Application process and advice for our Graduate scheme and undergraduate year in industry and summer placements.

Making an application

Throughout the process it’s essential that you demonstrate consistency, professionalism and a strong knowledge of our organisation and our stakeholders.

We strongly recommend that you read the below information on the various steps of the process before starting your application, to give yourself the best chance of succeeding.

Complete our online Match-me quiz, which is designed to show you what it’s like to work with us and based on your answers we'll give you an indication as to whether you’re likely to be a good match for one of our roles or not. In order to take the quiz you will first need to register as a new candidate, however this does not mean you are under any obligation to go on and submit a full application.

If on completion of the Match-me quiz you are encouraged to apply for the scheme, the next step is to complete our short online application form.

If on completion of the Match-me quiz you are encouraged to apply for one of our programmes, the next step is to complete our short online application form. There are no lengthy questions contained in the application form, it is mainly collecting your biographical data. This can be followed immediately by taking our Situational Judgement Test (SJT), although you can return to complete this at another time if you prefer.

What is the SJT and how should I prepare?

The SJT is a test which presents you with typical scenarios that you might face in the role at Network Rail and asks you to choose what you think are the most and least effective courses of action, from multiple-choice options. The SJT has been specifically designed to provide you with a realistic preview of what it is like to work in Network Rail and has been tested with existing employees to ensure it is fit for purpose.

It is testing your natural ability to analyse situations and make decisions, think about the implications of your actions and weigh up the best course of action. It also tests your approach to working and collaborating with others, communicating with others and your ability to work through specific job related problems. It is not a timed test but there are right and wrong answers which assess your overall fit for Network Rail against our pre-defined success criteria and values.

In order to work through the SJT as effectively as possible, you should try to:

  • Familiarise yourself with Network Rail; our values, and the type of work we do. You can’t really prepare for an SJT as it is assessing your natural judgement and decision making skills to determine your fit for our organisation and culture. However, reading our website, familiarising yourself with what we do and details of the role you have applied for will help you when completing the test
  • Read each scenario in detail. Do make sure that you take time to read each scenario and the possible responses properly as you need to understand the task or the situation in order to be able to give your best natural response. If you rush through the questions too quickly you may misinterpret something and therefore provide an incorrect answer.
  • Be yourself and go with your first natural response. We want to understand who you are and what value you will add to Network Rail. There is no point in thinking about the scenarios for too long, it is more effective to read the scenario and go with your first reaction or natural response as to what you think are the most and least effective courses of action.

If you meet our essential criteria and successfully pass the SJT, you’ll then be invited to play our psychometric game.

What is the psychometric game and how should I prepare?

At Network Rail we try to make our recruitment and assessment process as interesting and exciting as possible. We don’t use traditional psychometric tests as we feel that these can be anxiety provoking for candidates. The game is a fun and engaging way for us to assess your numerical, logical and verbal skills. You’ll work your way through a number of different levels where you’ll encounter different scenarios and problems to resolve. In order to play the game you’ll need to download an app to your smartphone or tablet. It should take you between 20-30 minutes to complete the game. There will be a practice game at the start so you can take your time and familiarise yourself with how it all works before completing the real thing.

If you successfully pass the psychometric game, we’ll then want to get to know you better via a video interview.

What is the video interview and how should I prepare?

This is your chance to really show us who you are and what value you can add to our organisation. You’ll be asked to record your responses to questions which are designed to find out how well you might fit in with our culture and values and to see if you can demonstrate the behaviours we’re looking for.

Be yourself and be honest. There is no point in simply telling us what you think we want to hear as our assessors are likely to know if it isn’t an authentic response. We want to hire talented individuals who fit with our vision for the future and have the potential to succeed within Network Rail, so it’s important that you be yourself and talk to us about your strengths and passions.

Be engaging and enthusiastic! We are not only interested in your skills and previous experience but also your enthusiasm, passion and what motivates you at work, so make sure you put this across.

Take your time. Don't be afraid of a short silence while you think about how you want to answer a question.

