Tackling ‘the reason you applied’ section of the graduate RBS application form

It’s not enough to just state that the programme is right for you; you have to prove that it is.

Unlike some other banks’ application forms, which contain multiple motivational and competency questions, RBS keeps things simple. It asks only one question, so it’s important to get it right.

‘We would like to know why you think this programme is the right programme for you. Please tell us what excites you about the programme and why you think that it is a good fit with your future aspirations.’

The 250 word limit makes this 'why are you applying?' question a bit more challenging than usual.

To answer this question impactfully, you will need to:

  1. Research the bank, the programme, the role and, to a lesser extent, the financial industry.
  2. Use your research – and examples from your life to date – to explain why you are excited about the programme, why you would be well suited to it and how working at the Royal Bank of Scotland in this programme will help you achieve your career ambitions.

Your Royal Bank of Scotland application: a research checklist

Start by researching the:


There is an overview of each banking division and the roles within the RBS careers website. The ‘inside RBS’ page includes information about the strategy and ambition of the bank and networks you could get involved with. There is also a blog page where you can hear from current graduates and interns, and there are a range of videos that explain more about each programme.


The ‘graduate or internship’ pages also offer an explanation as to what the individual job entails. Reading the graduate profiles on the RBS website and the bank’s TARGETjobs employer hub, will deepen your knowledge of particular roles. It is also worth checking the ‘areas of work’ sections of TARGETjobs Investment banking and investment, TARGETjobs Financial services and insurance and TARGETjobs IT and technology to gain a broader understanding and to ensure that your future aspirations are realistic.


The ‘organisation profile’ on this employer hub and the ‘about us’ section of the RBS website are good places to start to find out more about the bank’s culture and values– bear them in mind when trying to articulate your preference for the programme being offered by RBS.


You don’t have to go in heavy on the industry research, as your answer will primarily be about the programme. However, it’s worth having a couple of points up your sleeve, to help you understand how the role and the business division in which you’d work fit into the bank’s moves in the market. RBS recruits from any degree discipline so don’t worry if you’re not studying a finance or business-related degree. Show curiosity about the industry; reading the latest market news will help. The business sections of broadsheets, the Financial Times and The Economist are obvious places to start familiarising yourself with the industry.

Putting yourself in your RBS application

It’s not enough to just state that the programme is right for you; you have to prove that it is. Select specific details from your research and write how they make you certain that the programme chimes with your personality, your core values, your career aspirations and so on. Think about your interests, what you’re passionate about and any skills or experience that are relevant to the programme, type of person they’re looking for and/or what the bank is trying to achieve. Then, where possible, include examples of when you have demonstrated them.

You could start by thinking about your:

Choice of degree

Perhaps you studied psychology because you’re curious about how people develop and are affected by situations – this could link to programmes such as human resources, marketing or the bank’s commercial or private banking roles because relationship skills are key. Understanding what your course offers, the skills or insight you have developed or the motivation behind your university choice could help explain why you are interested in a particular programme.

Work experience

Consider using the skills and experiences that you have gained and developed through work, paid or otherwise, to support the reasons that you give for why you’re applying for the particular graduate programme.

RBS seeks students and graduates who are passionate about people, good listeners and excellent communicators. You may have developed these qualities while working in a store, for example, and decided that you want a position where delivering outstanding service is a top priority.

Extracurricular activities

Your achievements and experiences outside work and education are worth mentioning, but only if they relate to the role. Go over your research and make a note of the key points about the programme and division. Think about the skill requirements, the culture and whether there’s an emphasis on teamwork, quantitative projects or client liaison.

Then link your findings to the extracurricular projects or activities that you have been involved in. Perhaps you’re a computing graduate who volunteered at a computer club for senior citizens – and among the things that excite you about the technology programme is the opportunity you’ll have to contribute to local communities through volunteering and fundraising?

Sticking to the word count

With a limit of 250 words, resist the urge to give lots of reasons for finding the programme exciting and why it’d be a good fit. Instead choose two or three substantial reasons; this will give you the space to ‘drop in’ your research and your personal history.

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