How to impress Rolls-Royce recruiters with your written application
The Rolls-Royce application form mostly involves selecting yes or no answers and filling out basic personal information, education history and details of your work experience. Most of your time, therefore, will be spent answering its question: Explain the reasons why you are applying to Rolls-Royce and your chosen programme. You should include any skills, work experience and extracurricular activities that you feel demonstrate your suitability and understanding for the programme.
The point of this question is to test your motivation, the level and quality of the research you’ve done, your self-awareness and your understanding of the role and Rolls-Royce.
Three things you must do before answering Rolls-Royce’s question
This question is asking for several different things. To answer it fully, you’ll need to:
- research Rolls-Royce
- research the programme you’ve applied to and pay particular attention to the skills needed
- think of examples from your skills, work experience and extracurricular activities that make you suitable
Research Rolls-Royce to help you decide on your reasons
Some solid research into Rolls-Royce is key to answering this question. Rolls-Royce’s corporate and careers websites are good places to start. You could look at:
- the areas that Rolls-Royce works in eg aerospace, marine and energy
- its products and services
- recent developments or ongoing programmes, such as Rolls-Royce’s focus on research and development
- Rolls-Royce’s research and technology priorities
- its business strategy and its vision: 'Better power. Better future. Better business.'
- its investment in reducing environmental impact eg its Bergen B35 marine engine, which runs on liquefied natural gas
While you’re doing your research, note down anything that particularly impresses you. For example, the culture at Rolls-Royce is one of innovation. It’s why Rolls-Royce’s products are as diverse as helicopter engines and power station turbines. Does this appeal to you? Which of Rolls-Royce’s products do you think are the most innovative? Have you ever done something different or thought outside of the box?
Pay close attention to Rolls-Royce’s programme descriptions
You should also familiarise yourself with the programme description. Think about what you like about the role. Things to consider include:
- What is the structure of the scheme? Some schemes involve several rotations – do you think this will suit you? Is there a rotation in a particular area that you think you would enjoy?
- Is there professional development and mentoring on offer? Does this match with your career goals?
- What are the typical tasks you’ll be given? What projects could you work on?
- If there’s a lot of client contact, does this appeal to you? What experience with clients do you have? Rolls-Royce identifies customer satisfaction as one of its priorities. What skills and qualities do you have that would help you put Rolls-Royce’s customers first?
- Some of Rolls-Royce’s schemes require a willingness to travel around the UK, and for some graduate programmes, internationally. That’s no surprise for a company whose client list reads like a global who’s who – NATO, Egyptair and American Airlines for starters. Does this appeal to you?
Think about what Rolls-Royce’s graduate programme offers that you can’t get at a competitor, or even in a different industry altogether. Human resources graduate schemes, for instance, are available in all sorts of industries. So what made you choose a scheme with an engineering company over, say, a retailer?
Think about what skills and experience you have that Rolls-Royce wants
Your answer will need to draw on your own skills, work experience and extracurricular activities to indicate your suitability for the scheme at Rolls-Royce. Before writing your answer, you might find it useful to create a list of everything you’ve done and consider how you could link each activity back to Rolls-Royce.
All of Rolls-Royce’s programme descriptions list four essential skills so it would be wise to show off these four skills in your answer. For the project management graduate programme, for example, Rolls-Royce is looking for strong communicators and influencers.
This is slightly trickier than just highlighting your communication skills – you’ll need to focus in on how you have influenced other people and be sure to emphasise the result you got. Maybe, as captain of your hockey team, you delivered a motivational half-time pep talk and went on to win the match. Or perhaps you delivered a speech to persuade people to support a charity event you’d organised and, as a result, doubled the amount of volunteers you had.
Remember that Rolls-Royce is looking for graduates with leadership potential. Have you ever held a position of responsibility or volunteered to take the lead on a project? Explain what it involved and how you developed as a leader.
Don’t just list your skills and experiences – use them to show how you tick Rolls-Royce’s boxes
Avoid making unsubstantiated claims such as ‘I’m a confident decision maker’. This doesn’t give the recruiter any concrete evidence of your ability. Instead, write about a time when you made an important decision. What factors did you consider before reaching your conclusion? What was the reasoning behind your choice? Did anybody disagree with you – if so, how did you solve this?
Top tip: Remember to always link back to Rolls-Royce. Once you’ve finished writing your answer, it’s worth going back and reading over each point you make. Ask yourself: ‘Have I explained why this is relevant to Rolls-Royce?’
To do this, think of your experiences as selling points. How will they be of benefit to Rolls-Royce? Maybe you studied a relevant module at university. What did you enjoy about it and what did you learn? How does this make you a match with Rolls-Royce? Similarly, if you’ve completed any work experience in the business area you’ve applied for, relate it to what your role might entail at Rolls-Royce. How will you apply what you learned and the skills you developed during your work experience?
A good sentence might be something along the lines of: ‘I understand that I will be doing X. I have done Y which has developed my Z. This will help me deal with X.’ This not only highlights your own experience and skills but links back to Rolls-Royce and shows an understanding of the role you’ve applied for.
Bear in mind that Rolls-Royce doesn’t want:
- Generic and clichéd responses, such as ‘I want to work for a firm that offers first-class engineering solutions’, particularly without following it up with some detail.
- References to the luxury car brand. It isn’t linked to Rolls-Royce so don’t mention it.
- Chunks of text copied from its website, eg writing ‘I want to work for a company with a future every bit as exciting as its history’ because you read it on the graduate recruitment website. A better answer would refer to past Rolls-Royce projects that you admired, explain what it is about Rolls-Royce’s strategy for the future that excites you and how your skills and experience will help you contribute.
- Waffle. You’re given 300 words to play with (around three or four paragraphs on half a page of A4). Given everything the question is asking, this isn’t a lot. You’ll need to show Rolls-Royce that you can summarise your reasons in the space you’ve been given so be concise and to the point; cut out any academic speech, unnecessary words and lengthy phrases or sentences.
- A lack of detail. Take the less is more approach – far better to choose three solid reasons and do them justice than cram in 20 points without expanding on them. Prioritise the points that you think are the most important to Rolls-Royce and best showcase your suitability and understanding of the role.
Top tip: consider using the three-step CAR technique (context, action and results) rather than the four-step STAR technique (situation, task, action and results) to keep your answer within the word limit.