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Answering Arup’s graduate application form questions

Weak, rushed answers are the most common reason for candidates not reaching the interview stage.

'Arup places a huge importance on the strength of a candidate’s application form,’ says Aman Rai, graduate recruiter at Arup. ‘Don’t rush. Take time with your application form to demonstrate your research and motivation for applying.’

Advice: Arup guidance | Character counts | Research | Values question | Skills question | Module question

Tip: follow Arup’s application guidance

On the application form, you have three application questions to answer and, helpfully, Arup’s recruiters give you specific guidance on answering them. They want you to:

  • have reviewed Ove Arup’s key speech and the Arup website before answering the questions
  • refer to examples in your answers from within the last three years; these can come from your studies, your paid or unpaid work, or any leisure or voluntary activities
  • give thoughtful, considered answers specific to Arup

This last is particularly important to Aman Rai, graduate recruitment adviser at Arup. ‘I like to see candidates really thinking about why they are applying for that particular vacancy,’ she says. ‘Weak answers that demonstrate a lack of effort are the most common reason why candidates don’t progress to the interview stage.’

Tip: be ruthless to meet the 1,000 character limit

1,000 characters is equivalent to, roughly, 175 words so it is wise to draft and edit in MS Word (or similar program) before copying it into the form. To make the best use of the character count, use an active rather than an academic writing style (see this article for tips on how to do this) and, where appropriate, use lists rather than full sentences. If you’ve had to cut down words, get someone else to read over your answers to make sure that they still make sense and include sufficient detail.

Before you start: expand your research

Impressive candidates will widen their research beyond the key speech and website. ‘One of the things that our directors want to see is that a candidate has thoroughly researched our company,’ says Aman. ‘We have a wealth of information on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, as well as our website, so I would encourage candidates to make the most of these sites when applying to us.’ Don’t forget also to look up Arup in the recent construction industry press to hear the latest news on the company and how it fares against its competitors.

How to tackle: 'What resonates with you about our values?'

Take ‘resonate’ to mean something that strikes a chord with you: something that stirs the emotions and something that you agree with. To answer this question, you do have to have read Sir Ove’s key speech in detail. Arup does summarise its core values in the PDF of the speech, but these can’t be fully understood without reference to the whole speech. ‘The speech really does encapsulate our philosophy and style of working,’ says Aman.

You should give examples (we suggest at least two) of when you have acted in accordance with the values or demonstrated a similar spirit.

For example, Sir Ove talks about ‘a wish to do socially useful work’ and ‘pursue quality’. This ties in to two of Arup’s core values: ensuring that ‘the Arup name is always associated with quality’ and ‘We shape a better world’. If you’ve done any of the following (for instance) you will have evidence of sharing those values:

  • worked towards a good cause with others
  • produced high-quality work
  • volunteered on a construction project abroad
  • taken concrete steps to reduce your own carbon footprint
  • been involved with any zero waste initiatives on any placements
  • researched into the latest sustainable thinking as part of your course or during a placement

In your research, have you come across evidence of Arup’s values being enacted in practice and, if so, does it increase the resonance of the values? If so, you could strengthen your answer by saying so. For example, you could see Arup’s support for Stonewall’s diversity champions programme as evidence of their commitment to tackle discrimination.

How to tackle: ‘Please tell us why you are applying for this role and how you feel your skills are relevant’

Focus on the specifics of the role and the division. Start your research by reading the comprehensive job description Arup’s website provides. Take a look at recent projects the division has worked on. See what Arup’s reports and publications say about the challenges and strengths of the division. Investigate the study and work you will need to achieve professional qualification, for example. Think about the skills you will need on the job and when studying.

Use this research to support your reasons for applying. You could mention specific projects in the division worked on (or the types of projects you could work on) and talk about how they’d interest or challenge you, for example. Arup is a consultancy and, if you are applying for an engineering or quantity surveying role, it is likely that your role will be mostly office-based and concerned with the designs. Referring to this in your answer will be expected.

When writing about your skills, it’s not enough to say, ‘My planning and organisational skills will be useful because...’. The following is more impressive: ‘My experience of planning and organisation when I... will be useful because...’

How to tackle: ‘Please provide a brief overview of which degree modules best reflect your strengths/interest and how they relate to the role that you are applying for’

Our advice is to select the modules that are most obviously relevant in terms of technical knowledge and, if you have characters to spare, your non-technical skills. For example, you might want to talk about how modules with group projects showed you that teamwork was one of your strengths. Note that you do not have to give an overview of all of your modules. Do focus on the modules that really do show your abilities and interests the best: that might only be two or three.

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