The nature of the interview or assessment centre you will have depends on the role you are applying to. Applicants to jobs in Marks and Spencers shops may have a telephone interview, whereas applicants to the M&S graduate scheme will have their interview in the assessment centre. This page will take you through some of the main exercises to expect, including the M&S role play, interviews and assessment centre exercises.
At various points in the recruitment process you will find yourself in one or more interviews. Some of you may be invited to attend a telephone interview as a precursor to the assessment centre. Others will experience their interviews as part of the assessment centre itself. Interviews are variable in length but can last as long as an hour and a half at Marks and Spencers graduate scheme assessment centres.
All interviews contain a mix of competency and motivational questions. The interview is your opportunity to present your previous experience and your skills, so prepare to ensure you use it. Prepare examples from your previous experience that highlight your skills. Use the STAR method (situation, task, action, result) to ensure that you cover all the details the interviewers are looking for. The interviewers are looking for your evidence of four skills areas: teamwork achievements; crystal-clear communication skills; sharp problem-solving abilities; and business awareness.
Prepare for your interview by preparing answers to common questions as seen below or in our free guide to interviews (PDF). Ahead of the interview think about why you are applying to M&S. Make sure you know about the role you have applied for and work out some very clear reasons why you want to apply for this job. You will be asked about it. Read up on the company and the environment it is working in, including competing shops. Pull together all your preparation by rehearsing your actual answers in a mock interview.
The questions you are asked at the interview are designed to help the recruitment team assess whether you have the skills M&S are looking for in their employees. Remember to try and interweave your answers with the key competencies mentioned above.
Some example questions from previous interviews include:
If you have applied to an HR or customer facing role, you will likely get a role play to act out. You are given some information to read and understand in five minutes ahead of entering the role play. Be sure to use all the information you are given in the course of your role play.
Example role plays from past assessment centres include:
For customer assistant roles you need to pass the role play in order to be invited to the interview. Gain tips for your role play exercise from the advice on our pages.
The final stage for most applicants is a Marks and Spencer assessment centre. For applicants to Marks and Spencers graduate schemes, Marks and Spencers internships and school leavers the assessment centre will have three exercises: the group discussion, role related exercises and the competency based interview. Applicants to store management positions can expect an analytical exercise.
In this part of the day you are split into two groups of four and given a variety of tasks to complete. You are given an hour with which to complete the exercise. For example, you may be given a task of coming up with a new floor plan for one of Marks and Spencer’s biggest stores. This store may be split up on multiple levels and stock everything from kid’s clothes to groceries in it. It will be your job to work out how to best serve customers. The point of this exercise is to show your ability in dealing with other people, how you work within a team, and how you respond to social dynamics. You are also assessed on how well you listen to others, and what you say to the group. Prepare your group exercise strategy in advance.
The exact nature of this exercise will depend on the role you are applying for. The exercises are relevant to the scheme you are applying to, are based on a real life situation or ask you to deal with an issue at hand. Some applicants can expect an exercise similar to the analytical exercise described below.
Applicants to HR or customer related roles will receive a role play. Applicants to office based jobs can expect a task asking them to analyse information or contribute ideas to a project. An acted role play exercise is a one- to- one role play with one of the M&S staff acting opposite you. Typically you will be given about 15 minutes to work through and absorb the relevant information. Following this, you will be asked a series of questions. For example, “I want to know where I can buy some sweets for my grandson and something for me to wear for his party. Can you please advise me?” Remember to show your competency skills and bring them to the fore. This will last for about 30 minutes. Prepare for your role play with our role play pages.
Applicants to commercial and store management positions as well as to some Marks and Spencer graduate programme positions can expect this assessment. In this exercise you are given 90 minutes to analyse a set of information including business information, sales and costs profit and loss, market information, mystery shopping results and more. Within this time you must prepare a 15 minute presentation based on how you would move the store forward in four key areas. You will then present your findings to an assessor. A written exercise such as this one assesses your verbal and numerical skills as well as your communication skills in preparing a presentation. Gain tips on how to work the written exercise and presentation parts of this assessment with JobTestPrep.
The final exercise is the competency based interview. This is almost always held at the end of the day. The reason for this is to try and catch you out when you are feeling drained. They want to see the real you so this is why they leave it to the end. However, it isn't a very difficult interview and in some ways it is more like a chat. Therefore, if you have done your homework and presented yourself well during the day, you should be fine. Prepare for this part of the assessment centre in the same way as the interview above.
M&S may receive as many as 11,000 applications during a graduate recruitment season. Competition is equally high for most other jobs. Therefore you need to ensure that you are prepared for each new assessment. By using the information above and getting good practice in all the areas where you need to excel, you will be able to show Marks and Spencer that you are a worthwhile investment.