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

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

  1. online application
  2. online tests
  3. video interview
  4. assessment centre
  5. face-to-face interview.

The online application only requests basic information, rather than longer, essay-style answers about your skills or motivation for applying. It’s therefore at the later stages of the recruitment process that you’ll need to show how you stand out from other candidates.

TARGETjobs spoke to Fiona Tabraham, engineering capability manager, at Network Rail about how you can impress. Make sure that you’ve taken the following advice into account before participating in the video interview, assessment centre and face-to-face interview.

Why are you applying to Network Rail? Make sure you can explain

Fiona 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.’

How to do this – TARGETjobs' advice

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 and development on offer. Also read up on current projects and ongoing work that Network Rail is involved with. Can you make any connections between these and your career aims, values or past experiences, be it reducing carbon emissions, improving customer service or managing major projects?

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

Got drive and ambition? Be prepared to show it

Network Rail is keen to stress that its graduate programmes could take you towards leadership roles in the organisation in the future. In the nearer term, graduates are offered training and development opportunities such as support towards obtaining chartered engineer or chartered accountant status. The employer therefore likes to recruit graduates who will be keen to take up these opportunities and play an active role in moving their careers forward. ‘Our new branding for our graduate scheme is “Network Unlimited”,’ comments Fiona. ‘We want you to drive your own career.’

How to do this – TARGETjobs' advice

Make sure you’ve checked on the Network Rail website what training and development is involved in the scheme you are applying for and that you understand what any relevant professional qualification entails (go onto the website for the appropriate professional body if you’re not sure). It would also be a good idea to think of examples from your past of times when you have shown drive and motivation to achieve something off your own back.

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 recently lowered our entry requirement from 2.1 to 2.2 as we want to increase diversity,’ states Fiona. 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 how high a grade you’ve achieved. You many have done something else, eg raising a family,’ Fiona comments.

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 typical 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.

Know the skills and qualities you need for the graduate programme you’re applying to

To get a feel for the skills and qualities you need to show, Fiona 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 business management programme overview states that we like candidates who are self-motivated and comfortable with change.’

How to do this – TARGETjobs' advice

Once you’ve found all you can find from the Network Rail graduate programme overviews, do some broader research into the types of skills and qualities that graduate recruiters in general tend to look for. Our advice on the skills and competencies employers look for will help.

Almost all graduate recruiters will look for candidates who can proved evidence of good teamworking, communication and interpersonal skills, the ability to plan and organise their own time and tasks and the passion, motivation and problem-solving mindset to make things happen. Planning examples in advance of times when you have demonstrated these qualities will set you in good stead for interviews with any type of employer.

Fiona’s tips 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. Fiona 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. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a suit.
  • 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.