Insider advice on how to succeed at CGI assessment centres and interviews

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CGI's assessment centre: Writing exercise | Group exercise | Interview

CGI’s assessment centre is an opportunity for CGI to get to learn more about you as a person and see you in action in a number of assessment exercises. They typically consist of an interview, group exercise and written exercise (though in some rare cases, you may be invited to a second interview on another day.)

Don’t forget: the assessment centre is also the best time for you to learn more about what CGI will be like as an employer. There will be times when you are able to talk and ask questions to graduates and professionals at CGI. Maria says, ‘we actually encourage people to come with any questions that they do have, so they can come away from the assessment centre knowing definitely whether CGI’s the place they’d like to work.’

No matter whether you're applying for a technical or business role, recruiters will be looking to see whether you have the soft skills you will need in the workplace. whether you demonstrate CGI's values and whether you are genuinely interested in starting your graduate career at the employer. As such, throughout the day, you'll be assessed not just on your interview and the 'content' of your answers, but your enthusiasm, how you behave with other candidates and assessors, and how you approach the tasks.

The CGI writing exercise: how to succeed

The written exercise at CGI takes the form of a report and the brief will be given on the day. ‘There’s nothing that they need to, or can even, prepare in advance of the day. Candidates just need to respond to the brief within the time restrictions,’ says Maria. This exercise allows recruiters to assess whether you have the writing skills to produce formal reports and other essential forms of business communication, as well as whether you’ve understood the brief correctly – there is not a 'correct' answer that recruiters are looking for. Maria adds, ‘people can get nervous about the written exercise, so it’s important to realise that it’s not there to catch you out.’

The written exercise is timed, so it's important that you manage your time effectively. 30 minutes might sound like ages, but you don't won't to be caught out and only be able to submit a half-finished answer. It's worth spending a couple of minutes planning out your answer before you start writing. Make sure to leave time for a final check too.

Here are a couple of tips for succeeding at CGI’s written exercise:

  • Spelling and grammar are important
  • Have a clear, coherent structure
  • Ensure that each sentence and each paragraph flows on from the previous one in a logical manner
  • Be concise
  • Elements such as headings, graphs and diagrams can help to add clarity.

A previous candidate recommends maintaining a formal tone and using academic references when writing the report, but you may receive guidance on this from CGI.

CGI’s group exercises: what does it involve?

In groups of six-to-ten, you’ll be given a brief and have around 30 minutes to prepare a response, which you’ll present back to recruiters. Maria explains, ‘we’re assessing how candidates work together as a team and how they communicate with each other. We’re looking at how they approach the brief and come to a solution.’ The problem may be non-technical or abstract and no prior knowledge should be necessary. Previous candidates have indicated they’ve been asked ‘how would you survive on a desert island’, but there’s no guarantee that something similar will be asked.

Expect to be assessed on elements such as:

  • teamworking
  • communication
  • how you approach the problem
  • how you manange group dynamics
  • how you break up areas of responsibility within the team

Avoid staying quiet, but remember that the goal here isn’t to be the loudest in the room or to force your point of view onto other people, it’s to work well together. Make sure you listen to everybody in the team and work together with the other members of the team to think of an appropriate response to the brief. You may be able to volunteer for a specific role in the group, such as being a scribe.

Like the written exercise, the group task is also timed , so make sure you’re aware of, and in control of, your timings. A good way to approach tasks may be to split off into sub-groups and divide responsibilities between groups. If you're required to present ideas back to assessors, it's a good idea to leave time to do a practice run-through.

CGI graduate interviews: what will happen?

You will have a one-to-one interview with a manager from the relevant area of the business. From what we have been told by CGI and by previous candidates, you can expect to be asked competency-based interview questions, questions about yourself and your motivations for applying, and technical questions. ‘We’re looking for graduates to explain about any experiences they’ve had – any internships or placement years, for example – and for evidence of our key competencies,’ explains Maria.

Previous CGI interview questions

We’ve spoken to graduates and interns currently at CGI to get an idea of what you could be asked at interview, although there’s no guarantee that these questions come up. According to a previous Insider Reviews survey of CGI graduate employees, previous interviews involved the following experiences:

  • ‘We talked about my previous work experience and what I had learned from it. There were also questions around what I knew about CGI.’
  • 'There were questions about my course, skills and hobbies listed [on my application].'
  • ‘There were the normal competency questions about teamwork, leadership and my past projects and experience.’
  • 'I was asked situational questions based around various desired qualities. An example would be: tell me about a time when you disagreed with a co-worker and how you went about resolving it.'
  • 'There were mainly technical questions about the types of technologies I had used, the projects I had worked on and what they involved. There were also some general questions about my work experience outside of university and there was some general chat about me as a person.'
  • 'I was asked about my previous employment and volunteering activities. I also had to provide examples of my experience in conflict resolution and meeting deadlines.'
  • Read more previous CGI interview questions and find out how you should prepare for them here.

Will there be a technical interview?

If you are asked technical questions, they will be based around the area of the business you have applied to and the skills listed in the job description (eg Java). Maria elaborates: ‘We would expect people going for technical roles to explain the technical knowledge and skills they have, how they learned these skills, how they’ve used these skills and whether they know the theory behind their knowledge.’

How to prepare for interview questions at CGI

  • Read up on CGI’s core competencies on the application hints and tips section of its website. The best thing is to consider how you used or developed those competencies during your course, internships, employment history, gap years and extracurricular activities.
  • Research CGI and make a note of your sources. Look outside of the business, too, and see what other companies are doing. Be aware of some of CGI’s projects and the industries it works in.
  • Look up CGI's corporate values and culture – recruiters will be using the assessment centre to see whether you will fit into its working culture.
  • Make sure you know about the industry and the role you are applying for. By the time of the assessment centre you’ll have already been placed in a specific area during the screening telephone call. Your interview answers should reflect the role and industry that you are applying for.
  • Practise explaining your technical knowledge and skills, such as your programming language skills – specific examples will always help to illustrate examples.
  • Maria advises: ‘Look through common interview questions and come up with answers. You can practice interview questions with your family and friends, or sign up for a mock interview with your university’s career service.’

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