Shell graduate interviews: show you meet the company's criteria

Candidates applying for a graduate scheme with Shell will have a first interview either by phone or face-to-face, and a second interview as part of a recruitment day (Shell's name for its assessment centre).

Shell's first interview

Shell states that the first interview (phone or face-to-face) will focus on your motivations for applying, your achievements, the challenges you've faced and how you've demonstrated the qualities Shell is looking for.

Reading between the lines, you can expect questions along the lines of 'why Shell?' and 'why this role?' as well as competency questions. You will be assessed against Shell's 'C.A.R.' criteria, which stands for:

  • capacity: the ability to absorb information, analyse problems, make fact-based decisions and propose solutions
  • achievement: how well you get things done, for example your drive, resilience, self-confidence and organisational skills
  • relationship: being able to work well in teams, communicate and respect others, and build effective relationships

For more information about the 'C.A.R.' criteria, see Shell's own website.

Shell's second interview

Second interviews typically also involve a number of competency questions. Going on past candidates' experiences, you may also be asked technical questions (if relevant) and be interviewed about your responses to the case study exercises that form part of the recruitment day.

Below are two previous Shell interview questions, with tips on how to approach them. Remember though that there's no guarantee you will be asked these questions this year.

Past Shell interview question: Which role are you interested in and why?

There is a wide range of graduate jobs available at Shell, so be as specific as possible – make sure you’ve done your research and have a good understanding of what the role involves (both the positive and negative aspects) and what skills are needed. The degree matcher on Shell’s careers site is particularly useful for finding out about this. The company’s YouTube channel also has a lot of videos featuring current employees talking about their roles.

Try to bring in specific points about the business and explain how your skills and interests relate to it: for example, contracting and procurement requires strong persuasion skills, so you could talk about relevant extracurricular activities (eg involvement in a debating society) and describe how your enjoyment of ‘selling’ ideas has contributed to your interest in the post. You could also refer to the current or future projects within the business you’re applying to (such as the Shell Eastern Petrochemicals Complex in process engineering), or to Shell’s broader business strategy – there is a lot of information about this available on its website.

Past Shell interview question: Tell me about an achievement that you are proud of

‘Achievement’ is part of Shell’s CAR criteria for assessing candidates, so you need to be prepared to discuss your past achievements at every stage of the application process. Look closely at how Shell defines achievement on its website.

Try to pick something from outside your academic life – Shell specifically states that it wants to know about aspects of your life apart from your qualifications, and everyone who’s applying will have good grades, so they won’t set you apart. An achievement that involved working with others would be ideal, as Shell is interested in whether you can do so and in recruiting future leaders (though you don’t have to have been the one ‘in charge’). If the task involved something ‘new’ or ‘unfamiliar’, so much the better.

For example, you could talk about a time when you took on an important role, such as welfare rep at your student union, or a big project you were involved in, such as a charity fundraising event.

In your prep, think about how to explain the role or project succinctly so you have plenty of time to talk about what you achieved. The STAR approach will help.

Expect to be questioned further about your achievement, for example challenges you faced, whether you had to deal with any disagreement or conflict, how you went about learning about unfamiliar aspects of the task, whether you can quantify your success and why you are proud of the achievement.

Other past competency questions at Shell

Other competency questions that recent candidates have been asked include:

  • Give an example of a time when you looked to achieve excellence
  • Give an example of a time when you dealt with conflict
  • Give an example of a time when someone challenged your decision.

Business scenario interview

You may also be questioned about your case study analysis exercise that forms part of the recruitment day. Although the exact nature of the problem varies (often relating to a particular business area such as HR or IT), in the past the main focus of questioning has been on the candidate’s ability to analyse the issue and come up with ideas on how to manage it, rather than their knowledge of the business area. Take heed of Shell’s comment that in its business exercises, ‘We assess your capacity to analyse critical issues and identify the wider implications.’

To prepare, ensure you are aware of current business issues and strategies that are specific to Shell, as well as business issues that all companies face. For example, a quick google of ‘Shell business strategy’ will reveal issues such as management of supply chains, supporting local economies, increasing energy efficiency and reducing CO2 emissions. Take a look at Shell's three strategic themes: cash engines, growth priorities and future opportunties. And of course Shell faces issues shared with many other companies, such as maximising returns for shareholders, attracting new talent and competing for access to resources and markets.

The following articles will help you prepare:

Technical interview questions at Shell

Depending on the job role you’ve applied for, you may be asked about previous technical projects you have been involved in. Regardless of what the project involved, assessors are likely to apply the CAR criteria. You could be questioned about technical aspects of the project or asked more general questions about your project management work, such as:

  • whether any changes needed to be made to the project plan
  • any problems that arose
  • what changes might be made if the project were to be repeated.
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