Survival Guide: Assessment Centres


It’s that assessment time of year again. How can you maximise your chances and ace the
competition at the Assessment Centre stage of the selection process?

First of all, congratulate yourself: you are one of the chosen few. Your invitation to be assessed means you have beaten at least 90% of the original applicants. That’s the feel good factor. The downside is that this is where the going gets even tougher. Here are four essentials for surviving and thriving during the process…

1. You’re liable to be in a group of approx. 6- 8 likely lads and lasses, all of whom will look calm and confident. Don’t be daunted – they will be quaking inside. Remember that the assessors are not evaluating you against the other candidates but as an individual contender. Don’t measure yourself against the other people in your set, just focus on playing to your strengths. Apropos of which, be very sure what those are, so that you can maximise your impact.

2. In a group situation, speak up and make your presence felt in an assertive, not an aggressive, way. Failure to do so is like going to an exam and not writing anything and will lead to nil points from the assessors. How do you get in to the activity especially if one (or more) people are trying to dominate the proceedings? (Btw console yourself with the fact that those overbearing oafs have just scuppered their own chances – assessors heavily penalise such behaviour.) Stake your claim to a role quickly by offering to keep time, take notes or monitor progress as soon as the activity starts. This gives you the chance to leap in appropriate intervals to summarise, review and move the action forward. You’ll also get brownie points for encouraging and involving the quieter group members.

Top tip: sneak a peek here to find out what role you might play in a team.

3. There’ll be individual exercises too, often including a presentation. Key advice? Keep it simple and don’t try to cram everything in. Not only will your audience appreciate both your brevity and clarity, but if you are asked questions after the event, you won’t have exhausted your store of knowledge and hence will be able to answer your interrogators with aplomb.

Top tip: if you get a chance practise your presentation beforehand, ideally recording
yourself. That way you’ll get the timing right to the nearest nanosecond, and you’ll also be able to iron out any weak links in your speech, tone and pace.

4. Terrified of tests? You may get these at assessment centres too and they could comprise any or all of the following – e-tray exercises, case studies, situational judgement questions, psychometric tests. If you’re new to these notions, get in some practice. We can send you some examples – just send us a message on! It may not make you perfect, but it will send your scores up a notch or two. You can find a massive range of useful resources on the Careers Pages on MySOAS Student too.

Being prepared means preparing to succeed. Good luck.

Gill Sharp, Senior Careers Consultant


#MondayMotivation: Change the World With the International Committee of the Red Cross


It’s Monday, the first day of the week that you get inspired to start changing the world. Come and hear from the International Committee of the Red Cross this Wednesday at 3:30pm in the Careers Seminar Room (SL62), and find out why they’re looking for people like YOU to make the world a better place.

The ICRC is an independent, neutral organisation ensuring humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence. They regularly recruit interpreters of predominantly Asian and African languages for field operations around the world. This talk will tell you everything you need to know if you want to work for the world’s oldest humanitarian organisation as a linguist.

It’s worth knowing that this year the ICRC is particularly looking for speakers of Amharic, Kirundi/Kinyarwanda, Swahili and Farsi.

Come and get involved with the massive range of other inspiring talks happening this week too. All our events take place in the Careers Seminar Room (SL62, Paul Webley Wing):

Tue 23 Jan, 12 – 1pm: Top Tips: Writing a CV: BOOK NOW

Wed 24 Jan, 2 – 3pm: National Speaking Academy: How to Change the World Through Public Speaking: BOOK NOW

Thu 25 Jan, 12 – 1pm: Top Tips: Networking: BOOK NOW

Thu 25 Jan, 2 – 4pm: Opportunity China: The Benefits of Working Abroad for Your Career: BOOK NOW

Alexis Fromageot

Guest Blog: How to Prepare for an Online Video Interview

Please note that the views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not those of SOAS Careers Service. If you consider this content to be in breach of the SOAS values, please alert


One of the biggest challenges when you’re looking for a job, especially that first job, can be getting a conversation with a recruiter, which is why the Finding Ada Online Careers Fair for Women in STEM is an excellent opportunity to get over that hurdle.

