Interviews and assessment centres

How to succeed in your Network Rail video interview and assessment centre

18 Oct 2023, 14:34

Hear from the UK rail giant’s talent acquisition specialist on how you can impress during your Network Rail video interview or assessment centre.

A bearded man wearing glasses and a white shirt using headphones on a video call.

Jump to: Tips for the final stages of Network Rail’s application process | Advice for the video interview | Final words of help for the assessment centre

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

  1. a quiz that tells you what's it's like to work for Network Rail and whether you are a good match
  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.

Tips to impress recruiters during the Network rail recruitment process

Use the following tips to put your best foot forward during your Network Rail video interview or assessment centre:

  1. Explain why you are applying
  2. Show you’re driven to make a difference
  3. Know the skills and qualities needed for the role
  4. Consider your unique achievements

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.

Here’s our guide to researching an employer for an interview in case you need more help with this.

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

Network Rail is looking for graduates who want to join 'an 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 competency-based questions, which 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.

Our advice on the skills and competencies employers look for will also help.

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.

Amy’s advice for success in your Network Rail video interview

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.

targetjobs also has a whole article on expert tips for video interviews , so be sure to cast an eye over that.

Some final help from targetjobs for the Network Rail assessment centre

We recommend reading our graduate’s guide to assessment centres and our top tips for what to expect and how to succeed in virtual assessment centres to round off your preparation for the final two stages of the Network Rail recruitment process.

And, if you haven’t already, make sure to create your job hunting profile on targetjobs to get all the benefits of our career-kickstarting platform.

targetjobs editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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