Guide to Interviews and Assessment Centres

Hi there, I’m Nicola! I’m currently in my second year studying Management with Marketing with Industrial Experience. This summer, I will start my placement year, which is incredibly exciting! To secure a placement or internship (including summer internships), most companies have an application process that includes a job application form, CV and Cover Letters, psychometric tests, interviews, and finally an assessment centre. The aim of this blog post is to share my experiences with interviews and assessment centres, sharing some tips that I have found useful.

If you are still thinking about whether to take a work placement or not, read Niki’s blog post about work placements here:

http://blogs.exeter.ac.uk/students/thinking-about-doing-a-work-placement/

Interviews

There are different types of interviews: phone, video, and face-to-face.

Phone Interviews:

As the title suggests, a phone interview is simply an interview conducted through the phone. I personally find these less intimidating, as you can have the interview in the comfort of your own home. My top tip is to take notes during the interview. Write down questions and answers. This way you can remember exactly what the interviewer is asking, and answer the question without going on a tangent. I would also recommend finding a quiet room where you have no distractions, as you want to focus on the interview.

 

Video Interviews:

Some people may confuse video interviews and skype interviews thinking they are the same, but they are not. For most video interviews, questions are pre-recorded by the recruiter or company representative. You will then have a bit of time (usually less than a minute) to think of an answer, and you will be automatically recorded (this also has a time limit). Video interviews can be challenging as there is a time limit. I would also recommend taking notes if possible, as you can ensure you answer in a way that answers the question. Same with phone interviews, find somewhere that is quiet so that the recruiters evaluating the video can hear you clearly. Try to film against a plain background as well, this way there are no distractions for the recruiter. And don’t forget to look at the camera/web cam! You want it to look like you are having eye contact with the recruiter, so try not to look at yourself on the screen, focus on the camera.

 

Face-to-face:

Face-to-face interviews usually occur at the end of an assessment centre. They can either be one-to-one, or with a panel of managers. Depending on the company and team, questions can range from competency based to more abstract questions. For face-to-face interviews, remember to maintain eye contact with the interviewer(s), maintain a good posture, and speak clearly. Body language is so important, especially when you are trying to impress your potential future manager, as it shows you are a confident person. Another tip is to shake hands at the beginning and end of the interview, as it demonstrates you appreciate the opportunity to be invited to the interview. Also try to remember the names of your interviewers, as that can also give a good impression.

 

General Advice:

General advice for interviews is to prepare beforehand! You must do research before your interview to demonstrate you are passionate about the company and the industry, and show you are interested in working for the company. You can also prepare by looking at typical interview questions, such as “When was a time you demonstrated leadership skills?” or “What is your biggest strength and biggest weakness”. By thinking about such questions, you will know how to answer the question without feeling flustered when asked. To answer competency questions, think about your experiences and how they relate to the questions. Group work, working in a society as a committee, or volunteering can demonstrate different skills. By talking about your experiences, you are using the STAR technique. The STAR technique refers to Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Using the STAR technique ensures you are answering the question to the fullest.

 

Assessment Centres

If you have been invited to an assessment centre, congratulations! You have done incredibly well and you should be really proud. Placement and internship applications attract thousands of applicants, so the fact that you have been invited to an assessment centre is amazing.

The structure of an assessment centre varies from company to company, and even from departments within an organisation. However, most assessment centres include an individual task, group task, and finally an interview. The aim of an assessment centre is for the company to get to know you better, how you engage with others, and whether you fit in into the organisational culture. Most companies will provide details of the structure of the assessment centre. If they do not, it might be a good idea to ask what to expect on the day. By understanding the tasks required, you can then fully prepare for the day. My top tip is to ask as many questions as you can! As most assessment centres are conducted at the office of the company, it would be wise to ask any questions you might have regarding what it’s like to work at the company, expectations, and culture. Current interns are the best people to ask, as they were in the same situation just a year ago. They will have great advice and provide insight to what it’s like to work at the company.

 

Resources

Career Zone:

If you are in the WIE (With Industrial Experience) programme at the Business School, you are required to take compulsory Career Management lectures and workshops. The lectures and workshops will prepare you for the application process by guiding you how to write a CV and Cover Letter, interview tips, assessment centre tips and practice, and more. The Business School also has its own dedicated Career Zone team, which offer advice specifically for business placements and internships. They also offer CV and Cover Letter checks, which is very helpful, especially if it is your first time writing a CV or Cover Letter.

 

If you are not a part of the business school, similar seminars and workshops are offered by the Career Zone. To book a seminar or workshop, link the following link:

https://mycareerzone.exeter.ac.uk/students/events

Events include: Interview Techniques, Understanding Psychometric Testing, Applying Commercial Awareness, Focus On… Application Forms, Creating a Successful CV.

 

Employer Events and Fairs:

The University hosts a range of different employer events and fairs throughout the year. Key events include the Career and Placement Fair, STEM Careers Fair, Casual Jobs and Internships Fair. Company representatives also come on campus to give talks throughout the year. These events provide a great opportunity to learn more about how the company conducts its application process, and they may even provide tips on what to do to make your application stand out. If you have any questions regarding the application process, you can also go ask in person. Employer events are also the perfect opportunity for you to network, which can enhance your application.

 

The application process can be long and difficult, but remember there are services that can help you if you are finding a particular stage of the process difficult. If you would like to read more about placements in general, please have a look at Niki’s blog, as she includes links to useful resources, tips on how to apply, and more. Hope this blog post helps, best of luck!

 

Niki’s Blog Post:
http://blogs.exeter.ac.uk/students/thinking-about-doing-a-work-placement/

 

   April 12th, 2018    Careers, International, Lectures and Seminars, Undergraduate     , , ,

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