Tips for the BNP Paribas Real Estate graduate assessment centre

You’re being assessed on your skills, not against other candidates.

About 35 candidates get through to the BNP Paribas Real Estate assessment day, which has previously comprised of:

  • a group exercise
  • an interview with a partner
  • an individual analysis (case study) exercise
  • a presentation
  • a written exercise

Kim Brumley, resourcing manager (associate director) at BNP Paribas Real Estate, says: ‘Our assessment centres start off with a group exercise, which is a bit of fun, helps to break the ice and makes the graduates feel at ease. Then some graduates will have a competency-based interview first while others start preparing for their individual analysis exercise. The analysis exercise involves working through a case study of a company looking to relocate their business; the graduates have to review the data of two different sites and give advice on which location out of the two they would recommend and why. They then have to deliver their findings via a one-to-one presentation to an assessor. All graduates at the assessment centre complete all of the exercises and finish off by writing a business report of their recommendations from the earlier case study.’

How are candidates assessed?

BNP Paribas Real Estate scores candidates from one to four on each exercise and takes into account the performance at interview. ‘We don’t expect you to be strong on all of the exercises, hence why we assess all competencies more than once,’ says Kim. The moral? Don’t think too much about what the assessors are looking for – focus on doing your best. And remember that you are being assessed on your skills, not against other candidates.

What should graduates do in the group exercise?

‘The group exercise and presentation are useful to us because they give an insight into thought processes and analytical skills, as well as how they get on with different people,’ says Kim. Don’t get too hung up on getting the ‘correct’ answer. As Kim says, ‘Sometimes there isn’t a right answer and the assessors are looking more at how you think and work as part of a team.’

When tackling the group exercise, you can impress the assessors by:

  • articulating your thoughts and making clear notes
  • not shouting over other people to make yourself heard
  • welcoming other people’s ideas – praising the good points and, if you disagree, saying so politely
  • volunteering to be timekeeper or note taker
  • making constructive suggestions on how to tackle the task – for example, to break into sub-groups to look at different pieces of data

How can candidates impress during the interview?

The BNP Paribas Real Estate interview is competence-based and you can read tips on how to approach this type of interview here. Refer to the job description on the firm’s employer hub to remind yourself what BNP Paribas Real Estate is looking for in its graduates and think of examples of how you have demonstrated these skills. How would you answer ‘give us an example of a time when you’ve demonstrated…’ for the following qualities:

  • confident communication skills and the ability to express yourself clearly
  • determination to achieve in your academic work and in extracurricular activities
  • motivation and commitment to a surveying career
  • a good, logical approach to problem-solving

The above skills are taken from the BNP Paribas Real Estate advert in TARGETjobs Property 2017; however, you might also be asked about other relevant skills, such as leadership and teamwork.

You are also likely to be questioned on your reasons for applying to BNP Paribas Real Estate and that particular role, even if you were asked similar questions in your first interview. After all, Kim told TARGETjobs that her favourite question to ask candidates is ‘Why us as a company?’

Don’t be surprised if you are also asked about your thoughts on recent developments in the industry and how economic and political factors can affect the firm, especially in terms of:

  • the work the firm carries out for, and the advice it gives to, clients
  • the firm’s bottom line

Prepare for this by finding out more about what BNP Paribas Real Estate does. Read documents and case studies on its website. For example, its Q2 2016 retail research report says that, following the Brexit vote, although UK ‘consumer confidence dropped by 8 points in July, its fastest rate of decline for 22 years’, retail investment in Q2 was not affected as badly as anticipated by the referendum result. You could read its most up-to-date retail reports, keeping track of what BNP Paribas Real Estate says about current consumer behaviour and levels of investment in the different retail subsectors (eg supermarkets, shopping centres, out-of-town). Consider how a decline in UK retail investment could affect this line of the firm’s business.

How can candidates make a good presentation to a BNP Paribas Real Estate assessor?

A good presentation has a good structure. You could do the following:

  • Introduce yourself to the assessor and state what you will be covering (that you will present a certain recommendation). You should introduce the two properties at this point and state the order in which you will talk about them.
  • If you have five minutes, your middle section should take up about three of them – enough time to make two or three points well.
  • End with a summary of what you have covered. Invite questions from the assessor and thank them for their attention.

Why are candidates given a written exercise?

BNP Paribas Real Estate assessors are looking at your use of language: how do you tackle a professional piece of communication? Can you write in a formal tone, while ensuring that your recommendations are written unambiguously? Of course, you also need to avoid making spelling and grammatical errors.

And relax, but not too much

There will be times when you interact with recruiters, and possibly some of the firm’s current trainees, in a more social setting. Here, the tip is to make small talk, and don’t say anything negative about the company or talk about other firms you’re applying to.

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