How to impress Rolls-Royce recruiters with your written application

Rolls-Royce is NOT linked to the luxury car brand – so don't mention it!

Before you start writing your application for Rolls-Royce, you’ll need to have done this essential preparation:

  • checked the Rolls-Royce application timetable
  • researched Rolls-Royce internships and graduate schemes
  • reviewed Rolls-Royce graduate competencies

If there’s one thing to remember if you want a Rolls-Royce job or internship:

Rolls-Royce is NOT linked to the luxury car brand – so don’t mention it!

It’s worth noting here that one of the topics covered in the application form is your willingness to travel around the UK and, for some graduate programmes, abroad. This mobility is decribed as being ‘a requirement’. That’s no surprise from a company whose client list reads like a global who’s who – NATO, Egyptair and American Airlines for starters. Take time to consider this seriously before applying.

Answering the questions on the form for Rolls-Royce’s graduate programmes

‘Explain the reasons why you are applying to Rolls-Royce and your chosen programme.’

Space given for question: maximum 1,000 characters (including spaces) or about 250 words.

Point of question: tests motivation, level and quality of research done, self-awareness, understanding of the role, the company.

Don't do this:

  1. Cutting and pasting information from Rolls-Royce’s website, eg writing ‘I want a challenging and rewarding career that’s full of potential’ because that statement appears on its graduate recruitment pages.
  2. Using a generic or clichéd response, such as: ‘I want to work for a firm that offers first-class engineering solutions’, particularly without following it up with some detail.

Here are some things that you could consider to help tailor your answer:

  • What recent developments within Rolls-Royce appeal to you? New projects such as the civil nuclear programme; new technology such as the development of a megawatt scale fuel cell power system; or ongoing programmes such as the company’s focus on research and development?
  • The kinds of work or projects that might be available to you as an employee in that function, and your interest in them. And any modules you studied and enjoyed at university that are relevant to the business area you’re applying to. For example, if you’re interested in a commercial graduate programme and your research project is in stress-testing nickel alloys then think about how this experience might help Rolls-Royce as a business. In terms of safety record? Cost savings? Both? Show you know your subject. How long has it used the alloy in its aircraft engines – since WWII or before? Who supplies it? What happens to the alloys after the engines are decommissioned?
  • The culture at Rolls-Royce is one of innovation – it’s why its products are as diverse as helicopter engines and power station turbines. What have you done in your life that’s different?
  • What does a graduate programme with Rolls-Royce offer you that you can't get at a competitor, or in a different field altogether?
  • What specific elements of the programme would you particularly enjoy (eg rotations in a particular area, etc)?
  • How will a programme such as Rolls-Royce's help you achieve your career aspirations?

‘Please tell us something about what you do in your spare time, including membership of clubs and positions of responsibility which you feel demonstrate skills that are relevant to the scheme you are applying for.’

This question is asked for engineering graduate schemes.

Space given for question: maximum 1,000 characters (including spaces) or about 250 words.

Point of question: tests knowledge of scheme applied for, self-awareness, ability to set very high standards for self, knowledge and appreciation of best practice within Rolls-Royce.

Don't do this:

  1. Not getting the point of the question or answering all of its parts.
  2. Feeling you have to use impressive words, particularly those from the Rolls-Royce website, when what you need to do is describe the skills and their significance as clearly and honestly as possible.

Here are some things that you could consider to help tailor your answer:

  1. The first thing to do is focus on the scheme you’re applying to. If it’s for operations management the skills required range from problem-solving and strategic planning to project management and environmental awareness.
  2. Only then, choose a ‘spare time activity’ (a broad definition if there ever was one) to illustrate your skill in action.
  3. Break the ‘in-action’ side of things down as much as possible; for example, if the skill is ‘project management’ and your spare time activity is ‘setting up a website’, then:
  • What advanced planning did you do?
  • How did you define the tasks?
  • How did you schedule and apportion tasks and timings?

Finally, relate your actions to those that may occur within a job working for Rolls-Royce – how will you apply what you learned and the skills you developed in this experience to the role? Think of your experiences as selling points – how will they be of benefit to Rolls Royce?

‘Have you recently been involved in any extra-curricular activities which have required you to take a leadership role? (eg captain of a team, team leader, chairperson, Duke of Edinburgh, treasurer).’

This question is asked for non-engineering graduate schemes such as finance and HR.

Point of question: tests knowledge of leadership roles within Rolls-Royce, definition of own leadership style and methods.

Don't do this:

  1. Being vague, eg ‘I took a leadership role as chairperson of the engineering society’. Explain what that means, what decisions you took and why; how you took them and how it developed you as a leader.
  2. Being glib – leadership isn’t all plain-sailing!

Here are some things that you could consider to help tailor your answer:

  1. Think about what makes a good leader. Research the topic if you like – there are conventional wisdoms on the topic, such as 'effective leaders get the team working around key principles'; but what do you think? You might not use your reflections in your answer (after all, you’re not being asked to write an essay on ‘What makes a good team leader?’). But they might give you insights into your own leadership style that you can weave into your response.
  2. There’s a whole ‘meet the technologist’ section of Rolls-Royce’s website that you ought to be looking at before answering this question. It contains videos from group leaders and other leaders in Rolls-Royce. And then there are the CEOs to research: UK CEO John Rishton, for example, has said that Britain needs to celebrate its engineering ‘heroes’. Why? What leadership role was he fulfilling by making that statement?
  3. Think about the basics of the role you took:
  • What the role involved – were you overseeing a team of ten people? Did you take charge of a large sum of money?
  • What approach did you take – did you delegate tasks or get stuck in yourself? How does this relate to what you would be doing at Rolls-Royce?
  • How you feel this has benefited you – what have you learned from the experience? How have/will you use this in your working life?

And then, before writing your answer, think about some of the ‘higher-order’ functions of the leadership role you’ve taken:

  • strategy
  • style
  • opportunities identified
  • hurdles
  • outcomes
  • ensuring the same (good) outcome might occur in future (if applicable)
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