What to expect at an Assessment Centre

If you’re going to apply for a graduate scheme, you’re likely to encounter an assessment centre at some point along the way. The very idea of an assessment centre can be hugely intimidating and scary but by understanding what you can expect and why they’re used, it can help to remove some of the fear associated with them.

An assessment centre consists of various different tasks which are used as a way of discovering how you perform in a work environment and how suitable you are for that particular organisation, typically it might test for abilities such as problem solving, working under pressure and teamwork as well as highlighting your personal qualities and whether you would fit in with the company culture.

Some tests you could experience

  • Aptitude test – there are different types but typical aptitude tests measure numerical, verbal reasoning or diagrammatic reasoning. They are usually time pressured.
  • E-tray/In tray Exercises – a scenario or information to read that requires a response. These types of test measure working under pressure, prioritisation, decision making and picking out key points from lots of information
  • Presentations – assesses your ability to understand, research and communicate a topic
  • Group tasks –  working with other candidates to discuss a simulated workplace problem. Assessors will be looking at your teamworking skills and how you communicate in a group situation.

Tips on how to prepare

It may seem impossible to prepare for but there are things you can do!

  • Read all of the information you have been sent. It may include a schedule for the day.
  • Practise aptitude tests and e-tray exercises. Look at our web page on Psychometric tests to access free practice tests. If you’re doing a presentation and you’re allowed to prepare it in advance, practise it in front of someone else, check your visual aids work and iron out any distracting mannerisms or language.
  • Check out the company culture or core values and the behaviours they look for in their employees. These are often listed on their website and in the job description. Try to think of how you can demonstrate these values as well as showing your interest in the role and the company
  • Remember at an assessment centre, you are always being assessed so make sure you are courteous to everyone, co-operative and professional. Put your phone in your bag!
  • Try to relax and be yourself
  • Some of the tests are designed to put you under pressure, focus on trying to maintain your accuracy and speed rather than rushing to get everything done and making mistakes
  • Wear a watch so you can keep an eye on the time during time pressured tasks
  • In the group task, remember it is not who talks the loudest. You are being assessed on how you interact with and respond to others. Listen, ask appropriate questions, raise relevant points, be flexible and keep to the brief. Try to treat your fellow candidates as co-workers rather than competitors.
  • Don’t be intimidated, you’ve got through to an assessment centre so the employer must think you’re capable of doing the job, your task now is to provide the evidence to show this.

We’re holding an Assessment Centre and Interview Experience on Thursday 24 January. Come along to get a feel for what happens at an assessment centre and be talked through some of the typical activities. Two organisations who run graduate assessment centres will be helping us run this event to give you a realistic idea of what you could encounter.