Frequently Asked Questions

How are skills, knowledge and experience tested?

The following provides a general guide on how panels test skills, knowledge and experience. You can find examples of actual tests that were used in the publications area of our website that describes attraction and assessment methods.


All assessment and selection is against the requirements published in the person specification. New requirements are not introduced. The panel will not take into account the level you have worked at or how recent your skills, knowledge or experience are unless it is clear from the person specification that level or recency are important. 

Most of the assessment is undertaken by a selection panel although the panel may delegate some elements of the assessment to suitably qualified individuals. For example the panel may delegate the running of assessment centre exercises or, when a significant number of people apply, the first assessment of written applications.


Testing skills


The selection panel will usually test skills by using performance-based questioning at interview or in a written application. In either case you will be asked to provide examples of having put your skills to use in previous situations. The panel may also use an assessment centre approach to test certain skills such as team working and/or communications. Panels may also set specific tasks such as asking you to review a board paper to assess skills such as analysis and judgment or asking you to make a presentation to assess your communication and presentation skills.

The panel will establish not just whether you have used a given skill but how effective you are at putting it into practice. The panel will identify the applicants who are best at putting their skills into practice.


Testing knowledge

The panel will not take into account whether you have applied your knowledge in practical circumstances unless it is clear from the person specification that practical application is important. The use of wording such as “a working knowledge” means that the panel will look for evidence of your having applied your knowledge to practical situations by asking you to provide examples of having done so.   

The panel will usually test your knowledge by questioning your understanding of the subject area. The panel may also set a test or exam either online or as part of an assessment centre exercise. You will be advised of the assessment methods being used in the application pack. The panel will establish not just whether you have the knowledge but how in-depth it is. The panel will identify the applicants who are most knowledgeable in the subject area.    

In some cases, although rarely, the role may require a qualification. If so, this will always be made explicit in the person specification as will whether it has to be at a certain level. Verification in this case will usually be by asking you to confirm by way of a tick box or similar that you have the qualification. This can then be checked with the awarding body.


Testing experience

Where experience is sought the panel will usually include a section entitled “Life History” in the application form, or ask you to provide a tailored CV or a letter. In all cases you will be asked to set out the roles you have held or the activities that you have engaged in that are relevant to the experience described in the person specification. The person specification can also give guidance on the type of backgrounds or positions that the experience might have been gained in. Experience does not have to have been gained in a professional capacity. Experience gained in your personal life and from any voluntary work you may have done is equally valid. In some cases the experience sought may be something very personal to potential applicants such as direct experience of social exclusion or first-hand experience of the accessibility issues that affect public-service users with a disability. The panel will compare what applicants have written against the type of experience it is looking for to see which applicants provide the closest match. The panel may ask follow up questions at interview to see how effective you have been in the roles you have held. If this is planned it will be made clear in the person specification.