If you’ve just been invited to attend your first assessment centre, you may not know what to expect. The thought of being assessed for an entire day or more can feel daunting.
This article helps you understand what an assessment centre involves and how you can succeed.
What is an assessment centre?
An assessment centre is a stage in the interview process, usually after a telephone screening, in which a group of potential candidates are given a series of tests and/or interviews across one or more days.
Mostly, they’re for graduate level roles at larger companies. The people involved in assessing you will be a mixture of managers, HR, and members of the team.
Why do employers use assessment centres?
An assessment centre can be considered more reliable than a traditional interview. It allows the managers to assess various competencies and behaviours through multiple methods of testing.
For example, assessing your interactions with other candidates allows them to see your behaviour in the workplace – not just when you’re trying to impress managers.
It may seem intimidating, but this process will help you to standout. Because graduates can have very similar CVs, assessment centres are an efficient way of distinguishing candidates.
What’s involved in an assessment centre?
Although they can vary from company to company, usually they’re a mixture of the following:
- Face-to-face interviews
- Presentations (individual or group)
- Group conversations
- In-tray exercises
- Testing (numerical, verbal reasoning, accuracy, etc.)
- Ongoing assessment of your social interactions
Assessment centres are still a form of interview, meaning you should follow the basic do’s and don’ts of interviewing. At the foot of this article is a helpful infographic.
In addition to the interview basics, assessment centres require you to be on top of your game throughout the day – even during breaks.
One simple tip is to take notes. Whether it’s the names of people you meet or things you learn throughout the day – keeping a record might come in handy later. Plus, you’ll come across as organised and keen for the job.
Also, think about what they’re testing in each session. For example, if you’re given an unrealistic amount of questions in a timed slot, they might be testing you on quality over quantity or the ability to prioritise under pressure.
Remember that you will be watched all day, not just during the tests and interviews. One company even disguises managers as coffee servers to assess how the candidates treat everybody – not just those who could offer them a job.
Although being assessed all day might feel intimidating, it can be used to your advantage. If you don’t perform well in one task, use the rest of the day to prove yourself – you’ll have plenty of opportunities.
And remember to be yourself. Don’t put on an act – this will come across as inauthentic.
Whether it’s a discussion or a group project, working well in a team is what hiring managers are looking for in these exercises. It’s not simply about which group “wins” or has the best project.
To ensure you come across as a team player, firstly you need to find the right balance of contribution in the conversation:
- If you’re generally a quiet person, try to speak first so you can set the tone and show your leadership skills. It’ll be harder to contribute later, especially if there are multiple leaders.
- If you’re the type to take control, be mindful of the quiet people in the group by involving them in the conversation. This not only shows leadership but also ensures your outgoing personality doesn’t come across as domineering.
- And be sure any contributions you make count – don’t speak just for the sake of it!
Hopefully you won’t have conflicts with other candidates but if you do, be careful how you handle it. Try to find mutual ground and avoid getting angry or upset.
Even though these group activities are to assess your team-working abilities, the task itself is still important – follow instructions and manage the time carefully.
If you know or think there will be a certain test, do some practice tests in preparation. There are several online resources to help you practice. These will help with your time management.
Rushing through the test won’t provide the best answers. If you can, skip a question you’re stuck on and move on to the next.
In addition to the tips we’ve given, prepare as you would for any interview.
Do your research – the company, the role, who you will be meeting and/or working with. LinkedIn, the company website and any news releases about the company are good places to start.
Also, prepare for the entire day. Bring pen, paper and anything else you think you might need. Get a good sleep and eat a good breakfast – it could be a long day!
If you’ve secured the opportunity through a recruiter, ask them for help. Remember that your recruiter is there to help. They know what you should expect and exactly what the client is looking for. They will be essential to your preparation.
Finally, don’t panic. Most of the time, it’s about the process and how you handle situations rather than getting an answer correct – so be yourself and stay confident!