The final stage of Arup’s graduate recruitment process is a virtual assessment centre that includes an interview. To help you prepare, we teamed up with Aman Gill, the firm’s early careers lead, to provide insider and expert tips for answering previous Arup graduate interview questions and for tackling the assessment centre exercises.
What do Arup’s interviewers look for in candidates?
Aman kicks things off with insight into what, in her eyes, makes a standout applicant. One of her key themes is the importance of communicating your passion for the construction industry. ‘We hope to find students that are articulate, passionate about their degree subject and have an idea of how they want their career to develop,’ she says.
She continues: ‘A lot of students can’t really explain why they chose their degree or what they hope to do with it, which is disappointing. We want people who are genuinely interested in the construction industry; our managers are passionate about what they do and want to work alongside people who feel the same.’
Make sure you complete detailed, appropriate research for the interview stages. ‘Motivated individuals who have researched our company, projects and clients always leave a good impression,’ she adds. And remember some of the key competencies Arup seeks: ‘We are looking for people who have excellent communication and teamworking skills and who are creative in their approach to problem solving,’ Aman summarises.
Use our skills articles to further your knowledge of
. Or find out more about
how to research employers for your interview
What should you expect from Arup’s interview questions?
Arup’s recruiters will be assessing you against the skills, knowledge and values requested in the job description. The firm states that the assessment centre interview is competency based.
Along with competency-based questions, you should also prepare for questions about your and the firm’s values and your CV. During the virtual interview, you might be asked:
- competency and situational questions (‘Give me an example of a time when…’ and ‘This has happened. What would you do next’)
- questions arising from your CV and application form – including why you are interested in Arup, the role and the business division
- questions aiming to gauge your understanding of the industry, as well as your knowledge of general industry trends and how they could affect Arup
- about the results of your technical exercise – or, as an alternative to this, you might be asked technical ‘exam-style’ questions.
Keep in mind that none of the following Arup interview questions are guaranteed to be asked at your interview. However, they make worthwhile practice material as they will allow you to go through the kind of thought processes, which on the day of your interview, you will have to employ.
How do you answer the Arup interview questions about its values, your competencies and your CV?
The values questions
are most likely to be phrased as hypothetical or situational questions, where you’ll be given a scenario and asked what you would do. They’ll be used to gauge whether you would act in accordance with Arup’s values, as set out in Sir Ove’s key speech – so it’s worth reminding yourself what they are. Don’t be afraid to ask your interviewers for more details on the scenario if that would help you to answer – and don’t be afraid to ask for some time to think. Head to our dedicated guide on
answering values-based interview questions
if you’d like more guidance on honing your approach to responding to them.
will ask you for examples of times when you used a particular skill – and will be based on the skills and qualities Arup seeks (see above). ‘Among other questions, we tend to ask about leadership skills and building client relationships, in order to gauge teamworking abilities,’ says Aman. Previous candidates report being asked the following questions:
- Give an example of when you were a leader in a group project.
- Describe a time when you worked in a group and things did not go the way you wanted. What did you do?
- Tell us about a time where you had trouble with a teammate on a project and how you resolved it.
- Describe a situation when you encountered something new and how you approached it.
- Describe how you would go about explaining a technical process to a non-technical person.
Practise delivering your examples using the STAR approach – so that your answers include details about the
ask that was at hand, the
ctions that you took and the
esults of your actions. We explain more about the STAR method in
this article on competency-based interview questions
. During interview itself, if you are unsure what the interviewer means, ask for clarification.
The question ‘Give an example of when you were a leader in a group project’ automatically calls to mind the projects you’ve done on your course. You don’t have to choose one of these as your answer. Your example could come from any area of your life – perhaps if you supervised a team in a part-time retail job or helped to organise a fundraising project.
Other Arup interview questions may call on your skills and technical knowledge.
For example, one candidate was reportedly asked ‘Think of a building on your campus that could be more sustainable. What would you do to improve it?’. Here you could bring in your technical knowledge and non-technical skills, for example you could explain how you would outline your plans to the chancellor and consult with the student body.
Know your CV back-to-front in preparation for the interview,
including rough dates and length of your experiences, the tasks you completed and what you learned. A past candidate was surprised to be asked about his first placement when he was 17 rather than his more recent placements. Another was asked about any problems they experienced on their work experience.
How do you answer Arup’s interview questions about why you’ve applied to the firm?
