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How to demonstrate the core competencies UBS looks for in graduates

From application form stage through to the assessment centre, recruiters, interviewers and assessors will scrutinise your communication skills.

Throughout its recruitment process, UBS measures candidates against seven core competencies to establish whether they’re suitable for the job. A brief explanation of these competencies can be found in the 'how we assess you' section on its website (it can be tricky to navigate the website so try putting 'UBS seven core competencies' into Google). Here you can find out how to demonstrate these competencies in your application form, at interview and at the assessment centre.

UBS core competency 1: problem analysis

Whether you’re working in UBS' investment banking, wealth management or asset management division, chances are you will run into obstacles that you’ll be expected to overcome. Analysis is a major part of problem solving because you will have to weigh up and scrutinise information to come up with a solution. Find out more about problem solving.

Make sure you have prepared an example from university, work or your extracurricular activities where you faced and overcame a problem. You could be asked specifically about this at interview or you might want to include it in your application form when asked: ‘Describe the achievement of which you are most proud’.

Remember to think about and include the analytical part of the process. For example, perhaps you organised a charity auction and realised before the event that you didn’t have enough lots. If you then assessed the likely outcome of selling fewer items on the day and thought about how you could get hold of more stuff to sell at short notice, you’ll have demonstrated problem analysis.

UBS core competency 2: judgement and decision making

The ability and confidence to use your own judgement and make decisions will be just as important in your first year at UBS as they will be in your tenth. For instance, as a wealth management analyst you will be expected to co-produce financial plans/reports for different clients. This will involve making judgements and decisions on what information to include.

If you had a taste of this type of responsibility during an internship, mention it in interview. However, you’ll probably be tested for this aptitude during both the presentation and group discussion on the assessment day. In both exercises you’ll be presented with lots of information from which you have to draw a conclusion. Read our tips on assessment centres and group tasks to prepare for this.

UBS core competency 3: innovation

In the financial services market, banks compete by being innovative. New ideas, having the courage to go against the grain and trying things out are essential to help the bank not only move with the times but get ahead of them.

If you’ve done anything innovative – such as setting up a finance society while at university – your application form is a great place to discuss it. You could include it in the extracurricular section. Or mention such accomplishments at interview, when asked a question along the lines of ‘What makes you stand out from other applicants?’ or ‘Why do you think you will fit in at this bank?’.

Alternatively, use your experiences to explain why you chose UBS as an employer. UBS’ response to China’s economic growth and the subsequent business opportunity was to launch a wholly-owned subsidiary incorporated in the country. Perhaps this innovative way of thinking appeals to you.

UBS core competency 4: communication and impact

UBS seeks graduates who are effective communicators. This requirement exceeds being able to convey information clearly and succinctly; it is also about being persuasive, influential, tactful and engaging.

From application form stage through to the assessment centre, recruiters, interviewers and assessors will scrutinise your communication skills. Read our guidance on effective communication to avoid falling short in this area.

UBS core competency 5: drive and commitment

Your university degree and any additional activities you were involved in during your course, such as extracurricular interests or societies, will be good examples to draw on in your application and at interview to prove that you have the drive and commitment that UBS is looking for.

Perhaps you took a part-time language course while completing your degree; this will prove that you’re motivated – and UBS also seeks strong language skills. Or maybe you’re a long-serving volunteer at a charity; again, this will show your commitment.

UBS core competency 6: teamwork and collaboration

UBS interviewers are known to ask competency-based questions to find out if you have developed a required skill through hands-on experience. To find out how well you work with others, interviewers might ask something along the lines of: ‘Tell me about a team project that you worked on’. Prepare examples so you can answer any teamwork questions without hesitation. Have you worked on a student newspaper? Did you go on a group field research trip as part of your degree course? Think about your contribution to the team’s success.

But the group exercise at the assessment centre will be where your ability to work in a team is truly tested. Read our advice on how to approach group exercises to make sure you strike a balance between exhibiting your strengths and motivating others. UBS asks on its website: ‘Can you encourage others to participate, listen to different viewpoints and work towards a consensus?’

UBS core competency 7: planning and organising

A graduate programme at UBS will comprise a blend of intensive training and work – UBS wants you to be able to make a contribution to the team as soon as possible. It won't go unnoticed to prove that you can organise and plan your workload during the recruitment process.

It’s worth attending any interviews with project management examples in mind. But the case study, presentation and team discussion (there’s no guarantee that you’ll have all three) will be your best opportunities to display this aptitude.

There’s little you can do to prepare for these assessment centre exercises – recruiters will not typically divulge the nature of the tasks pre-assessment. But keep in mind the following and you should do just fine:

  • You’ll be given deadlines to work to, so keep an eye on time.
  • Plan and delegate responsibility at the beginning of the group task.
  • Remain calm and don’t panic; a clear mind will help you to organise your workload.
  • Be prepared for a twist. Investment banking assessors are known to introduce unexpected information to see how well you work under pressure.
Our 'How to get hired' articles are written by TARGETjobs editors and writers with job candidates in mind, helping you research and understand employers. Copyright of all material written by TARGETjobs lies solely with GTI Media.
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