How to get a graduate job at RBS


RBS is a bank with a history of looking ahead. Since it was established by royal charter in 1727 (yes, really!), it has granted the world’s first overdraft, launched the first mobile bank and developed the first fully functional smartphone banking app. Today, RBS is a global financial services organisation which operates in Europe, the Americas and Asia.

Their graduate programmes are now open – and no, RBS aren’t only interested in candidates with finance or business degrees. Plus, there’s more good news – they’ve recently streamlined their application system so that the initial form takes just one hour to complete.

So what does it take to get a graduate job at RBS? Graduate Fog spoke to Sara Reading, Head of Early Career Recruitment at RBS…

Graduate Fog: Why is RBS looking for great graduates?
Sara Reading, RBS: We see graduates as our talent pipeline. We know that while we’ve achieved some great things, we have much more to do. We’re on a journey to rebuild our reputation as a really good bank, and one of the key ways we can do that is by bringing in outstanding graduate talent not only to drive the bank forward but to bring a different approach from what we’ve had in the past.

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What sort of applicants are you most keen to hear from for graduate positions at RBS?
We look for diversity in our graduates. That applies not only to their backgrounds, gender and mobility but to their perspectives as well. So while we obviously recruit a lot of finance graduates and will continue to do that, we also want to hear from those who haven’t previously considered a career in banking or finance but who can demonstrate their interest in it.

RBS - The bank you build

What are the routes in for graduates wanting to work at RBS?
The main routes into RBS are the graduate programmes offered by our three business areas: Corporate & Institutional Banking, Commercial & Private Banking and Personal & Business Banking – and our Services and Functions business areas.

When and how should graduates apply?
Our advice is to apply as soon as possible! Our grad scheme opens in August and begins in September the following year. You can apply while you’re at university or once you’ve graduated. We fill the vast majority of our roles on a first come, first served basis, and we know that more and more students are applying earlier and earlier year on year. Graduates should apply through the RBS website.

“We’ve made our application process easier, quicker and more engaging”

– Sara Reading, RBS

What stages does the application process involve?
We’ve made our application process easier, quicker and more engaging – our application form should now take no longer than an hour to complete. It’s a four-stage process. As well as the application form, there are two reasoning tests, a telephone interview and then an assessment centre. We’re also very aware it’s a two-way process, and that it’s as important to convince candidates we’re right for them as it is for candidates to prove they’re right for us.

Do you respond to all applications, whether successful or unsuccessful?
We do and we respond within 48 hours. We also provide everyone with feedback.

Any tips for standing out at application stage?
Our application form asks graduates to describe what they’d do in a number of different scenarios. So the first thing is to be honest. If you answer in the way you think you should, rather than in a way that’s truthful, you might end up in a job you don’t particularly enjoy and that isn’t right for you. Our advice here is to do your homework. Try and find out as much as you can about the area you’re applying for. You’re committing to something for the next two years so you have to make sure it’s the type of work that really interests you. So read as much as you can online, go along to events on campus, or even call the recruitment team and ask to speak to a graduate who joined last year and talk to them about their job, and about what they do and don’t enjoy.

RBS - The difference you make

What makes a CV go into the Yes pile?
If someone can articulate why they want to work for RBS it really does help. There’s a huge difference between a graduate who thinks they might be quite interested but doesn’t really know much about us and one who says “I’ve read as much as I can and found out as much as I can and I’m really passionate about this specific role”. If your future career isn’t important to you then it’s unlikely to be important to us.

What wows you in a graduate interview?
There are lots of ways that candidates can prepare — using advice that’s online, from books and from their university careers service. But what really impresses us is someone who has gone further. For instance, if someone who’s applying for a role in HR can talk not only about the ins and outs of the job but also about what’s going on in the world of HR and how HR impacts business. Or if they’re interested in a role in risk, can they talk about who our competitors are or about the challenges of the industry? So it’s not just showing you appreciate the day-to-day work, it’s carrying out research that takes your understanding to the next level.

What’s more important — knowing the right answers or handling the questions well?
Definitely handling the questions well. Even if you know all the right answers in your interview, you won’t know all the answers in your job. So it’s absolutely fine to say you don’t know, or that you think it could be something but you’re not 100% sure. It’s important to be honest because, at the end of the interview, we want to feel we got to see the real person. And part of being real is not always knowing the answers.

RBS - The future you shape

What is a great question for graduates to ask at the end of their interview?
A question that makes us think — one we don’t necessarily know the answer to. We’re often asked what we think the future of the bank will be and about the challenges we’ll face. Questions like that are always good. Other great questions are those that probe why we do something or the detail around an initiative because they show a candidate is really interested in that area.

Any tips for impressing at assessment centres?
Be natural. Our assessment centre aims to give people a realistic preview of what the job will involve. The worst thing someone can do is try and act their way through it, unless they want to act for the next two years! We want to see people being themselves. If candidates pass the assessment centre but don’t accept the role, they usually tell us it’s because of culture and they’ve felt that somewhere else was a better fit. But you won’t recognise if the role and the company is right for you if you’re pretending to be somebody else.

Just one word of warning — beware of taking advice on assessment centres from online forums. These can contain lots of information about organisation’s assessment centres, but the content rarely comes from employers, and more often it’s from candidates and can be full of misguided preconceptions.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was first published on Graduate Fog in 2014. Since then, some small or very specific details may have changed, so please double check them on RBS’s own website before you apply. Thanks — and good luck!

What’s the most common mistake graduates make when applying for a job at RBS?
We have a little acronym — ‘ATQ’ — which sums up a common issue on the application form, at the interview and at the assessment centre. It stands for ‘Answer the Question’. A lot of candidates do a lot of preparation beforehand, and clearly spend a lot of time on the application form, but they don’t actually answer the question we’ve asked. They answer the question they’d like us to have asked. So although it’s important to prepare examples and scenarios that illustrate skills, if the example doesn’t fit the question then don’t use it.

Where are your graduate jobs based, and how much do they pay?
Our graduate jobs are based all over the UK, including places such as London and Edinburgh. In terms of the salary and employee benefits, that depends on the role but they are very competitive.

What is the best thing about having a graduate job at RBS?
The opportunity. Our graduates tell us that even though they can have very limited work experience, they feel they can make a difference. What’s more, they say they’re able to do that early on — often much earlier than they imagined. So although there are negatives because of our history from the financial downturn, it’s also an exciting, interesting time to join because the organisation is really changing and everyone is involved in that journey and having an input.

Click here to find more information on the RBS website

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