Assessment centres - everything you need to know

Everything you need to know about preparing for assessment centres.

Assessment centre days are normally the final steps to the hiring process for most graduate jobs or schemes. They normally consist of a room of candidates brought together by the employer, to complete a series of test, exercises and interviews. These are all designed to highlight the candidate's suitability, or lack of, for the graduate job. While they are daunting they are also a great way for you to easily showcase a broader range of skills and competencies than when you are in an interview.


Typical activities during a graduate assessment centre

Employers tailor their assessment centres so they can test for the skills and competencies that apply directly to their company. However, they essentially contain similar elements and exercises. So expect some of, or a combination of, the following:

  • Information session:- where you may expect to find out more information about the business through a presentation or informal chat.

  • Group ice-breaker exercise:- could come in the form of games or just small chats.

  • Aptitude and psychometric tests:- while you may have already taken some in previous stages of the application process, you may still be asked to retake them to check results.

  • In-tray or e-tray exercise:- testing your ability to absorb information, prioritise, communicate and make decisions.

  • Group exercise:- this could be a group problem-solving exercise, or a case study discussion, probably involving a recent issue or project relevant to the company.

  • Individual or group presentations.

  • Interviews:- these could be conducted by recruiters, senior employers or even your potential line manager, and they could be done either one-to-one or panel.

  • Social breaks:- While not every minute is not formally assessed, you will get an opportunity to show your interpersonal skills and assess your potential colleagues, the business and your fellow candidates.


What they look for

Recruiters mainly use this time to assess candidates on how you react to different situations and how you demonstrate the key skills and competencies - like communication, teamwork and problem solving.  The way in which assessment centres group candidates makes it much simpler for employers to assess how well candidates work with others, especially on how others respond to you and how you persuade and influence others.

A vital thing to remember is that it is not a game of ‘Last man/woman standing’, you are not being assessed against other candidates but against criteria set by the employer. While there is competition for the positions, it is not a competition, you still need to work together with the other candidates to complete tasks and goals.


How you can succeed

Remember to be rested and prepared, both physically and mentally - it will be a massive confidence boost and help for the day. Be open minded and ready to get involved. So;

Make the most of your careers service. There are plenty of sessions available from your careers services, from practice interviews to assessment centres.

Practice psychometric tests online.

Carefully read everything sent to you from the employer. From the structure of the day, location, date and start time to everything you need to bring with you (and don’t forget to bring it with you).

Any tasks you need to do before the day. There may be a presentation or a case study that you will need to prepare BEFORE the day. It’s important to plan time to do this, do NOT leave it till the last second.

Employer research. Go over the research you have done for this application, and revisit the employer website. Also make sure to keep yourself up to date on current news about the employer, check their social media profiles and key documents. If you are having trouble working out what will be needed from you- don’t panic, just contact the recruiter asap.

Practice your interview technique. Its common to have a few more interviews at assessment centres so make sure you practice your STAR format and questions, especially for tricky questions.

Remember your situation. This is not a competition, try not to force yourself into the situation or be uber-competitive you will risk appearing arrogant and rude. But most importantly, make sure you’re not sitting in the corner in silence or you will give recruiters nothing to assess!

Punctuality. For God’s sake, DO NOT BE LATE!