A guide to Assessment Centres and Interviews

2 months ago

Most apprenticeship application processes have multiple stages, with two common ones being assessment centres and interviews. It’s important to distinguish between these to be most effective in approaching them.

Most assessment centres have an individual section and a group section. Assessment centres usually have certain set tasks that they want you to complete, and whilst performance on the task is an important indicator for success, it’s not everything. Some of these tasks are often intentionally very difficult to test your resilience, and intend to test how you can adapt and change your problem solving strategies when challenges crop up. In group tasks, often you’re not just being judged on the final presentation of your work, but how you collaborate with team-mates, your leadership skills, and whether you’re a team player.

In interviews, there are primarily two styles of questions: competency/skills, and behaviours. Many times you will be given some of the questions beforehand so you can prepare for them, but it’s generally a good idea to prepare for some questions anyway, of which a few are:

  • Tell me about a time you worked well in a group setting (teamwork)
  • Tell me about a time you faced a difficult task at work and how you handled it (resilience, problem solving)
  • Give me an example of a time you had to work in a high stress situation (organisation, planning)
  • What’s your proudest professional accomplishment? (intrinsic motivation, values)
  • Tell me about a time you took initiative in leading a task (leadership)

For interview questions, it’s important to try and quickly identify what particular skill or behaviour they’re trying to assess you on (in the brackets for the questions above), so you can tailor your responses accordingly. It’s always a good idea to have some stories/examples ready, but don’t try to stick to a script in your head; listen to what exactly they’re asking you, and respond appropriately. There are many recommended structures out there that you can follow in your answers, but my favourite is the STAR method:

Situation: Set the scene and describe the context in which the event existed.

Task: What needed to be done/what was asked of you?

Action: Describe how you completed the task. Always speak in the first person here. Even if you carried out the actions as part of a wider team, the interviewers are interested in your contributions specifically, so be really clear about highlighting your role.

Result: Talk about what the final impact was, and make really clear links between what your action was and how that led to the final result.

And finally, don’t forget to have some of your own questions to ask at the end of an interview! This is a great opportunity for you to judge how well you would fit into the company and its culture, and also show your interest in the organization. It doesn’t really matter if you ask a question that’s specific to the role, the interviewers, or the wider company – the important thing is to show your interest and enthusiasm. Best of luck!

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