4 top tips for assessment centres

Written by Calvin Bowers

An assessment centre forms a key part of a company’s recruitment process. It involves inviting a group of potential candidates for various activities, exercises, and interviews.

Commonly, an assessment centre is used as the final stage of a recruitment process and can typically last between half a day and two full days. They’re a popular method for assessing candidates as employers get to see you in a relaxed setting, interacting and communicating with other potential colleagues.

There is no single template to an assessment centre. Each employer will design tailored activities which they believe will best reveal the skills of their candidates. Typically, the day will have different components, with scheduled breaks throughout. There may be one-on-one interviews, group interviews, information sessions, team building workshops, innovation activities, and role-plays. As well as any other activity which an employer feels will help to showcase your talent.

As these days tend to be near the end of a recruitment process, employers will know that all candidates have the skills on paper needed to do the job. The purpose of an assessment centre is to go beyond your CV and find out whether you’ll be a good fit for them and their business. Equally, it is also an opportunity for you to find out about the company and the role, providing time and space to ask any questions you may have.

Assessment centres are a prevalent choice for graduate scheme jobs such as Teach First and NHS Graduate programmes, as it allows employers to meet and interact with multiple candidates at once. These grad schemes are often hiring hundreds of students and graduates into the programme at once, so they need to be able to assess candidates together. Additionally, these roles are often public-facing, so employers need to see your communication and sociability skills in person.

Here are some tips for success when attending an assessment centre:

1. Be mindful of the employer.

While there will be breaks and social time where employer won’t be formally assessing you, you will be observed at all times. Don’t let this put you off or stun you into silence, be aware of making a good impression. Be friendly and polite to all staff members as employers may ask how you acted in more casual environments.

2. Prepare what you can.

Before the day, check all the information they have sent to you; you want to show you are committed and keen by being as knowledgeable on the role and company as possible. It’s common for employers to ask candidates to prepare a short presentation beforehand that they will give on the day. This enables them to assess your confidence speaking in front of others and see how seriously you took your preparation.

3. Be friendly with others.

If appropriate and the opportunity presents itself, see if any other candidates want help with interview preparation, or want to have a friendly chat. Remember, some of these people may become your future colleagues. Employers will want to see that you can work well with others and not view them solely as competition.

4. Strike a balance!

In group activities, it’s essential to strike a balance between speaking and contributing and listening to the ideas and opinions of others. If you disagree with something someone has said, don’t talk over them, wait until it’s your chance to speak again.

When working in a group with a variety of personalities, it can be hard to know how regularly to contribute; try to make sure that everyone has had the chance to speak before you make a new contribution. If you tend to stay quiet in groups, push yourself to explain your idea, it might secure you the job!

For more help and guidance on applying for jobs, have a look at our page on students and graduates.

Last Updated: Friday October 16 2020
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