How to fill in your experience record for professional competence assessment (and how NOT to)

First, let me put this article into perspective, if I asked somebody, as a friend or family member, to recount their holiday experiences they would invariably be able to tell me, at length, all the finer detail of the things they had experienced and enjoyed.

So why is this concept alien to candidates when it comes to the APC final assessment? Assessors ask questions about experiences relevant to competencies that are specifically declared to have been achieved by candidates and bold statements referring to attainment of all of the required levels.

Simply replace my holiday concept for project/process experiences and the final assessment should be a walk in the park.

However, herein lies the problem. From my experience of chairing assessments, dealing with candidates, supervisors and counsellors, I do not believe candidates fully understand how to document their experience properly, and some have little or no support in this highly important aspect of the APC.

Here are the fundamental points where candidates fail to record their experience properly:

Inability to research, review and fully understand the APC process

This, sadly, is a common mistake. Often I meet candidates who have not read the APC guides, and have little or no understanding of the competencies and even less awareness of the magnitude of the task ahead to get them to the necessary standard to achieve chartered status.

How many candidates would not read a client’s brief before meeting the client for the first time?

This is a fundamental basic for all parties in this process: gather up as much information as possible and research the process properly. If you then don’t understand something, ask. There is no excuse for ignorance as there is plenty of help freely available in the public domain.

Misunderstanding about what ’experience’ really means

The concept is actually quite simple. For every declared competency to level 2 or 3 a candidate should ensure they have good-quality, real-life, hands-on experience relevant to the competency being recorded. Ultimately this should be where the candidate was close to or jointly making decisions (under supervision) that affected the outcome of a project or process.

Education, work shadowing and a backseat role are simply not good enough for level 2 and 3 competency declaration. Importantly, another angle on this is that the RICS rules of conduct clearly state that we (chartered surveyors) should be aware of our limitations and not step beyond them… we should not do things we are not competent to do.

Why would you put yourself in a final assessment interview where you could not back up your documented experience? Experience is simply just that, if you have not done it, you should not come forward for assessment.

As an aside, it is important to note that a candidate’s inability to discuss their experiences has little to do with being nervous or stressed. If a candidate knows their stuff, any questions based on their experience should be easily answered.

Candidates should take care not to overstate their experience and should carefully review the competency requirements before recording against them, to ensure the experience matches competency as closely as possible.

So, how should the experience record be filled in properly?

In the new RICS APC final assessment templates there is plenty of guidance on what is required. Quite simply, candidates have 150 to 200 words to write about their personal experience, relating it to real-life projects wherever possible.

Level 1 = knowledge and understanding
Write about where the candidate has learned about a specific competency: Have they completed a module within any part of their education? What research they have done? Have they been on any relevant training courses or more recently focused their professional development on any aspect of this competency etc?

Level 2 = applying knowledge and understanding
Write about where the candidate has applied what they have learned in their level 1 knowledge and understanding, demonstrating this by providing real-life projects and experiences. It is imperative that candidates provide examples of real-life projects they have experienced where they have been personally involved. A good candidate will always aim to offer a good range of real-life (the doing bit) experiences.

Level 3 = developing skills on offering advice

Write about where the competency experience has been achieved to a much greater extent. Again, demonstrating this through real-life examples of where the candidate has provided advice and has a full appreciation of the reasoning behind the advice that has been given.

The experience record is as simple as naming a project or client and explaining the service being provided by the candidate and the discussions or advice given to the client. Please note it is important to always have in mind that no confidential information should be divulged in this document as that would not be professional.

Summing up

The crux of my message is if a candidate cannot demonstrate that they have had good-quality experience against all level 2 or 3 competencies they are declaring, then they should not come forward for assessment. This message does, however, rest on the shoulders of the candidate and their supervisor and counsellor to review the candidate’s achievements properly and professionally.

Finally, “just having a go and seeing if you are lucky” is not the right way to approach the APC final assessment. Candidates may just as well not bother attending as very rarely, in my experience, has any panel I have assessed on not been able to quickly identify a candidate who does not match up to their documentation.

If any of the above comments are unclear, why not see the DeLever Candidate Companion for full details, at the DeLever website.