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HSBC Graduate Scheme Interview Questions

Updated May 8, 2022

Written by the WikiJob Team

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Approximately 250 graduate trainees are hired by HSBC each year, from about 15,000 applicants.

Interviews and assessment days take place from January to March at the company's Canada Square assessment centre in London and Bricket Wood centre in Hertfordshire.

HSBC Interview/Assessment Process

The interview process for HSBC is as follows:

Online Application

The HSBC online application will ask you to provide basic personal information such as: Name, Address, Contact Telephone Number and University Qualification. You will also be asked to upload your CV.

Make sure that your CV details the following:

  • All your work experience to date (voluntary, internships, part-time work)
  • Positions of responsibility
  • Extra-curricular activities
  • Academic details
  • Scholarships or other awards.

Candidate Questionnaire

The candidate questionnaire is used to assess your abilities in terms of key competencies. These are skills or particular personality traits that HSBC recruiters think are important for employees to possess, in order to do the particular job you have applied for.

Online Numerical and Verbal Reasoning Aptitude Tests

After successfully completing your online application, you will participate in the HSBC online immersive assessment. This assessment involves analyzing written as well as numerical data, along with situational judgment questions that ask how you would react in particular work situations.

These aptitude tests each take about 20 minutes to complete. You are allowed to take the tests at any point within a five-day time frame and because they're online, you'll be able to take them at a time and in a place that's convenient for you.

The tests are provided by SHL and you will be given the chance to take practice papers before you start the real thing.

If you successfully complete the online immersive assessment, you will move on to Job Simulation, an online assessment with questions related to the business area you are specifically interested in. This will involve analyzing numerical data, as well as writing and verbally recording answers.

Interviews

If you are successful at the online testing stage, you will be asked to choose a date and time for an interview. This may be face to face, or you may be given a telephone interview.

Before the interview, you should re-read your CV, application and remind yourself of the particular graduate programme you have applied for. You should also further research the firm and think about why you want to work there. You should also be prepared to talk about your skills, hobbies and interests, and about yourself more generally.

First-round interviews are competency-based. You will be asked to talk about specific examples of when you've used your skills and experience, your leadership skills, and your ability to work with others (teamwork).

Telephone Interview

The HSBC telephone interview is a highly structured competency-based interview.

You will be asked competency-based questions such as:

  • Give me an example of a time when you were involved in a teams in the past? How were you involved?
  • Give me an example of a time when you have had to lead a team. How did you manage this team successfully?
  • Tell me about your experiences dealing with customers and clients. How did you behave towards their demands?
  • Tell me about your decision-making process. How do you make decisions? Who do you turn to when making decisions?

You will need to give specific examples of experiences from your life, to answer these competency questions.

Your interviewer will feed on your answers and may often ask you to explain specific details in further detail.

Your interviewer will have a strict time limit to keep to. If they feel the example you're giving them isn't providing them with the information they're looking for, they may interrupt and ask for another one. Equally, they may feel you've given plenty of evidence, and move you on to the next question. Don't be offended if you get cut off during a response, just move on.

You will only be asked competency-based questions during this interview. You won't be asked questions like "why do you want to work for HSBC".

Face-To-Face Interview

Wherever possible, your interviewer will be a line manager from your chosen business area. Face-to-face interviews are structured and competency-based. You will be asked to talk about specific examples of when you've used your skills and experience to demonstrate particular capabilities that your interviewer is looking for candidates to possess.

Assessment Day

The HSBC assessment centre comprises a case study and other exercises that give you the chance to display your skills and capabilities. You'll also have an opportunity to find out more about HSBC, the work you will be doing and the division you have applied for.

Most of the activities you will be involved in during the assessment day are simulated scenarios. For example, you will be asked to imagine being in a meeting with your new managers (your assessors) in which you need to make an important strategic decision. You'll also take part in a simulated customer or internal colleague meeting, where your assessor will play the role of a customer/colleague.

