About Bombardier

  • Major engineering company in the UK
  • Global leader in rail technology
  • Around 39,850 employees worldwide and over 3,800 in the UK
  • Extremely popular destination for graduates


  • Sifting applicants efficiently and refreshing the entire recruitment process


  • Relevant assessment process and positive candidate experience

The Challenge

Hundreds of students apply to join Bombardier’s UK graduate programmes every year. Sifting through the applications had been a big challenge, and the sheer quantity of applications meant that the recruitment process required a lot of time and effort to run smoothly. In an increasingly competitive graduate market, speed and efficiency of recruitment were critical to Bombardier.

“With so many applicants coming through for all our graduate programmes, it was really important for us to sift out a large proportion of applicants through online testing. At the same time, we didn’t want to lose people along the way because of an overlong process. With two different stages, the online testing process we’d been using previously through another provider wasn’t very user-friendly and we had a very high drop-out rate of almost 50%. We wanted to replace that with a test that would keep applicants engaged but that would also enable us to sift out a healthy proportion of them. That’s exactly what SHL delivered.” – Ioana Gaspar, WMA Recruitment Delivery Team Leader

At the same time, the graduate recruitment process as a whole needed refreshing – the same online assessments and exercises had been used for some years, and Bombardier were keen to further improve the candidate experience. Bombardier therefore approached SHL to replace the initial online assessments and assessment centre content in one programme of work.

The Solution

Our approach was entirely focused on the outcomes Bombardier wanted to achieve.

We replaced an existing ability assessment from another provider with our Verify G+ test – a cutting-edge assessment of numerical, abstract and logical reasoning.

“There were a few things that stood out about SHL’s Verify G+ test. Firstly, for the candidates, the new online assessment was far more user-friendly and accessible – the different elements of the test were available with just one click. It was also much easier for us to administer the testing process. We could go through the completed tests in batches rather than look at each individual test on a line by line basis, which was what we’d had to do with the old test. SHL enabled us to make our online assessment process more relevant for the graduate market, and it was a much more modern tool than the one we’d been using previously.” – Ioana Gaspar, WMA Recruitment Delivery Team Leader

In addition, we provided tailored versions of two of our assessment centre exercises to be used at the refreshed assessment centres. These exercises were designed to offer an engineering-specific candidate experience, and measure the critical behaviours essential to success at Bombardier.

“For the assessment day, the approach of having two separate, tailored exercises was very well received. It helped us to give a theme and a structure to the day, which worked extremely well for both the candidates and our line managers alike.” – Jane Sanders, Capability Development Manager

The Outcomes

Every year, Bombardier receives hundreds of applications for its graduate programme.

Processing so many applications to determine who should progress to the assessment centre stage was a huge job for its recruitment team. Because running assessment centres takes time and resources, it was a costly process. Bombardier tasked us with filtering the candidates so it could run fewer assessment centres.

Using the Verify G+ assessment, the revised sifting process screened out 30% of candidates, which was a big reduction in the number of candidates to be dealt with, and exactly the figure we were looking to achieve.

In addition, an impressive 38% of candidates completing the assessment scored above the 70th percentile – we would usually expect this to be 30%, so this was a clear indication that Bombardier was attracting a large number of top candidates. 

“SHL’s solution has saved us considerable time and money. For example, with the old online testing process, it would take us half an hour or so to input a batch of candidates on to the platform. The SHL tool generated everything for us so the same thing took us just five minutes. It was the same when it came to pulling out the results. Before, we’d have to go through them line by line for each candidate, whereas the SHL tool enables us to simply export the results to Excel.”  – Ioana Gaspar, WMA Recruitment Delivery Team Leader

Bombardier attracts a diverse range of applicants from countries all over the world, and as with all SHL assessments, the Verify G+ assessment showed no adverse impact for candidates in terms of gender or country of origin. This gave Bombardier peace of mind that all candidates were given a fair experience during the sifting stage of the process.

