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How to tackle Barclays Investment Bank’s online application questions

Your Barclays Investment Bank research is not just a fact-finding mission

For both the graduate schemes and internships, there are three competency questions to answer on the application form. Recruiters review this form and your CV alongside one another in order to make their decisions, so they’re of equal importance.

Each of the following questions has a 300 word maximum word-limit.

Barclays Investment Bank online application question one: Which qualities and skills do you possess that make you suited to the role you've applied for?

Point of question: Do you actually know what it is you're applying for? Do you appreciate the variety of different roles there are at an investment bank such as Barclays Investment Bank, and can you show why your interest lies in one particular area?

How to tackle the question: This is all about understanding the role you';re applying for. A surprisingly common mistake is that applicants will talk about broad skills such as 'communication' or 'teamwork' - these terms are far too general to be related to a specific job. Think, also, about the competencies detailed in Barclays Investment Bank's MindMap game. Think about why these skills are important in your potential job role.

Bear in mind that, whatever your chosen role at the bank, you'll need to be strong in working with others. However, you'll need to analyse and expressly how you do that. A trader will not express the same skills as an IT specialist when building and maintaining relationships because their work is inherently different. The better you understand the requirements of the job role and the tasks you'll be doing, the more interesting and detailed your response here will become.

Barclays Investment Bank online application question two: From the research that you have done on our industry, how does Barclays Investment Bank differentiate itself from our competitors?

Point of question: This is not just a fact-finding mission. The depth of your research tells the employer a great deal about how well you understand Barclays Investment Bank’s business and how serious you are about the job.

How to tackle: Read the reports and press releases that Barclays Investment Bank have produced and think about what these tell you about both Barclays Investment Bank and the industry in general. Why, for example, has Barclays Investment Bank asked institutional clients for their views on the ‘fiscal cliff’? Why has it strengthened its trade and working Investment Bank team in India? It’s important that you talk about issues that not only interest you, but also relate to your potential role.

For those of you considering citing Barclays Investment Bank's culture as being different, based on having attended employer presentations at university or keeping up to date with the news and Barclays CEO Antony Jenkins' heralding of a new dawn for Barclays as a whole, be careful. It's very easy to simply repeat either what Jenkins has stated in the press or what you were told by employees without really thinking about what the changes in culture mean, or how they are currently being implemented.

Don't just repeat the marketing line back to Barclays, or praise the investment bank for rethinking its culture in the wake of relatively recent financial scandals. If you're going to talk about culture then you need to understand what that is - and if you haven't worked at Barclays, you'll really need to find sources that detail this and critique them: how recent are these reports? Who are they by? Are they reports from journalists, or reviews by employees - and what do these employees do? Are they newly hired graduates, are they experienced members of staff, or have they recently left Barclays' Investment Bank? When it comes to the culture of the bank, you even have to question whether you have the requisite knowledge to actually be able to make the clear points required for this question. Don't just assume this is what Barclays wants to hear - what they want to see is that you've done your research properly.

Barclays Investment Bank online application question three: Describe a recent development in the investment banking industry. What implications might this development have for the division to which you have applied?

Point of question: Are you able to understand the wider picture of how local, national and international news can affect your division of the investment bank?

How to tackle: Treat this as a mini-case study – you need to show recruiters that you can take a lot of material and extract the most significant information from it. Many will talk about the UK’s ring-fencing of investment banks from their retail partners – an understanding of this will be important, but can you actually explain it? How does Barclays Investment Bank’s structure determine how this ruling will affect them compared to their competitors?

Try to use an example that isn’t too obvious – if you use the same example as many other candidates, it will be harder for you to stand out. Whilst we can't do all the work for you, a few examples you might consider include:

  • How the markets have been affected by the governmental shutdown in the US
  • The status of markets in China, Brazil, India and Russia - are these still the 'emerging markets' they have been seen as in recent years? Has anything changed in them recently?
  • Are different kinds of firms now offering IPOs? Think of the Facebooks and Twitters of this world for starters, but remember - those are the obvious ones
  • How are people now using investment banks? In terms of mobiles, tablets and other, similar products, what changes or innovations do investment banks need to develop?
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