Try to give specific examples. Think carefully about the scenario you are being asked about and try to explain what action you would take in that situation to achieve a positive response. Think about what you would do, who you would involve and how you would overcome challenges in order to achieve the best possible outcomes for Network Rail.

Think about your achievements to date. Whether in a social, academic or work context. Think about what you’re good at, i.e. your strengths and how you would use them; also think about what energises and motivates you. You should try and talk about the qualities and skills that you have that you believe will make you successful in Network Rail.

Before you start the video interview:

  • It's really important that you practise answering interview questions in front of your screen as the experience of speaking to somebody who is not there in real time can make you feel a little self-conscious. The more you practise the more fluent you are likely to be.
  • Record yourself if possible on a phone or similar, and watch it back to see how you come across.  If you cannot do this, then practise in front of the mirror instead.
  • Familiarise yourself with your equipment. Make sure the camera is at eye-level, this will help you to look directly at the camera. You may also consider putting a light behind the computer to avoid shadows on your face.
  • Check for any technical issues which may hinder your interview and ensure the audio and video are working properly.
  • Consider what else may be shown behind you on the screen – ensure your background is clear from distractions (posters, photos, untidiness, etc).
  • If you live with others, make sure you ask them not to interrupt you, ensure any pets are shut out of the room and turn off any phones in the area.
  • Finally, dress to impress. It’s important to look professional during the video interview.

During the Video Interview:

  • Be confident and friendly, but not too casual.
  • Look into the camera, not at the screen.
  • Speak clearly and measuredly, be careful not to mutter.
  • Have your notes where you can see them easily to ensure you include everything you want to say but avoid looking down at them too much – use bullet points rather than scripts.
  • Be mindful of your facial expressions: try not to pull faces, roll your eyes and remember it is ok to smile where appropriate.
  • Be mindful of your body language, e.g. try not to slouch, wave your hands or fidget excessively as this can distract from what you are saying.
  • Stay focused; you can take your time to consider your answers just as you would during a face to face interview.

The final stage in the process is the assessment centre, which will be held at one of our offices.

What is the assessment centre and how should I prepare?

You'll be asked to take part in different assessment exercises including a group exercise and an interview. It’s a chance for you to meet some of our senior leaders and current graduates, to ask us questions and demonstrate your enthusiasm for a career at Network Rail. From our point of view, the assessment centre will give us a realistic picture of you, your skills, abilities and knowledge of our business.

We very much want you to be successful at the assessment centre and will do our best to make you feel welcome and as relaxed as possible.

It is important that you can demonstrate that you have an interest in Network Rail, the railway industry and that you understand who Network Rail’s stakeholders and customers are, so please do your research in advance.

Before the assessment centre:

  • Have a through read through of the information on our website (the main site, not just the graduate careers pages).
  • Make sure you understand the requirements of the role you have applied for and the different types of projects you could be involved in.
  • Google Network Rail and read through any recent press articles etc.
  • Think about your strengths (ie. what energises you and what you are naturally good at) and how you have used these to succeed in the past.
  • Think about how you can demonstrate that you have the passion, enthusiasm and energy to make a difference?
  • Think about how you work collaboratively and effectively with others at all levels.
  • Think about how you deliver results – are you able to adopt a structured and planned approach?
  • Think about how you manage relationships – can you work closely with clients and senior colleagues in Network Rail to define and meet their needs, and build relationships effectively?
  • Think about how you deal with change – can you generate new ideas and tackle change positively?
  • Think about how you collate and analyse information effectively in order to make informed decisions.
  • Think about how you can demonstrate that you have clear and effective written and verbal communication skills.

On the day

You will participate in different assessment exercises including a group exercise and an interview.  Below are a few tips in relation to each of the exercises.

Group exercise

The group exercise will start with silent reading time during which you can familiarise yourself with the information provided and make notes.   At the end of the reading time you will be asked to start the discussion part of the exercise.  Generally candidates enjoy the group exercise and very soon get engrossed in the topic and even forget that they are being observed!

We are interested to see your personal contribution to the group task, your problem solving skills and how you communicate with the other team members. You will be observed by an assessor throughout the exercise. It is imperative that you participate in the discussion from the start as the sooner you speak the sooner you will feel part of the group and the discussion (a good way to help steady any nerves too!).

