Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Recent interview feedback

Here is a query from a candidate assessed recently which demonstrates how the questioning can progress and also emphasising how you can become demoralised if you feel a question did not go well and how this can impact on your performance on the rest of the interview.
> Dear James
> Just thought I would let you know how I got on at my interview following your help with my Critical Analysis.
> The panel were friendly and the chairman very welcoming although one of the assessors did seem to want to question me on areas for which I did not have significant experience and seemed to enjoy getting me into a corner.
> The presentation went well, i feel, and the questions started relatively ok.
> I am concerned in particular about 2 areas:
> 1. I was quizzed about 'can I be sued personally if i performed my duties as an Employers agent negligently' and how does this differ in my role as a QS?? I answered along the lines of ... i understand the Merrett v babb case has increased the chances of surveyors being held personally liable but, unless i was not acting within the realms of my employment, my negligence would be covered by the employers PI insurance. He did not seem to like this and asked for a straight answer, yes or no, whether i could be personally liable. At this stage i panicked slightly and said "no, i believe i am covered by the firm's PI for both EA roles and QS". Unfortunately from this point on my performance
> 2. The recent cover pricing issue - it appears as though every candidate was asked the same questions - "would you include one of the 112 contractors on a tender list - what would your recommendation to the client be?" My answer was, "if there were other contractors who had adequate resources and experience to carry out the job, then I would recommend they are not included". The chairman then asked, "is that a yes or a no". I again panicked as I didn't feel it was as straightforward as that but said "no, i would not recommend them" - i feel this is wrong looking back.
> It would be useful to get your opinions on these although i understand you probably can't give your views on the way the questions were asked. I am very concerned that a lot of emphasis will be placed on these two questions as they are effectively Rules of Conduct questions. Is the 'rumour' true that Rules of conduct questions such as these are pass/fail questions?
I did make a statement at the end of the interview stating that i knew why PI is required, I knew what the RICS requirements are for PI and if i was ever unsure if the work i was doing was covered by the firms policy, I would always check. I got no reaction from this and the feeling as I left the room was one of extreme disappointment.
> Well thats the story of the assessment ..... I am confident I have the ability but am worried these may have gone against me.
> Out of interest, is it the chairman that makes the decisions or must it be a majority vote?Thanks again for your help with my critical analysis and I look forward to hearing your views.
> Regards, Hello xxx Fingers crossed! Obviously difficult to give firm opinion, even if I had been in the room at the time. In the first question I think they were maybe trying to get you to expand and see if you understood the principle of vicarious liability. The general rule as I understand it is that both you and the employer or agent could be liable but the plaintiff will normally sue the party with the 'deepest pockets' but of course in Merritt Babb the question arose partly because the deepest pockets were no longer available.
I assumed there was a strong case for the cover pricing question hence my detailed note on the apcrics blog which I hope you read. I think a straight 'no' could be problemattic for 2 reasons. Firstly, all of the potential bidders may well be on this very comprehensive list of 112 contractors and secondly none of them have actually been found guilty of anything yet! I think they were probably hoping you would discuss in terms of ensuring you vetted the tender list and exercised due diligence possibly getting some form of undertaking from the contractors under consideration. The contractors' defence seems to rest partly on the fear that if they did not put in some bid they would not be considered for future projects so this would also be an issue you would address with the proposed short list. It is true that a lot of weight is put on the responses to Code of Conduct issues. I don't think either of the above would be seen as a pass/fail deal breaker but your responses would be taken in the context of the overall interview. Each assessor independently comes to an assessment of you before the chairman collates the overall opinion.In my experience as an assessor this is normally unanimous. Good luck.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Here are the experiences of David who sat the BC Interview last Friday. Good luck DEP

Thanks to everyone who has given me advice based on their knowledge and experience and to those who have posted advice about competencies and how to handle the assessment. Explanations and guidance from the RICS is valuable but there is nothing like hearing from someone else’s experience.

In return and to give to others yet to go through their assessment here is my experience after Fridays assessment/ interview. First, the assessors I had were friendly and did put me at ease, I got a little more nervous again when the questions started but not as bad as I thought.

The assessors seemed to want me to pass but were definitely making sure I knew my stuff, a pass was not a given and had to be earned.

They thanked me for my presentation and complemented me on being good on my timing. Again making me feel at ease. This makes me glad I went over and over it in practice. I nearly went all the way through without looking at my notes but had them for reference just in case. I’d recommend you go over and over your presentation till you know it by heart and keep notes for just in case.

Questions can be about anything in your field. My being BCS I got two questions that seemed a little obscure but through plenty of swatting I think I was ok.

I misinterpreted on a couple of questions but the assessors being reasonable prompted me that I was off track and clarified the questions which I then answered.

If you get stuck or need clarification ask for it. I did on occasion but forgot to on two occasions hence having the assessors rephrasing questions when needed.

