BUILDING SURVEYING FOR PROFESSIONALS
The Secrets Of The APC Series – The Online APC From The Candidates Viewpoint With Craig White
Welcome to the Cardoe Martin podcast Building Surveying For Professionals and our Secrets of the APC series. Now our listeners will already know about the shift of the panel away from the day long in person sessions to this online version. We’ve got Craig white joining us today, a chartered surveyor at Cardoe Martin, and also one time APC candidate who will talk us through the secrets of the online APC panel. As a candidate. Welcome, Craig, nice to have you on for your first time podcast as well.
Craig White 00:31
Yes, I feel a bit nervous. But thank you, James. It’s good to be here. And yes, been a long time coming.
Don’t be nervous, we’ve got some warm up questions for you, we can kind of drop in there to get you thinking about things. So I suppose this gets stuck in straightaway, and can’t lose there. So what era or style of building is of most interest to you, and perhaps the one you prefer to survey the most?
Craig White 00:56
I’ll probably like to say that I like Victorian properties. They’re familiar. And I’ve worked with this property a lot throughout my career and still do some, some work with a lot of them. Now, I would also like to think I’m relatively knowledgeable in these types of properties, use them for time have been working with them. Although since I’ve been working for Carter, Martin, I have dealt with a lot of modern construction properties, which also include curtain walling and specialist roof types. That’s a standing seam roofs. So I feel I have a good mixture of the older new properties. Also working on listed buildings. I’ve always been interested in the requirements for gaining listed building consent from local authorities and complying with conditions has also been good for my experience. I feel.
Thanks, Craig. So are you interested in Victorian properties? Because maybe you live in one is that what stimulated your interest?
Craig White 01:45
Probably because the length of time that I’ve been working with them, you know, I worked with them a lot while I was at my previous role, which I was at for 10 years. And then prior to that, I was in another housing association where they had a lot of Victorian property as well for three years. So more when you know, something called that I’ve dealt with something for a long time, you know, you’re most comfortable dealing with that. So it more comes to the fact I’ve been dealing with that type of property for a long time. So I feel quite knowledgeable.
Warm up question two. So tell us a little bit more about who you are your experience as an APC candidate and why you wanted to be involved in the APC in the first place.
Craig White 02:21
Let’s start with with who I am. So I started off in Brent Council simply answering phones for the surveyors in the responsive repairs team. And it was there that I kind of built an interest in to getting into being a surveyor. So I applied for apprenticeships and training schemes everywhere. And at the time, I was able to secure one for a housing association. I was there for three years as a trainee surveyor, then I left there and took a sideways step to another housing association and kind of work our way up there. I came in as a trainee assistant surveyor then worked my way up to maintenance surveyor, the surveyor that was in charge of leasehold, and then I became the building surveyor manager, managing a team of three surveyors, two operators and one apprentice. Eventually, when redundancy came about I decided to take redundancy and try and look for work in the private sector, because I wasn’t getting the breadth of experience in order to become a chartered surveyor. And that was, has always been an objective of mine. I ended up getting a role within Cardoe Martin. I started the APC process fully in 2020. And I was able to pass the APC and become chartered in November 2021. I’ve always wanted to become a chart. The pinnacle of our profession and I’ve always had that goal and objective to get to that stage. So yeah, so that’s, that’s my story, really, and why wanted to be involved in the APC.
It’s an amazing one. Craig, you’ve figured out very early you what you wanted to do. And to get there, you have had to take very, very specific steps. I mean, to be working in the office, just essentially, answering phones for the surveyors to then becoming a chartered surveyor is an incredible journey of focus and hard work. What advice would you give to people who maybe are sitting in a place, or an organisation where they’re not getting appropriate support? Perhaps they can’t get access to the breadth or depth of work for their case study? Is there a kind of key point where you would leave, and you just put on all the hard work or what encouragement to say to those people?