The assessment day will begin early (8:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.) and once you have met with your assessors/recruiters you will be asked to fill out some paperwork. You will then be taken to a meeting room for tea/coffee, biscuits and a welcome talk from a member of the HR team, with an opportunity to ask questions at the end.

Group Exercise

Candidates are separated into teams of four and will be allowed to ask two questions as a group, about a pack of cards which has one or more cards missing from the deck. Your group must then work out which card is missing from the answers you've received, following a further five minutes of discussion time. You will then have a 15-minute break before then next activity.

After the break you will once again form groups of four and be asked to make something that resembles what you (your group) thinks of HSBC, using a box and a collection of art materials: pipe cleaners, paper clips, paper, card, etc.

This test will last for one and a half hours. You assessors will be watching your progress. Furthermore, the finished product your team produces is not important. Assessors will be more interested in how you debate, how your group forms decisions, who takes leadership and whose ideas are used, than the finished product.

Once this task has been completed your group will be asked to present the product and design. This will be followed by questions from your interviewers and the other candidate teams.

This completes the morning half of the assessment. You will then have an opportunity to take a break and lunch will be provided. Take this time to talk to other candidates and if possible, talk to graduate trainees already working at HSBC. You will learn more from current trainees than from anyone else regarding what you will be doing once you have received an offer, and what it’s really like to work for HSBC.

Once the afternoon assessment session begins, the candidates will be split into two groups. Half will then be given one-to-one interviews, while the other half gives individual presentations. Presentations will be on a subject you will be told to plan for before the assessment day. The subject is often your greatest achievement of the last 12 months.

After this, the two groups will switch and a final Q&A session will follow, where candidates may ask anything about the company, recruitment process or training process at HSBC. The day is generally relaxed, and your interviewers and assessors will be friendly. They will not be trying to catch you out.

  • Remember that the subject of presentations is not as important as your presentation skills. Your greatest achievement of the last 12 months does not actually have to be an amazing achievement itself, but you do need to present with confidence, intelligence and personality, and be able to answer questions as required.

  • During group exercises make sure you keep to time limits. Working within deadlines is a very important skill for employees to possess, and something HSBC recruiters will no doubt be looking out for.

  • Remember to maintain your enthusiasm throughout the whole day. Interviewers will be looking for candidates who can work hard at all times, not just in the morning, or during an exercise that may be particularly enjoyable.

  • You do not need any specific technical banking knowledge to be successful at this stage (or any stage) of the assessment process.

Frequently Asked Questions

HSBC has more than 220,000 full-time equivalent staff in 64 countries and territories and is a well-known global financial institution – which is just one of the reasons that you should join HSBC.

With a culture that celebrates differences and values that strive for learning and collaboration, HSBC is a destination for graduates and experienced professionals who want to get further in a banking or financial career.

Alongside a competitive salary and benefits that include support for families, private healthcare, and an understanding of the benefits of hybrid working, HSBC also offers a world-class HQ in Canary Wharf in London.

Roles are available in retail, private, commercial and investment banking, but also in support roles like audit, compliance, risk management, legal, human resources, legal and technology – and with a drive for learning together thanks to more than 20,000 online courses on the HSBC University site, it is the perfect launchpad for a school or college leaver looking for a student or graduate program.

The basic hiring process at HSBC is broadly like other financial roles, but there are some differences depending on the role you have applied for. The steps in the application process could include:

  • Online application
  • Candidate questionnaire
  • Online tests – The exact tests that you will need to complete will match with the requirements of the role you have applied for. You are very likely to take an immersive test that includes situational judgementa, verbal reasoning, and numerical reasoning. This is sometimes followed by a job simulation assessment.
  • Interview – These can take place either over the telephone or face-to-face. The questions are competency-based.
  • Assessment day – You can expect to take part in group exercises, further interviews and you are likely to be asked to complete an individual presentation on a topic that you will be given beforehand.

The HSBC interview, whether you are taking a face-to-face interview or answering questions over the telephone, has the same type of content – competency-based questions.

You can expect to be asked about examples from your past experience that demonstrate when you have worked as a team or taken the lead.