The fair has attracted some of the biggest names in business including semiconductor maker ARM, consulting giant Accenture, the Government Digital Service, the European Patent Office, tech company Capgemini, and specialist recruitment agency STEM WomenThe IET will also be on hand to talk about ongoing professional development and accreditation for engineers.

Make a good first impression

Making a good first impression is key to making the most of the fair, and we spoke to Dr Amanda Barnes, employability manager and cell biologist at the University of York, to get tips on preparing for the interview and also for how to navigate an online interview. (Watch the full interview with Amanda now!)

“The first thing I’d say is that although this is not a formal interview, this is your first opportunity to show yourself to that company and a way in,” she said. So you should dress formally, just as you would for an in-person interview, and make sure that you use formal, professional speech in your interview.

Key in making a really good first impression is doing your research on the companies you want to talk to, she said. Make sure that you know what products or services they offer, and what type of roles they have open that are suitable for you, such as graduate schemes or entry-level positions if you’re just leaving university, or mid-level roles if you’re early in your careers. If you’re returning to the workforce, find out if they offer specific returnships and see if they have public information about flexible or fractional (part-time) working.

Interviews are a two-way street

It’s also important to remember the interviews are a two-way street: They aren’t just about an employer getting to know you, they are also an important opportunity to find out whether they are a company you want to work for. Dr Barnes suggests that you should ask what kind of potential career paths would be available to you if you join the company, and that could include asking about future training and career development opportunities.

Another plus of the Finding Ada Online Careers Fair is that it gives “you an opportunity to find out how your values fit with that of the company”, Dr Barnes said. “What do you want your typical day to be like in your world of work? … What is the culture like at the company and will I fit in there?”

Think about what’s in view of your camera

The default interview format for the Finding Ada Online Careers Fair is video, so make sure that there isn’t anything in the background that might distract the interviewer. Most laptops have a way to test the camera, so do that before the day and move anything that’s distracting. if you’re living in a student house, make sure that your flatmates know about the interview and don’t interrupt you.

If you are using a laptop, make sure it is fully charged or plugged in. That might sound like a simple thing to remember, but if you’re nervous, you might forget.

Keep your energy up

In addition to keeping your devices charged up, be sure to keep your energy levels high during the conversation, and be prepared to drive the interview. Have a list of questions, just out of the view during the interview that you can refer to, she said, adding you can plaster sticky notes behind your screen to remind yourself to make key points, especially about your skills or key questions that you have.

As for the structure of the interview, it’s a good idea to think ahead, and plan a question to kick off the discussion based on some of the research that you’ve done. Then you can move on to specific job opportunities, before finding out about the company’s culture and the work environment.

Make sure to end your conversation on a positive note. Recap the main points that you’ve made during the interview, and thank the interviewers for their time. And don’t forget to find out about next steps such as how to follow up with the recruiter or next steps in the application process.

If you want to know more about the Finding Ada Online Careers Fair for Women in STEM on 1 February 2018, we’ve lots of information for candidates, plus a quick overview of the companies and job types on offer. Job hunters can sign up free:

The Finding Ada Online Careers Fair for Women in STEM 2018


Insight From Your Fellow Student: My Summer with the Civil Service

As part of our Student Insight blog series, Harmanjit Sidhu, BA History (grad 2017) and Ambitious Futures Graduate Trainee at SOAS for 2017/18, talks through her recent experience of the Civil Service’s Summer Diversity Internship Programme. 


I have to admit, I was quite apprehensive about sacrificing possibly my last ever summer holidays to complete the Civil Service’s Summer Diversity Internship Programme. On reflection, it was probably one of the most beneficial experiences of my life.

