What is an assessment centre?

Large graduate employers use assessment centres to help choose their applicants.  They offer recruiters the opportunity to observe the way you operate and interact with others, and provide more information about your skills and abilities than an interview alone.  A number of potential candidates are brought together to undertake a series of skills-based and competency-based tests and assessments.  They are generally regarded as a fair recruitment process, and enable an employer to undertake a reliable in-depth assessment against the many competencies the role requires.

Assessment Centres will generally:

  • Be held over a longer timeframe than a traditional interview.  Most Assessment Centres will last for one full day, but in some circumstances it could be for longer and include evening activities and an overnight stay.
  • Incorporate a broad range of activities and assessments.
  • Involve a number of staff/assessors who will observe and evaluate your performance.
  • Include a number of candidates, typically between 6-8.

 

What is being assessed?

Each employer will have a set of competencies and skills they will want to assess which match the role for which you are applying.  These vary from job to job, so ensure you always check the job description and job specification that you are sent.  Each activity you will be asked to undertake will assess one or more of the skills required for that job.

 

Assessment Centre Activities

Below is a list of activities that might be undertaken as part of a typical assessment centre:

  • Interview - you may be interviewed by one person or by a panel of staff, which usually involve more senior members of the company.

  • Psychometric test - there are generally two types of tests: aptitude tests designed to measure thinking and reasong skills such as numerical, verbal and spatial reasoning, and also personality tests, used to assess what you are like as a person.

  • Presentation - this may be on a topic that you have been asked to prepare in advance or you may be given a topic on the day.  Try and keep it simple with no more than 5 key messages.

  • In-tray exercise - you may be given information via email or hard copy, including memos, letters and company information, and asked to prioritise actions, draft replies and delegate tasks.  The exercise is time limited and tests your ability to sift information, make decisions and plan effectively.

  • Written Exercise/Case Study - you may be presented with a job-related issue or a case study and you will be asked questions about it, or asked to provide a solution to a problem.  They test your ability to analyse information quickly and accurately, to think logically and express yourself in writing.

  • Group tasks and discussion groups - these can take a variety of forms.  you may be asked to discuss a topic, debate a work-related problem or undertake a group task.

  • Lunch/evening event with company employees - although this is not a formal part of the selection procedure you will still be under observation from members of staff.

 

Preparation

  • Research the employer: research the company information, looking at the products and services they provide, as well as the market they operate in, and their competitors.
  • Read all your information carefully: don't forget to read all the information thoroughly that you are sent about the Assessment Centre.  Pay careful attention to the logisitics (venue, date, time etc.) but also any hints and tips the employer may send in advance.  It is also a good idea to read over the job description and your original job application that you used to apply for the role.
  • Practice: this will help to boost your confidence and control any nerves you may have on the day.  The Careers Service run specific workshops throughtout the year on Assessment Centres, you can practice your interview technique with one of our Advisers and there are a large amount of resources online which you can use to help practice tests and activities.

 

Assessment Centre Resources

For further information on assessment centres please see the following:

  1. Visit the Prospects website for further advice and support on assessment centres.
  2. Read our Careers Service guide to Assessment Centres.
  3. Visit the Wikijob site for assessment centres and assessment days information.
  4. The Online Test Centre is a free service that offers numerical, verbal, diagrammatic and logical reasoning tests for students. Aptitude tests for students and job seekers http://www.theonlinetestcentre.com/
  5. Check out which tests and assessments are undertaken by all the big employers.
  6. AssessmentDay has produced a useful guide which has information about different exercises and examples you can download.
  7. Visit the University of Kent's Example Selection Centre
  8. Interactive case study exercise from Boston Consulting Group
  9. In-Tray exercise from Job Test Prep