Avoiding final assessment pitfalls

Jon Lever discusses typical mistakes candidates tend to make in their APC final assessment mock interviews

APC-SeriesIt is the time of year I like to refer to as “mad mocks season” and at DeLever we have been flat out delivering our DeLever APC mock interviews.

Interestingly, I have collated a rather large list of pitfalls we have seen this session and they are not far off the usual mistakes candidates make at the real thing too. Addressing these head on gives candidates the opportunity to increase their awareness while also saying: “Phew! It’s not just me, everyone does it.”

Each pitfall is noted along with the reasons to avoid it and instead demonstrate to your assessors you really are a safe pair of hands.

Know your APC submission documentation inside out

This is so important because you wrote it! Remember the main thrust of the interview is to confirm with you what is in your documentation and you must be able to back up what you have written. You cannot sit in front of the assessors with an air of doubt about you.

Don’t guess if you are unsure

The assessment should be a demonstration and indication of your experience and preparation across all levels of competency and your ability to inform your clients. If you start guessing answers in the interview you clearly have not had enough learning or experience against your declared competencies.

Know the reference materials

This refers to technical documents and papers you mention in your submission paperwork. For example, if the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 is relevant, I may challenge you and ask you to elude to the general content and maybe one of the headings. If you don’t know, clearly your statements in your documentation are untrue and you lack understanding of the topic.

Maintain your professionalism

Assessors appreciate that the interview can be very stressful; most of them have sat it themselves in the past. But you cannot regress into a whisper or nervous laugh when you reach a point where you don’t know something. Sometimes this slingshots into aggressive responses when the frustration sets in. Suck it up, focus and maintain your composure, respect and professionalism.

Know your competency Level 2 and 3 project experience examples

In addition to thoroughly knowing your documentation, you should know and understand the Level 2 and 3 requirements thoroughly and have a range of project examples to hand when you are discussing your experience. If you don’t, you should not be in front of the assessment panel.

If unsure collect your thoughts and visualise a project

A lot of the APC interview is about keeping your cool and remembering your experience. If you focus a fair amount of your preparation around your experience examples you should be able to visualise a project where you have delivered the service you are being questioned on and respond to the assessors’ questions with some great examples.

Don’t fiddle with your pen, notes, rings, bangles, hair, tie, clothes, or jewellery

Idle hands tend to wander. You are often so focused on what the assessors are asking you, you get a little bit of tunnel vision and miss what your hands are up to. Practise presenting and having your hands on the table in a relaxed manner.

Learn your Level 1 competency knowledge base

If I was mentoring you there would be no doubt in your Level 1 knowledge base ability. You will have studied hard and be right up to date with the latest information and at no point be caught out not knowing what the competency requires. This is just learning which requires time so give yourself a chance and start early enough with your revision.

Don’t get any rules of conduct or ethical standards questions wrong

Errors in this competency will more than likely prompt a referral verdict. You can be the best surveyor in the world but if you don’t fully appreciate the rules and your expected ethical stance you will become a liability and bring yourself, other chartered surveyors and your institution into disrepute.

Present to your audience

Remember your verbal presentation and any presentation material you bring should be created for and focused on your audience. You need to demonstrate your professional and effective presentation skills and bring with you interesting and engaging visual aids that will draw your audience into your case study.

Know how to set up your flipchart

As with all tools, you really need to know how to use them properly. Practice setting up and putting away your visual aids so the process is slick and takes no effort. Once it becomes a problem your stress levels increase and your credibility quickly starts to diminish.

Consider your “I don’t know” strategy

“I will have to research that on the RICS website,” is not a good answer, especially when used repetitively. If you don’t know something then it is better to admit it, but your strategy should always be to offer a solution as to how you are going to find out or what you would need to do to respond appropriately. However, this approach must be used extremely sparingly. Your aim should be to get none of the answers wrong as the questions will be based on the pathway guides and your submission documentation.

Appreciate the stress symptoms, avoid aggression at all costs

Stress is a funny thing. It affects each one of us differently and can be physical and psychological. Whatever you do, make sure you do not allow your stress, anxiety or frustration to meander into anger and aggression. While I have never seen a candidate resort to physical violence, I have witnessed many shut down or respond abruptly or aggressively, which I am afraid is wholly inappropriate. Any attitude such as this is assumed to reflect the way you would treat your clients and the public, which would not be acceptable.

Don’t overrun your 10-minute presentation time

Part of the assessment criteria you need to step up to is managing the elements of the interview that you have responsibility for. As such you will be expected to present for a maximum of 10 minutes. The panel chair will stop you if you exceed this. Have you thought about your timing strategy? It is simple – bring an old-fashioned analogue wristwatch, pop it on the table in front of you and monitor your timing. I would suggest not using sport stopwatches, kitchen timers etc, all of which I have seen previously.

Minimise your flipchart to five or six slides, not 15 or more

A general rule of thumb is that about two minutes per slide is a happy medium. Four or five slides plus a title slide and final closing slide works well in a 10-minute presentation. Any more and you are likely to move through them too quickly in the time limit. In return, this will be a sensory overload for the audience, who may switch off in the first few minutes.

Remember: always I, me and my

Saying “we” in your responses causes doubt in the assessors’ minds as to your experience and involvement. They want to know what you would do and your views, not corporate or employer thoughts and policies. Therefore, remember to demonstrate in your responses that the examples of experience and decision-making that you offer up are all yours.


APC Presentation Online Masterclass A 90 minute discussion of the key elements of the APC final assessment presentation process with hints and tips on best practice: www.delever.co.uk/downloads

APC mock interviews An opportunity for candidates to practise their APC final assessment interview including presentation and competency-based questioning. It comprises a full hour interview just like the real thing and constructive feedback from two assessors, including hints and tops in best practice: www.delever.co.uk/mocks

APC Final Assessment Competency Revision Workshop This preparation day covers everything a candidate needs to know for the APC plus other useful resources: www.delever.co.uk

Jon Lever FRICS is the RICS UK licenced assessor trainer, a RICS regional training adviser, an APC chairman of assessors and a member of the RICS governing council. Follow Jon on Twitter @deleverapc

Click here for full access to EG‘s pathway to success series on APC competencies.