Additionally, while only 19% of applicants were female, Bombardier hired females into nearly 30% of their graduate roles.

“It was great to see the high calibre and diverse candidates that were part of our assessment centres this year. The experience for the assessors and candidates alike was a really positive one with each part of the recruitment process adding value to our decision making. The whole thing was seamless in terms of its execution. I’m really excited about the early talent that will be joining our organisation shortly, we have a great mix of people and I have every confidence they will do a great job!” – Nina Atwal, Project Governance Responsible Procurement Lead

The line managers running the assessment centres said they were happy not only with the quality of candidates, but also with the exercises that helped them assess the candidates more effectively. In fact, they told us they want to use the exercises more widely.

The new assessment centre exercises bring to life both the working environment and the challenges people might face within Bombardier. The exercises were also tailored to measure the Bombardier behaviours for graduates, meaning hiring managers could easily assess candidates fit to the Bombardier culture.

“The Bombardier Graduate Programme assessment centres were very well-structured, and the impressive materials made it easy for me as an assessor to identify the key skills we were after. I enjoyed meeting the candidates after being a candidate myself a few years ago.” – Sabrina Ihaddaden, Signalling Project Engineer

“The aim of our assessment centres is to identify strong candidates with the potential to progress and develop both themselves and the company. The format of this assessment centre helped us to do that by giving the candidates the opportunity to demonstrate a variety of different competencies, both as individuals and in collaborative working environments.” – Aimee Weston-Smith, Project Manager – Crossrail Programme & Planning Manager

“This year’s assessment centres enabled us to differentiate the behaviour of our candidates well and to assess potential clearly and consistently. The different activities blended together to give us very good insights in a short space of time – particularly in terms of the candidates’ ability to assimilate information and work well as individuals and as part of a team.” – Helen Watson, Head of Training UK

“As an assessor supporting Bombardiers Graduate Assessment Program intake, I found the experience very well organised with various activities tailored to create environments in which the candidates were able to demonstrate their capabilities through written, aural and practical exercise demonstrations. I found the candidates very enthusiastic and very competent with plenty of potential, a great all round experience”. – Adrian Stevenson, Senior Bids Engineering Manager

Using the Verify G+ assessment, which offers a shorter assessment time and improved candidate experience, Bombardier saw the drop-out rate at the assessment stage reduce by 65%, which is a clear indicator of improved candidate engagement.

At the assessment centres, candidates particularly liked the group exercise for its relevance to the company, the practical and engaging materials, and the way it gave them an opportunity to actively discuss ideas.

“We aim to provide an assessment centre that is challenging and demanding but also relaxed and enjoyable. The new, more immersive and more representative exercises helped us to deliver on that aim and to give each candidate the opportunity and environment to really showcase their skills and strengths.” – Deborah Perkins, Senior Project Manager – Elizabeth Line – Trains

“The group activity enabled candidates to work together to collectively solve a problem both logically and from a practical perspective, giving candidates the chance to demonstrate their influencing skills and how they collaborate to get the job done.” – Helen Watson, Head of Training UK

Overall Outcomes

“The feedback we got from our line managers was excellent – they felt that this new graduate assessment solution was a far better way for us to assess the candidates. It was much more relevant to us as a business and the competencies that we look for in graduates. Not only that, but it also helped us to help the graduates to be better prepared for the later stages, including the offer stage, as they had a much better feel for what we do and what would be expected of them here. It basically enabled us to create a very positive candidate experience because the assessment process was so relevant to our business. It was engaging; it gave the candidates plenty of talking points and they learned things both from the exercises and from the overall experience.” – Dawn Roberts, HR Business Partner & UK Graduate Scheme Coordinator

“SHL’s approach was perfect for us and the outcomes we wanted to achieve. From the way we were able to move seamlessly through the whole process through to the end results which were even better than expected, it has been a huge success. We were anticipating that we’d need to make some adjustments to the process moving forward, but we’re all so happy with how it worked that we don’t want to change a thing.” – Bernadette Westmoreland, Country HR Director UK

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