For seven weeks, I was based at the Ministry of Defence, working on the Covenant Grant Fund which helps to support ex-servicemen and women through funding local projects. Some of these were based on helping veterans find work after completing their service, whilst other projects focused on aiding veterans who suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

I was given the responsibility of producing a case study booklet, evaluating the success of some projects the Grant had funded in the past. I had to finally present this to a senior steering group of the fund, which was made up of both military generals and civil servants. It was quite possibly the most frightening experience of my life- but as soon as it was over I can’t remember feeling more proud of myself! The final case study booklet is now used within the department as a key piece of publicity, and is distributed as events to showcase the achievements of the Fund. Therefore, in some ways, I have left behind an enduring legacy.

The range of projects on offer for interns is huge. Following a successful application, you are allocated to a department and project. For most people this is pretty random, however, if there is a project which is aligned to interests you mentioned in your written application, or on the phone interview, you are assigned to it. I was also able to indicate my preference for the type of work I wanted to do, e.g. Communications over technical/ operational. Fellow interns were placed in departments like Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the Cabinet Office, the National Crime Agency and so on. Their projects included updating travel advice on the FCO website based on new information, evaluating a project completed by the team in the past, or conducting interviews to gather feedback on a new software.

The project and the overall experience of working within the civil service has provided me with a whole range of new skills. In producing the case study booklet I had to communicate with a hugely varied range of people, from senior diplomatic figures, to army generals, to on the ground grass root activists. As well as this, I had to plan, write and design the content and layout of the booklet too. I was given additional responsibilities of reporting back after attending conferences, attending high level meetings (after signing an official secrets act- all very exciting!), as well as the day to day communications with current grant holders, and chasing end of year grant reports.

Interns were also given ample opportunities to network across other government departments. At the beginning you attend a huge opening ceremony, normally held at the FCO, and there are a number of other events during the summer where the entire cohort of interns gets together. You have the opportunity to meet assessment day coordinators, ask current fast streamers questions, and meet representatives of different government departments who are happy to offer advice and guidance. You are also given a ‘mentor’, normally a fast streamer who can help provide specific advice on the project you are completing, as well as helping you out with Fast Stream application questions. I received some great advice from my own mentor, and have kept in touch with him since I left the scheme.

Increasing diversity and improving representation is a huge objective at the moment, and rightly so. Time and time again, as interns were told about how vital the issue of representation is for the government. The SDIP scheme taught me how much variety there is on offer if you work for the government. If you’re somebody who believes passionately in using your career to create meaningful and lasting change, and you meet the criteria for applying, then challenge yourself to completing the SDIP this summer. It could change your life!

Harmanjit Sidhu

Please note that the views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not those of SOAS Careers Service. If you consider this content to be in breach of the SOAS values, please alert


Diversity v Inclusivity: Insurance and the LGBT community

In terms of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans) friendly employers perhaps Insurance isn’t the first industry that comes to mind. However, in recent years the insurance sector has been one of the front-runners in ensuring their workplace is open, accepting and encouraging to LGBT people.

I had little-to-no knowledge of the insurance sector beyond thinking it sounded a bit dry but through happenstance was invited along to a LGBT Networking dinner at The Standard Club (a very swanky office space opposite the Royal Courts of Justice).


A number of companies within the insurance sector have been awarded positions within the Stone Wall Top 100 Employers

The dinner was attended by some of the big names of the sector, all of whom fell under the LGBT rubric and who were striving within their work to make the sector a more inclusive place.  People such as Angela Darlington, chief risk officer for Aviva and a role model for LGBT and women in leadership; and Steve Wardlaw, a renowned business lawyer and prominent gay rights campaigner who co-founded the LGBT inclusive insurance company Emerald Life (more impressively, a silver medal winning Latin-American ballroom dancer in the 1998 gay games).

The room in which the dinner was held was expansive, featured a huge table that looked like it’d come straight out of a 9-to-5/Big Business-esque 80’s film; three old-fashioned portraits hung on the wall, each of an affluent-looking, upper-class, old, white ‘gentleman’. Not exactly the diverse image they were keen to cultivate in recent years but it did highlight why such diversity and inclusion initiatives were so critically important in challenging historic practices.

If you’ve yet to see Big Business (1988) or 9-to-5 (1980) then you’re missing out!

