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How to ace your graduate assessment centre

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25 June 2019

If you’re through to the next stage of our graduate recruitment process, congratulations!

Your next step is to show us your skills and capabilities in action at our assessment centre. This half-day session will consist of 3 activities:

  • behavioural interview
  • group exercise
  • written task

These activities are your chance to shine. We’re looking to see how well you communicate, research, analyse and work in a team in different situations. You’ll also learn more about the department and get a taste of our day-to-day work.
Here are some tips to help you perform well during each assessment centre activity.

Before the assessment centre

  • Do your research. What do you know about our department and priorities? Have you checked out any of our initiatives to grow the economy, support science and business or regulate industry? You don’t need to do tons of research or have experience in government. Just be prepared to talk about what interests you and ask informed questions on the day.
  • Let us know if you need reasonable adjustments. We can provide equipment or support to help you attend an interview or complete an assessment task. This may include additional time to complete assessments, an interpreter or accessible computer gear. Contact us to discuss what options may be available.
  • Dress professionally. Business attire is appropriate, although it doesn’t need to be too formal. You don’t have to come in a 3-piece suit to come across as professional!
  • Arrive early. Make sure you know where you are going ahead of time, how to get there on public transport or where to park. You don’t want to get stuck in traffic, arrive late or be stressed out.
  • Be friendly and polite. As a potential Australian Public Service employee, we expect you to treat everyone with respect and courtesy, from the security staff to panel interviewers. That also includes your fellow candidates.


  • Compose yourself. Take a moment before the interview to focus and reflect. If you are nervous take a few deep breaths. You can pause any time during the interview to gather your thoughts.
  • Address the whole room. Your interview panel will consist of 2 to 3 members, 2 departmental employees and possibly a scribe.
  • Demonstrate your capabilities with examples. The panel will ask behavioural interview questions to understand how you have or would act in relevant situations. Use the STAR method to structure your responses: Explain the situation, the task you needed to perform, the actions you personally took and the results you achieved. If the panel would like more details, they’ll prompt you with follow-up questions.
  • Check understanding. Don’t be afraid to ask the panel to repeat a question, this is not an uncommon request. You can also check in with the panel to see if you’ve given enough detail in your answer.
  • Be aware of body language. Show you are giving your full attention by maintaining eye contact, nodding and smiling. This is particularly important if it is a video interview.
  • Feel free to take notes. You can also bring notes to help you answer key questions. Panel members will also take notes. So if they break eye contact, don’t worry, they’re still listening.

Group exercise

  • Contribute in group discussions. We will assess your impact and influence when working in a team. You will receive source material to get you across the issue being discussed and help you voice your ideas.
  • Listen to your peers. Good collaboration requires a respectful space for people to share their views. Ask questions and be open to other people’s input and ideas.

Written exercise

  • Use your analytical skills. We will assess your ability to understand, integrate and present information logically. We’ll provide you with some source material and challenge you to write a brief covering key points.
  • Think about your audience. Good writing focusses on what the reader needs to know and why they need to know it. We’ll let you know the intended audience. Putting yourself in their shoes will help you craft a relevant and useful written response.
  • Write in plain English. Clear, concise communication is important in any context. Use active rather than passive voice, avoid jargon and keep sentences short.

After the assessment centre

  • Respect confidentiality. The information you learned during the interview is for your benefit only. Do not share interview questions, activities or other details with your friends or on social media. We strive to offer a fair process for all our candidates.
  • Don’t stress! It’s all over and be confident that you performed at your best. If you feel like you blew it, treat it as a learning opportunity. You’ll be able to approach interviews differently next time.
  • Give your referees a heads up. The next stage is contacting referees, so let them know they’ve been listed.

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