Three steps to improve your BAE Systems graduate application

The first stage of applying for any of BAE Systems’ graduate programmes is an online application. Candidates are then asked to complete online psychometric tests.

Note: BAE Systems opens applications in October and operates on a first-come first-serve basis. It advises candidates to apply early due to high levels of competition.

Tackling BAE’s application form.

The online application form for BAE Systems’ graduate development programme is fairly simple, with eight sections in total. These mainly involve filling out your personal details, education, work experience and skills. You’ll need to submit a CV if you’re applying to its Sigma leadership programme.

Whichever programme you’re applying for, follow our three steps below to make sure you submit a strong application.

Step one: analyse BAE Systems’ job descriptions

BAE Systems’ recruiters will be assessing your application against the job description. The secret to success is to analyse the job description and use your application to show the recruiters you’re a good match. It also helps you customise your application for BAE Systems and show that you’re not just applying to any old job.

It’s a good idea to keep a copy of the job description to hand. Once you click on the apply button, the job description will disappear. You could save a copy in word or print a copy out.

Part one: read the job description carefully and all the way through. As you comb through it, pick out the core criteria for the role, whether that’s technical knowledge or soft skills such as problem solving.

Part two: identify how you meet this core criteria. To do this, think back to times when you’ve demonstrated the skills and knowledge needed. These examples don’t just need to be from your industry work experience; think about things like your gap year (if you had one), extracurricular activities and part-time jobs as well.

Step two: read up on BAE Systems’ culture and values

Familiarise yourself with BAE’s culture and values. This will help you think about what skills and qualities BAE Systems looks for in its employees and therefore what skills and qualities you need to show that you possess.

A quick look on BAE’s ‘our culture’ page on its website tells you that its culture is that of total performance, which it describes as a commitment to the highest standards. BAE Systems will be looking for employees who will contribute to this culture – people who are committed, driven, and will strive to achieve the best results possible.

This culture is then broken down into four embodying elements: customer focus, financial performance, programme execution and responsible behaviour. BAE’s website doesn’t expand on what these mean so you’ll need to think about this for yourself.

Take programme execution, for example. This is about carrying out projects effectively and efficiently. It essentially boils down to doing things well. Or, if you think about responsible behaviour, for an individual this means being honest, being accountable for your actions and considering other people. For BAE Systems as a whole, this could be meeting health and safety standards to protect its employees or working on reducing its environmental impact.

Then think about BAE System’s values. They are:

  • trusted: delivering on commitments, taking responsibility and being reliable
  • bold: using your initiative, operating with tenacity and resolve, accepting challenges, taking calculated risks and setting ambitious goals
  • innovative: empowering teams and working together to think of ideas and create 'leading-edge solutions'

Think of times you’ve behaved in accordance with these values that you could draw on in your application. So, for example, when have you been innovative? You could mention an idea you came up with, a problem you solved or a new approach you took to something. For example, if you suggested to the manager of the café you work in that you should introduce a customer loyalty card, that’s being innovative.

Step three: show you match the job description and BAE’s values

In your application to BAE Systems…

Now you know the core criteria for the role you’ve applied for, use your application to show that you tick all of these boxes. If you’re submitting a CV to the Sigma leadership programme, intersperse a few bullet points into sections of your CV explaining how you developed an important skill. Or, if you’re applying to the graduate development framework, use the work experience section of the online application to highlight times when you’ve used the skills you’d need at BAE Systems.

For its procurement scheme, for instance, BAE Systems is looking for graduates who can negotiate with and influence people – namely customers, stakeholders and suppliers. Perhaps your part-time retail job involved persuading customers to buy a product that your manager asked you to promote, which helped you develop your influencing skills.

Avoid sentences such as ‘This position required me to persuade customers to buy our promotional products’. This doesn’t actually tell the recruiter that you did it! Far better to write: ‘Persuaded customers to buy promotional products. My manager set me a target of selling 40 products for the week; I sold 62 in total. This helped me develop my ability to influence other people.’ This statement not only tells the recruiter what you did, it quantitatively supports your point and links to a relevant skill.

Think about what other skills and qualities struck you as important to BAE Systems when you were doing your research. One skill that repeatedly crops up as important to BAE Systems is resilience. In your online application form or your CV, highlight examples of when you overcame an obstacle, picked yourself up after a disappointment or remained committed to a project. Read our article on resilience to find out how you can develop your resilience and how recruiters will assess for it.

Or, especially if you’re applying for the Sigma leadership programme, be sure to mention any leadership positions you’ve had and highlight times when you’ve demonstrated the qualities of a good leader, such as listening to others, motivating your team and making important (and potentially difficult) decisions.

When completing BAE’s psychometric tests…

If your online application is successful, you’ll be asked to complete some online numerical, verbal and situational strengths tests. In preparation, read our article on psychometric tests and have a go at some online tests with our commercial partner, Job Test Prep.

Keep BAE’s culture and values in mind when you’re completing the situational strengths test. Before submitting your answer, ask yourself if the decision you’ve made is in sync with these values. If you’re given the scenario of a colleague alerting you to a problem ten minutes before you’re due to go home, for example, how would you best approach this? Hint: BAE’s ‘trusted’ value is about delivering on commitments and being reliable.

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