Craig White 04:29
I think everyone needs to look at their own situation, kind of decide what’s the most important thing to them, you know, is it just being comfortable in a role that you’re able to do or progression? You know, my thought is always progression. How can I get to the top of the food chain if you like, and the top of the chain for me was becoming chartered. So if you’re not able to get the relevant required experience in where you are, you need to get out there and find it. It may not have to be as stressed because leaving and finding another company, it may be a case of joining, study groups, getting a mentor, maybe volunteering in alternative companies on the day release or whatever, get involved in projects that would give you the experience. My advice to anyone is to prioritise what your goals are, and then basically figuring out a plan of how to get those goals. So if it does require you to, you know, step out of your comfort zone, when I left the public sector to go into private and I’d never worked in private before, but I wanted to leave my comfort zone in order to obtain the main goal, which is to become chartered. My advice is to whoever you are, get yourself some goals, and then make sure you have a way of how to obtain and fulfil those goals. It may be drastic, and it may be a bit scary at the start, but it’s ended up being worth it.
What you have also built in there is the idea within Building Surveying or surveying in general, there are lots of little careers that can be had for different types of people with different personalities and interests, you might find licenses to alter PPM, dilapidations, these are all very, very different careers. And by going into surveying, and not everything’s going to be perfect for someone, someone might be very technically interested, but actually don’t want to manage a team. You’ve hit the nail on that day by saying what suits you, and then what you want to aspire to. So brilliant answer. Tell us about how you worked up to taking the APC. We talked about forms training, practice interviews, what did you learn? And what about your experiences could others take on?
Craig White 06:33
So I think one thing I would have to say is, if you’re going to embark on the APC journey, you need to be dedicated if you’re not prepared to dedicate yourself to it, you know, and sacrifice in order to obtain that goal. I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know anybody that has passed without actually sacrificing and dedicating, you know, a lot of time and effort and energy into actually getting it done. Because I don’t have a RICS accredited degree, I have to do something called a preliminary review. Which means that my submission has to undergo a lot more scrutiny before it’s going to be accepted by a panel in order for them to do an interview with me. I originally started in 2018. So I handed in my first draft, unfortunately, it wasn’t successful. Being honest with myself, I shouldn’t have even submitted because, you know, I wasn’t ready, I don’t think I was confident. I don’t think I had the experience whatsoever, but wanted to give it a go anyway. I got a bit disheartened and took a bit of a timeout.
And then when COVID hit, that’s when I said you know what, I’m going to give this my best shot, I’m going to give it my all. I had a lot of time to actually dedicate and take it on, I was able to do a lot of revision, be able to spend time with my counsellors, and my supervisors getting their time and have their assistance. I just dedicated myself in order to get it done. The bottom line is, unless you’re going to dedicate your time and ensure that you prioritise, getting the APC done, you know, it’s just not going to happen. I’ve been speaking and dealing with a lot of people who say they want some advice, and they want some guidance, and some help in order to get the APC done. As much as I kind of say to them, you’ve come to me with your questions, or queries or concerns or whatever, and I’m happy to help. They don’t actually make it a priority. You know, something always comes up and I understand that, you know, it’s life. But if it’s something that you really want to do, you’ll find a time to get it done. That’s, that’s all I can say.
You mentioned this a couple of times when we’ve been speaking about councilors like Graham Cardoe Alexandra Redmond, other external colleagues kind of backing you up and pushing you through it. How do you think someone who’s listening at the moment who is wondering whether they’re beginning to get to the point where they’re ready to take on and start doing the APC process? And you mentioned about timekeeping and organisation and commitment? Is there anything else that they maybe can look at within themselves and say, If I’m thinking this or feeling this, maybe it’s not quite the right time, and I have to do more work?
Craig White 09:18
As well as dedication to put into the APC a very important thing is to make sure that you’ve got a very good counsellor as well. Someone who understands the process, someone who’s able to spend time in order to help you to understand what’s required to go through your submission, asking you questions and challenge you in regards to things that you’re saying in your submission that that may or may not look good to an assessor that may need, you know, altering or explaining further or guiding you along the process. You know, I think that is equally as important to make sure that you’ve got a good counsellor in place in order to kind of guide you through the process. Because every time you do a submission, the counsellor will sit you and go through it and tell you where you’re going wrong. And if you don’t have that, how are you going to learn? How are you going to find your errors, find ways to improve as candidates, we’re not at the top yet, you know, we’re trying to get to that level.
