The recruitment process

The recruitment process used by individual employers is likely to vary from one organisation to another. Here's an overview of the different stages included in a 'typical' process to give you a general idea of what to expect.

Online screening questions

As part of your initial application for a job, you may be asked to complete a set of online screening questions, which focus on the essential criteria required by the organisation in order to apply for the job. These normally take the form of 'yes/no' questions, such as:

  • Do you have the right to work in the UK?
  • Do you have a 2:1 or above degree in Mathematics?
  • Do you have a passion for working in the software industry?

If you answer 'yes' to all these questions, you should automatically progress to the next stage of the process. Answering 'no' to any of these questions may result in you being informed that you do not meet the essential criteria for the job and are therefore not eligible to apply.

CV and covering letter/online application questions

You will generally be asked to submit a CV and covering letter or to answer a series of online application questions. These application questions often ask you to describe situations in which you have performed tasks relating to the job or where you have demonstrated key skills and abilities that the employer is looking for. For example:

  • Describe a time when you have provided excellent customer service.
  • Outline an occasion when you used your initiative to achieve a successful outcome for an organisation.
  • Describe a time when you worked effectively as part of a team.

Your CV and covering letter, or answers to the application questions, will be assessed by the organisation against a set of pre-defined criteria relating to the role. This will decide whether your application is progressed to the next stage of the process.

Psychometric assessments

Some employers, including many large-scale recruitment schemes, may require you to complete psychometric assessments as part of your application. Psychometric assessments are used to measure aspects of personality, ability and competency:

  • Ability tests measure your ability to perform or carry out different tasks. The majority of mainstream ability tests focus on verbal, numerical and logical reasoning.
  • Personality questionnaires are used to assess your workplace behavioural style and preferences, i.e. how you typically like to act. They are designed to measure those particular aspects of personality that determine, or are predictive of, successful performance at work; how you handle relationships at work, your thinking style and how you manage tasks, and your feelings and motivations.
  • Competency-based assessments focus on the skills and knowledge that you demonstrate in the workplace.

Find out more about using psychometric assessments.

N.B. If you are asked to take part in an assessment centre, psychometric assessments will often be included in this stage of the process.

Telephone interview

Some organisations like to have a brief telephone interview with you before inviting you for further assessment or a face-to-face interview. This type of interview is likely to be shorter and less in-depth than a face-to-face interview; however, it will typically explore your motivations for the job role, knowledge about the company, relevant skills and experience and possibly some competency based questions.

Use the interview tips and guidance section for advice on how to prepare.

Face-to-face interview

The main part of your job application will be a face-to-face interview. This is likely to take the form of a competency-based interview, where the interviewers will ask you a list of standard questions. Every candidate going through the interview process will be asked exactly the same questions; ensuring the process is objective and fair. You may be interviewed by just one person, or there may be a panel of two or three interviewers.

Use the interview tips and guidance section for advice on how to prepare.

N.B. If you are asked to take part in an assessment centre, the competency-based interview will often be included in this stage of the process.

Assessment centre

Many large-scale recruitment schemes will use assessment centres as part of their recruitment process. During the assessment centre, you will be assessed alongside other candidates on a variety of different exercises. Some of these exercises will involve you working individually, while some will assess your ability to work as part of a group. All of these exercises are designed to assess your suitability for the job by looking at your skills and competence to perform the job role and your personality fit for the organisation and the job itself. 

Refer to our assessment centre guidance for advice on preparing for assessment centres and the exercises involved.

Some organisations will conduct a second assessment centre, depending on the number of applicants and the range of skills and abilities they need to assess.

Final interview

Some organisations will conduct a final interview before they make any decisions. This is often an opportunity for them to explore your skills and experience further, perhaps looking into the strengths and development areas they identified during your earlier interview or at the assessment centre.

As part of this final interview, you may be asked to deliver a presentation. You will receive the presentation brief a week or more in advance of the interview to give you time to prepare. The brief will generally focus on a specific question or problem, or ask you to make recommendations on a particular course of action. The presentation will last between 10-30 minutes and will be followed by a question and answer session with the interviewers.

You may also be required to meet different members of the team at this stage so that they can get an idea for how well you would fit in with the existing team.

Job offer

The final stage of the recruitment process is the job offer, where you will receive a final decision from the company on your application.


A job offer is typically dependent on you providing satisfactory employment references from previous employers and/or your school/college/university. These references should demonstrate your ability to be able to perform the job, work effectively with others, and your reliability and commitment to work.