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

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

The selection process for graduate schemes and industrial placements at Barratt involves:

  • an initial online personality questionnaire to assess your suitability
  • an online application form which requires you, among other things, to upload a CV and answer these questions: ‘Please tell us why have you chosen to pursue your career in the house building industry and particularly with Barratt Developments PLC?’ and ‘How will you be able to use your skills and experiences if you are successful in gaining a position on the programme?'
  • online situational judgement and psychometric testing
  • a telephone interview
  • an assessment centre (a 'mini' assessment centre for the industrial placement)
  • a final interview with a local office director.

There are certain things that Barratt recruiters particularly watch out for throughout the recruitment process, no matter which of their roles is your preferred choice. We caught up with Suzie Flynn, graduate and future talent manager at Barratt Developments, to discover exactly what these things are and how you can impress.

Barratt wants… a tailored, waffle-free application

As the job market improves, Suzie is seeing more ‘generic applications’ – that is, applications that could be sent to any employer with a job vacancy. Instead, Suzie 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. ‘You should be able to demonstrate knowledge of what we do,’ says Suzie. ‘You should show us how your values match up with ours and write about how the skills you have developed during your degree and/or elsewhere could be used on the job.’

Always relate what you know about the company to your motivations for applying and what you have to offer. Just regurgitating information from the Barratt website isn’t enough. For example, writing…

‘You have been building homes for more than 50 years. In that time you have grown to become one of the nation's largest house builders with more than 6,000 direct employees and 27 divisions throughout Britain.’

… as an answer to why you have chosen to pursue your career with Barratt Developments is bad on two counts. First, it is copied almost directly from the Barratt ‘About us’ web page, which makes you look lazy at best and stupid at worst (as Suzie says, ‘We know what’s on our website; we wrote it.’). Second, it doesn’t really tell the recruiters anything about why you want to work for the company; it doesn’t say what you would get out of working for an established, large nationwide house builder nor why you want to work at Barratt rather than any of the other large house builders in the UK.

Barratt wants… examples of your skills in your application and interview

Beware of making unsubstantiated claims. 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 team working 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. Suzie says, ‘As a recruiter, I might see 2,000 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’, ‘wowser’ 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 Suzie. 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.

Barratt wants… to hear the whole story in your application and interview answers

‘Some candidates do let themselves down by not selecting the best example of the skill we’re asking about,’ says Suzie. ‘Pick examples with an end result and something in which we can follow the whole story through. Sometimes we ask candidates during the telephone interview 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 online personality questionnaire is designed by psychologists to identify whether you have the leadership capabilities required by Barratt; it tells you whether they suggest you proceed with the application. 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 Suzie. ‘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 Suzie. ‘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 Suzie.

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 telephone interview,’ says Suzie. ‘But even in your application we want you to know what makes us different.’

So take a look at the likes of Taylor Wimpey, Bellway, Persimmon, Croudace, Bovis 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 2015 'Developer of the Year – Southern Region' award they received from the Urban Design Group and the five-star customer satisfaction rating that Barratt has received from the Home Builders Federation.

Then think about wider economic factors, such as the Help to Buy scheme, the North-South divide in house prices, the fears of housing bubbles and the demands of the buy-to-let market.

Barratt wants… career hunters, not job hunters

Bear in mind that Barratt is interested in those who want a career rather than just a job – at graduate level, it seeks candidates who are looking to progress within the company. For example, its graduates are mentored by directors and are given regular appraisals to help them identify when they are ready for the next level.

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