IBM Application and Interview Questions
For graduate roles at IBM, applicants must go through the following process:
Note: Application process for the Strategic Analytics Consultant role is slightly different from other roles. Please visit the IBM website for details.
- Online Application and template
- Online Test
- Selection Day
- Group Activities (2)
- Confirmatory IPAT test (plus numerical verbal reasoning test for certain roles)
- Pairs Role-Play Activity
- Written Exercise
- Final Interview
The initial application to IBM consists of two parts: the Online Application form and the IBM Application Template. The application form will ask for your personal details, education and work experience information, and can be submitted through IBM's online application tool.
The Application template can be downloaded from IBM's website. It focuses on your skills and key competencies, and asks you to give examples of times in your life when you have demonstrated these. Try to use well illustrated examples from a variety of experiences: work, school, relationships, etc.
If your application passes the initial screening, you will be invited to take IBM's IPAT computer aptitude test. The IPAT tests logical reasoning and the speed of information processing, and is divided into three sections, although you will only complete the first two: number sequencing and problem solving. You will have a fixed amount of time (2.5 minutes) for each question, with the test lasting a total of up to an hour.
You may complete the two sections in either one or two sittings, and you will have 7 days to complete them both.
IBM has recently changed their graduate selection process from two selection/assessment days to just one, with the unsuccessful candidates being sent home before lunch.
For details on the selection process for internship programmes, see IBM eXtreme Blue.
The Assessment Day will begin with up to two group exercises, depending on the role you have applied for, which will last up to an hour. Your large AC cohort will be divided into smaller groups of about 6 people, and there are two types of group tasks you may have to complete: a logical task and a discussion/planning task.
The Logical Task will require you to take into account a number of different criteria and information in order to complete it. Recently this task has involved a fictitious art exhibition scenario, in which candidates must determine the placement of different paintings, given incomplete information about each painting and its location. Candidates must work together to fill in the gaps in the information. The IBM assessors will be surveying you and taking notes throughout the activity, so try not to be intimidated. Most importantly, be respectful to your group members, and work cooperatively with them to solve the problem.
Another task you may encounter will be a Planning Task, in which your group will have to work together to organize an event for a client. You will be given a list of criteria and demands from your client that you must work within, and using your given budget you must design the evening to best suit your client's needs. There will be a 4 minute period in which your group will be permitted to ask questions of the “client”. During this period you must be careful not only to ask pertinent and useful questions, but to stay in the character of the consultant/client relationship, exchanging formalities and maintaining a professional manner.
Tip: Work together in your group, not against each other. There is not one right solution to this task, so there is no use arguing at length over small details. Your assessors want to see that you can work with your team to arrive at solutions for your clients, and stay on track during a short period of time.
After the group exercise, you will take another version of the Numeracy IPAT test, to confirm your online results. You do not need to attain the same score as you did online, but you will need to pass. This test will be paper-based, and you will not be allowed the use of a calculator. The questions will be the same type of questions that you already completed online, and you will have 22.5 minutes to complete 10 questions, though as it is a written test you may of course spend an unequal amount of time on each question.
- Following the group exercise and re-test, candidates who failed to perform to IBM's standards will be sent home (usually just over half), and the rest will be served a light lunch before moving on to the second phase of assessment.
Communication/Role Play Exercise
For this exercise you will be put into pairs, and given 20 minutes to prepare a presentation for a fictitious client, based on the wealth of information you are given about the company you are supposed to represent, and what your client's needs are. Be sure to go over the information quickly, as 20 minutes will pass by very fast. You will then need to present your 5-minute pitch to your “client”, explaining why the particular solution you are endorsing would work best for them. Specific cases will vary; in one recent example case, graduates represented a mobile app development company trying to provide an ecommerce company with an app solution. Divide the work evenly between yourself and your partner, and treat your assessor as though she actually is your client, maintaining a professional and engaging attitude at all times. You will be asked a series of follow-up questions, so try to prepare for these beforehand, and make sure you and your partner have reached a clear consensus on your solution.
Tip:This task tests your problem-solving, persuasion, and people skills, so try to keep your cool and think on your feet. You interviewer may play the part of a difficult client, but don't let that discourage you.
This exercise will be a follow-up exercise to the role-play scenario you just completed, however it will be done individually. Generally it involves writing an email to your client going over the specifics of your proposal, as she is not quite convinced yet. Make sure you address all the issues in the instructions, and maintain a professional tone. You are given 20 minutes to complete this exercise.
The final stage of the assessment day will be a one-on-one interview with a manager or partner, lasting about half an hour. The style and content of this interview will be dependent on the individual interviewing you, so prepare as thoroughly as you can. Research the company extensively, and the current issues your division faces. Your interviewer will have your CV with them at the interview, so make sure you know it inside-out and can elaborate on anything you have noted on it. Past interview questions include:
- What do you know about IBM?
- Why do you want to work for us?
- Tell me one thing that IBM has done recently that has impressed you.
- What is IBM's current stock price?
- Who is the CEO?
- Who are our main competitors?
- Why are you applying to this role?
- Why should we pick you?
- What was the most challenging part of your previous job?
- How did you deal with this?
- What would you do if you won a million pounds?
- Is there anything else you'd like us to know?
- What is your approach to leadership?
- How many petrol stations are there in the UK?
- Tell me about a time when you solved a problem creatively?
- Give examples from your own experiences which show your leadership and initiative skills.
- How do you feel about having a job which requires you to travel frequently?
- How do you feel about having a job that requires you to spend a lot of time away from home?
You should also prepare for standard competency based questions about teamwork, leadership, problem-solving, etc., and be able to support your answers with strong examples.
Tip: Think of a few questions to ask your interviewer that demonstrate your keen interest in and knowledge of IBM.
If you are successful at the Assessment Day, you will be invited to a “business matching interview” with a senior business manger, which may last over an hour. (Note: it may take up to two months after your selection day to be invited to the final interview). This is the final stage, where they will be looking to make sure you would be suitable for the role they have in mind for you. Generally this interview is more relaxed, and will focus on your CV and motivation for joining. Any competency based questions that you are asked will reflect the specific skills needed for you role. You will need to restate your reasons for applying to IBM, and what you think your job would entail. You will likely be asked some commercial awareness questions about the industry and competitors, and projects that IBM are currently working on.
Tip: Ask as many questions as you can at this stage, as there is a good chance you will be offered a job, and it is your final opportunity to find out whether this position is right for you, and will also reassure them that you are passionate about the company.
Tip: Your interviewers will very likely Google you beforehand, so make sure that all the information displayed on any social media or networking sites reflects you in a positive light and is consistent with your CV.
Technology and IT
If you have applied for a technical role, you may also be asked the following types of questions during your interview(s):
- What is RDBMS, DBMS and what is the difference?
- Explain about a main frame and its uses?
- What are stored procedures?
- Explain some ways through which a database can be exploited?
It is good to prepare yourself on these following topics:
- UNIX important commands, features, uses, advantages over other OS.
- Sorting programs in an Operating system, stacking layers, OS layers, important distinction between different OS.
- DBMS, RDBMS.