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Test your limits, Unlock your potential

Zeba, 2018 COHORT

Test your limits, Unlock your potential

Application process Back to top

#Applications are closed!

You can register your interest for the 2023 cohort here.

Our selection process is designed to test your potential at being successful on our two-year Leadership Development Programme and driving social change in your future career. Applying involves four stages which are explained fully below.

Before registering, please check your eligibility by reading our entry requirements. We also advise that you complete our practice prison scenario test to give you more insight into the role and to prepare for the Test Your Judgement activity.


To get started, we ask for some basic details from you. This includes contact information and that you meet our minimum eligibility requirements. You also have the opportunity to provide information on any reasonable adjustments you may need throughout the process.

Please note that we recruit as applications come in, so we recommend getting started as soon as you can with the process and getting the Test Your Judgement activity submitted to maximise your chances.

#Test your Judgement Activity

Once you are registered, you can complete the first part of the process which offers a real insight into the job role of a prison officer and what life is like on the Unlocked Graduates programme.

There are a total of 15 fictitious scenarios that are based on real experiences of people on the programme and it will take approximately 15-20 minutes to complete. It does not require any preparation or knowledge of the prison system.


We know that a test can sound quite intimidating, but this is a real chance to get insight into what life is like on the programme. Each scenario is even animated to give you an engaging, visual guide of the situation.

We recommend that you complete the test in a quiet space where you can concentrate and make sure the sound is enabled on your device.

Please read the instructions carefully and make sure you indicate the action that you would most likely and least likely take in each situation. Remember, we are interested in your potential to be a great prison officer so go with your instinct.
Once you have completed the activity, you will hear back from us within a week regarding the next stage of the process.

#Video Interview

If you successfully pass the first stage you will be emailed a video interview link. This stage gives you an opportunity to demonstrate our key attributes and why you would be great on the programme. You will not speak with anyone directly; instead, you will answer pre-recorded questions from the comfort of your own home at a time that suits you. You have seven days to complete this interview and it should take around 15 – 20 minutes. You can complete it on any desktop, tablet or mobile device.

When you click on the link to start the video interview you will watch an introductory video from some of our participants. You will then be talked through the process of setting up your device (desktop computer, tablet or phone) to complete the task, and you will have the chance to practice with the software before you begin.

Please take note of the guidance in the email you receive before completing the video interview. While answering the questions might seem uncomfortable at first, it’s a great opportunity to sell your skills in person and really demonstrate your motivation for the programme.

If for any reason you are unable to access a video enabled device please contact so that we can arrange an alternative for you.

#Assessment Centre

If your video interview is successful, you will be invited to a virtual assessment centre. These will run from November and you will be offered a number of dates to choose from.

The assessment centre will take approx. 3-4 hours. You will be evaluated according to the attributes by our team of trained assessors, including experienced prison officers and ex-prisoners. Throughout the day we will also be looking for evidence of your professional conduct and time management.

At the assessment centre you will complete a number of activities. These are designed to assess you against the attributes that we look for in candidates and also to give you an insight into the role of a prison officer and the Unlocked Graduates programme. You are not required to have any prior knowledge of the prison system in order to be successful at our assessment centre. Activities will include the following:

  • Interview based around our attributes and some prison-based scenarios. You will normally be interviewed by a prison officer and an ex-prisoner.
  • Group Task in which you discuss a potential project or situation in a prison. You will normally be in a group of four to six people.
  • Practice Scenario with an actor playing the role of a prisoner and you acting as the prison officer. You will be briefed before beginning this activity on the situation and what is expected of you. There will also be a self-reflection element to this activity.

If you are invited to the assessment centre, you will need to provide the following:

  • A passport-style photograph of yourself
  • Your passport or other document to prove your right to work in the UK
  • Two additional identity verification documents – you will be provided with a list of what documents are required in the email invite to the assessment centre

The assessment centre is the final stage of the process and you will find out within two weeks of attending if you have been successful.

#Conditional Offer

As soon as you receive a conditional offer to join Unlocked Graduates, you will have a main point of contact in the Recruitment team who will guide you through your offer journey. Your Recruitment Officer will be able to respond to any queries or concerns you have and keep you updated on opportunities to meet and communicate with your fellow participants.

If you are offered a place on the Unlocked Graduates programme, your offer will be based on proof of your right to work and academic qualifications, as well as displaying the Unlocked attributes and values throughout your offer journey. You will also have to fulfil the following specific conditions prior to starting the programme:

The health and fitness assessment is the standard prison service fitness test and a medical evaluation, including an eyesight test, to ensure you are fit for the role. The health and fitness test is normally completed on a weekday from the time you receive your conditional offer, taking into account your schedule. Please note that you will be given a deadline by which this must have been completed.The fitness test comprises of a bleep test to a standard of 5.4, an agility assessment, a grip strength test and an endurance shield test. You may have up to three attempts to pass the fitness test and the recruitment team can offer advice on training for this where required.

The prison immersion day happens in one of our placement prisons. While we want to make sure that you feel comfortable in the prison’s environment, it’s also a great opportunity to learn about the daily running of a prison and get a better understanding of the day-to-day life of a prisoner and a prison officer. The day will usually consist of visiting the education and medical settings of the prison and also experience what it’s like to work in the landings of the prison’s wings. The immersion day will also be a good opportunity for you to think about how you can have an impact on the prison you’re placed in.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) vetting process is a standard requirement for all incoming prison officers, including all of our participants. This check will flag up previous convictions or cautions that you might have. If you are concerned about any past cautions that might impede your progression onto Unlocked Graduates, please feel free to get in touch with a member of the recruitment team. You may be asked to provide evidence from another country if you have lived outside of the UK for an extended period of time so please mention this to a member of the recruitment team if you think you will be affected. As part of the MoJ induction process, you will also be required to complete some additional paperwork, including ordering your uniform and a new starter form.

Our Cohort Launch Event is held for all of our participants before the official start of training. Throughout the day, you’ll be briefed on the Summer Institute in more detail and you’ll be able to ask any last burning questions that you may have. It will also be the first time you meet your fellow participants who you’ll be working with throughout your time in your placement prison. You’ll also have the opportunity to meet motivational speakers and our supporters from around the sector, including your Mentoring Prison Officers.

Prison placement is decided by Unlocked Graduates, based on the needs of the prisons that we work with. We do try, where possible, to take your preferences into account and will ask you further details on this at the offer stage. Please be aware, however, that it is not always possible to cater to everyone’s preferences. This process will happen once all the conditional offers have been made so you should get confirmation of your prison placement in the spring time.

Please make sure that you have read about the programme and the entry requirements before progressing further with your application. Please do not hesitate to contact us.