How to succeed in Network Rail face-to-face assessments and video interviews

The recruitment process for graduate scheme places at Network Rail runs in the following order:

  1. online application and situational judgement test
  2. games-based psychometric assessment
  3. video interview
  4. assessment centre (including a face-to-face interview)

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. The first stage (online application) requests basic information, rather than longer, essay-style answers about your skills or motivation for applying, whereas during the interviews and assessment centre you are likely to be assessed against a set of competencies that Network Rail seeks.

TARGETjobs spoke to Melissa Amouzandeh, emerging talent acquisition manager at Network Rail, about how you can impress during your interviews and the assessment centre.

After reading this, we also recommend:

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

Melissa 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 and in its graduate and placement student brochure, including the programme you are applying to and the training and development 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 car

Make sure you’ve researched the rail industry, including reading TARGETjobs Engineering’s overview of the industry written by Network Rail’s group digital railway director Jerry England.

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. We also have specific details from Jerry on what graduates with mechanical, electrical and electronic engineering degrees will be doing day-to-day in the rail industry.

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

Network Rail wants graduates who will get on board with the employer’s vision to ‘make a world-class railway and really make a difference to rail travel in Britain’. They are particularly emphasising it this year: ‘Our new branding for our graduate scheme is “The difference is you”,’ says Melissa.

How to do this – TARGETjobs' advice

Melissa encourages graduates to ‘think about how you could make a difference to Network Rail and to the travelling public’ and it will help you make your case for why you want to work for them (see above) if you are prepared to talk about how Network Rail’s vision corresponds with your personal values. 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?

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

As mentioned earlier, 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 the property programme compared to mechanical engineering, 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 – according to Network Rail’s Inside Buzz reviews. Melissa advises: ‘Read the overviews of our graduate programmes on our careers website, as these include hints about what we are looking for. For example, the IT and business services programme overview states that we like candidates who have strong attention to detail and enjoy getting into the nitty gritty of analysing data.’

How to do this – TARGETjobs' advice

The graduate programme brochure is another good source for finding out what Network Rail looks for in candidates for each programme.

While researching 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 and dedication to driving your own development.

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. One recent Network Rail graduate reports on Inside Buzz that they were asked for an example of a time when they had shown leadership potential, for example.

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 Melissa. 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 many have done something else, which will have taught you equally valuable skills, such as working part time to support yourself through university,’ Melissa 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… Melissa’s advice for video interview success

Different employers mean different things by ‘video interview’. At Network Rail this involves reading questions on screen and then having your answers recorded, rather than chatting with recruiters over Skype. Melissa 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.
Our 'How to get hired' articles are written by TARGETjobs editors and writers with job candidates in mind, helping you research and understand employers. Copyright of all material written by TARGETjobs lies solely with GTI Media.