RBS assessment centre: how graduates and interns can impress recruiters

Ahead of the assessment centre, consider who will be your audience at the different stages. Put yourself in their shoes.

Graduates and interns who reach the assessment centre for RBS will complete several exercises to enable recruiters to find out if they’re suitable for the role and whether the bank is a suitable working environment for them.

RBS assessment centre: the exercises

The assessment centre will vary slightly depending on whether you’re an intern or graduate, and the programme you’ve applied for. But they tend to involve the following activities:

  • A face-to-face interview, which aims to draw out your motivations, strengths and relevant experience and to see how you’d apply yourself in situations that may arise on the job. With this in mind, it’d be wise to prepare for:
    • competency questions based around the attributes sought for that scheme – for example, resilience for the business technology programme, or inspiring and motivating teams for the communications and marketing programme
    • hypothetical ‘What would you do if…?’ questions: here start by devising possible hypothetical on-the-job situations you could be faced with and think about answers for them: for example, if you were a relationship manager in corporate and commercial coverage what would you do if a client told you that they were unhappy with the range of products they'd been offered?
    • strength-based questions, which focus on identifying what you are particularly good at and what you enjoy.
  • A group project/discussion, which is explicitly designed to gauge how well you build relationships with colleagues and work in a team. Take a look at our article ‘Group exercises at investment banking assessment centres’.
  • Individual tasks, for which information is provided on the day. Candidates can expect to prepare and deliver a presentation based on a business-related case study.

The RBS graduate careers website has more information about the exercises included in its assessment centre.

You will be assessed against RBS’ requirements

Each element of the assessment centre will examine your skills, experience, qualifications and knowledge. To help you prepare, we’ve highlighted the types of skills RBS is looking for in a graduate and intern, and how to demonstrate that you have them. Not all of the skills included here will apply to the specific position you’ve applied for, so focus on the ones that do.

RBS requirement: communication skills

First-rate communication skills are required for all roles at RBS. And RBS will use your interview and group and individual tasks to test your ability level in this area.

Communication skills are more than being a good listener, expressing yourself concisely and asking relevant questions effectively. At this stage, RBS also wants to see that you’re able to understand and engage with your audience when on the job, or have the potential to do so.

Ahead of the assessment centre, consider who your audience will be at the different stages. Put yourself in their shoes, and think about what their expectations, requirements and level of expertise might be. For instance, you’ll be presenting your individual task to other candidates whose knowledge of the business and industry wouldn’t be as great as a senior executive, so ensure you speak in a language they’ll understand.

RBS requirement: teamwork

RBS says new employees will be required to attend meetings regularly and work as a team to achieve results. Afterall, ‘working collaboratively’ is one of their four values. The bank will examine your ability to successfully work with others during the group exercise. To succeed, you’ve got to be self-confident, but not cocky; a good listener and observer, but also an active participant; and encouraging of others.

It’s useful to think about group tasks you’ve been involved in previously and what you could have done to achieve a better result. Were you too pushy or too complacent, or did you get the balance right? How could the group have worked together better? Use your past experiences to help you define the dos and don’ts for effective teamwork.

RBS requirement: problem solving

No job is plain sailing, particularly entry-level roles where the employee is learning the ropes. RBS uses the individual task (eg a presentation) to see how well you deal with and overcome challenges. You’ll probably have to tackle a set of issues relating to a particular business scenario.

You may be able to guess at the type of scenario you could be presented with by thinking about the nature of the job. However, you won’t know the details until you’re at the assessment centre. So, to brush up on your problem solving skills, familiarise yourself with the IDEAL model (explained here), which breaks down into stages what you need to do to solve a problem.

RBS requirement: time management

The presentation will also test your ability to prioritise your workload and manage your time. You’ll be required to read the information thoroughly, devise a presentation, highlight key points and think of questions your audience might ask within the allocated time.

Sticking with the IDEAL model mentioned above, use the five stages – identify the issue, define the obstacles, examine your options, act by tackling the task, look at the outcome – to divide the time you have been given. Allocate time for each stage to help you prepare effectively and meet the deadline.

RBS requirement: practical experience

RBS has specified the attributes graduates and interns applying for positions at the bank should have. Your performance in the group and individual task exercises will reflect your skills and give the recruiters an indication of how much you've gained from your previous practical experience. Your practical experience will also be assessed through a strength-based interview questions.

If asked for examples, pick out those that allow you to highlight your contribution to a situation. Did you resolve a problem? Was your idea chosen? Did you lead the group? Keep your examples relevant to the role you’re applying for. If you’re applying for RBS’s risk programme, for instance, you might want to mention how you formed effective relationships with your colleagues.

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