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The top 10 skills and qualities Baillie Gifford looks for in graduates

Baillie Gifford wants its employees to enjoy discussion that is challenging and have the ability to form, hold and back up an opinion – even if it’s contrary.

There are specific skills and qualities that you need to be accepted onto Baillie Gifford’s investment management graduate programmes. TARGETjobs spoke with Richard Barry, HR manager at the firm, to find out what they are.

1. Intellect

You don’t need to be a maths genius to land a role at Baillie Gifford – the firm hires graduates from a wide range of academic disciplines – but you do have to be bright. A minimum grade of 2.1 in any degree discipline is required across all programmes.

2. Interested in investment management

Richard is pretty frank when he says: ‘Baillie Gifford doesn’t want you to just treat the role as a vehicle because it pays well.’ The firm is looking for graduates who are genuinely interested in investment management.

How can you prove that you are? Work experience gained at Baillie Gifford or another investment management firm or professional services company will prove that you’re not just after a well-paid job. Having good commercial awareness (see section below) or a finance-related qualification will also show that you are comitted to this area.

3. Commercial awareness

Baillie Gifford wants you to have a strong interest in world events and views on the potential impact financial, political and global events could have on investing. A good way to develop your business acumen is to get reading. Richard recommends in-depth career guides for investment management, blogs and foreign press, as well as the typical financial newspapers and magazines, such as the Financial Times.

Richard also advises: ‘Find something that you enjoy reading to expand your commercial knowledge.’ You might be the kind of person who is interested in learning what makes companies tick. For instance, why are some companies a success in the long term when others are not?

4. Eager to learn

Being hungry and willing to learn is essential. Richard says: ‘You’ll undergo training throughout the three-year programme. But in essence it’ll go on for longer than that because by the time you’ve learned something, technology and the markets would have moved on again and you’ll have to relearn.’

University modules, internships, part-time jobs and extracurricular activities are all great ways to demonstrate this quality because through each experience you will have enhanced your understanding of a subject or developed a skill. For example, maybe you took a language course while at university to improve your linguistic skills.

5. Life skills

Richard says: ‘Baillie Gifford values an eclectic workforce so looks for people with wide and varied interests.’ But what does that statement actually mean? The firm seeks to employ well-rounded individuals who did not spend their whole time at university immersed in academia.

This isn’t a cue to talk about your active social life and the innumerable parties you attended. Instead, look for opportunities to highlight your involvement in extracurricular activities, such as sports and societies, or the jobs you’ve had. But don’t mention an interest for the sake of sounding interesting – identify what you’ve learned and how you can apply it to the role.

6. Drive

Baillie Gifford is looking for motivated individuals who’ll be able to make an effective contribution to investment decisions early on in their three-year graduate scheme. Past entry-level recruits have been asked to organise an investment trip, which could involve travel to another country, within months of joining the firm.

Show Baillie Gifford that you’re driven by being engaged and energetic when interacting with recruiters and other applicants. Also make it clear in your covering letter why you want to work in investment management and for Baillie Gifford specifically.

7. Long-term focus

Baillie Gifford tries to imagine what the future will be like in the markets in which it operates. Richard says: ‘If the firm considered investing in a company, it would think far ahead and estimate what might destabilise or strengthen the business in three, five or ten years.’

It’s probable the firm will want to find out if you have long-term focus too – while your career in investment management is concerned. Prove that you do by having an answer to questions like ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ To find out how to research and answer this question, read our guidance.

8. Outspoken

Richard says: ‘Baillie Gifford wants its employees to enjoy discussion that is challenging and have the ability to form, hold and back up an opinion – even if it’s contrary.’ Membership of any debating societies or experience of researching and writing an opinion piece could demonstrate this quality.

It’s also crucial to be able to talk about activities that you’ve mentioned in your application. Richard says: ‘We may enter a political discussion if you say you have had an interest in this. If we asked you what you think about the coalition government, for example, we would expect you to have an opinion and engage us in a conversation.’

9. Broadminded

Do you get a kick out of being broadminded? Baillie Gifford hopes you do. Richard says: ‘The firm is trying to beat the markets and the only way it can do that is by coming up with something that other businesses haven’t thought of.’

You’re not expected to be an innovator (well, not immediately) but you will have to work within a team to discuss new ideas, and it’s in this context that you’ll be expected to be open-minded.

10. Curious

Richard says: ‘Curiosity is essential to investment management and it’s about wanting to find out more and asking questions.’ If you did any research-based assignments at university and went the extra mile to explore the subject thoroughly, you will have demonstrated curiosity.

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