Careers Advice

The ScotGrad guide to interview tasks

Your placement interview may include practical tasks, but fear not! Stepanka Jurenova, ScotGrad’s Graduate Engagement Manager for the Highlands and Islands, has broken down the most common interview tasks you may face.

Published: 01/12/2016

Alongside your interview, you may have to perform some tasks to prove you walk the walk, as well as talk the talk.

Tasks will vary from job to job as each employer will develop a series of exercises specific to its recruiting needs. Here’s a few of the most common:


You should be well versed in presentations after your years at university and college, so approach this in the same manner. When preparing, think through your presentation logically, make sure the subject matter you choose addresses the task/question asked and keep the specified audience in mind. You may be given this task ahead of your interview, so make sure to 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, show that you can put information across to other people clearly, confidently and concisely. It’s also a good idea to support your ideas and themes with anecdotes, examples, statistics and facts. Aim for a conversational delivery, using brief notes or bullet points, rather than memorising and reciting, or reading from a prepared sheet. Try to establish eye contact with everyone around you and speak clearly, take your time and don't rush through your delivery.

In-tray exercises

An in-tray exercise is a paper-based simulation used to assess the ability of potential employees as part of the selection process. 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. You are then tasked with prioritising each task in accordance to its importance, providing reasons why you have chosen this order.

Our tips for success include reading through everything before you start so that you fully understand what is required, make note of any deadlines which will affect how you prioritise each task and manage your time carefully.

Spreadsheet management

Your new role may involve creating and using spreadsheets to manage data, therefore the test will examine if you have the relevant Excel skills. The task may be multiple choice, where you will have to answer a series of questions, or interactive, where you will have to follow instructions and show your working. Prepare for this by reminding yourself of the Microsoft Excel programme, and memorising simple formulae such as SUM, AVERAGE and COUNT as well as formatting tools and referencing.

Written work

Your employer may use a written exercise to assess a combination of your comprehension skills, your ability to structure a letter, essay or argument, your note taking ability and your written communication skills including simple grammar and spelling. You will usually be given information to read and possibly a time limit to produce your work. Read everything you’ve been given, ask questions if you’re able to and take your time, keeping the objective at the forefront of your mind.

This is not an exhaustive list of the tasks you may face, but with anything, preparation is key and have faith in your abilities - you’ve got this far for a reason! Take your time, and get stuck in.

For more information and the chance to book practise exercises, speak to your Careers Service.