Quantity surveyor interview questions and preparation
Quantity surveyors play a vital role in construction projects, estimating the costs of materials and labour, monitoring profit and loss, liaising with clients and sub-contractors, preparing tender documents, and ensuring projects meet legal and quality standards.
To get your first job in quantity surveying after qualifying, and to progress through your career, you will need to make a good impression in the interview. Preparing for a quantity surveyor interview is no different to any other career in construction: you should research the company thoroughly and understand how the job description matches your skills, personality and experience.
What kind of questions can you expect?
Anticipating the kinds of questions you might be asked at your interview will give you confidence and will impress an interviewer – it may also help to reduce those awkward pauses!
An interviewer will want to know more about your educational background and skills; specifically, the skills you have acquired in quantity surveying through your university degree or advanced apprenticeship. If you already have some previous experience in quantity surveying, this is the time to give some details, such as describing what you did, for which employer and how long you worked (or still work) there.
This is a question that interviewers ask at a job interview for several reasons. They might just be curious, and it is a good icebreaker, but it also gives you, the interviewee, the chance to show how much you care about quantity surveying as a profession, and what you are motivated by.
You could say that quantity surveying was a career followed by an influential family member; or that a certain incident or event sparked your interest in it; or that it satisfies a need or objective you have as a person. An interviewer will want to be sure that you are passionate about quantity surveying, and have the necessary drive and commitment to overcome challenges you may face in the role.
A prospective employer will want to know you have a considered, rational approach to the work you do. Analytical thinking and problem-solving are key skills of a quantity surveyor. Being able to demonstrate in your job interview that you follow specific processes, rather than taking a haphazard approach to your work, is important. This will reassure the interviewer that you can deal with challenges that come your way and can control potentially difficult aspects of a job or project.
In your quantity surveyor interview, it is important to show your knowledge of construction industry regulations that will affect costings and contracts. These might be changes to wage legislation, tax, health and safety or building materials, for example. It will be useful to say how you keep yourself aware of what is changing in the industry, and what trade publications or media you read or subscribe to.
Being able to look back on times when things did not go to plan shows an interviewer there is the potential for you to learn from your mistakes. Some scenarios could be:
- Underestimating project costs
- Not hitting a deadline
- Failing an exam.
Some people find it difficult to talk about failure. But an interviewer will want to know if you understood what went wrong and what you would do differently in the future.
How should you prepare for your interview?
Don’t memorise answers like a script
Preparation is important, and you can anticipate some of the questions you may be asked. However, it’s impossible to anticipate everything in a job interview. Even if you have prepared thoroughly, try not to seem too robotic when you answer questions. It is ok to not answer straight away – take some time to think. Having a more natural conversation with the interviewer might make a better impression and give them greater insight into your personality.
Ensure you know/understand basic principles
Depending on the educational route you have taken into quantity surveying, either through a university degree or an apprenticeship, you should have a very thorough grounding in the technical aspects or basic principles of the role you are applying for. It does no harm, however, to refresh your knowledge if you think it may come up in the interview.
Accept that you might not have all the answers
Some questions may just leave you stumped.
If an answer doesn’t come easily or quickly to mind, try the following approaches:
- Buy yourself some time by thinking aloud (perhaps by saying ‘that’s a great question, let me think about that for a minute’)
- Redirect your answer to something you can talk about, or a skill/experience you do have
- Be honest – it’s ok to say you don’t know, as long as you phrase your answer in a positive way.