How to succeed in Network Rail's video interview and assessment centre

Hear from Network Rail's talent acquisition specialist on how you can impress during your video interview or assessment centre.

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The recruitment process for graduate schemes, years in industry and summer placements at Network Rail runs in the following order:

  1. a quiz that tells you whether you are a good match for working at Network Rail
  2. an online application
  3. online tests
  4. a video interview
  5. an assessment centre, including an interview (this could be held virtually or at one of its offices)

This article focuses on the two later stages of the Network Rail recruitment process, where you really need to show how you stand out from other candidates. TARGETjobs spoke to Amy Ellis, talent acquisition specialist at Network Rail, about how you can impress during your interviews and the assessment centre.

After reading this, we also recommend our guide to handling the different parts of an assessment centre.

Tip to impress #1: Why are you applying to Network Rail? Make sure you can explain

Amy advises: ‘Research Network Rail and have a clear understanding of why you want to apply. Understand what you want to do with your career and how Network Rail could be part of it.’ Your motivation is important to Network Rail as they will be investing a lot in you as a graduate; they want to know that you want a career at Network Rail as opposed to the first graduate job you could get your hands on.

How to do this – TARGETjobs’ advice

Think about what initially made you apply and what appeals about working for Network Rail. Team this with research to inform your views and give you more ideas. To do this effectively, take a good look at all the information available on Network Rail’s graduate careers website, including the programme you are applying to and the training, development and qualifications on offer. Also read up on current projects and ongoing work that Network Rail is involved with. As well as knowing what makes Network Rail an attractive or impressive employer, you need to make connections between these and your career aims.

Make sure you’ve researched the wider rail industry, too.

A point for engineers

There are many different engineering sectors in which you could put your degree to good use so make sure you can explain why you’ve settled on rail.

Tip to impress #2: Driven to make a difference? Be prepared to show it

Network Rail is looking for graduates who want to join 'a organisation where you can really contribute and make a difference to people's lives. Its website also places an emphasis on its commitment to putting passengers first and embedding a customer service mindset.

How to do this – TARGETjobs’ advice

Amy encourages graduates to ‘think about how you could make a difference to Network Rail and to the travelling public’. Can you articulate why you think the role you are applying for is an important part of ‘making a difference’? What examples of past or current activities can you bring into your interview answers to prove you genuinely care about making a difference, such as community projects? And what people-facing experience do you have? This could be helping customers in your part-time job or meeting the needs of students through your society committee role, for example

Tip to impress #3: Know the skills and qualities you need for the graduate programme you’re applying to

Network Rail recruiters will have a checklist of competencies that you need to demonstrate. Many will be the same across Network Rail’s programmes, but the emphasis is likely to be slightly different for Network Rail's property graduate programme compared to its mechanical engineering programme, for example. Having a good idea of the skills and competencies sought will help prepare you for the competency questions that previous candidates say they have been asked. Amy advises: ‘Read the overviews of our graduate programmes on our careers website, as these include hints about what we are looking for.’

How to do this – TARGETjobs’ advice

As well as looking at the skills and qualities that are specific to your programme, you should also look for the traits that Network Rail wants in all its graduates. Many of these are among the skills and qualities that graduate recruiters in general tend to look for, but Network Rail also emphasises some that are quite specific to it, such as prioritising safety. The application advice on Network Rail's careers website will give you a good idea of the skills it's looking for across the board.

Once you’ve got an idea of what skills and qualities are needed for the programme, it pays to plan examples of times when you have demonstrated these qualities, as this will stand you in good stead for your interviews.

Tip to impress #4: Not been a ‘typical’ student? Consider your own unique achievements

Some students have more on their plates than studying for their degree and Network Rail is aware of this. ‘We’ve set our entry requirement as a 2.2 as we want to open up our opportunities to graduates from a diverse range of backgrounds,’ states Amy. She gives the example of older students, who might not have got a 2.1 or been involved in many extracurricular activities due to raising a family while studying. ‘It’s not necessarily about how many societies you’ve been in or what grade you’ve achieved. You may have done something else, which will have taught you equally valuable skills, such as working part time to support yourself through university,’ Amy adds.

How to do this – TARGETjobs’ advice

Think about answers you could give to typical competency questions. For example, when considering how you might answer a common question such as ‘What was the greatest challenge you faced at university?’, you could talk about combining your degree with a caring or financial commitment, or the extra ingenuity you needed to complete your degree while coping with illness or injury.

And, finally… Amy’s advice for video interview success

Different employers mean different things by ‘video interview’. Amy offers the following practical advice to help you succeed:

  • Check you are using reliable equipment.
  • Give yourself thinking time beforehand – don’t rush straight into it at the end of a busy day.
  • Dress in a manner you feel is appropriate for an interview.
  • Have your CV to hand to prompt you.

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