Placement Interviews & Assessment Centres: Top Tips



Sent off your CV, filled in the application form and smashed the phone interview?

The final stage of applying for a placement is usually an interview or assessment centre - or both!

This is a chance for employers to get to know you more, but also for you to find out more about the role and whether it’s right for you.

Read this guide to prepare for the process and give yourself the best shot at securing your dream placement.



ASSESSMENT CENTRES

Assessment centres are designed to test your skill set and see how you approach specific work situations.

You can expect the likes of…

  • Group ice-breaker exercises
  • Psychometric tests
  • Group tasks
  • Individual tasks
  • Presentations

"What's going to make me stand out?"

  • BEING A TEAM PLAYER. Employers will want to see how you handle yourself in a group situation. So listen to your team, try not to interrupt anyone, be mindful of the brief and speak up!
  • CHANNELING YOUR NERVES. Believe it or not nerves are a good thing. But don’t let them psych you out! Remind yourself that you’ve been invited for a reason. You are more than capable, so take a few deep breaths and take your time.
  • ASKING QUESTIONS. If you don’t understand the question or task that has been set, don’t panic. Ask for further clarification to stay on brief.
  • STAYING POSITIVE. Assessment centres can be exhausting. There’s a lot of information to take in and it’s a long time to stay engaged. But you’ll stand out if you bring enthusiasm and positivity to each task.
  • GETTING INVOLVED. Don’t be scared to chat to the employees and fellow students there on the day. Being inquisitive and showing your interest will leave a lasting impression amongst the team and help keep you front of mind.

Virtual Assessment Centres

Since Covid-19 hit in 2020, a lot of employers have moved their entire application process online. So you might be invited to what’s known as a virtual assessment centre.

These are pretty similar to the traditional in-person assessment centres - except you won’t need to travel to the company’s offices.

Our Guide to Virtual Assessment Centres contains everything you need to know about virtual assessment centres and how to prepare.


More advice on how to prepare for assessment centres from former placement student Lámidé Elizabeth...


INTERVIEWS

The main purpose of the interview is for employers to get to know you more and see if you’re a good fit for the role and company.
 

"What are they likely to ask me?"

  • THE COMPANY. Employers want to know you’ve done your research. What are they passionate about? Do their values match yours? Read reviews from previous placement students for insider knowledge you won’t find on their website.
  • YOUR STRENGTHS & WEAKNESSES. These questions are easy to prep for. Make a list of real-life examples where your strengths and key skills made an impact, as well as those where you overcame your weaknesses. 
  • SITUATIONAL QUESTIONS. The perfect opportunity to show off your skillset, these questions are designed to test your initiative and adaptability in specific work situations. Use the STAR technique (situation, task, activity and result) to structure your answers. 

For more examples, read our Guide to Common Interview Questions.

"Should I ask questions at the end?"

100% YES!

Most interviewers wrap up proceedings by asking “Do you have any questions?”.

Rather than asking a question just for the sake of it, or to fill the awkward silence, it’s a good idea to come prepared with two or three suitable questions.

This will prove to employers that you’re keen to learn more and are serious about the role.

Here are a few examples of questions to ask at the end of your interview:

  • What is the typical career path for someone in this role?
  • How does the company support professional growth and development?
  • What do people on the team do for lunch every day?

"And what should I wear?"

If you’re unsure what the dress code is at the company you’re interviewing for, always email in advance so you don’t end up standing out for the wrong reasons.

Your best bet is to go smart. That way you’ll look like you’ve made an extra effort to look professional and impress your potential future employer. (Think less university library attire, more fine dining with the Queen.)

And if your placement interview or assessment centre is virtual, make sure you match your bottom half to your top in case you need to get out of your seat. 


In summary, fail to prepare and you prepare to fail.

The secret to nailing interviews is simply coming prepared with relevant questions, answers and examples that convince employers you’re the perfect match.

GOOD LUCK, we have all our fingers and toes crossed for you!