Interviews and assessment centres

In a job interview the employer wants to learn more about the relevant knowledge, skills and experience included in your written application. Assessment centres are made up of a range of activities designed to test your motivation and skills to evaluate your suitability for a job position.

Preparing for a job interview

There are different kinds of interviews you could face, such as:

  • Face-to face: Usually at the employer's office with an interview panel. Could last between 30-60 minutes and include tests and exercises.
  • Online: Same as face-to-face but online
  • Telephone: Used to filter large numbers of applicants. If you're successful, you'll typically be invited to a face-to-face interview or assessment centre. Usually lasts around 30 minutes.
  • Pre-recorded: Increasingly popular among large employers, particularly for graduate schemes, and usually lasts around 30 minutes.

When preparing to attend your interview, make sure you read the invitation carefully to ensure you understand the instructions and that you can attend on the date. Reply to confirm your attendance as soon as possible, proofreading your email carefully.

If you require any reasonable adjustments for the interview, ask for these at this stage. Employers must provide reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010. Visit the Career support for disabled students page for more information.


Things to consider before your interview

The interviewers

If you know who will be on the interview panel, use LinkedIn to research and prepare specific questions to ask them. This is a great opportunity to show you can use your initiative.

Culture, mission and values

You are likely to be asked about the employer's values, so ensure you know what these are and how yours align with theirs.

The industry or sector

Keep up-to-date with what's happening in your sector. LinkedIn and professional body websites are good sources of information.

Person specification and job description

Study these carefully. You must explain why you want the job, that you understand the role, and why the employer should select you.


Interview questions

It is impossible to predict exactly what questions you will be asked in a job interview but you can expect questions about:

  • The job: Why are you applying for this position and what do you know about it?
  • The employer: Why do you want to work for the organisation? What do you know about them?
  • You: Prepare to expand on information provided in your application. Include evidence from your studies, work experience or interests in your answers.

STARR and competency-based questions

Competency-based questions are commonly used in job interviews to measure how well candidates match the job requirements. Use the STARR technique to structure your answers to these types of questions. STARR stands for:

  • Situation
  • Task
  • Action
  • Result
  • Reflection

More interview resources


Assessment centres

An assessment centre, also known as an assessment day, is usually one of the final stages in a recruitment process. It is normally made up of a range of activities designed to test your motivation and skills to evaluate your suitability for a job position. It provides an opportunity to showcase a broader spectrum of skills compared to a typical face-to-face interview.

Assessment Centres may take place in-person or online and range in duration from half a day to two days. During this time, you'll likely interact with six to eight other candidates; however, it's crucial to maintain focus on your individual performance.

What to expect

On the day, you will work both individually and as part of a group on a variety of exercises, including:

  • Case studies
  • Group discussions
  • Presentations
  • Psychometric tests
  • Role play
  • Written tests

Employers don't solely evaluate candidates based on job competencies; they also seek individuals who align with the company's culture and values. Key skills that employers may be looking for include:

  • Adaptability
  • Commercial awareness
  • Communication
  • Decision-making
  • Leadership
  • Negotiation
  • Organisation
  • Problem-solving
  • Teamwork
  • Time management

Assessment Centre Top Tips

  1. Try not to worry about the other candidates, and instead focus on putting your key skills forward.
  2. Ensure that you understand the requirements of each task and ask for clarification if you are unsure.
  3. Take part in discussions, even at 'informal' break times, as it is likely you are being assessed in different ways for the duration of the day.