On about 4 or 5 occasions the assessors stopped me and said that they had enough information from my answer and that I was going too deep. To ensure they had what they wanted, the correct answer, I asked if I had provided the information required or if I had misinterpreted the question. I think this is best to do in case you’re off track and the assessors then might think you don’t know the subject under question.

If you get asked a question that you don’t know the full answer to then state you can’t say off the top of your head but that you know where to refer for the answer, and give the reference.

Thank the assessors at the end of your assessment/ interview, they have the rest of the day to work through, you can go home.

Something I didn’t know when I got to the assessment was the time slots and amount of APCers. I though I was the only 9.30am, and then there would be someone an hour or so later. Not so, there were 15 assessment rooms so plenty of colleagues in the same boat. Try and have a chat to them before you go in, it helps relax the nerves.

Also, my interview was in Leeds, I live in Wolvo so decided to go up the night before and avoid the hassle of traffic. Imagine the stress stuck in a jam getting wound up with time ticking by and you just want to get there with no hassle and time to spare? My advice, if you have any distance to travel, is to book into a hotel the night before. Spend some time on last minute presentation practice, last minute revision, get a good meal to treat yourself, then get a hot deep bath and bed early.

One last thing, when you get the assessment dates for the various centres pick the one that is the furtherest away in time terms as your first option. This allows you more time for study. In order to get the centre I wanted I got my submission in as early as possible – my theory being first come first served and that I’d get the centre I wanted. I don’t know if this is the case in practice but it seemed to work for me.

I hope there are one or two tips here for others that can help. To cover my self I had best say the above is based on my experience and can’t guarantee anything so no liabilities accepted.



Thursday, 8 May 2008



Dear James,

I had my final assessment (BS) last week. While I remember, subjects on which I was questioned yesterday included (in no particular order):

  • The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 (subject of Critical Analysis)
  • Japanese Knotweed
  • Demolition and asbestos
  • Sulphate in the ground and sulphate attack
  • Building near trees - heave, root barriers, depth of foundations etc.
  • Overshadowing and rights of light
  • DDA and design of accessible toilets/washing facilities
  • Communication and consultation with disabled clients/owners
  • CDM Co-ordination
  • Career to date and future CPD, experience and types of projects
  • Contracts and types of procurement
  • Novation of consultants
  • Surveyors acting as Contract Administrator
  • Surveyors acting as Employers Agent
  • Equipment required for a measured survey of a 1960’s style MOD type office block
  • Personal and staff Health & Safety for survey operations
  • Conduct and setting up in practice, PII (and basis for level of cover), EL, PL, CHP etc.

Quite a bit of ground was covered – I thought you might be interested.

Phew!! – fingers crossed

Thanks for your help.

Andrew McAllister

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Candidates and their solicitors

There is a thread currently running on the RICS forums on the pros and cons of taking your legal representative to the interview. I have no doubt that this would seriously hinder you chances of passing and below is my latest definitive posting on the above thread.

'When I started reading this thread, I thought it was a bit 'tongue in cheek' hence my rather flippant earlier reply. Like myself, the 3 assessors are experienced professionals who are giving up their time to help ensure than only candidates who are professionally competent and a 'safe pair of hands', in the opinion of their peers, are sanctioned to go out in to the world as a representative of the RICS, the most prestigious organisation of its type in the world.

It is hard work for the assessors too and their 'reward' of expenses is often immediately donated to the Lionheart fund. The assessors take their role seriously and as a general rule are very good at what they do. This can be evidenced by the fact that assessors complete their assessment sheets individually before the Chair reviews the collective assessment and in my experience this is usually a unanimous verdict, either for or against. They are also trained to be supportive and friendly; although admittedly some are much better at this than others.

If something goes wrong then the appeals system is in place to hear representations from the candidate and the Institution do take appeals seriously because the integrity of the process is vital to the Institution as well as to the candidate.

In this context the idea of taking a solicitor in to the interview is a complete non-starter. It will set the wrong tone for the interview right from the start ( and this is the most important part of any interview), discussion will be stilted rather than free flowing and the interview will probably be confrontational rather than a professional supportive assessment by your peers. As both an experienced assessor and an academic who taught interview psychology, please believe me when I say there is absolutely nothing good which will come of taking a solicitor in to the event.'

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Be Prepared:PFI Update

As you may know I recommend that APC candidates have a stratgeic answer prepared for a range of questions or 'hot topics' related to their faculties and a common area is PFI/PPP for qs,bs, pm and the like.Below I give a comprehensive 3 part example answer to such a question. My 'model' answer to this common question has of course been affected by the recent launch of an investigation in to competition surrounding this process. I would suggest that you continue to use the same format but where I mention the inherent lack of competition in projects of this size you may wish to illustrate this with the above news as there are often a limited number of potential tenderers for some projects and of course these tenderers know each other and do talk through a variety of formal and informal channels. This 'chatter' will include such issues as how keen they are to secure contracts but of course these contractors are constantly monitoring the competition anyway and would be wary of'misinformation'. The process is also complicated by the belief among tenderers that if they do not put in a tender, even an uncompetitive one, this may affect the client's attitude to future projects. Be very wary of giving a 'tabloid' answer that implies the whole system is corrupt, especially as no contractors have actually been found guilty of anything, yet.