Any intimidation I felt from the setting was quickly offset by free-flowing wine (poured by a butler!) and the warm demeanour of the organisers and attendees. Together with myself there were four other students in attendance, each of us from a different university, studying a different subject and bringing different experiences to the table.

Before dinner, we were seated together before a crowd of eager-looking business people and asked a range of questions: had we ever considered a career in insurance? Why did we think the technology industry gave the impression of being more diverse than others? What qualities did we look for in an employer?

I thought it best to be honest as I had very little knowledge of the insurance – I’d never been able to afford it frankly. My comments solicited a fair few laughs but actually it seemed that my opinions resonated with the group. Sharing my thoughts was an enjoyable experience (usually, I run my mouth off for free but this time I’d gotten a free dinner out of it!).

After the questions we were seated for dinner and had the opportunity to chat informally with the various people around the table. It was enlightening to hear about the different career paths taken, and how being a member of the LGBT community had impacted their professional trajectories.

Over dinner I was lucky enough to chat briefly with Jan Gooding, who discusses in her role as Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer of Aviva and as the Chair of Stonewall, the difference between diversity and inclusivity:

“Diversity doesn’t mean anything without inclusivity. People need to be empowered to bring their true selves to work or any initiative is just paying lip-service.”

This quote addresses what I think is the strength of events such as this one. LGBT networking in this manner empowers young people to have a say in how best to attract them on their own terms. Whilst focus groups, surveys and opinion polls can be powerful tools, bypassing them in this way and creating a direct line of communication between the current heads of industry and the future leaders of tomorrow empowers young LGBT people to talk about what truly matters to them.

Inclusivity is only created, and cultivated, when you empower people to speak for themselves, from their specific standpoint, and allow them to assert what they need to feel included and accepted. Networking events like this ensure that those at the top are able to connect with those at the very beginnings of their career and utilise their input to change systems and structures in order to attract and nurture the best talent.

Additionally, it was particularly potent for myself and the other students to be able to see ourselves amongst people who are at the top of their field. LGBT young people struggle from a lack of positive role models, especially within the top tiers of professional environments.

Attracting and retaining the best talent, LGBT, or otherwise is a difficult task in the increasingly shifting socioeconomic climate but it is affirming that Insurance as a sector has such a strong commitment to ensuring that identity isn’t a barrier to success.

The benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce are manifold:

Concealing sexual orientation at work reduces productivity by up to 30%. People who have ‘come out’ in supportive workplaces are more creative, loyal and productive –  Stonewall

Organisations that rate highly in both diversity and inclusion are 70% more likely to have success in new markets and 45% more likely to improve their market share  – Centre for Talent & Innovation

A diverse and inclusive company is 45% more likely to see improved market share and 70% more likely to succeed in new markets – Corporate Leadership Council

Diverse workforces have 19% better employee retention, 42% greater team commitment, and 57% better team collaboration – Centre for Talent Innovation

James Hallett, Volunteering Advisor


How To Go About Mastering Your Career

Volkswagen Van Journey Adventure Vw Travel

The holiday season is fast approaching bringing lots of opportunities to reconnect with family and friends.  One of the common questions asked when you meet up with people is ‘What are you doing now? After a term of Masters level study at SOAS (or a year and a term if you are a part time student), there will be much to tell!   The follow up question which is then commonly asked is ‘What are you going to next’ At this point do you:

a) Outline your current plans and talk about recent applications

b) Say that you have lots of ideas and stop there

c) Change the subject

d) Steer the conversation around to what they do and try some networking!

If you answered A: Outline your current plans and talk about recent application

If you are writing your CV, filling out application forms or about to start applying, the Making Applications section of MySOAS Student has lots of useful hints and tips. This includes our handout on CVs for Masters Students, a useful guide to how to present your current and past experience to your future employer.  After looking at our resources on applications, you can book a short guidance discussion with a Careers Consultant to get feedback on your draft CV or form.

When you receive an invitation to interview, don’t forget that the Careers Service offers practice interviews as well!

