Careers Advice

A guide to interview tasks

Interview tasks... what are they? At ScotGrad, our employers don’t make you jump through what can feel like unnecessary hoops in the graduate recruitment process. We won’t ask you to attend an assessment centre or complete a psychometric test before you’re shortlisted, but for some roles it’s important that you have the opportunity to demonstrate your practical ability to do the job at interview.

Published: 17/10/2019

Rather than letting these unsettle you, remember they’ll always be tasks relevant to the role, so you can use this opportunity to prove you’re the right candidate for the job. The following are the most common:


You’ll be well-versed in presentations after your years at university and college, so you can approach this in the same manner. When preparing, think through your presentation logically, make sure you address the task/question asked and keep the specified audience in mind. You may be given this task to prepare ahead of your interview, so ensure you ask if you will be presenting to a single interviewer or a group and if you should bring your presentation on a USB or if you will be expected to bring your own laptop.

When presenting, your aim is to present information clearly, confidently, and concisely. To make a greater impact, use a mixture of ideas and key themes with anecdotes, examples, statistics, and facts. Aim for a conversational delivery, using brief notes or bullet points. Avoid trying to memorise every word or reading from a prepared sheet. Establish eye contact with each member of the panel and speak clearly; take your time and don't rush through your delivery.

In-tray exercises

An in-tray exercise is a paper-based or electronic simulation, often asking you to prioritise or make decisions about your workload. You will be presented with a business-related scenario, accompanied by a list of related tasks including telephone calls, emails, dealing with complaints, and creating reports. Consider each task and its importance, providing reasons why you have chosen this order.

Read everything carefully before you start so that you fully understand what is required, make notes, and keep an eye on the time. Some employers will focus on the completeness of your responses, while others are interested in the speed and quality of your decision making. Your research into the company and its activities will give you an idea of what they’re looking for.

Written exercise

These tasks may test your comprehension, understanding of a subject, and/or ability to reduce complex information into concise findings. You may be asked to structure a letter, news article, or set of instructions for example. Remember that your written communication skills including simple grammar and spelling are being assessed.

These exercises always involve being given information to read, and a strict time limit. No matter how pressured you feel, ensure you leave time to check your work at the end.


Keep an open mind and remember that the interview is your opportunity to assess whether this is the right job for you too. If the tasks you’re asked to complete aren’t what you expected, don’t let it put you off during the interview, but this might be an indication the role isn’t a good fit for you. Equally, it could be a great sign that it would challenge you!

Find current vacancies on our graduate placements page.