That’s a nice sentiment. I really agree with that. The idea that even if someone who’s listening is going to be thinking, I’ve done everything possible to do this, but I can’t get my counsellors attention. They’re always too busy, they’re always out for lunch. They’re never prioritising me, that’s almost the indicator as well to say, I think it’s time to get another counsellor like yours. Where they’re like, it’s time to get a bigger boat. And you just say, no more sunken assets, let’s stop complaining, just let’s do something about it.
Craig White 10:58
100% agree with that, you know, at the end of the day its yours. It’s your APC. I think a lot of people have a problem. Some people don’t understand that some people are kind of waiting for things to happen, but it’s the case where it’s your APC, you know, no one’s going to prioritise it more than yourself. So if you need to book time in that you need to, you need to be kind of chasing them and say. Look, I need to spend some time with you, can you spend some time doing it with me? If you’re not getting the response, then you need to keep on chasing? And obviously, if you continuously not getting a response, then perhaps it’s right you consider getting an alternative counsellor, because then the day like it’s, it’s all down on yourself.
I’m pretty sure your first panel experience was face to face in person. Now tell us about kind of what happened or what your experiences were?
Craig White 11:45
Actually both pretty much were online because once COVID hit, they temporarily put the assessments online. And then from there, they made a decision to make it permanent. And my first sitting was in May 2021. So that was still online. The first experience was, yeah, a real wake up call, to be honest. I found it to be a bit harsh. And I don’t think that they liked to put me at ease, you know, make me feel comfortable. But at the same time, you know, the bottom line is that the questions that they asked, I didn’t answer them successfully.
I had no problem with the with not passing, it was the right call at the time, I felt very nervous. I was not relaxed at all. And yeah, the first assessment didn’t go well, unfortunately. But I think one thing about it that is very important is the feedback report, because the feedback report clearly tells you the areas that you went wrong, the areas where you need to improve. And obviously, when I got that feedback report, I was able to take on and consider everything that they were saying, you know, what I needed to do differently, how I needed to improve. And I made sure that I was able to do that. But if you’re not successful in the first sit in, you just have to look at it as a stepping stone to get to what you want. It’s no reflection on your ability to do the job at the end of the day, it’s 60 minutes of three people just questioning you.
You’ve got the resilience that you brought to becoming a surveyor in the first place. And you’ve applied it in the same way to getting chartered. But it also sounds like a relentless and completely not smooth process. Tell us a little bit more about how it made you feel and what prompted you to stick with the aim of being chartered afterwards. I guess once you’ve picked yourself up from the disappointment?
Craig White 13:41
I think my mindset was that I didn’t pass. But I still felt very, very close. The feedback that I’ve got from counsellors and supervisors, it was very encouraging. You’ve done very, very, very well, we trust you with instructions and projects that I was doing at work. So my mindset was that, I’m too close to give up now. And I was at the final hurdle basically. So as much as I was disappointed, and that I would have to study and do more work for another six months start to close to stop is something that what is so locked for so long and because I felt the problem was that if I was to stop and say I’ll do it again next year, who knows what could happen, you know, we’d be in another pandemic, or we know that the interviews may or may not have taken place for whatever reason we just don’t know what’s what’s going to go on in the world. So I didn’t want to risk the possibility of not being able to do it. So my mindset was just get back on the horse straightaway and just can just get it done. From the moment I stepped out of the room. I was just studying, I pretty much knew I wasn’t a pass so I just carried on revise and carried on having sessions from there.
There’s so much to gain from people in their first sitting from a learning and experience gathering point of view. Did you feel that there wasn’t hope once you realised that it wasn’t actually going right in the panel session? Did you feel kind of like, okay, I’m just going to abandon this, and we’ll pick it up later?
Craig White 15:18
I think this really comes down to the one of the key tips that a lot of APC companies and counsellors tell you, which is knowing your submission and knowing it into a level where it’s like the back of your hand, kind of things as much as I, I felt I knew my submission, it was clear that after doing the first sitting, I didn’t know it as well as I should have. Because they were asking me questions about some of the jobs that I’ve done. And as much as I knew about the job, when they asked me certain questions that I didn’t anticipate and I didn’t know the answers. When the panel ask you the same question three times, just in different ways, you know, you’re not having a good day. And that happened on at least a few of the questions. So I think the problem was that just the some of the questions that they were answering, I just didn’t know them as intimately as I should have.