If you answered B: Say that you have lots of ideas and stop there

It’s great that you have lots of ideas but how might you take these forward?  If you are finding it challenging to make some choices then have a look at the career decision information on MySOAS Student. How much do you know about the sector and roles that you are considering? Check out the ‘Explore Your Future’ pages on MySOAS Student for detailed information on many career areas. You can also use our Careers Tagged database to explore different types of work.

A discussion with a Careers Consultant may also help you think though your ideas and consider what you can do next to make your ideas a reality!

If you answered C: Change the subject

You may not have wanted to enter into a careers discussion in the midst of a social occasions and there is time and place for everything.  On the other hand, if you find that you continually put to one side thoughts about the ‘next step’ after your course as you don’t know where to start or feel that there would be too much to do to sort things out, then come and talk to a Careers Consultant.  Even taking some small steps about what to do after your course can be valuable.  We are used to working with students and graduates who are very very unsure about future plans!

If you answered D: Steer the conversation around to what they do and try some networking!

The holiday season brings lots of opportunities to network and make useful contacts.  If the thought of networking makes you nervous or just brings to mind, people in suits with lots of business cards then you may be reassured by looking at some hints and tips in the career planning section of MySOAS Student.

‘Mastering Your Career’ suggests that everything needs to be organised at all times – we all know life is not like that.  Serendipitous encounters, the job that catches your eye when browsing through a vacancy list and a casual discussion with the person next to you in a lecture (SOAS students have a lot to offer) can all help to life’s rich career tapestry!

May you all enjoy your vacation (it is nearly here!).

Claire Rees, Careers Consultant


#MondayMotivation: Mastering Your Career Week


Seize the (Mon)day and get involved with SOAS Careers’ Mastering Your Career Week. Whether you’ve got no idea at all what life looks like after SOAS or a set plan – take your lead from the sloth and follow your dreams.

Come by the Careers Zone in SL62, Paul Webley Wing to see how to get going and swing by any of these awesome events…

Tues 28 Nov, 3 – 4pm, Careers Seminar Room (SL62): Ambitious Futures: Graduate Programme for Leadership Development

Tue 28 Nov, 5:30 – 8pm, Careers Seminar Room (SL62): Global Skills Project: Selling Yourself on Paper 

Wed 29 Nov, 1 – 2pm, Careers Seminar Room (SL62): University of Law: GDL Course Talk:

Thu 30 Nov, 5:30 – 8pm, Careers Seminar Room (SL62): Global Skills Project: Selling Yourself in a Presentation

Alexis Fromageot


#FridayFeeling Guest Blog: ‘Tea, Cake and Ambitious Futures’

Guest blog from Tom Fryer, who is the Ambitious Futures Graduate Trainee at SOAS for 2016/17.

Please note that the views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not those of SOAS Careers Service. If you consider this content to be in breach of the SOAS values, please alert


Few people can resist an email with a subject line referring to both ‘Tea’ and ‘Cake’, but it wasn’t just my stomach that led me to Ambitious Futures. A quick glance around the website and I was instantly intrigued at the prospect of seeing how universities function from a staff perspective – or perhaps it was simply that a graduate programme in the field of Higher Education seemed a tad more interesting than the Foucault reading assignment on my desk. The idea of working on three placements over 15 months sounded like a great way to pick up a broad range of skills. Plus, getting to grips with three projects over such a short period seemed the perfect test of my oft-repeated cover letter claims to tenacity!

A couple of months later, I found myself navigating an application and phone interview, before attending an assessment day run specifically for the SOAS Ambitious Futures programme. The day at SOAS had been carefully planned to try to simulate activities that Ambitious Futures Graduate Trainees are faced with on a regular basis, from negotiations in meetings, to drafting proposals. I know that ‘assessment day’ doesn’t exactly scream ‘fun’, but there was something about the practical focus (none of those damned logical reasoning tests) and constant interaction with other candidates that made the day pretty enjoyable.

