Graduate assessment centres at investment banks

Whether tackling aptitude tests or group exercises, a can-do attitude gives the graduate the edge at assessment centres.

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No recruiters want candidates to fail. They've invested too much in the assessment process.

An assessment centre for a job with an investment bank, fund management or asset management firm typically lasts one or two days. It brings together (in person or virtually) a group of candidates who undertake a series of exercises and assessments. These can include group exercises, a presentation, a series of aptitude tests or a case study linked to the job function that you have applied for.

Virtual assessment centres in banking and investment

If it is not possible for assessment days to happen face to face in 2021 due to ongoing social distancing restrictions, they may be held virtually using a digital platform. Much of the same advice will be relevant because there will be similar tasks in a virtual format.

However, you’ll also need to consider the technology you use and how you will present yourself well on camera. Our article about virtual assessment centres addresses some practical concerns specific to virtual assessment days. UBS offers the following words of reassurance on its graduate website: ‘Don’t worry if not everything works out as planned (technical, background noise, etc) – we understand (and are in the same situation).’

What are graduate recruiters looking for at an assessment centre?

Whether the assessment centre is face to face or virtual, assessors want to see:

  • your enthusiasm and drive to work for the employer in that role
  • your research on the company and the job
  • that you have the required competencies, eg organisation and communication skills. Every test, exercise and interview will match you against selection criteria outlined or implied in the recruitment literature

Group exercises on investment banking assessment days

Group exercises include discussion groups, exercises that involve role-playing a specific brief, leadership tasks, and, most commonly, job-related scenarios that test your ability to operate in a task that approximates the area you have applied for.

On virtual assessment days, group exercises may take place using breakout rooms if the online platform has this functionality.

Remember that by your actions and words you must help the group to complete the task and promote your own cause. Be considerate of others’ views and offer to do a role of responsibility such as time keeping or note taker.

More advice for group exercises at investment banking assessment centres

Investment-related presentations

At some assessment centres you will be asked to give a presentation, usually to a mixed group of candidates and assessors. Here are a few ground rules:

  • A structure is helpful to prevent your mind from going blank and will help the audience keep track too. Use whatever form of notes you feel comfortable with (if you are presenting virtually, you could stick these notes to your laptop screen) but never speak from a script
  • Don’t attempt to fit in too much information or your audience will switch off. Five minutes is only enough time to present four big ideas or messages
  • Much of the message of your talk will be transmitted non-verbally, so your body language can make a huge difference to your presentation
  • You may be invited to use a flipchart or Powerpoint slides (which you could share on your screen if you are presenting virtually) – use these to your advantage to support and back up your presentation

How to deliver a presentation that's worthy of a graduate job

Passing psychometric and personality tests

These are often used as part of the assessment process (although not necessarily at an assessment centre). You might have to retake tests you’ve already taken to prove that you can get the same results under pressured situations or take new ones.

General ability tests assess general intelligence. Expect to be asked to use complex information, in the form of words, numbers and diagrams, to solve problems using logical or lateral thinking.

Tests designed to examine specific abilities are also common. These are most likely to be numerical or verbal reasoning tests, which will be specific to the job you have applied for.

Personality tests help to give them a better picture of the kind of person you are. They are not in-depth analyses of your innermost thoughts and there are no right or wrong answers. To be successful, honesty is the best policy.

Psychometric tests: what they are and why graduates need to know

Don’t stress!

Just be yourself and try to relax – this will make the whole experience much more enjoyable for you and, as an added bonus, you’ll have a much better chance of making a good impression.

‘Candidates shouldn’t be too distracted by nerves,’ one recruiter told us. ‘Nobody wants them to fail! We have invested so much money in the recruitment process leading up to the assessment centre; we genuinely want them to do well and be the right people for us to recruit.’

Article last updated 3 March 2021.

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