One of the take homes I also got was to make sure that you absolutely know, every single possible thing there is to know about all the jobs that you’re talking about. Because once you mention it in your submission, they can ask anything on that subject – fair game. So that was my take home from it and a tip that everyone says, But you know, until you’re into the situation, you don’t realise how massively important that tip is.
So going back down to that, because that’s a great point, and particularly about you recognising that if the panel are asking you the same question in different ways, they’re trying to draw out an answer by giving you a slightly different perspective and interpretation. And that was easier to recognise the second time around. But what other changes or improvements to your learning did you make and how did they impact?
Craig White 17:19
One thing that I did differently is I had a few mock interviews prior to taking the first sitting and the mock interviews were with internal staff. And what I did differently on the second sitting was join a national wide study group, but it’s about 200 candidates in a in a WhatsApp group. And then every Tuesday and Thursday, they would organise revision sessions amongst themselves about different topics, different topics every week, while different competencies every week health and safety, communication and negotiation or the core competencies, building pathology, construction technology. And we would have meetings twice a week without fail. Sometimes there’ll be about 30 people, sometimes there’ll be about six, but it was up to you whether you would like to attend or not.
And through that, I was able to closely link up with one of the individuals in that group where we started having sessions individually with each other. And the good thing about that is that we were able to organise mock interviews with each other’s companies. So she had a mock interview with Alexandra, and Graham, and I was able to have a mock interview with her directors as well. And they kind of gave you a different view of a mock interview with an external party, which was very interesting as well. Still nerve wracking, gave you a different feel of the mock interview process. So one of the best tips was to join study groups, because it is a good feeling when you you’re you’ve got other colleagues that you can lean on for guidance and advice, then they can lean on you for guidance and advice as well. You can swap information. And an additional good thing is to get external mocks, because it’s good that we run the mocks that I had internally were very hard as well, but gives you a look at some different line of questioning from an external source.
We start to move you into this second panel situation now – talk us through the preparation before and on the day itself?
Craig White 19:41
Well. I remember that day well. I was I was quite relaxed the day before I believe I had had a sit down and a mock interview with Graham the day before. It was a late morning interview. I woke up. I had some posters stuck all over the walls and read those individually, and I went for a walk. And I was a lot more relaxed than the previous interview. I felt that the panel also kind of took the time to put me at ease. They were asking me questions about what projects I was managing at work currently and asked who I was and who I worked for, and this and that. So, immediately, I felt a lot more comfortable being in the room with virtual and in terms of preparation, I felt a lot more comfortable. And I felt a lot less nervous than I previously had leading up to the second interview.
So what was going on in your mind, when you’re logged on, your less nervous than you were last time, that prior experience then had helped develop a bit of familiarity with the process?
Craig White 20:52
In my mind, I was prepared to have a similar panel, kind of jumping straight into it. But whereas for the first minute or so it was like conversation. So already out. So I was a lot more confident. And they made me a lot more comfortable as well, that will help to have a good session.
What was the administration and the login process like?
Craig White 21:15
The first time that was quite nerve wracking because you’re basically locked. So they use Microsoft Teams, you’re supposed to log in about up to about 10 minutes prior to panel logging in. The first time I’ve done that, and sitting there looking at black screen that that itself is very nerve wracking. But this time, I just felt a lot better. It was the same set up, I had to sit and look at a blank screen for about 10 minutes. This was actually a lot more comfortable. You know, I had my water and my tea, you know, and I just, I just felt a lot more comfortable and confident than I did last time. But yeah, that’s basically the process that you log on 10 or 15 minutes before they do sit there and just wait until they until they lock you on a free panel members, you’ve got the invigilator.
Did they log on literally to the minute that they should have been? Or was there a kind of delay?
Craig White 22:06
On both occasions, they logged on to the minute. So as soon as on sort of my clock and laptop, as soon as the time struck the time they were supposed to log on, they logged on straightaway. Not even a minute behind on both occasions.