You can expect to be asked about your reasons for applying to Arup, the business area and the individual vacancy. Previous questions are said to have included:
- Why did you choose to apply to Arup and why should we hire you?
- Why would you be a good fit for Arup?
- What do you know about Arup?
- What’s your favourite building and why?
- What’s your favourite Arup project and why?
This is one of the best places to show off your research. ‘Our directors want to see that a student has thoroughly researched our company and the role or area that they are applying for,’ Aman tells us. She added that, when the team make decisions about job offers, they consider the whole process but put more weight on the final interview. Don’t miss your chance of a job offer because of lack of preparation.
Our article on answering the question ‘
Why are you interested in this position?
’ will give you further insight into how you should approach tackling ‘
questions that graduate employers such as Arup ask to test your motivations for applying.
What else should you expect from Arup’s assessment centre?
Along with an interview, the Arup virtual assessment centre includes an individual technical exercise and a group exercise. Aman says that you will also have the opportunity to virtually meet current graduates and more senior professionals. You may be given a virtual tour of the office by the graduate employees.
One of the reasons that you will have the opportunity to chat with existing employees is to give you a better feel of the office culture. Bear in mind that they’ll probably be asked to give feedback on what they thought of you. Ask questions, but frame them in a positive way. A question such as ‘What do you like best about working here?’ will come across more positively than ‘Do you like it here?’, for example.
What should you do during an Arup assessment centre group exercise?
The group exercise’s exact nature is kept under wraps. However, reports suggest that it’s likely to be a case study based on a
construction-related scenario and is followed by a brief discussion to talk about the decisions taken by the group.
Typical construction-themed group activities include deciding whether the company should bid for a project or deciding on which contractor should get work from a consultant – but there’s no guarantee that these will be your group exercise.
A graduate transport planner, for example, reported that their group task involved deciding how many projects, out of five potential projects, should receive funding from a set budget. Once decided, the group then had to decide on how much money to allocate each project. The final part of the task was to explain why the project that received the most funding was made paramount.
When tackling the group exercise, keep in mind the value Sir Ove Arup (the firm’s founder) placed on teamwork and organisation in his key speech (essential reading before any interview) and try to demonstrate those skills. Try to help the group come across as organised by offering to take notes, keep time or summarise progress at key points.
Do speak up in the group exercise and make your points, but do so inclusively. Build on others’ points (eg ‘Yes, I agree, [NAME], and we could achieve this by…’) or by politely disagreeing instead of shouting them down (eg ‘I think you have a good point, but I think we may be overlooking or forgetting [Y POINT].’).
If you want some more guidance on assessment centre case studies, check out our article on how to
cope with case studies for graduate jobs
How do you tackle Arup’s technical problem and exam-style questions?
These can change each year and will vary according to the role you are applying for. However, the following will give you an idea of what to expect.
A building engineering candidate’s technical problem involved preparing a design proposal for one of a choice of two given structures. The candidate stated that the task involved ‘no numbers at all’ and that assessors were looking to see how he approached the problem and how well he identified the context surrounding it; for example, if designing a roof for a theatre, recognising that it would have to support heavy lights.
He was asked to pitch his design proposal as if to a client or project manager. He said that the follow-up questions were all ‘basic’: ‘They asked specifically about how the structure would carry a load (basic things like tension and compression, not at all complicated), and they were also looking at how I approached the problem and took in the context around it.’
Another engineer was asked to estimate the average pressure on the foundation of a 12-storey building. Other engineering candidates recall being asked ‘What’s the difference between laminar and turbulent flow?’
One previous transport planning candidate was asked to write an assessment on a transport planning topic and then discuss this during the interview, but other transport planning candidates reported being asked the following ‘exam-style’ questions in their interview instead:
- How would you justify the economic need for building a new railway line between a residential area and a business district?
- What are the justifications for allowing more trains operators on a franchised line and what are the problems?
- What technical issues will affect transport planning in the future?
Design problems and technical questions are intended to test your problem-solving skills and ability to think laterally. Explain your thinking in your answers: describe how and why you came to each decision.
Take ‘how would you justify the economic need..?’ as an example. Transport planners need to consider social, environmental and economic issues, so tell the interviewers what information you would need in order to make a proper decision.
Don’t worry too much if you are stumped by the exercise:
‘It obviously helps if a candidate gives a correct result in the technical exercise,’ says Aman. ‘However, we are more interested in how they tackle the problem. Even if the candidate doesn’t complete the exercise, the discussion around their responses can give us a good insight into their problem-solving skills.’
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