BNP Paribas Real Estate holds the assessment centre for its graduate programme in January. Previously about 35 candidates have gotten through to the assessment day, which has previously comprised of:
- a group exercise
- an interview with a partner
- an individual analysis (case study) exercise
- a presentation
- a written exercise
Kim Brumley, director at BNP Paribas Real Estate, says: ‘Our assessment centres start off with a group exercise, which is a bit of fun, helps to break the ice and makes the graduates feel at ease. Then some graduates will have a competency-based interview first while others start preparing for their individual analysis exercise. The analysis exercise involves working through a case study of a company looking to relocate their business; the graduates have to review the data of two different sites and give advice on which location out of the two they would recommend and why. They then have to deliver their findings via a one-to-one presentation to an assessor. All graduates at the assessment centre complete all of the exercises and finish off by writing a business report of their recommendations from the earlier case study.’
How are candidates assessed?
In 2019, BNP Paribas Real Estate has altered the focus of their assessment centre. Harriet Dale, graduate recruitment officer at BNP Paribas Real Estate, explains, ‘We’ve removed the technical side of the assessment and focused more on finding out about who candidates are as people.’ Harriet adds that, ‘Whilst there will always be a property element, we are also looking more at what candidates are outside of property, and what they can bring to the table that’s different from the candidate sitting next to them.’
The stages of the assessment centre have not changed, however. Harriet reassures, ‘There’s no additional or removal of the different ways of testing – it’s just what we’re looking for that has changed because the baseline skills have already been assessed during initial stages of the recruitment process.’ So you’ll still go through a group exercise, written exercises, a presentation and interviews, and you should still expect to be asked questions such as ‘Why property?’ and ‘Why BNP Paribas Real Estate?’.
The key to succeeding at BNP PRE’s assessment centre: be yourself
So, how can you prepare for BNP Paribas Real Estate’s new assessment centre? Harriet’s advice is: ’Just be yourself – there’s no point pretending to be someone that you’re not, because you’ll end up in a role that isn’t suitable.'
It’s clear that BNP PRE want to get to know you as a person, so try not to overthink your approach to tasks and exercises. Trying too hard to be the ‘perfect’ candidate might backfire as it can come across as false. Previously, BNP Paribas Real Estate scored candidates from one to four on each exercise and takes into account the performance at interview. Kim previously told us, ‘We don’t expect you to be strong on all of the exercises, hence why we assess all competencies more than once.’ Don’t think too much about what the assessors are looking for – focus on doing your best. And remember that you are being assessed on your skills, not against other candidates.
What should graduates do in the group exercise?
‘The group exercise and presentation are useful to us because they give an insight into thought processes and analytical skills, as well as how they get on with different people,’ says Kim. Don’t get too hung up on getting the ‘correct’ answer. As Kim says, ‘Sometimes there isn’t a right answer and the assessors are looking more at how you think and work as part of a team.’
When tackling the group exercise, you can impress the assessors by:
- articulating your thoughts and making clear notes
- not shouting over other people to make yourself heard
- welcoming other people’s ideas – praising the good points and, if you disagree, saying so politely
- volunteering to be timekeeper or note taker
- making constructive suggestions on how to tackle the task – for example, to break into sub-groups to look at different pieces of data
How can candidates impress during the interview?
The BNP Paribas Real Estate interview is competence-based and you can read tips on how to approach this type of interview here. Refer to the job description on the firm’s employer hub to remind yourself what BNP Paribas Real Estate is looking for in its graduates and think of examples of how you have demonstrated these skills. How would you answer ‘give us an example of a time when you’ve demonstrated…’ for the following qualities:
- confident communication skills and the ability to express yourself clearly
- a track record of academic and personal achievement
- the desire and commitment to become a succesful surveyor
- good problem-solving skills and a logical approach
The above skills are taken from the BNP Paribas Real Estate advert in TARGETjobs Property 2019; however, you might also be asked about other relevant skills, such as leadership and teamwork.
As the assessment centre this year is focused on getting to know you as a person, we’d advise that you don’t neglect your extracurricular activities and non-property related work experience. Handily they are also excellent sources for evidence of the skills that BNP PRE is looking for. For example, ‘analytical capability – good problem-solving skills and a logical approach’ is listed as a key skill for BNP PRE’s commercial graduate scheme. You could pick out a time when you overcame a problem as part of a university society committee, for example, and explain how you approached the problem. It may be a bit of a cliché, but you really want to show that you are a ‘well-rounded candidate’ with interests outside of the property industry.
How to answer motivation questions
You are also likely to be questioned on your reasons for applying to BNP Paribas Real Estate and that particular role, even if you were asked similar questions in your first interview. After all, Kim told TARGETjobs that her favourite question to ask candidates is ‘Why us as a company?’
Don’t be surprised if you are also asked about your thoughts on recent developments in the industry and how economic and political factors can affect the firm, especially in terms of:
- the work the firm carries out for, and the advice it gives to, clients
- the firm’s bottom line
Prepare for this by finding out more about what BNP Paribas Real Estate does. Read documents and case studies on its website. For example, its Q3 2017 retail focus report discusses how the market for commercial office properties and for retail properties differs, saying: 'Commercial property investment witnessed a strong performance in Q3 2017, with just shy of £16bn invested - the highest quarterly volume since Q4 2015.' and 'Investors remain cautious over a sector [retail] which over recent months has continued to be plagued by uncertainty over both occupier intentions and macro-economic pressures.' You could read its most up-to-date retail reports, keeping track of what BNP Paribas Real Estate says about current consumer behaviour and levels of investment in the different retail subsectors (eg supermarkets, shopping centres, out-of-town). Consider how a decline in UK retail investment could affect this line of the firm’s business.
How can candidates make a good presentation to a BNP Paribas Real Estate assessor?
A good presentation has a good structure. You could do the following:
- Introduce yourself to the assessor and state what you will be covering (that you will present a certain recommendation). You should introduce the two properties at this point and state the order in which you will talk about them.
- If you have five minutes, your middle section should take up about three of them – enough time to make two or three points well.
- End with a summary of what you have covered. Invite questions from the assessor and thank them for their attention.
Why are candidates given a written exercise?
BNP Paribas Real Estate assessors are looking at your use of language: how do you tackle a professional piece of communication? Can you write in a formal tone, while ensuring that your recommendations are written unambiguously? Of course, you also need to avoid making spelling and grammatical errors.
And: relax, but not too much
There will be times when you interact with recruiters, and possibly some of the firm’s current trainees, in a more social setting. Here, the tip is to make small talk, obviously don’t say anything negative about the company, and to come prepared with questions about things you want to know about the employer. Harriet explains how you should make the most of this opportunity, ‘We wanted to keep the assessment centre relaxed, friendly and very approachable. You see the offices, you meet a lot of people from across the business – it’s a real chance to see whether it’s an environment that you want to work in.’