Assessment centres and how to get the best results

Understanding what an Assessment centre is.

An assessment centre (or assessment day) usually involves a series of tasks and activities. They are designed to test your suitability for a role. They can be held in person, at the employer’s offices, a central location or online via video conferencing platforms. Over the COVID period, a lot of the assessment centres went to an online platform. The majority of assessment days seem to be a mixture now of face to face & online. The number of candidates attending the assessment centres will vary according to the employer. It’s important to remember that you are being assessed against the employer’s criteria, not against each other. Stay focused on your own performance.  

The length and structure of the assessment centres vary from employer-to-employer. Some consist of a morning or afternoon of activities whereas others last a full day or even longer in rare cases.

The day will often begin with a welcome talk, followed by a tour/video before the assessments begins. Usually there will be one or two assessments during the morning. Then you will break for lunch, having the opportunity to socialise or network online with other candidates. You may even get to talk with some employees. After your lunch break, there will be more assessment tasks, followed by interviews then final evaluations before the end of the day. 

Large recruiters will usually run assessment centres for graduate trainee positions. Assessment centres give an opportunity to evaluate a pool of candidates against a set of criteria. This allows the assessors to see how candidates react to situations they may come across in the role, as well as how they interact with those around them. 


Typical activities to expect at an assessment centre

Group activity – put in to groups to work on a project, this could be a case study, discussion exercises and ice breaker or team task

Case Study – Putting you in a work-related scenario in which you will be required to process and analyse information and communicate your findings or present recommendations either in writing or verbally.

E-Tray or in tray exercise – A real world scenario in which you are judged on your ability to prioritise a number of tasks based on factors such as importance and urgency.

Interview – In an interview, you’ll be asked a series of questions by one, or a panel, of company representatives. Employers use a range of different question ‘types’ to help them draw out your experience, skills, knowledge and personal attributes, as well as your enthusiasm and motivation for the role.

Presentations – You might be asked to prepare and deliver a group or individual presentation. This could be on a topic provided by the employer or you might be asked to choose your own topic.

For an individual presentation, you might be sent details in advance so you can prepare your presentation ahead, in order to deliver it on the day.

Psychometric tests – Psychometric tests are typically done online, under exam conditions, and consist of questions designed to identify your skills, knowledge and personality.

Written Exercise – You might need to process and analyse information relevant to the role before communicating your findings and recommendations in writing

Things you can be doing before the day

Research – You now know roughly how the assessment days are structured you can start researching. Ensure your up to date on recent events within the company.

Review – Look back through your application and check the requirements for the role. Refresh your memory about what you can bring to the table and why you will be suitable.

Get ready – Ensure your travel plans are in place. Driving, make sure you know your route and have enough fuel, your tyres pumped up and the washer fluid is topped up. Using Public transport, check the route is running and the timings.

Assessment centre tips

It’s important that you:

  • are assertive during all exercises
  • don’t dwell on any mistakes, instead concentrate on performing well in the next task
  • ensure that the assessors can see your working methodology
  • don’t worry about the other candidates, and instead focus on putting your key skills forward
  • draw others into group discussions
  • ensure that you understand the requirements of each task by quickly digesting the brief, and revisit this once you understand the overall challenge
  • join in with discussions, even at ‘informal’ mealtimes, and ask other candidates about university if you’re struggling for conversation
  • maintain a friendly and polite manner with everyone you meet, and remember that you’re always being assessed
  • relax and let your personality shine, as assessors warm to individuality.

Some university’s offer a mock assessment day. You can gain amazing experience on how they flow which will be great practice for the real thing. Its highly recommended that if your university runs one get signed up to take part.

If you would like any more help or support with finding a Graduate role then please do contact us and check out our linkedin for up to date job posts.