Preparing for the Recruitment Process

The recruitment process for graduate jobs is highly competitive and involves many stages. Having a great CV and application form is a good starting point but, if you're successful in progressing to further stages, researching and preparing for each step and familiarising yourself with the tests and exercises employers use is essential. The application process will vary between employers but below are details of the main stages you should expect to come across and what they typically involve.

Taking part in The School of Maths Interviewer Programme will give students a great insight into the application process, whether they took part as an applicant in their first year or trained as an inteviewer in later years. Designed to mirror many of the processes that employers utilise during the graduate recruitment cycle, the programme includes psychometric testing and e-tray exercises, as well as formal interviews for the students that successfully navigate the application stage. Most importantly, feedback is offered at all stages of the programme to ensure that applicants who do not make it to interview can see why they were unsuccessful and receive advice on how to improve their skills before submitting real-world applications.

Online Application and CV

Having a strong CV and good grades is very important. Look back over the Careers Planning pages for tips on building your CV. For each application you do, you should tailor you CV specifically to the role you are applying for. 

Knowledge of the company, their values and the core competencies expected from applicants is usually tested within the application form so make sure you've done your research and had a thorough look at their website.

Psychometric tests

These can either be completed online or at a group assessment centre with other applicants, if taken online you will usually have to repeat the tests at an assessment centre at a later stage. They usually involve a combination of numerical and verbal reasoning, logical thinking, situational judgement and personality tests. There are practise tests online, having a familiarity with the types of questions is useful and practising answering quickly and accurately and reading questions thoroughly will help. If you take the tests at home make sure you are in a quiet environment and have enough time.


          How to Ace an Assessment Centre

In-Tray/ E-Tray Exercise

These can be done on-line (e-tray) or on paper (in-tray) and again you may be asked to complete them at home or at an assessment centre. Candidates begin with a number of e-mails and documents to read through and then, over a timed period, must respond to questions as they arrive in your 'in-tray'. During the exercise more e-mails and documents will arrive which you will need to sort through and use to answer further questions.

The second stage of the exercise may involve drafting a longer response, for example answering an e-mail from a partner asking for information based on the documents and data you have already received. You can find practise in-tray exercises here. Being able to write a formal e-mail reply using appropriate language with a clear structure is an important skill for this stage.


These may be conducted by telelphone or in person and are usually with a senior member of staff from your chosen business area or a memeber of the HR team depending on which stage of the process you are at. You will be tested on your commercial awareness and business knowledge so doing your research on the company and it's clients and having a good knowledge of current affairs is essential.

If you have an interview arranged you can book an interview simulation with the Careers Service either in person at The Atrium or by phoning 0161 275 2829. They will take you through a mock interview based on your real life application and provide feedback and advice afterwards.


You may be asked to give a short presentation. Consider your audience, select a suitable structure and key points you'd like to cover. It is a good idea to prepare visual aids to support your presentation. Practise presenting to a friend or colleague to help with pace and confidence in delivery and be prepared to answer questions at the end. Also concentrate on keeping within the allowed time as this is often something applicants struggle with.

The Careers Service Starting point Guide on Presentation Skills contains lots of tips and useful advice. Here's a helpful article from TargetJobs on preparing for a presentation.

The Careers Service has information on all of the above and more, you may also wish to book an appointment with one of their trained Careers Consultants for further advice.

Use CareersLink and the Careers Service events page to look out for upcoming workshops and training sessions where you can practice skills for assessment centres or find out about jobs from the people who do them.

Below are links to some of the downloadable guides from their Starting Point series.

Starting Point Guides

Application Forms                   Assessment Centres                   In-Tray Excercise

        Psychometric Tests                       Interviews                         Presentation Skills        

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