke to a Barratt recruiter to find out.

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Your leadership potential counts for more than industry-related work experience.

The recruitment processes for Barratt’s graduate schemes – both the Accelerated Construction Programme and the ASPIRE programme – are outlined fairly comprehensively on its website. You will complete:

  • An application form, to which you attach a CV and answer a number of application questions
  • A video interview
  • An assessment day or a virtual online assessment, designed to ‘see how well you think on your feet and react to a working environment’ – the assessment day has previously included exercises such as individual role plays, individual written and presentation tasks, and verbal and numerical reasoning tests
  • A final interview with a director.

There are certain things that Barratt recruiters particularly watch out for throughout the recruitment process. We caught up with Sally Bradbery, group resourcing manager at Barratt Developments, to discover what these things are and how you can impress.

Barratt wants… a tailored, reflective application

Over the past few years, Sally has seen a large number of ‘generic applications’ – that is, applications that could be sent to any employer with a job vacancy. Instead, Sally wants an application that clearly indicates that you want to work for Barratt and that you have put some serious thought into how you would contribute to the company’s future success.

To answer the application questions, you need to do sufficient research to gain a good understanding of what Barratt does, its values and ways of working and what you would do on your chosen graduate scheme. ‘You should be able to demonstrate knowledge of what we do and what you’d be doing,’ says Sally. Start by reading its website and watching its graduate videos, although it would also be good to be able to refer back to any work experience or site visits with Barratt, if you’ve had the opportunity.

For the ASPIRE programme, applicants are asked to answer the questions ‘Please describe why you have applied for employment with Barratt Developments PLC and chose this discipline/role on the ASPIRE programme?’ and ‘Please describe why you are interested in becoming a leader of the future?’, and you can expect similar questions for the Accelerated Construction programme.

These questions assess your knowledge of Barratt, the graduate programme you are applying to and your career ambitions. Think about what the graduate scheme involves, what you are likely to do day-to-day in your chosen departments, what is unique about Barratt compared to its competitors and how these factors will help you to achieve your career goals. For example, will the rotations offered on the ASPIRE programme allow you to experience different departments and understand more about how the property development industry works?

Leadership potential is a key thing that Barratt’s recruiters look for in applicants (you can find out more about this below), so, when answering questions about ‘becoming a leader of the future’, refer back to the skills and competencies that Barratt asks for. Once you know what a ‘leader’ is, you can answer why you want to be one! For example, one of Barratt’s core competencies is the ability to ‘engage others to deliver’ and to ‘build relationships’; in your answer you could refer back to how much you enjoyed or appreciated working in teams during work experience or how were surprised at the benefits of building professional relationships during an internship.

You do not have a word or character limit for Barratt’s application questions, so you don’t need to worry about running out of space. However, that doesn’t mean you should try and write as much as you can. Written communication is a key skill for any job, and you’ll be likely be better served by a shorter, focused answer, rather than a long-rambling one. We can’t tell you how much you ‘should’ write, but try to find a balance between giving enough detail and repeating yourself.

When answering this question, you can also highlight the research you’ve done by identifying sources: ‘When I visited X site, I spoke to a trainee sales manager and learned that…’ This is another way to ensure that your answer avoids being generic.

Barratt wants… examples in your application and interview answers

In your application and interview answers, it’s not enough to say ‘I’m a great team player’ without providing any examples or evidence to back that claim up. It’s better to say something like ‘I developed my teamworking skills during my part-time job at [eg] Argos when I was part of the stockroom delivery team who selected products for customers’ and then go on to explain how you worked as a team to get the job done. Sally says, ‘As a recruiter, I might see 3,000 CVs and applications. I’m interested in what differentiates you – and that can be seen through your experiences and how you’ve developed your skills.’

Bear in mind that you don’t have to have ‘big’ examples to impress Barratt. You don’t have to have climbed Kilimanjaro or raised £5,000 for charity. ‘Examples from your part-time job, work placement or playing sport can be equally impressive,’ says Sally. A case in point: a tale of how you covered for a sick colleague at the last moment is an example of you stepping up and taking responsibility.

‘Some candidates do let themselves down by not selecting the best example of the skill we’re asking about,’ says Sally. ‘Pick examples with an end result and something in which we can follow the whole story through. Sometimes we ask candidates during interviews to tell us about a time they’ve come up with a “thinking outside of the box” idea. The candidates who stand out are those who go on to explain what they did with that idea and the impact that it had.’

Barratt wants… leadership potential (more than work experience)

The selection process is designed to assess your leadership potential. The initial application form asks you ‘Please describe why you are interested in becoming a leader of the future?’ and the assessment centre is also designed to tease out your leadership potential.

But note that the emphasis is on your future potential. ‘We assess leadership behaviour,’ says Sally. ‘How you go about building relationships, how you communicate with customers and your peers, and how you motivate yourself to achieve personal goals tell us a lot about your ability to lead. You don’t have to have been president of a student society to show us you can be a good leader.’

In fact, your leadership potential counts for more than any industry-related work experience you may have. ‘Of course it’s an advantage if you have work experience relevant to your preferred discipline,’ says Sally. ‘But, even with an entire CV full of relevant work experience, you won’t be offered a position unless you demonstrate high leadership potential.’

For the same reason, Barratt doesn’t assess your technical knowledge, even if you have a technical degree. ‘If you have the right non-technical skills, we can teach you the technical knowledge,’ says Sally.

Barratt wants… you to genuinely want to work in house building

Barratt is unlike some other construction companies or property developers in that it is a specialist: you won’t be working across a number of different types of projects or markets, as you will be specialising in house-building. They don’t want someone who would get bored and wish they were working on, say, bridges instead. To prove to Barratt that you have a genuine interest in house-building, read up on the news surrounding property and house-building (it’s a hot political topic, so it’s frequently in the news) and prepare a solid answer to ‘What appeals to you about horse building/residential property?’.

Barratt wants… ‘big picture focus’

This is a key competency sought by Barratt, which candidates can find challenging to demonstrate. It is about commercial awareness, ie:

  • How wider macroeconomic factors affect Barratt
  • How Barratt is doing in comparison with its competitors
  • How Barratt plans to capitalise on opportunities in the marketplace and how it intends to face up to challenges.

You need to analyse the performance of competitors. ‘We do gauge your awareness of our competitors at interview,’ says Sally. ‘We want you to know what makes us different.’

So take a look at the likes of Taylor Wimpey, Bellway, Persimmon, Croudace Homes, Bovis Homes and large construction groups whose house-building capabilities are only part of their offerings, such as Galliford Try. What advantages does Barratt have? Can it call upon regional expertise and the resources and infrastructure of a national company, for example? Is it the amount of land that it has ready to be built on? What about design? Customer service? Naturally every house builder will talk about their great designs and customer satisfaction, but you could talk about the five-star customer satisfaction rating that Barratt has received from the Home Builders Federation for the eleventh consecutive year.

Then think about wider economic factors, such as government-backed funding support for first-time buyers, trends in house prices, the need for social housing, and tax changes affecting the buy-to-let market.

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