Now talk us through the session itself in detail. Did you find yourself very much in control of the answers this time as well?
Craig White 22:33
I definitely felt more in control of my answers. I was answering the questions a lot better as because I took the time to know my know submission even more than I did before as well as ensuring that I knew general answers for questions as well. So it’s a lot more controlled. I felt like they weren’t having to repeatedly ask me the same question on a few of them, because I was giving full and detailed answers were answered that they were satisfied with anyway. And yeah, I just thought it just went a lot, a lot smoother. You know, at times in the first one. It was like I felt I was being a bit attacked at certain times when I wasn’t getting questions right. But on this occasion, because I was answering questions so fully that on occasions they had to tell me to stop. So yeah, I feel that I was more in control of the situation.
Tell us a little bit about what the process was like itself?
Craig White 23:34
The structure is that you do your 10 minute presentation of your case study. In my instance, mine’s was the external decoration and roof terrace replacement for the waterproofing of a block flats. Then once you finished your presentation, they question you about it for 10 minutes, then for about 25 minutes, they will ask you questions about your general submission.
So basically, as I said, anything that you you’ve put down on any of the competencies in your submission is fair game to the question. And then the final 10 minutes and about ethics is funny because I knew the ethics. I knew them very, very intimately, especially the ones that I had experienced with at work, whether it’s from a distance or closely, but one of the items that I don’t have much experience with is clients’ money. Because as a surveying firm, we don’t obviously hold clients’ money. And that was the item on ethics that they chose to talk to us questions on. Obviously I knew about it. But of all the elements of ethics, they could have actually asked me to build upon the area that I had the least experience with. And that’s one area where you can’t afford to get anything wrong for because my understanding is that if you get anything wrong on ethics side of the question, and that’s normally an immediate fail.
Brilliant. So there’s, there’s quite a lot of detail. And that’s perfect. Tell us a little bit about what the panel were like this time around.
Craig White 25:21
I found them to be a lot a lot friendlier. The first time they were nice enough, I guess. But it’s just yeah, as I said, I think the main thing was that they didn’t really take the time to kind of put me at ease, you know, I think in the, in the submission in the referral report, even they even put in there you werre clearly very nervous. So they obviously saw that I was very nervous, but I just felt like they didn’t really, do much to to help me with that. Obviously, it’s not really their job that they could have, you know, as in, in comparison to the second panel, I felt much more at ease, just simply just saying, Oh, how are you? What are you doing? You know, what kind of projects? Are you doing? Those simple questions, they’re just really helped put me at ease. And I feel that if I was to become an assessor, I think that’s kind of a similar tip that I would probably do if I was an assessor or Chair, I would kind of do the same. Because you know, given the day, it’s quite a nerve wracking experience for anyone being in that room questioned on the submission.
Was there a point at any stage where you thought, yes, I’ve got this one. It’s in the bag. Thank you very much. He’s totally different experience. I think I’m, I think I’m there
Craig White 26:39
This time. Yeah, I to be honest when I walked out the first time, spoke to my mum, and said to my mum, it would be an absolute miracle to pass. Where as the second time, I felt that I nailed it. I really, I really did. I felt like I’ve done really well. I don’t recall there being any questions where they had to ask me the same question twice. It was just a case where I gave my answers. And it was just move on to the next one, or one follow up question based on it, which I’ve been able to answer. That said, like on occasions when I was given too much information that just stopped me and just said, That’s enough. Let’s move on to the next question.
So you’ve closed your laptop at this point, you’ve got a good feeling about this one, as opposed to the last time tell us about the delay in getting the results because this is a bit always hard. Is it easier the second time around dealing with the delay and kind of waiting for that day when you’re going to get the call or email?
Craig White 27:38
Yeah, the normal time period to get your result is seven days. I think the first time I wasn’t really waiting for it because I knew I didn’t pass so when it did come it was a formality. It takes exactly seven days. So we had a new member of staff join and Alexandra had organised a get together for the whole team because we hadn’t been around each other much, obviously, due to COVID restrictions, and working remotely so and it was also to congratulate me. On the actual day, when I left to go down to meet them. I still hadn’t received it. And I remember it so clearly. I was on the train. And I just got to Hammersmith Station.
