Guidelines for graduate assessment days at Barclays

Barclays expects you to have a good understanding of its core values and to display them in your performance and behaviour during the assessment day.

Assessment days at Barclays will vary in length and content according to the graduate programme you have applied for. For instance, assessment days for roles within the bank’s wealth management division have previously been half a day, compared to two days for its investment banking arm.

Although all assessment days will usually comprise three staples (group task, interview and presentation), additional exercises such as psychometric tests, trading games and case studies may also be included for certain schemes. Whichever scheme and division you have applied for, you’ll benefit from using the following guidelines to prepare.

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Ensure you grasp the role and division to which you have applied

Understand your chosen role and division and you’ll be better prepared for the day’s tasks. ‘We’ve tried to make the assessment centres an on-the-job simulation. They’re closely aligned to specific divisions,’ one Barclays graduate recruiter has told us. ‘For example, in HR we’d be looking to test for internal consulting skills. In investment banking, we give a real-life case study for people to work on’ This is what you need to know about your chosen role and division and how to apply it.

It’s also worth checking out Barclays’ early careers and graduates channel on YouTube. Plenty of video content has been uploaded to shed light on graduate roles, the bank’s culture and values, and its recruitment process, including the assessment centre.

If you are enjoying the tasks, show it

‘The on-the-job simulation is also for candidates to establish whether they’re actually going to enjoy the work they’d be doing in the division,’ our Barclays recruiter says. Assessors will look for indicators, so, if you enjoy the challenge and interacting with staff and other applicants show it through your body language. Read our guidance on body language to get a better idea of how to do this.

Build rapport with other candidates

How do you build rapport? During breaks, chat with candidates about work experience, university and extracurricular activities. Chat with them naturally – just make sure you don’t sound as if you are quizzing them in the manner of an interviewer. Share your experiences. This will also show assessors that you’re a confident and competent communicator who works well with others – qualities Barclays seeks in prospective employees.

A past applicant to Barclays’ graduate compliance programme commented after his assessment day that ‘it paid dividends’ to get to know the other candidates before the task. Building rapport with colleagues earlier in the process prepares you for working closely with them later. It may also expose strengths and weaknesses, which could work around by delegating responsibilities effectively during the task. Barclays commends those who while making a valuable contribution to the task also encourage and enable others to do the same.

Make sure you exhibit the desired leadership, teamworking and interpersonal skills during the group exercise by embracing responsibility, delegating, encouraging communication and intervening when necessary, but trusting others to use their judgement.

Research Barclays’ culture and values

Barclays expects you to have a good understanding of its core values (excellence, integrity, respect, service and stewardship), and to display them in your performance and behaviour during the assessment day. Barclays stipulates: ‘For our values to have true meaning, employees need to live and breathe them.’ Prepare by reading our article on Barclays' values and how to display them throughout the recruitment process.

Prepare examples for competency questions during your face-to-face interview

Interviewers will ask you competency questions (the ones where you have to provide an example) during your interview to gauge your technical knowledge and commercial awareness, and whether you have the skills to do the job.

Peruse our example investment banking interview questions and jot down examples from education, internships, work, extracurricular activities or elsewhere to support your answers. Barclays welcomes notes in interview but doesn’t want you to read from a script.

Familiarise yourself with the STAR technique

Acquaint yourself with the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) technique – explained in this article – to deliver succinct and structured answers to competency-based questions.

Turn up with questions for your interviewers

Some past applicants have said they were given a long time at the end of their interview to ask their interviewer/s questions. You don’t have to turn up with a huge list of questions to ensure every minute is used up, but arriving empty-handed will do you no favours.

Jot down some questions in a notepad before the assessment day. These should be questions that you genuinely want answered – not generic questions that you have found online. Ensure the notepad is accessible throughout the day, should you wish to add additional questions.

Eat a good meal beforehand

This may seem like odd advice, but do ensure you have a proper meal in advance. Refreshments are usually provided, but it isn’t a good idea to gulp down what's on offer because you attended the assessment centre on an empty stomach. Also bear in mind that any breaks during the day are also a chance to speak with candidates and Barclays’ staff; being preoccupied with food may hold you back.

Remain calm and focused throughout

Past applicants have said assessors observed them closely (one even said they ‘stared’) throughout the day. They’re simply assessing whether you have what the business is looking for, so try to focus on your performance and, as far as possible, forget they are watching.

One investment banking recruiter told us: ‘Candidates shouldn’t be too distracted by nerves. 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.’

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