Good answers to CGI's graduate scheme online application questions
The recruitment process at CGI is the same for both placement years and graduate jobs. It involves:
- completing an online application form
- a short phone interview
- an assessment centre
- a final interview (which is typically a part of the assessment centre)
Maria Whittingham, student recruitment officer at CGI, told us, ‘we like to keep the application process short and simple, and focused on the student themselves.’
Before you apply for an individual role or scheme, you’ll be invited to complete a profile on CGI’s application system – this is where you provide information such as your contact details, previous qualifications, location preferences and, optionally, equal opportunities monitoring data. You are also given the opportunity to upload supporting documents (such as CVs, covering letters and certifications), but these may not be considered for all roles.
When you choose a specific graduate scheme to apply for, you’ll be taken to an online application form. This page will ask for information such as details of your right to work in the UK, further information on qualifications, your location preferences, and your preference of roles and industries within CGI.
However, there are some questions that require longer, more though-out answers. These include:
- Please tell us why you would like to join CGI
- Please tell us why would like to do this particular role at CGI
- Please provide a list of your key technical and business skills and explain where you have gained these skills/how they have been used
- Please use this section to detail all personal interests, achievements and hobbies that you may have that could be relevant to this role.
How to answer: ‘Why do you want to work for CGI?’ and ‘Why would you like to do this particular role at CGI?’
This question is one of the most important on the CGI application form. Maria explains that recruiters are looking to see that applicants have ‘done some research into CGI, so they know what the company does, and that they have a passion for our work.’ You need to show that you have genuine reasons for wanting to work for CGI.
Suggestions of good things to write about include:
- Particular projects that CGI is involved in that interest you
- An aspect of CGI’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) work
- CGI’s company values
- A technology that you would use in the job you are applying for that interests you
- An industry that you are particularly interested in working in (eg aerospace or cyber security)
Whatever you choose, give some detail to show that you are ‘not just saying it’. For example, if you mention CGI’s CSR work, it would be good to give details of voluntary or fundraising work you have been involved with, to show that this is something you really do care about.
A strong answer should offer specific details and align with the preference of industry and/or role that you expressed earlier in the application form. For example, if you selected that you would be particularly interested in software engineering roles in CGI’s central government function, highlight specific reasons why this role and this industry is of interest to you. Pick out examples of projects that CGI has been involved in (for example, you could mention CGI’s involvement in new technology to streamline the process of summoning people for jury service) and explain how they have inspired you (perhaps in your own projects or degree) and how they have shaped your own ambitions for a career at CGI (do you want to be involved in similar projects?).
Show you share CGI's values
‘It would be good if candidates looked into CGI’s values and checked how they align with their own values,’ says Maria. She adds: ‘candidates can impress further by relating their own values with the type of environment they want to work in and they type of work they might be doing.’
It’s useful to know CGI’s values before you start. They are as follows. More detail on what each means can be found on the CGI corporate website as part of ‘the CGI constitution’.
- Partnership and quality (building strong, long-term relationships with clients)
- Objectivity and integrity (for example acting ethically and not accepting remuneration from suppliers)
- Intrapreneurship and sharing (including innovation, initiative and collaborative working)
- Respect (for colleagues, clients, partners and competitors)
- Financial strength (focusing on long-term growth and investment in the business)
- Corporate social responsibility (contributing to communities)
Make sure that whatever you write you are prepared to talk about in more detail at later stages in the application process. You answers in the application form might be the basis of future interview questions.
Maria advises: ‘there are a lot of case studies of our graduates and placement year students which students can read in order to get a better idea of what different roles involve.’ Take a read of the UK 300 2018/19's profile of a graduate at CGI and of a cyber security director to find out more about the structure of CGI's graduate schemes and potential progression routes.
The initial application form for CGI is generic, in that you can only choose whether you want to apply for a ‘business’ or ‘technology’ programme – you will be placed in a particular stream and location after the telephone interview. However, Maria is keen to remind candidates, ‘make sure to mention if there’s a specific industry that you are particularly excited about (such as space or cybersecurity). This helps us to build up a picture of you and helps us to see where you could fit within the business.’
How to answer: 'provide a list of your key technical and business skills and explain where you have gained these skills/how they have been used’
CGI offer a technical graduate programme and a business graduate programme, and the skills that you’ll talk about in this section will depend on the programme you are applying for. As the application form or online profile do not require you to list previous work experiences, this question is also your opportunity to detail any prior exposure to the industry or role you are applying for.
For the technology programme, recruiters are keen to see any and all evidence on your technical knowledge. This is especially important if you have not studied a computing-related degree, as recruiters will be looking to see that you have a provable interest in the industry. Maria says: ‘Quite often we have students with, for example, a Physics background who only know MATLAB or a little bit of Python, and so might miss these off their application. However, CGI are interested in seeing any technical skills that might be relevant, as well as how they were learned. Even if you’ve only taught yourselves Python, include it in your application as it’ll show us that you’ve got the drive and passion to develop your coding and IT skills.’
Specific technological knowledge and coding skills aren’t a requirement for CGI’s business programmes, but it’s advisable to list them if you’ve got them. Even in a business role, you’ll still be working on and with technology projects, so showing you have an understanding and an awareness of technology is going to be impressive.
Beyond any specific technical knowledge, it’s important not to underestimate the value of soft skills. Look out for the key competencies that are asked for in each role and make sure that you are including an example of times when you demonstrated these in your answer. For example, the job listing for the 2020 Technical Graduate programme specifically highlights communication skills (both oral and written) as being particularly important, and so you should ensure to demonstrate that you possess this skill, both in this answer and through phone and face-to-face interviews.
Don’t forget that you may be asked to expand on your answers in an interview or at the assessment centre, so be prepared to go into more detail if necessary.
How to answer: 'Please use this section to detail all personal interests, achievements and hobbies that you have that could be relevant to this role.'
This question may appear to be optional, but it’s an opportunity to further highlight your soft skills that shouldn’t be neglected.
CGI’s recruiters have previously told us that they are particularly interested in seeing examples of times when you have used your initiative to do something worthwhile in your own time.
Your interests or achievements don’t have to relate to technology or to the job you are applying for. Sporting or cultural achievements, for example, are worth mentioning, as are volunteering activities.
Maria advises, ‘the key to this question is thinking about the value of your activities. So instead of saying “I played for a sports team, which gave me teamwork skills”, expand on your role in the team and how you overcame problems as a team. For example, “I was the captain of the team for three years and had to negotiate with difficult people, which taught me about negotiation and effective communication skills.”’
When should I apply?
CGI’s graduate schemes do not have strict deadlines, instead they are advertised as being ‘ongoing’. However, this doesn’t mean you can apply at any time. ‘We follow the academic year, so our opportunities open in September,’ says Maria. She adds, ‘even though we recruit on an ongoing basis we still do have a limited number or roles. I still recommend applying as early as possible. It also shows pro-activeness as well, that you’re seriously considering your future while at university.’