Preparation is key here, look for the key competencies and skills that are listed in the job description and you will know what abilities you will have to demonstrate through appropriate examples.

To prepare for the HSBC interview, you need to make sure that you know what to expect – and it is slightly simpler because in the interview the only type of questions you will be asked are competency-based.

Competency questions are designed to draw out your aptitudes and skills through examples from your past experience, whether at work or in your personal life.

To help you prepare the right examples, you can look for clues about what the recruitment team will be looking for in a candidate for the role in the job description.

You can also use general research about HSBC as a business to help you phrase your examples.

On the HSBC website, you will be able to find information like the business purpose and values, which you can use to think of other examples that show your values match the business values, which according to the HSBC website include:

  • We value difference
  • We succeed together
  • We take responsibility
  • We get it done

If your online application form matches the requirements of the role you have applied for, you will be invited to complete a series of online assessments.

The exact assessments will depend on the abilities and skills needed for the role you have applied for, but they usually be an immersive test that combines numerical and verbal reasoning assessments with situational judgment tests and a job simulation.

If you are successful in the online assessments, the recruitment team will be in touch to arrange a suitable time and date for an interview.

The interview, whether in person or over the phone, will have competency-based questions that require examples of your abilities from your past experiences in work or your personal life.

The interview is usually the penultimate stage of the process, followed by the assessment day.

The length of time that it takes to get from the online tests to the interview at HSBC depends on several factors.

Some roles will have more applicants to get through than others, and the workload of the recruitment team might mean that it takes longer to get to the interview stage.

You will be kept informed through the entire process via the email address that you supplied in your initial application, so make sure you check this regularly (including your junk mail) so you don’t miss any important updates.

The recruitment team will keep you up to date on the status of your application via email, using the email address you gave them in your application form.

In most cases, you will receive some form of feedback within a couple of weeks, but patience is the key word as it can take several weeks or even months for some roles, such as the graduate program.

You can reapply for any role at HSBC if you are unsuccessful, but for any student or graduate positions like internships, you will have to wait until the next recruitment cycle which happens once a year.

HSBC is happy for unsuccessful applicants to try again, or to go for a different position, but look at your feedback to see where your application might have failed and be sure to work on those skills before you apply so you have a better chance for success.

The question “Why do you want to work at HSBC?” is sometimes used in the application process to assess your motivation for applying, but the answer can sometimes go much deeper.

On a superficial level, getting hired by a leading global financial institution is a string in the bow of anyone looking for a career in finance – and while that is a great answer, you might want to think a bit more about what it means to you as a person.

The question should make you think about why you chose that role in particular – do you want that as your forever career, or is it the starting point of a development journey? Did you choose HSBC because you are interested in a particular part of the business? Did you choose this role because of the qualification you could achieve as part of the company?

Try and link your answer to things that you know about the role, about HSBC, and about the wider financial industry – and show that you are thinking about your future and development in accordance with what the business is planning for its future.

Getting a job at HSBC means getting through a thorough application process that has several steps – but it all starts with a job search online.

All the available jobs at HSBC can be found on their dedicated career site and that is where you will find all the necessary qualifications and experience that you need to apply.

Once your application has been received, the recruitment team will review it. If you meet the minimum criteria, you will be invited to take some online aptitude assessments.

The next stage, if you pass the tests, is the interview. This might be via the telephone, or face to face at an office.

In some cases, particularly graduate placements, the final stage is an assessment day which includes group exercises, individual presentations, and interviews.

The process can take several months, but you will be kept in the loop about the status of your application via email so you know what to expect and when.

HSBC understands the value of flexible working, and according to the website, encourages hybrid working where possible.

About 70% of roles at HSBC offer some combination of working from home and working in the office, which the company describes as 'hybrid working'.

It is difficult to define how long the HSBC recruitment process takes because there are a lot of stages and moving parts – and for some job postings there can be hundreds of applicants.

Reports from other applicants have suggested that from initial application to job offer can take anywhere from 30 days to several months.

When you move through the process, you will be kept informed about your application status via email and given appropriate updates, including when you can expect to get feedback throughout the process.