Graduates in Construction: Surviving the Assessment Centre and Getting the Job

Jonathan Leeding
Faithful+Gould is well known for its interesting projects and excellent training environment, so I was keen to apply for the graduate scheme.

I entered the construction industry via a first degree in civil engineering at the University of Nottingham. I had sponsorship from a major civils contractor, which led to a couple of site placements. These brought me into contact with the various industry disciplines and I found that quantity surveying appealed to me. I then did a masters in quantity surveying at Nottingham Trent.

Faithful+Gould is well known for its interesting projects and excellent training environment, so I was keen to apply for the graduate scheme. I had to complete a set of written questions, followed by a phone interview with HR. The next step was an invitation to a graduate assessment centre day at Faithful+Gould’s Bristol office. Overnight accommodation was arranged, which made it a bit less stressful.

I guess we were all looking for ways to stand out from the crowd, although there was a friendly atmosphere between the candidates.

There were six of us taking part, two each for quantity surveying, building surveying and project management, and we were given a friendly welcome and an introductory presentation about the business. Our first task was a written test, where we had to present information about a given scenario, in report format. Then we each had an HR interview, a technical interview, an opportunity to do a presentation on the reports we had written earlier, and a group discussion of a fresh scenario.

I guess we were all looking for ways to stand out from the crowd, although there was a friendly atmosphere between the candidates. It was a tough day, but I felt a sense of achievement at the end. I was delighted to eventually be offered the job as a graduate quantity surveyor at the Cambridge office and I started here in September 2014.

I was pleasantly surprised to be given early responsibility, initially for post-contract cost control of a large primary school project for Cambridgeshire County Council. I’ve worked on other schools and community projects for the Council, as well as projects for the University of Cambridge, and several Sainsbury’s stores. I was also involved in bringing together the masterplanning costs exercise for the Southall regeneration scheme with St James Group.

A regional office gives you exposure to a wide range of opportunities. For instance, I’ve been involved in various stages of bidding for commissions, including the early decision-making stages to determine an opportunity’s viability. I then gathered information to respond to the client requirements, working with the proposed project team to put our bid together. An exciting example was a prominent cultural building in Cambridge – I worked on the bid response documents and it was great news when we won the appointment.

Graduates are encouraged to take on wider responsibilities and I was especially interested in our move towards increasing Building Information Modelling (BIM) use. I’ve now become the designated BIM super-user for our Cambridge office, which means I support colleagues with BIM Measure software.

My current academic challenge is the APC and I attend in-house study sessions in Cambridge and London in preparation for sitting in 2016. There’s great APC support at Faithful+Gould. As well as those formal sessions, I feel I’m in a day-to-day discussion-based learning environment. All my colleagues, including those who are recently qualified, are generous with their time and expertise.

All the support creates an atmosphere that encourages you to work hard and makes you determined to succeed. The studying is of course quite tough, as is making sure you cover all the necessary competencies. But it will be worth it to become chartered and move forwards. I’ve chosen sustainability as one of my optional competencies, as that’s something I’m really interested in.

All the support creates an atmosphere that encourages you to work hard and makes you determined to succeed.

I realised how far I’d come when I helped at an assessment centre recently. I recognised myself from 12 months ago when I met the new candidates! I enjoyed helping to put them at ease, and it felt good to be attending the event as a graduate employee.

This past year has been a great start to my career and an exciting time to be based in the Cambridge office, given the many opportunities and initiatives driving construction and development in this region. For the future, I’m keen to build a wider range of experience and contacts, and I’m looking forward to being able to create new opportunities for the business.

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