We cannot stress enough the importance of participation as without this it will be very difficult for us to rate your performance in the exercise. The assessor observing you will be taking notes based on your contributions and those notes will be used to rate your performance in the exercise.

  • Remember to articulate what you are thinking as this will help the assessor to see how you approach problems.
  • Remember to ask for more information or clarification if you are unsure what someone is saying.
  • If you note that another team member is particularly quiet, try to bring them into the discussion.
  • Do not dominate or speak over others.
  • Use your body language and facial expressions to demonstrate that you are listening and interested in the topic and what others are saying.
  • Remember to manage the time to ensure the exercise objectives will be met.


The interview at our assessment centre focuses on your technical understanding of the area you have applied to work in, and also your transferable skills such as problem solving, i.e. your ability to transfer skills learnt in one environment into a different setting.

Think about what the question is asking you and what type of strengths or behaviours we might be interested in at Network Rail. Try and structure your answers to ensure that they will make sense to the interviewers and provide specific examples from your life (e.g. academic, social life, hobbies/interests, work experience etc.) to convince us you are the right person for the role. Try and imagine yourself working for Network Rail, what types of activities might you be involved in?

We are looking for people who are enthusiastic, willing to learn, work cooperatively and effectively with others, adhere to safety standards, analyse and resolve problems effectively and think creatively and innovatively about how to make things better.

Familiarise yourself with the STAR (Situation, Task, Action & Result) technique, which will help you to provide a structure for your answers.  You should be brief in providing the context to your example as we are most interested to know the actions you took, the outcome and any learning you gained. You have a limited time to give your responses, make sure we get to hear the most relevant information.

  • Remember it is ok to take your time to gather your thoughts before you answer the interview questions.
  • Remember it is ok to ask for the question to be repeated if you did not hear or understand it.

Your questions answered on graduate recruitment at Network Rail

The requirements:

If you’re a graduate, you’re welcome to apply, whatever your age. Please note, however, that our scheme is designed for graduates with little or no work experience.

We are committed to inclusion and welcome applications from disabled people. Some jobs have certain physical requirements, for example to go trackside unaided or to distinguish between colour coded wiring/computer generated images. As part of the recruitment process, successful candidates applying for roles with these types of requirements will need to undergo a medical assessment in order to determine whether they will be able to carry out these elements of the role safely.

Where issues are identified, we are committed to making adjustments to the work environment to help overcome barriers whenever it is reasonable and practicable to do so.

UK Visas and Immigration require Network Rail to demonstrate that no resident workers meet the requirements of graduate roles before an applicant may be sponsored in some circumstances. We make this assessment in line with the requirements published by UK Visas and Immigration. Our schemes usually attract a sufficient number of suitable resident workers and, if so, we are unable to offer sponsorship for our graduate scheme positions if such a requirement applies.

If you do not have the right to live and work in the UK for the duration of this role, please explain within the application the basis upon which you believe you will be able to acquire this by the commencement date.

The Role:

We expect to recruit around 213 graduates and 83 placements.

Your starting salary will be £26,500.

You'll also enjoy:

  • A welcome bonus of £2,000
  • 28 days' annual holiday, excluding public holidays
  • An interest-free season ticket loan
  • 75% discount on season tickets up to a maximum of £3,000

You'll need to be available to join us at the beginning of September 2020 to take part in our common induction.

Depending on your scheme, you can specify your preferred place of work for your first placement when you apply, but we can't guarantee you'll be based there. Our training schemes require flexibility as we hold courses nationwide and our placements aren't always local to our main offices.

When you join us you'll receive a £2,000 welcome bonus, which you can use to help you relocate if necessary. We do not offer any extra relocation expenses.

If you applied to last year's programme or before, you're welcome to re-apply. This year, you've only got one shot to do your best – and you can only apply to one scheme. If you've already applied this year and been unsuccessful, unfortunately, you won’t be able to apply again until next year.

If I have further questions , who can I speak to ?

You can ask us any questions your like through our dedicated early careers inbox, please contact or give us a call on  01635 584137