HSBC retail banking and wealth management: phone interviews for graduates and intern candidates
HSBC has traditionally put shortlisted graduate and internship candidates through a highly structured, largely competency-based telephone interview before deciding if they’re qualified to be invited to an assessment centre.
A past candidate said his interview was intense, as he was asked rapid fire questions and had limited time to think of and deliver solid answers. In case you encounter the same, it’s crucial you prepare in advance detailed examples to back up your answers.
Our categorised overview of the questions you could be asked will make preparing for your telephone interview easier.
- Why are you applying to HSBC?
- Why are you interested in retail banking and wealth management?
- Why are you interested in this specific graduate programme?
- What have you done that would make you successful in HSBC’s intern programme? How could your career with HSBC progress?
HSBC wants to know that you’ve applied because there’s something about the bank in particular that attracts you and corresponds with your values and career aspirations. Have you got any experiences that could support your answer to any of the above questions? Did you enjoy and excel in a customer-focused job you had during college or university and decide that type of work is what you’d like to do long term?
Remember, you’ve already had to answer a question on motivation on the application form. At this stage be prepared for follow-up questions and to be asked for further self-reflection, more examples and additional depth in your answers.
- How do you perform in a team?
- How do you perform individually?
- How do you deal with uncertainty?
- How do you feel about working towards targets and deadlines?
- How do you manage your workload when working in a pressurised environment?
Most HSBC retail graduate programmes focus on leadership or management roles. The above questions will help HSBC to find out how much experience you have both working in a team and individually, as well as towards deadlines and targets.
These sorts of questions always require an example, even if you’re not explicitly asked for one. Find examples from education, employment or extracurricular activities where you worked collaboratively and independently to hit targets.
Perhaps you were part of a group that organised an event to raise money for a charity. Or maybe you set yourself a personal goal to become fluent in a European language by the time you finished university. What challenges did you face? How did you overcome them?
- Describe any experience you’ve had in customer service.
- How would you maintain a good relationship with customers?
- How would you deal with customer complaints?
- How would you handle difficult customers?
HSBC looks for graduates with some customer-facing experience to fill many of its entry-level retail banking roles. Experience gained within retail, health, hospitality or education is particularly welcome. Think about how your work experience has developed your interpersonal, negotiation, problem solving and consultancy skills – areas that HSBC wants you to be strong in.
- What would you do if your approach wasn’t successful?
- How did you deal with someone who was not working well within the team?
- What would you change if you could repeat the process?
Such questions aim to stretch your thinking and encourage you to consider less predictable outcomes, as not everything on the HSBC graduate programme or internship will be plain sailing.
It’s advisable when you’re jotting down examples from your experiences to reflect and think about how you could’ve helped to engender a better result. Identifying what you could’ve done to improve a situation will tell HSBC that you've got integrity, a mature attitude and are keen to learn and improve.
Maybe you partook in a group project at university and, eager to make it a success, pushed through your ideas and didn’t listen enough to other people. Going forward you’ll now dedicate more time to the planning phase and ensure all ideas are voiced and heard.
- What did you like most about your last job, and why?
- What didn’t you like, and why?
There’s no substitute for real-world experience, even if it's not directly related to your career choice. However, if your work experience is related, it'll be much to your advantage. To substantiate your answer to either of the above questions, research HSBC’s core values, the qualities it looks for in its employees or how the department to which you’ve applied functions. Use your findings to identify something about your last job that will feature in your work for HSBC.
- Give us an example of a time when you stood up for what is right, despite pressure from others to do otherwise.
- What has been your biggest mistake and how did you learn from it?
- What would you do if a member of your team was under-performing?
- Which of our values do you most admire and why?
HSBC holds a core set of values dear – you can find out what they are on the 'Our values’ page of its corporate website. Whether you share HSBC’s values will be assessed by any of the questions in the telephone interview – especially the competency questions. However, you might also be asked to comment upon HSBC’s values in general, and be asked to produce evidence of how you share them and have demonstrated them in the past.
In that case, you won’t want to simply repeat the examples you gave in answering the straightforward competencies questions. In other words, before you go to interview think of as many examples as you can where you’ve shown evidence of HSBC’s values and the skills it seeks. It’s also useful to provide further examples when being asked any follow-up questions. This is important: a number of candidates have said they failed their interviews because they hadn’t backed up their statements with enough depth or examples, particularly when discussing HSBC’s values.