How to answer questions.

Part 1 Define the question, what exactly is the assessor asking. Not all assessors are good at asking questions! Even well thought out questions can be ambiguous if the assessor is coming from a different background to the candidate.

Part 2 Answer the question

Explain the problem, legislation, professional technique etc.

Part 3 Professional opinion

‘I think this is a good think / effective / not the only way / new and requires some modification based on my experience/ appears to be working etc

Assessors questions often follow general introductory route to find some common ground on which to go in depth.

Example Q: What is your opinion of PFI /PPP as a means of procuring developments?

Ask yourself what is the point of this question. To the ‘man in the street’ a typical answer would focus on the widespread criticism of the concept, anecdotal stories of high end-user costs of hospital car parking and the like or maybe the recent liquidation of Metronet.

Your focus must be on such issues as

What is it?

What is it designed to achieve?

What are the advantages / disadvantages / alternatives?

Does it achieve the client objectives?

This is complicated and can only be successfully achieved if anticipated and practiced before the interview.


Part 1

The Private Finance Initiative or as it is sometimes now called the Private Public Partnership is primarily a risk transfer mechanism whereby the risk of providing projects or services which would traditionally have been provided by the public sector is transferred to the private in return for a future anticipated income stream.

It has been mainly concerned with public facilities such as schools and hospitals and infrastructure and transport including motorways, railways and bridge construction. The systems tend to be characterised by an ongoing involvement in the operating of the facility by the private sector in the form of maintenance and facilities management roles.

Part 2

There are a number of ways in which this can be achieved and the risk ‘priced for’ will reflect the certainty of the future income entitlement.

Low risk example would be the provision of a number of schools for a local authority for which the private funder would receive an inflation-proof rental income from the authority typically for 20 or 25 years. This is relatively low risk and the tendering competitiveness should reflect this.

For a scheme which depended on the use of the facility such as a motorway toll or the famous Skye road bridge PFI contract the income is uncertain and again this would be allowed for in the agreement and reflected in the competitiveness of the pricing mechanism.

Part 3

It would appear that the system is here to stay and from what I have read there is little incentive to return to the old way of funding such schemes. There are many benefits and a major one is the fact that there is an inherent tendency to build quality and low running costs into the scheme, not for altruistic reasons, but because the contracting organization or consortium who are awarded the contract is generally also responsible for the maintenance and facilities management throughout the contracted period.

There are problems of course. One example here is the very high cost of tendering. This has two main effects; firstly most contractors cannot afford the risk of tendering for such schemes thus inherently reducing competition within the system and excluding the majority of contractors from this potentially lucrative and expanding area of operation. Secondly the high tender cost has to be passed on to future schemes- many tendered schemes have never gone ahead even after reaching the preferred bidder stage.

It has certainly had some very adverse publicity and this is ongoing with the proposals for the London Underground and problems which are emerging on the FM side of completed projects but the best evidence of its benefits comes from a survey in 2005 in which over 85% of local authority clients were generally satisfied and thought it was their preferred procurement system for future projects.

This is not put forward as ‘the perfect answer’ to this particular question but we would suggest that if representative of their performance on the day, it would represent a more than satisfactory response.




effectively straight in at Level 3.



( Don’t forget to mention what the acronyms PFI or PPP actually stand for!)

This approach is only possible if you have done your homework –

Remember the adage: Failing to Prepare is Preparing to Fail

Practice this technique with a range of topical issues from your range of competencies.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Please email contributions to

If any readers wish to add content, useful links or the like to this forum, and I hope some of you do, email it to me at and I will post it for you. I think I have to moderate it like this but it should be a quick service. Readers are particularly interested in hearing from other APC candidates who have recently been assessed

Thursday, 17 April 2008


More on the new Governance Model. Hot off the RICS press today. Enjoy

A modern corporate governance structure -
helping to provide you with better value for money.

For RICS to be truly effective in today's business environment we need a clear and concise constitutional framework, which allows RICS the room to develop.

At the forthcoming AGM, on 7 July 2008, you will be asked to vote to adopt this new proposed governance model. We thought we should contact you in advance of this to explain what the proposed changes mean and how they can benefit you and the profession.

This new, more forward-thinking approach will enable RICS to:

  • Provide a gold standard service that we can all be proud of
  • Ensure that the obligations under the charter, particularly the duty to serve the public interest as well as members' interests, are met more effectively
  • Ensure that, at the highest level in the organisation, there is democracy and representation
  • Monitor and assess outcomes and performance in a more business-like way
  • Create clear lines of authority and accountability
  • Ensure informed and transparent decision making and risk management
  • Provide a greater level of flexibility - enabling the organisation to be more responsive and able to adapt to further change without major upheaval
  • Ultimately make the organisation more modern, business-like and cost effective in the future.