Since joining Executive Compass earlier this year as a bid writer, time has flown by. Reflecting on my time here, I have provided an overview of our recruitment process, training programme and my experience working on live projects, shedding light on the role and requirements of being a bid writer.
Executive Compass’s recruitment process
The recruitment process was rigorous and fast-paced. After submitting my application, the writing test was arranged within only a few days. I was kept informed of what was expected throughout. Overall, my recruitment journey was comprised of four stages.
CV – As expected, my CV formed the first part of the application, essentially demonstrating my experience, qualifications, and transferrable skills relevant to the role of a bid writer.
To do this, I found it was important to not only understand the key skills and attributes involved, e.g. client and project management, but also what being a bid writer actually means. Carefully reading through the job description was a good place to start, before moving onto wider research, such as reading through Executive Compass’s weekly blogs! This enabled me to write my CV in a way that reflected my research and to show why I was a good candidate.
Writing test – In my opinion, this was arguably the most difficult stage of the whole recruitment process. The writing test consists of two real tender responses to be written and returned within four hours, totalling 1,500 words. This was not easy and perfection is not expected: it is fully recognised that applicants don’t necessarily have subject-specific knowledge, and the test is completed in isolation, without the opportunity to discuss the questions with subject matter experts. Instead, the aim, as reflected in the title of the test, was to assess my writing ability in addition to how well I could manage/approach an unfamiliar task within a deadline.
Numerous skills were being assessed, including the clarity and fluency of my writing, attention to detail, ability to research an unfamiliar topic, time management and analytical skills. Specifically, I methodically deconstructed each question to ensure I was addressing the particular evaluation criteria, dividing the main points into various sections. This was clearly a good approach to take, as now that I’m in the post, I can see that every writer in the team approaches each question in this exact manner.
Given the tight time limit set for the test, it was tempting to jump straight into writing, but instead I took some time at the beginning to plan – this helped me to streamline the writing process and contributed to clearly written, well-structured and comprehensive responses.
First interview – Preparation was pivotal, and involved consolidating my understanding of the role, Executive Compass, and why I would be a good fit for a bid writing position. I started by reviewing my CV so that any questions regarding myself, my achievements and skill set did not catch me off guard. I also took the opportunity to do company-based research, reflecting on Executive Compass’s history, services, leading industry status and USPs.
Something I found very useful during this preparation process was spending an evening reading through the numerous case studies on the Executive Compass website. This provided me with practical insight into what high-quality bid writing entails, including the key challenges that can be encountered alongside how to appropriately respond and meet client expectations.
I found it particularly useful to consider what was unique/different/special about me that made me stand out from other applicants and how I could effectively leverage this. At Executive Compass, we all come from different backgrounds and careers, which in turn brings new talent and new ways of thinking to the business. This diversity is encouraged, so it turned out to be very beneficial to emphasise this in the interview!
Second interview – Having impressed through the first three steps of the recruitment process, the second-stage interview provided an opportunity for me to demonstrate how I would fit into Executive Compass’s culture. Whilst we manage our own projects for the most part, there is still a lot of collaboration involved across projects, so a harmonious and supportive environment is integral. The team spirt and supportive culture is one of the first things I noticed when I started working at Executive Compass and being able to fit into this is important.
Our 85%+ success rate under strict deadlines is testament to the comprehensive training all bid writers undergo, including high-quality writing, dedicated response preparation, effective client management and timekeeping. To ensure that this is maintained, there is a comprehensive internal training programme that all new bid writers complete to build their skill set and confidence, with support provided every step of the way.
My training was mainly delivered by Technical Director Matthew Walker, with each day generally split between interactive, discussion-led one-to-one training and coaching, and completing assigned tasks mimicking real-life responses. These practice responses were especially useful when moving on to live bids, as the same approach and principles apply, such as:
- Thoroughly reading through all the invitation to tender (ITT) documents, fully understanding the contract requirements.
- Conducting all the necessary research on the client, their sector and market competition.
- Answer planning that deconstructs all aspects of the response, enabling us to establish what the evaluator is looking for and what information is needed from the client.
- Listening back to client calls, identifying if further information is needed to enhance the detail and specificity of the response, or where industry best practice suggestions can be made to fill any gaps in service delivery.
I learned very early on during training that the tender process is fiercely competitive. That, in turn, has many implications. Responses need to be clear, as vagueness about processes inevitably leads to doubts over a client’s ability to deliver a service. At the same time, responses should be concise as well as highly detailed – that might seem contradictory, but it also reflects the skills involved in bid writing. The training process was therefore meticulous in its construction and delivery, and I felt fully prepared when transitioning to working on live projects.
Working on live projects
The next step in my development was assisting with live projects in order to develop a hands-on understanding before transitioning to managing my own bids.
From the outset, I was assigned a mentor, Craig Sutch, to act as a source of guidance and advice. I assisted Craig on my first live project, a large cleaning tender for convenience stores, and it was great to see how he worked and to be able to draw inspiration from that. I then assisted various other bid writers in industries such as construction, security, lift maintenance and recruitment, enabling me to develop and embed my own skills and understanding which proved crucial when I was assigned my own projects.
The first project I managed was for a mechanical engineering company, where I could put all the training into practice. The initial interview with the client went well, which invariably helps with the writing, and I ended up building a very positive relationship with the client which was enhanced through my undertaking of a second project with them. Since then, I have continued to work on a variety of bids in a multitude of industries, including flood protection, transport and arboricultural, gaining an in-depth look at different business operations with the same proven methodologies and quality assurance applied to each bid.
It is an interesting and insightful job, where no two days are the same. The increasingly competitive nature of the tender process in conjunction with our company’s value of excellence means that we are continually pushing boundaries to deliver contract-winning bids for our clients. Therefore, as bid writers, we are always improving and upskilling. I can already see significant progress over the past few months since I started working on live projects, and I look forward to this continuing!
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