Since chartering I have been acting as a project management assessor on Faithful+Gould's internal APC process which has been put in place to ensure all staff are to a suitable standard before sitting their final assessment. As an assessor you see a wide variety of case studies, supporting information, presentations and interviews. What follows are some tips on what you or your colleagues should consider when setting out on their APC.
Know Your Experience
A candidate is not expected to know everything in their chosen pathway. Faithful+Gould’s and RICS' focus on Continuing Professional Development once you charter is testament to the fact that professionals are expected to continue to learn throughout their career. Some candidates will have limited direct experience, whether they have always worked with one form of contract or delivering projects that are quite similar. For areas outside of the candidate's direct experience, the assessor is expecting them to have awareness and a broad understanding, particularly for the competencies requiring the highest level of knowledge. That will give the assessor confidence the candidate could give reasoned advice in a professional setting. Identifying these knowledge gaps and getting some indirect experience can only be of benefit. What must be demonstrated at interview is a deep and reasoned knowledge of the areas in and around the candidate's direct experience. Therefore it would be prudent for the candidate to look at their list of experience and ask themselves the question; am I an expert in this?
Be Structured and Honest
The answering of questions is the area where candidates vary the most. Practice will improve question answering skills, which is why this is at the core of Faithful+Gould's internal APC processes. A candidate should consider the interview process as similar to advising a client in a one-to-one meeting not a job interview. A professional is not expected to guess when unsure of their knowledge of a particular topic. If an assessor knows a candidate is doing this they delve deeper to see at what point the candidate corrects themselves. If a candidate does not know the answer then they should be honest and identify what steps they would take to obtain the answer. Responses to questions should be structured and not a response that takes the assessor on a journey as the answer forms in the candidate's head. I would suggest candidates pause for a second or two after each question to compose their answer, or even take a sip of water if they need a bit longer, before delivering a composed reply.
Choosing a case study is probably the most important decisions during the APC. The written case study is the first demonstration of a candidate’s capability that an assessor gets prior to the interview. At the interview the case study forms the initial presentation and the first section of questioning is based around the subject. A candidate is essentially half way through their assessment before the process moves off a subject of their choosing. So what makes a good case study? The most common mistakes candidates make when choosing their case study is to select the most exciting project they have worked on or choose a case study where they essentially just did their day job. The case study should be a project that demonstrates where the candidate has been challenged, and through this, used skills applicable to their pathway to resolve the issues. The project does not need to have run smoothly or the candidate to have made all the right decisions as long as lessons learnt have been identified - another key attribute of a professional.
At a company such as Faithful+Gould, you are never going to be the only candidate heading for final interview and unlikely to be the only person on your pathway. If a candidate is not this fortunate then the RICS and other practices organise networking events for other professionals, which is a great way to meet others in a similar situation. Candidates should set up study groups and with modern technology it is very easy to undertake revision sessions and practice firing questions at each other. Groups can also motivate each other and provide encouragement on those dark weekends spent inside reading up on condition surveys or feasibility studies.
Do it Once
The final six months in particular require a lot of work and commitment over and above a busy day job. Getting to the final assessment and being referred can be hugely demotivating and a lot of candidates find it difficult to gather themselves together and make the push for the next sitting. Therefore a candidate should set out to do everything right first time so that they are successful and can move onto the next part of their career. To have the best chance of success, candidates should set up as many mock interviews as possible. Importantly, the panel should be rotated to generate a variety of questions and they should be formal, in keeping with the final interview, with feedback held until the mock is over. Candidates should realistically plan their revision, completion of submission documents and mock interviews over the assessment period allowing some down time and flexibility.
If you take all the above advice then you will be well on your way to becoming chartered.