Literally just before we were going to go onto the tunnels after Barons Court. And it was there that I received the email to say that I passed. Then I walked into the to the bar where we were having drinks and the get together. And I just walked with hands triumphantly in the air to say that I passed and as soon as I walked in, everyone knew I passed.
It’s great to hear that all the hard work coming to fruition there Craig – it’s fantastic. With that wealth of experience with the panel, what advice would you give to candidates who are either just starting or perhaps even literally hours away from logging on and listening to get that last bit of advice, and listeners if you are on the assessment today best wishes and make sure you listen to the other podcast by Alexandra Redmond, about the panel’s viewpoints. This may really help out if you haven’t already listened to it. Or maybe you just listened to it again. Craig, what would you say?
Craig White 29:29
I think the main tips, if you’re starting out on your journey is to make sure that you’ve got a plan for how you’re going to you know progress in the sense where you’re not just saying right, I’m going to start the APC process but then you don’t put together a plan as to how you’re going to do it.
How often are you going to be revising?
How often are you going to be you know logging your diary or putting down information on your competencies?
How often are you going to be meeting with the counsellor and I think you need to kind of have that imposition because the problem is if you don’t plan, then you’re just going to get bogged down with work and personal life – if you’ve got children.
Next thing you know, six months have gone past when you haven’t done anything. So the main thing is to make sure you have a plan. The other thing is to have a dedicated counsellor, someone who’s prepared to give you the time for you to progress due to a look at your assessments. The other would be to have mock interviews with internal teams as well as external assessors that are to give you the best preparation for what it’s going to be like in the real thing.
Know your submission, intimately, every single detail of everything that you’ve written. You need to make sure you know it because anything in there is fair game. So make sure you know it inside out and every single subject that you’re reporting and record advice and about the offers to join all the groups, I say two heads are better than one.
So if you’ve got two of you that are revising together, supporting each other, I find it’s better than doing it on your own. And the main thing is, when you are taking the assessment on the day be relaxed. I know that’s easier said than done. But just try and be as relaxed as you can. I think the assessors who actually want you to pass you know, they’re not trying to trip you up, they’re not trying to catch you out on anything. Obviously, they they’re going to question you to the best of the best of their ability and to ensure that you actually know what you’ve written down. If you’re not successful in the first panel, don’t take it as a reflection and your ability to do your job. It just means that you weren’t successful on the day, and that you just need it’s just a stepping stone for you in order to obtain memberships to RICS. Don’t let it stop you on your on your quest to become chartered.
Thank you very much. And Craig, I guess people are at the end of this are going to be thinking you’re going to be an assessor, you’re going to help people through mentoring APC candidates?
Craig White 32:08
So I’ve already signed up for the mentoring. And my understanding is that I can’t be an assessor for at least 18 months after passing. So my intention is once the 18 months have finished, I intend to sign up as an assessor in order to be able to give back to the to the profession in the interim I have reviewed and set and given guidance to a few candidates. I’ve done a few mock interviews with some colleagues for candidates who are who have gotten ready to sit the APC. I want to help the next generation of candidates to become chartered.
Thank you for your observations and candid insight as well, Craig, I think you’re you’ve got a value, and a unique insight with the background that you’ve got. And the journey that you’ve been through, which I think is what a lot of people will find inspirational, just to see how resilient you are and how much work you put into this. So well done.
Craig White 33:09
Thank you. It’s been a long journey, but all about just having the goal in your head and just working hard towards achieving that. And if you are willing to work hard, and you’ve got a good counsellor. It’s just a matter of time. As I said, don’t get disheartened. Anything worthwhile is not going to be easy. So it’s supposed to be hard, but do the work. Have the dedication and it will be achieved.
Well done again.
You’ve been tuned into Cardo Martin’s surveying for professionals podcast. This is the secrets of the APC series. But actually this podcast closes this series. Maybe if Craig’s got some more insight when he goes through the future stages we can pop back on but we will be replacing it with a series all about building surveying for property managers, which will also feature our very own Craig white, so be sure to check out an episode and see what you can take it once again. Thanks for listening. Thank you to Craig, thank you very much, absolute pleasure and we’ll see you soon. Bye