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Atkins graduate applications and interviews: recruiters' tips

It's all about making the most of the skills and experience you do have.

The graduate recruitment process for SNC-Lavalin’s Atkins business is not unusual for an employer of its size; it involves several stages

  • registering and then sitting a situational judgement test
  • submitting an application form (which includes three application questions aimed to discover your reasons for applying to Atkins and the role, your interests and your experience)
  • completing online tests
  • taking part in a telephone interview
  • attending an assessment centre, which includes a written exercise, group exercise and a technical test interview.

As this may seem daunting, TARGETjobs caught up with Katie Cockerton and Kate Poade graduate recruitment advisers at SNC Lavalin's Atkins Business and its specialist cost consultancy Faithful+Gould, to find out how you can be a successful candidate. The below is based on an interview with them, coupled to TARGETjobs' expertise.

You really need to spend time on your Atkins application form

‘We often see very generic answers where candidates don’t take the time needed to apply properly,’ they tell us. ‘We think people underestimate the importance of the application form. We receive around 14,000 applications each year to the UK graduate programme and the application form is integral to demonstrating your understanding of the company and the role, and to telling us more about your skills and achievements.’

No, honestly: you REALLY need to spend time and reflect on your Atkins application form

‘The strongest applications are tailor-made and focused on the graduate role and industry they are applying for,’ they add. ‘The graduate recruitment team and hiring managers score the application form answers against set criteria, so it is really important that candidates take their time.’

This also extends to the basics: ‘Spellcheck and proofread answers. Poor attention to detail is demonstrated through spelling, grammar or layout – and could be holding you back in our recruitment process,’ they add.

So how do you ensure that you have tailored your graduate application to Atkins?

Use the job description to choose which information you put in which answer: Before you start typing your answers, use the job description (obtained by using SNC Lavalin's Atkins Business’ role finder tool) and information you have from the company’s website, its TARGETjobs employer hub and social media channels to choose what information to include in each answer. ‘Pull out the key skills and experience we seek and show how your skills, qualification and experience match those requirements,’ Kate and Katie say. You will need to provide evidence of your skills and fit them into your answers appropriately. For example, you might decide to put evidence of your skills in your answer to the question ‘why Atkins?’ – stating that the reason you are applying to the company is that the company allows you the chance to make the best opportunity of your existing skills and to develop them further – or you might put evidence of your skills in answer to the question based around what makes you different.

Demonstrate your SNC Lavalin's Atkins Business research: Backing up your reasons for applying to SNC Lavalin's Atkins with knowledge of the company is essential for tailoring your response. For example, do you want to work for the company because it is a consultancy and you liked the design-focused aspects of your degree? Are you applying for the chemical, process and environmental graduate scheme in the oil and gas and offshore wind and are you impressed by their working with DONG Energy on offshore wind farms? Or are you impressed by the efforts Atkins makes to increase diversity in the profession (see the video on the company's drive to increase diversity and inclusivity on this hub as a starting point)? If so, say so.

Kate and Katie are very explicit about the minimum research they’d expect: ‘We’d expect candidates to be aware that we are a consultancy, to know that we have a number of divisions and to have a basic understanding of the industries we operate in and some of our key projects. The website is a good starting point, but following our social media channels is a really good way of getting an insight into the company and our culture.’ As SNC Lavalin only acquired Atkins and Faithful+Gould in July 2017, it is worth showing that you are aware of the acquisition.

One tip: in the job descriptions brought up by the ‘role finder’ tool, Atkins lists what type of work you would be doing in the different office locations. If you are talking about projects, try to match them up to the team you are interested in applying to.

Make the most of any experience you have… and rethink the word ‘relevant’

‘I am always surprised by the number of candidates I speak to who don’t think that they have any relevant experience, but then I found out that they are treasurer of their university sports team society, that they volunteer with a charity at weekends, have a part-time job in retail and acted as a team leader for a group project,’ says Kate. All of this is ‘relevant’ experience for SNC Lavalin’s Atkins business because it all illustrates the skills the company wants – don’t think that you can’t apply to Atkins if you don’t have an industry-related placement.

It’s all about making the best of any experience you’ve got and applying it to the role. 'Think about everything you’ve learned about yourself and the way you work, the skills you’ve developed and how that relates to the role,’ adds Katie. This is also a good way to approach the question about what makes you different.

Have your application near you for the telephone interview

The telephone interview – which is held over the phone rather than Skype – allows the recruiters to talk to you about some details of the role and to gauge your suitability for it. ‘We’ll ask you to confirm some of the details on your application, so it might be worth having it close to hand. We’ll ask you some questions around values that are important to us, asking you to draw on your previous experience, and we may ask you some more technical questions that are relevant for the role,’ Kate and Katie share.

To be prepared, it is worth thinking about what the Atkins values are and to think of times – from your course, placement, gap year or extracurricular activities – when you acted in accordance with them. A quick Google search for ‘Atkins values’ won’t find you much concrete information, so you will need to extrapolate the values from the company’s graduate recruitment brochure, its ‘Thought leadership’ webpage and so on. To get you started, the company says that it is built on safety, integrity, innovation and collaboration with a view to being more resilient and agile (flexible and able to respond to change), according to the graduate recruitment brochure.

Kate and Katie tell us that ‘clients are at the heart of everything we do and we are looking for graduates who are passionate about this, too’ so it wouldn’t be unwise to think about times when you demonstrated excellent customer service or put the needs of others first.

Not doing your research is one of the top reasons for not getting through the assessment day

SNC Lavalin’s Atkins business’ assessment day is assessed by both the graduate recruitment team and hiring managers. Candidates are scored against competencies, not each other. ‘No one is trying to trip you up,’ Kate and Katie agree. ‘Our role is to make sure that you shine and you learn more about the company.’

In order to shine, you need to make sure you get the basics right: turn up on time, revisit your company research and take a look at our construction, civil engineering and quantity surveying assessment centre advice.

Think about your long-term career at SNC Lavalin’s Atkins and Faithful+Gould

‘As recruiters, we want to learn about your career goals and how this opportunity fits into your long-term career plan. We want to see if you are interested in the job and will be motivated to perform if hired,’ say Kate and Katie.

So, throughout your application form and interviews, acknowledge how Atkins or Faithful+Gould can help you reach your career goals: whether you are talking about the training to gain chartership (or other professional qualification), the range of projects or markets you can work on or the level of knowledge you will gain.

Just remember: ‘Make reference to what attracts you to Atkins and our graduate development programme – as well as to flagship projects specific to the business you are applying to – to demonstrate which aspects of the job appeal to you and why,’ Kate and Katie tell us.

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.
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