One thing that has continued to stand-out across the application, interviews and orientation for Ambitious Futures, is the emphasis on personal development. As part of the programme everyone works towards a management qualification, ILM Leadership and Management Level 3, which is a great opportunity to reflect a little more deeply on management and workplace dynamics. More importantly, this qualification is taught through Learning Sets, or meetings with six other Ambitious Futures Graduate Trainees from other universities in and around London (if Oxford really counts as ‘in and around London’). This seems to be a great way to learn, as we’re all likely to experience similar challenges in our new work, but also it’s an amazing chance to get to know a bunch of other people who are passionate about contributing to the transformative work of universities.

For more information and to apply, visit the Ambitious Futures website.

Tom Fryer, SOAS Ambitious Futures Graduate Trainee (2016/17)


Guest Blog: From SOAS Student to SOAS Staff

Guest blog from Harmanjit Sidhu, who is the Ambitious Futures Graduate Trainee at SOAS for 2017/18.

Please note that the views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not those of SOAS Careers Service. If you consider this content to be in breach of the SOAS values, please alert


Walking in to SOAS three years ago as undergraduate History student, I never expected to wind up working here. My first few student days at SOAS were a blur of places, faces and names. My first few days as a Staff member at SOAS have been much of the same!

There are definite similarities in the student and staff experience (the building obviously, the queue for the cash machine, the strange extremes in temperature in rooms- freezing cold or boiling hot) but pretty much everything else is completely different.
As a student, you never put much thought into the work going on ‘behind the scenes’ and it has just dawned on me how much machinery is working hard to keep the institute running, whilst seeking ways to maximise the student/staff experience.

For me, it seems a career in Higher Education is a well guarded secret, but once you’re in on it, it’s easy to be impressed by the huge variety of roles and people working here. I have already been exposed to a huge number of issues and problems that had never occurred to me while I was a student here, whilst also being exposed to the various departments handling these issues with innovative strategies and ideas.

A recurring theme from conversations with colleagues over the last few weeks has been ‘too much work, not enough resources’. That’s one of my favourite things about the scheme- I am able to lend a hand to various departments who have brilliant ideas but require an extra pair of hands to bring them to life.

My current posting is in the Library, working on a collaborative project with the Research and Enterprise Office and Staff Learning and Development, looking at ways in which we can improve the induction process for Early Career Researchers and also the ways in which we can improve the support offered to this group. (If you’re reading this as an Early Career Researcher, I would love to hear your thoughts on this).

As a Graduate Trainee on this scheme, I will be posted into three different departments on various projects. Two of these will take place right here at SOAS, and one at the University of Oxford. Whilst I am not looking forward to the idea of that commute, it will be a great chance to develop my knowledge of the sector.

SOAS is a fantastic institution- a place where great minds from all over the world come to
share ideas, where students come to the meet the world, where challenges are faced with
innovation and strategy. Working here for just the last few weeks has just reinforced these opinions, and I am excited about the opportunities the next few months will bring!

For more information about the scheme and to apply head here or email me at

Harmanjit Sidhu, SOAS Ambitious Futures Graduate Trainee (2017/18)


#MondayMotivation: Graduate Scheme Week

Focus on the problem

Final year got you toying with the idea of graduate schemes? SOAS Careers is here to help!

This week we’re taking a look at everything to do with those notorious programs. Come by the Careers Zone in SL62 to take a look at the really relevant resources we’ve got all about flying through the recruitment process, and drop by to get insight into how we can best support you.

Take a look as well at the awesome employers we’ve got coming on to campus to talk to you!

Wed 1 Nov, 2 – 5pm, Atrium (Paul Webley Wing): Bright Scholar:

Wed 1 Nov, 5:30 – 7pm, Careers Seminar Room (SL62): Bright Scholar Presentation:

Wed 1 Nov, 6:30 – 8:30pm, Cloisters, Paul Webley Wing: SOAS’ Dragons’ Den: 

Thu 2 Nov, 3 – 4:30pm, Careers Seminar Room (SL62): Civil Service Alumni Panel:

Thu 2 Nov, 5 – 6:30pm, Careers Seminar Room (SL62): PwC: Applications and Interviews Skills Session:


Alexis Fromageot