You’ve cleared the online application hurdle and now you’re through to the ‘performance-based’ part of the recruitment process – doing tests, interviews and group exercises. This can be tough and somewhat daunting, but like anything in life the right practice and preparation can put you in a good position for success.
Ready? Let’s do it!
Most (if not all) commercial banks will provide you with an online test either automatically after you submit your application or once you’ve passed the initial application screening. These tests can vary but a vast majority of them are often provided by an organisation called SHL. You can take their practice tests here.
Online tests are usually divided into a few sections, including a verbal reasoning test, numerical reasoning test and some form of logic test (such as recognising the next step in a pattern). Sometimes banks will also include a personality or psychommetric test which can help determine how well you might fit into the bank’s culture and work with your team.
The key to these tests really is just practice and experience. Some might find these tests easier than others, however with enough practice you’ll be smashing through these in no time. As a result, the best way to get better is just by ‘doing’. We strongly recommend you do as many of these practice tests (in the link above and with a broader Google search) until you feel comfortable. This will help you stay in control of your nerves and time management when doing the real thing.
That being said, there are a few tips on each of the tests to keep in mind:
Don’t forget that you’re not expected to get every single answer right in this process. So don’t stress – you can afford some lost marks and still get through the assessment. Stay cool, manage your time well and practice up!
So there you have it, that’s the online test in a nutshell. If you really get stuck on these try getting help from some friends as you practice – after all, you are great at collaborating right? With that being said, make sure you do the real test yourself and don’t try and get around the system by getting your gun friend to do it! A lot of recruitment processes include a second online test at the the assessment centre (where you can’t bring your mate along). This is to make sure that you’re the person that actually did the original online test – so you’ve been warned!
You’re now up to the midpoint of the process, a half-step between the online application and the big assessment centre! The phone or video interview is usually reviewed by HR and the grad recruitment team. Usually what they’re testing for is how well you understand the bank and division you’re applying for, whether your experience aligns to what’s expected of the program and if you have the right attitude and ‘cultural fit’ for the organisation.
Most commercial banks now conduct this interview through an automated video process – called a ‘digital interview’. This involves a number of pre-recorded questions which you respond to in a frontward facing camera either on your computer or mobile. It’s just like a video call (think Facetime or Skype) except instead of your friend or relative on the other end, it’s a robot with specific questions. Here are must-read tips on how to nail your video interview.
So, what sort of questions can you expect in the digital or phone interview? As mentioned, the key thing banks are testing for are experience and cultural fit. Consider this the same as a normal behavioural interview.
Before we get into the classic ‘tell me about a time you’ questions, there are a few general areas that you should be prepared for:
For your weaknesses, you obviously don’t want to highlight some glaring weakness that has no path to resolving it. You want to strike a balance between showing that you’re self-aware enough to understand your shortcomings while not painting any of these as recruitment deal-breakers. You also don’t want to transparently turn a ‘weakness’ into a strength with something like ‘I am too successful.’ It’s valuable to also show what lessons you recognise from this weakness and how to manage it to perform at your best. An example of this may be recognising that your high-level of enthusiasm means you can sometimes jump too quickly into a task without taking the time to properly structure and plan it. While you may get the job done just as well, it’s important to take steps before beginning a new task to ensure you have a structured approach to it.
Now that you’ve got those introductory questions nailed, let’s move onto the typical behavioural examples you should prepare for. When you prepare your answers for these, it’s useful to consider the ‘STAR’ method of response. This is an acronym for four key steps to structure your response. It stands for:
Using this method is a good way to structure your answers but try to also keep this as concise as possible. Rambling does not help you get a clear message and impact across!
So, now that you’re armed with your trusty STAR method, you can expect some common areas for ‘tell me about time you...’. We’ve listed the main ones below:
If you come up with a bunch of answers to a spread of these categories you should be in a good position. What’s even better, is this preparation can be used in your assessment centre in your behavioural interview there! So while you may think you’re over prepared for a digital interview with all this content, you’ll be thanking yourself when it comes to the final stage.
Speaking of which…
You’ve made it through the digital interview and have now been called in for a half-day bonanza called an assessment centre. While some may think of this as a pretty gruelling and stressful day, it’s important to keep perspective and try and have a bit of fun with it. The interviewers and assessors will know you’re nervous (they’re used to it!) so don’t think that you have to be perfect. What’s more important, is you’re now at the final stage, and what happens next is all within your control. All you have to do is be prepared, relaxed and perform on the day.
So, what can you expect in these assessment centres. They’re usually comprised of three key components on the day:
While these are generally what’s included, make sure to ask the graduate recruiter what you should expect in the assessment centre prior to attending. This will make sure you have a clear idea of what to prepare for.
We’ve already covered the behavioural interview in the digital interview section (above). If you’ve already completed all this preparation then you just need a refresher for the assessment centre. All the same principles and content applies. This time you’re just face-to-face and may have more than one person chatting to you.
So, let’s move on to the group exercise. How do these work? Usually you’ll be put into a group of four to eight other candidates. This will be in a room with a number of assessors watching. This can be a bit off putting and weird, as there will just be a bunch of people sitting around silently watching you work with your group. However, the sooner you can get comfortable with that the better! Put those people out of your mind and focus on the task at hand.
Normally at the start of these group activities, you’ll be given some information that everyone gets some time to read. This will typically take the form of a business problem that the bank is facing. Maybe it’s a question around how to increase their customer satisfaction, respond to new technology or whether they should compete in a certain market. Whatever the question may be, there are usually a number of options that the exercise provides to you and your group – each with its pros and cons. The challenge now is for you and your group to decide which option or options are the best way to go forward.
Sounds simple enough right? The tricky part in these group exercises is knowing when to talk and when to listen. You obviously don’t want to dominate the discussion and talk over everyone else but equally you need to make sure you get your input and not be the silent person in the corner. What you’re trying to balance is how to present yourself as an assertive, logical and confident graduate while also being able to listen to others, take on feedback and guide the group to the most logical and rational outcome.
For this there are a few key do’s and don’ts to keep in mind.
This will usually either be another online test to verify that you were you when you did the original test, or an exercise similar to the group activity (but just for yourself to complete). If it’s the online test – cool beans. You’ve done this before and should breeze through this no problems. Do some practice tests before the assessment centre if this is the case.
If it’s an individual activity, then you can usually expect another problem like the group exercise. You’ll be given a bunch of information to read through. This usually frames a question or problem to solve. In the time given to you, you’ll need to read through this information and prepare a response or presentation for your recommendations.
Once again, we have some do’s and don’ts to help guide this process.
So that’s commercial banking in a nutshell!
Hopefully this eleven part series has helped clear-up what a career path in banking could look like, whether this is right for you and how to get into it. If you’ve decided this is for you, then full steam ahead!
Most commercial banks open for graduate recruitment in February (closing towards the end of March) with careers fairs beginning in early March. For the banks, there isn’t necessarily any major advantage in applying early. However, they do review these applications as they come in, so the earlier you can get in the better!