Atkins graduate applications and interviews: recruiters' tips

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The graduate recruitment process for Atkins is not unusual for an employer of its size. It involves several stages:

  • find the right role for you and register your interest
  • complete a situational judgement test
  • fill out an online application form (which aims to find out more about you, your reasons for applying to Atkins and the role, your interests and your experience)
  • have a virtual interview with the business
  • attend a virtual assessment centre

As this may seem daunting, TARGETjobs caught up with Abigail Montgomery, Katie Cockerton and Kate Poade, graduate recruitment advisers at Atkins 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 responses. 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 Atkins’ 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 Atkins 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 environment graduate development scheme in the nuclear and power business area and are you impressed by their the scope of their work on Hinkley Point C? 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 profile 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,’ they’d expect. As Atkins and Faithful+Gould was only acquired by the SNC Lavalin in July 2017, it is worth showing that you are aware of the acquisition. But where do you start your research? ‘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,’ she says. Atkins has also created an early careers portal, which allows you to ask questions and also helps you explore different aspects of working for the company.

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 Atkins 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.

Set yourself up well for virtual activities

Atkins’ virtual interview and virtual assessment centre will take place on Microsoft Teams. The interviewers and the questions they ask will be exactly the same as in person. The only difference is that you won’t need to travel to one of Atkins’ offices, giving you more opportunity to prepare.

Abigail gives the following tips to help things run smoothly:

  • ‘Make sure you have the right setting: a clean and simple background free of distractions is best.
  • Use headphones if possible as this helps reduce echoing and ensures you can hear the interviewers clearly.
  • Opt to use a personal wifi connection as some public ones will have firewall settings that prevent you logging in. (If your wifi isn’t great, try plugging the internet cable into your computer).
  • If you can, test run using the Microsoft Teams platform in advance so you know exactly what you are doing.’

Refamiliarise yourself with your university studies before the virtual interview

Your virtual interview could be with your future line manager or colleague. ‘This is a great opportunity for you to interact with the team and for them to learn all about you,’ says Abigail. ‘Make sure you share your research and understanding of the role. Before the interview, run through any your university studies that are relevant to the role so you have some good technical examples to share.’

Remember that you can use examples based on university studies, paid and unpaid work, extracurricular activities and more. ‘Any work experience can be linked to a new job. Just think about the soft skills, teamworking or leadership skills you might have learned from these,’ adds Abigail.

Think about the Atkins values

It is also worth thinking about what the Atkins values are and times – from your course, placement, gap year or extracurricular activities – when you acted in accordance with them. Take a look at Atkins' 'visions and values' webpage to get you started.

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

Atkins 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 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.

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