What to expect from BP's interviews and assessment centre
Candidates at BP typically have two interviews. The first tends to be competency-based and is conducted by phone. This is normally followed by a face-to-face second-round interview; it is referred to as a technical interview but generally includes some broader questions as well. You’ll then be invited to the final stage – an assessment centre.
Competency (personal) interviews at BP
The phone-based competency interview is generally carried out by a member of the HR team. It features competency questions, which require you to draw on past experiences and show how you align with BP's values: safety, respect, excellence, courage and one team.
Past candidates advise that BP's competency questions can be more challenging that the typical examples you may have come across elsewhere. For example, instead of a simple 'Tell me about a time when you worked as part of a team', you could be asked about a time when you experienced conflict within in team, then probed by your interviewer about what action you took to resolve it.
How to prepare for BP’s competency interview
To prepare for BP’s competency questions:
- Remind yourself of the competencies listed on the job description.
- Remind yourself of BP’s core values and our advice on showing you share them.
- Draw up a list of past experiences that you could discuss in answer to competency questions – eg situations, challenges or projects you’ve encountered in your work experience or extracurricular activities. These don't have to relate to your chosen job function or to the oil and gas industry.
- For each experience, BP recommends that you consider in advance what the challenges were, how you addressed them, what the results of your actions/decisions were, and what you would do differently if faced with the same challenge. A 'challenge' could be an unexpected problem, an issue you were aware of from the outset or even a tough goal you had set yourself for a project.
You can also take a look at our advice on how to handle a phone interview.
Technical interviews at BP
The interview is likely to start with non-technical questions about you, for example relating to competencies, your interest in joining BP or what you liked/disliked about your degree.
Previous questions have included:
- Why do you want to work for BP?
- Which other companies have you applied to?
- What goals have you set for yourself and achieved?
It then typically moves on to technical matters, and is designed to reflect the type of work you can expect in your chosen discipline. BP's website tells you to expect to talk through your CV before moving on to a scenario-based question to challenge some of your knowledge.
Past scenarios have included:
- a possible expansion into a new drilling location
- the proposed outsourcing of finance functions
- design considerations for a new subsea system
How to prepare for BP's technical interview
- Learn or revise the fundamentals of the area you're applying to, whether it's pipelines engineering, finance or HR. Think about this area in the context of the oil and gas industry particularly.
- If you're applying for an engineering scheme, brush up on basic engineering principals – one past candidate recommends fluids, mechanics and materials in particular.
- Read up on current trends and developments in the field you're applying to – even though this is a technical interview, you need to show you can consider other factors such as cost implications, environmental issues and the need to comply with legisation.
How to prepare for BP's broader interview questions
- Ensure you understand the basics of what BP does and what its competitors do. (Hint: research 'supermajors' such as Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil.)
- Read up on BP's main business units and what they do (upstream, downstream, supply and trading and corporate and functions) and its business model
- Be aware of the company's brands in addition to 'BP' (eg Castrol, Wild Bean Café and Aral).
- Read our overview of the oil and gas industry. This will help you sound informed about the industry.
- Ensure you understand the job role you are applying for – rereading the job description is a good start. This will help you explain why it interests you and how you feel it contributes to the business.
- Think of ways to show links between your experiences, interests, values or favourite modules and the job in question or BP more generally.
If you wish to go a step further in your prep, consider why the requested competencies and company core values are as they are. For example, much of BP’s strategy was driven by the explosion at its Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010; this incident, and the oil spill that followed, led the company to increase its focus on safety and environmental responsibility.
On the day
BP specifically encourages candidates to relax, not rush their answers and feel free to ask for questions to be repeated if they don't understand them first time round. It also stresses that it likes candidates to have questions for their interviewers, to help them decide whether BP is right for them. This is another opportunity to show you are keen and have prepared in advance. It will also reassure BP recruiters that you are thinking carefully about what would suit you and won't quit after a few months if you're offered a job.
BP’s assessment centre
BP runs assessment centres for all of its schemes. While the company makes no reference to this on its graduate website, prior attendees say they were invited to attend a dinner and presentation the night before the assessment centre, giving them the opportunity to meet other candidates and company representatives.
As for the actual assessment centre, you won’t face any interviews. Activities reportedly include:
- group discussions – according to previous attendees, most of the day will be group discussions centred on a business case. The groups are fairly small, with around four people in each, but the usual rules about making sure to contribute without being overly aggressive still apply. Subjects have reportedly included: choosing the most appropriate exploration site from a number of options, selecting the most suitable technology for oil extraction and exploring product marketing options.
- a presentation – candidates will each be given a brief relating to their chosen area of business and will be asked to prepare a 10-15-minute presentation based on the information. Usually this will involve making a decision between several options, explaining their reasoning and answering any questions.
- a reflective review – usually the final task of the day, the review takes the form of an informal chat with an assessor about how the candidate felt about their performance during the day.