Behind the scenes of CMYA: Finding the finalists

There are three steps in the process to becoming a CMYA finalist; first there is a paper sift of your submission, then a site visit where one of our judges will visit you at your project, and then…


Behind the scenes of CMYA: Finding the finalists

There are three steps in the process to becoming a CMYA finalist; first there is a paper sift of your submission, then a site visit where one of our judges…

There are three steps in the process to becoming a CMYA finalist; first there is a paper sift of your submission, then a site visit where one of our judges will visit you at your project, and then the final step is the face to face interview.

This process is one I’ve had the pleasure of being involved in for several years and I never fail to be impressed by the passion and the talent that we have in our industry. However, sitting down at a table in front of three judges and selling yourself isn’t an easy task, but it is what you need to do to be named the best Construction Manager in the UK.

In our industry, we’re known for being team players, and that’s a fair assessment of the bulk of the work that we do. However, projects that excel in their delivery always have a hidden star at the helm, and its those individuals that we want to find and celebrate with these awards. That requires an unusual response from construction managers – we need you to boast and brag and tell us how great you are!

The interview is not viewed as a chance for us to intimidate you or put on the pressure. We want all candidates to do their best and showcase what they have achieved. As judges, we all come from a construction background ourselves. For some, they are previous CMYA winners or, like me, they have progressed through a mixed construction career. We come with different perspectives and experiences allowing each panel to have a fair balance to assess each delegate. I also unusually have experience of being on the client side as well!

Before the delegate sits down in front of us, we receive a handover from the judge that performed the site visit. Due to the variety of locations and times to conduct site visits, they’re split over all judges but, most often than not, the judge who conducted that visit will be one of the three sat opposite you. That helps ease the nerves of our delegates as one face should be deemed friendly from the outset! In the handover we get a brief overview of the judge’s experience of the site, of the delegate, and the score they gave them.

The interview begins with a ten-minute (we’re very strict on the ten minutes and you will be cut off!) presentation for the delegate to give us a run through of their project and highlight what they think they did that shows why they’re the best construction manager. We know that for many this is a daunting task, especially for those in smaller organisations where the opportunities to present during your career is less. Our advice – practice presenting. Show us that you know your slides just as well as you know your project, and don’t try to cram too much in. Remember that we’ve already had a site visit overview and seen your paper submission. This is about the highlights and picking out what you think you did that was extraordinary.

As soon as your presentation is over you can relax before the questions begin. Before the interview begins, as judges we will have already divided up the questions between us and we follow that same format for each delegate to ensure fairness. The questions essentially help us to take the delegate through the construction process, from pre-construction to completion, so we can see the range of responsibilities and actions each delegate has taken. We also want to know more about your leadership style, how you combat challenges, and how you keep on top of best practice in the industry.

We encourage each delegate to attend with up to three supporters. These are often your line manager and the client/s who has sponsored the nomination. What is always fantastic to see is the number of line managers who come in with the delegate and say that they too have been a CMYA finalist or winner! It just shows how they’ve progressed in their career since, and the value they place on the awards and the desire to see their employees reach that milestone in their career as well.

Although the interview is about the individual and should be led by them, the supporters can add additional detail when the delegate may have underplayed the achievement or been too modest. This is an important contribution to the interview as it’s often these small details that delegates overlook as being ‘the norm’ because they always do it but for the client or company it’s made all the difference to them. However, make sure you don’t rely on your supporters to talk for you or allow them to dominate the discussion, this still has to be all about you!

Throughout the interview, two of the judges will be scoring the delegate individually, and one judge is there to oversee the process to ensure we’re following the guidelines and being consistent with our treatment of all delegates. Once your interview is over, we compare those two individual scores. The pairings of judges for categories are different every year so scoring can vary dependent on our perspectives. Where we have a different score, we have a discussion but ultimately these are our independent scores and we submit an average of the two, which is then combined to your site visit score to give your overall score.

Once we have seen all our delegates, we review the scores to see who has scored highly enough for the final and who, out of those, will be taking home our Gold and Silver in that category. For some, it may not be your year and either you don’t make it to the final or receive a medal, but don’t give up! We’ve seen delegates return for second and third attempts and we love seeing how much they’ve learnt and improved in that time. The best aspect of the CMYA’s is that we’re scoring a person, not an organisation or a project. The cost of the project or size of your organisation is not of importance as each brings about different challenges. It’s about how you face and rise to the challenges set before you and how you excel to ensure you deliver an outstanding product at the end.

We then have a separate date where, as judges, we come together to compare each of the Golds and find our overall winner. Of course, all of that is top secret until the big night, but you will find out if you’ve made the final shortly after your interview. Then it’s about celebrating your achievements on the night with your colleagues, friends and family.

Think it is time for you to show us what you’ve got? Then here are my three top tips ahead of your interview for CMYA:

1. Judges aren’t close to the projects so don’t take it for granted that we know the level of detail you do

2. Don’t undersell yourself – we know it’s a difficult skill when used to team work, but teams don’t just happen, and great projects require good leaders. This interview is your time to blow your trumpet so come with examples of where you’ve exceeded expectations.

3. If you can bring supporters with you, do! They offer both moral support and are an aid memoir if you forget something due to nerves.

Every year I learn something new from our finalists. Whether its new techniques or different ideas that I can take away, it’s the best CPD I can ever do and is the reason I come back and volunteer my time year on year. I can’t wait to see what’s in store next year. Best of luck!

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