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Interview Tests and Tasks


The recruitment and selection process will often involve more than just interviews.  Employers use a range of tests and tasks to assess your ability to actually perform certain parts of the job, in addition to the information they collect from interviews. 

The inclusion of additional elements in the selection process gives the employer a more objective and rounded picture of your practical abilities, aptitudes, working preferences and sometimes even your personality.  It is important to note that none of the methods described below would be used in isolation to make a selection decision, but rather taken into account with other information from interviews etc.

Here we briefly outline some of the popular types of assessment that you might encounter either as part of an interview, or as a separate part of the selection process.

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Work sample tests

These come in a variety of forms, but are characterized by asking candidates to perform a typical piece of work that they would encounter in the job.  These are often based on real examples, but may be shortened or simplified, and are usually timed.  Examples of this might be drafting a letter or memo, producing a spreadsheet or writing a response to an e-mail, having been given a few basic facts and figures to interpret.

These sorts of tests are usually fairly short, and you won’t be able to prepare for them, although it is good practice for you to be told in advance that you will be doing a test either before or after your interview.  They test a range of competencies, from basic numeracy, spelling and punctuation, to IT ability, analytical skills and written communication.  They can also be good indicators of ability to work under pressure, attention to detail and time management, as they usually have a time limit and written instructions for you to follow.

In tray exercises

Similar to work sample tests in that they are time limited and based on typical examples of things you might encounter in the job, in tray exercises are designed to test your prioritization skills.  You will be given a number of competing priorities - sometimes in the form of actual e-mails, letters, messages, memos etc - and asked to prioritise them in order, giving your reasons for your choice and noting any assumptions you have made.  As with work sample tests, you will need to work quickly, and pay close attention to instructions and the descriptions of the priorities, to make sure you don’t miss any important clues.


Presentations covers the whole range of tasks where you are asked to prepare something in advance, and then come to the interview either to give a formal presentation, or prepared to talk informally about what you have done.  You will usually have a few days’ notice in which to prepare your task, and will either be sent material with all the information you need, asked to do independent research, or come up with your own ideas (for a more creative project).

When asked to do something like this, always ask for clarification if you are not sure exactly what is required - how formal/informal are you expected to be; is a Powerpoint presentation needed; what audiovisual equipment is available; how long will you be expected to talk for; how many people will be there?  Check that you’re not expected to submit something prior to the interview.  Give yourself plenty of time to prepare, and have a dry run on friends or relatives first - get their feedback on your style, pace, timing etc.  Even if you’ve not been asked, take along handouts or copies of your notes for the interviewers - these will be appreciated and will also be a reminder of your task after the interview has finished.

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