First interview with the Office for National Statisitics

The Graduate

I have an interview and assement centre for the graduate scheme in National Accounts for the ONS soon. Anyone been to one of these before or have any advice? Also, does anyone work or previously worked for the ONS? Is it any good?


it’s based in Wales is it not?


Yeah in newport. Although there are offices in London and Titchfield too.


It’s public sector, so probably a lot less pressurised than a city firm.


It seems a pretty decent package they offer, I have a reasonable chance of getting a place there or audit at KPMG in Cardiff. I think i prefer the ONS, but cant find much info about there assesments or workplace other than on their website. There’s a fair amount of info on KPG tho


It seems a pretty decent package they offer, I have a reasonable chance of getting a place there or audit at KPMG in Cardiff. I think i prefer the ONS, but cant find much info about there assesments or workplace other than on their website. There’s a fair amount of info on KPG tho


You should definately get a good understanding of what the Office of National Statistics do. Make sure you’re familiar with the sorts of material they publish (there’s lots on their site).


A reasonable package and good job security (public sector/civil service aren’t going to cut jobs as fast as [[KPMG]] if the [[credit crunch effect on audit|credit crunch]] gets worse, if at all).

It seems that there is also good opportunity for you to move over in to other [[Civil Service]] departments too, if you ever want a change from Statistics in the future.

Regarding what its like to actually work there - there just isn’t much online. Perhaps they don’t employ many graduates…? Perhaps you could be the guinea pig and tell us what it’s like when you go for interview :stuck_out_tongue:

Research recent ONS topics before interview, e.g. the new ONS National Statistics Code of Practice. Prove your [[commitment to career]] by making sure you are aware of exactly what the ONS is and does.

From the ONS website it looks like they are looking for these [[key competencies]]:

  • An understanding of data collection
  • An understanding of data analysis
  • Ability to [[communication|communicate]], particularly statistical or technical ideas
  • [[Teamwork]]ing skills
  • Personal effectiveness
  • Ability to deliver results

…interesting that there’s no mention of [[leadership]]. Investigate/ask about the training on offer and how long it will be before you are leading a team at the ONS, if you get the job. If you want to develop a career you need to be getting to management/leadership positions - make sure this is something the ONS offer.


Yeah I noticed that leadership wasn’t a key competency. They are in the process of moving a host of jobs away from London to Newport and unsuprisingly those in London are reluctant to move, so i think there’s a good few positions available for people with an economics background to get in there. Their assesment centre involves a 45 min interview, a teamwork excerise, a 10 min presentation based on data they give you, with 20 mins prep, and finishes with the e-tray and a written test. That seems fairly standard for a graduate job.

Thanks for the tips


Rumour has it that when you qualify you go up to £47k for a 9-5. I’m not sure how much truth there is in that but if it is true, that’s brilliant!


Really? it starts at 22K ish, which is as good as anything in south wales i think. The interview is until 3rd Sept, but i still cant find anything about the interview process, other than what’s on their own website. I cant even find anyone who works for them, and there’s nearly 4000 of them at the newport office. Maybe because it’s almost a government body employees aren’t aloud to talk about it. Where did you hear this rumour from?!


You could call up HR and just ask them, exactly what will happen in the interview process. You could also ask them if they’d let you speak to a current employee - by phone or email. You have nothing to lose by doing this apart from showing them you are really enthusiastic about the role.

There probably wont be much online as its probably not the most exciting job in the world. People tend to talk about their jobs when they’re very good, or very bad. The secrecy thing could also be a factor.


I think you should just give them a ring and ask them. They will tell you the structure of the assessment process if you ask them, and would probably be happy to arrange for you to meet or speak to a current employee (that may even be part of the interview process- it is at the [[Big 4]]).

Exactly what scheme are applying for at the [[National Audit Office]]?


The national audit office is different to the office for national statistics. I know that i’ll have an interview, group excerise, presentation, and written tests at the assessment, but thats about all the info they give. The position is within national accounts department, again though, no specifics are given and if i were to be successful, the job i would be assigned to would depend on what skills i have shown. The closest thing to a job description they’ve given is, ‘the role requires alot of economist skills, with statistical and research elements’. Which i find slightly confusing, because the other schemes they offer are as economists, researchers and statisticians.

I spoke to my uni careers advisor and she had a report saying they didn’t use an assessment centre in march 2007, and are considering using one. So that probably explains the lack of info about the process on forums like this, or indeed on any other website. I guess everyone is in the same boat though, so no one can really plan for specific questions/assessments with any certainty.
I’ll try post some stuff on here after i’ve done it, but i tend to forget the specifics of interviews as soon as i finish so dont expect much.


That makes sense. If the [[assessment centre]] is a new assessment tool for them, they’ll be no info online. When exactly is the AC?

Good luck for the day Blackwood… any info you can tell us is certainly appreciated. If you meet any other candidates at the AC tell them to tell us their feedback too!


Because it is for a graduate scheme, I put money on the fact that they will be using [[competency based interview]]s and [[competency based questions]]. You should probably prepare accordingly.

Furthermore, I’m sure if you gave the recruiters a ring, they would be happy to tell you the layout of the [[assessment centre]].


I’ve been to the ONS assessment centre… i’ll post some info once they get back to me
where should i post it?


Hey Blackwoodthom - how did it go? If you could post all the info you have up on this thread that would be great - or on [ this thread] even.

We can then make your info in to a wiki too :slight_smile:



I had an assessment day for a graduate statistics role at newport (ONS) around a fortnight ago. There were two groups and I was in the second group (3 people) that started late in the morning. The schedule was as follows:

  1. Join other group (around 6 people) for a test in statistics, although I think other tests perhaps economics were also going on. The test was fairly simplistic, nothing too hardcore. It was split into two papers one that focused mainly on questionnaire design and the other on fairly simple multiple choice statistics questions.

  2. Then we split into two groups for a group exercise. It was all about an advertising campaign for a building society. I think it was fairly typical of group exercises in that you had to read a lot of info and then collectively come up with a plan that details the costs etc. (The morning group then went home having done the rest).

  3. There was then a presentation. For this you were given ?20 min? to prepare a talk from a table of data on holiday statistics. Basically I think they wanted you to absorb the info, identify critical points and then show that you can stand up and present information.

  4. There was also an interview with the usual kind of questions.

Overall I was very unimpressed with ONS though. Benefits, salary and facilities are good BUT:
On the letter inviting me with the time and location they had put the wrong postcode! I was driving and luckily realised my GPS was taking me to the wrong place, over 30 mins away in the middle of the countryside, well before I needed to get there. In addition they ask you to arrive 15 minutes early which was no problem but they then took over 45 minutes to collect myself and the other two, who arrived on time, over to the test centre from the main reception. There was a lot more pointless waiting during the day as well. Finally they couldn’t even get my name right (this at least had been correct on the original invite)! These relatively small points just gave me a very bad impression of the place.


I have an assessment day on tuesday for a researcher position at the ONS titchfield office- does anyone have any advice on what to expect/how to prepare?