How to ace your APC interview online

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22-06-2020

The coronavirus lockdown has meant a great many changes for a lot of our working lives and some of those changes will be around to stay.

The RICS will hold ALL future assessments online via video interviews: at present, using Skype for Business but moving to Microsoft Teams from August 2020.

When you’ve been mentally preparing for a face-to-face final interview, it might seem a bit daunting to switch to doing something so important online. In fact, the Session 1 online interviews have proved very successful with fewer problems than the usual physical interviews.

I have chaired and audited several days at Session 1 and this has given me a few insights that might help you to prepare.

What’s different?
The interview uses the same structure and is based on the same criteria articulated in the relevant RICS APC Pathway Guide. The only thing that has changed is a permanent move from face to face interviews in assessment centres to an online interview.
There will still be a chairperson and two assessors in most cases. The interviews will still be audited.  There is a new role of an RICS staff observer, this person manages the technical side and enters and exits the candidate and assessors from the online interview ‘room’. The staff observer is an additional measure to ensure interview process is adhered to.

Technology
RICS Membership Operations are running briefings for candidates and, separately, assessors to make sure the connections work adequately and everyone is comfortable with the set up and process. You will be clearly instructed by the staff observer or the chairperson. For example, if volume level is too low.
The RICS also offer full written guidance here 

Dealing with problems
Occasionally, there may be an internet issue or a microphone/ video malfunction. The staff observer will message or telephone you and provide support through rejoining the call.
The chairperson will add extra time at the end of the interview to make sure the you have the full hour to demonstrate competence. If problems persist, and the period of interview downtime adds up to a total of more than 10 minutes, the interview will be rescheduled.
Nobody will be referred if the internet goes down! You can help minimise these issues by asking anyone else in your home to avoid using the internet during your interview.

Equipment
You will need:

  • A computer with an internet connection
  • A microphone and webcam
  • Ensure you have a comfortable seat
  • A desk or tabletop
  • Pen, notepad
  • Water (or other soft drink)

The audio and video must remain on throughout the interview. Close any applications on your computer device that you are not using. No software is required and there are no fees needed to access the interview platform, candidates may join as a guest from the link provided.

Joining an interview 
The staff observer will email the link to you, a day or two beforehand, and provide an opportunity for you to email a PDF visual aid to assist with the presentation. 
The staff observer will admit you to a 'waiting room' 15 minutes before the start.
Use this time to take deep breaths and relax.

Keeping a secure environment 
The chairperson is responsible for keeping a secure environment and preventing cheating. The interview is a conversation and the final submission or revision notes should not be available. To ensure this, the chairperson will ask the candidate to do a 360 degree view on the room and desk. The candidate may be asked to remove any surplus bits of paper. It’s best to take this very seriously to provide a degree of comfort to the assessors and behave as ethically as possible.
This video tour can be repeated at any point in the interview at the chairperson’s discretion.
It’s advisable to set up in as plain and quiet a location as possible.
The interview must NOT be recorded on any sort of device.

Lighting
You will need good natural light, try to sit with the light behind the webcam (in front of you). Try to avoid sitting with a window behind you. If you don’t have natural light, consider placing a desk lamp beside you. Find your best angle beforehand.

Camera technique
Treat the camera as if it is a person, focus on the light on your webcam. If you put the web cam at the same height as your face and smile into the camera it will feel more natural to the assessors and help to build a relationship.
Practise recording yourself to make it feel more natural. Make love to the camera with your eyes!

Audio technique
The best results will be with a headset and microphone, the built in speakers and microphone will be poorer quality and more susceptible to interference. Don’t worry about your hair!
Speak a little more slowly and clearly than usual and keep an eye on the panel’s body language, you will be able to tell if they are struggling to hear. Pause occasionally and give a little more time to respond in case there is a slight delay.

Clothing
The usual protocol applies - smart business dress (although no-one will know if you have your slippers on!) Try and stick to plain colours and avoid bright white, it can create glare.

Body language 
Active listening and non verbal communication is still useful in an online interview. Nod and smile!
Try to sit fairly still as images can blur if you move around too much.

Presentation
The 10-minute presentation of the case study is still a key part of the interview. Candidates should still use a visual aid, it really helps the assessors and shows presenting skills.
You will not be able to share your screen but you can email a PDF to talk through during the presentation. Check they've got it in front of them before you start.
This should be image / diagram based and as simple as possible.
I recommend 10 simple slides created in PowerPoint, converted to PDF. 
Talk through 1 slide per minute. This provides a structure and timing. Remember to pause and smile between each slide.
Make sure you direct the panel to each slide and describe each image.
The golden rule is still - stick to ten minutes.

Conclusion
These interviews can start a bit clunky but with the support of the chairperson and RICS staff observer it soon starts to feel more natural.
Candidates have reported that ‘time flies’ and that they feel more comfortable in their own environment. Even better, there are no worries over traffic jams, train delays or getting lost.
Don’t forget that I cover this guidance as part of the training provided on the APC Prep Day.
The online interview is here to stay and I hope this blog helps you to make the most of it.

 

LionHeart trustee Kate Taylor FRICS is an experienced RICS APC Assessor, APC auditor, RICS UK APC Appeal Panel and Chairperson with a passion for professional development. She has been involved with helping RICS Education Standards Board to update the valuation, residential and commercial real estate pathways for 2018 and is now the lead RICS APC Trainer delivering APC Prep Days to hundreds of candidates every year. Kate is also the author of the popular Commercial and Residential Property APC Quick Start Revision Guides. Check out her website at www.apctaylormade.co.uk

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