Assessment centres

Often the final or penultimate stage used in the recruitment process, an assessment centre involves the simultaneous assessment of a pool of candidates. If you’ve been invited to attend an assessment day, but are unsure what it involves, here’s what you can expect.

What to expect

An assessment centre will usually last a day and will involve you undertaking numerous exercises either independently or within a group. You could be assessed by a mix of people such as potential managers, HR representatives, current employees and external examiners. Assessors will be looking at how you react and perform in different situations and scenarios. During an assessment day, you are likely to be assessed on:

  • your ability to do the role on offer
  • your academic ability
  • your level of competence (e.g. performing technical skills)
  • your ‘fit’ within the company

Assessors will use a range of activities to evaluate your performance such as:

  • a one-on-one interview
  • a role play exercise
  • a group exercise
  • tests (psychometric/numerical/logical reasoning/company’s own)
  • a presentation (you may be given a topic in advance to present on)

How to prepare

As with interviews, preparation is the key to performing well at an assessment centre. Make sure you research the job on offer and the company and make a note of the people (their names and roles) who you will be meeting. Prepare some questions to ask at your interview.

Ahead of the assessment day, plan your route and method of travel and decide what to wear. This will ensure you allow enough time to wash and iron any clothing before the day and leave at the right time to get there early. Pack your bag/briefcase with a pen, notepad, a copy of your CV, information about the company and anything else you have been asked to bring. If you have been asked to prepare a presentation/task in advance, ensure you have both electronic and hard copies of your work to take with you.

On the day

During an assessment day, you are continually assessed so it’s important to act professionally at all times (even during your lunch break). You can also use the day as a networking opportunity and get to know the other candidates - if the outcome of the day is unsuccessful you may have at least made a contact for future reference.

During your activities, you should try and keep an eye on the time to avoid running over the allocated time for exercises. It can be difficult to know when to talk and when to listen, especially in group exercises. You need to speak up at some point to give the assessors a chance to score you but you also need to listen and react to what your fellow candidates have to say so you can demonstrate your active listening skills and teamwork.

Assessment centre outcome

If you are not successful at an assessment centre, ask for as much feedback as possible so that you can improve for next time. Use it as a learning experience and take on board any criticism.


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