Being invited to an assessment centre is brilliant news because it means that you have made it through to the later stages of the recruitment process. It is often the last part and employers make their job offers based on the performances of the candidates at the assessment centre. However, for some companies there may be a further stage at a later date, such as interviews with senior managers, for those who have passed the assessment centre. Whichever stage it is, you are being given the opportunity to actually meet the employer and to show them your worth.
You will probably feel quite excited at being invited to an assessment centre but also find the thought of it rather nerve-racking. You may have never been to an assessment centre before but, even if you have, you will be keen to impress the employer so the key message is to prepare really well.
The assessment centre may be held at the employer’s premises or somewhere neutral, such as a hotel or conference centre. In general they last for one day but some are longer and involve staying overnight. In preparing for assessment centres you will need to think about practical issues as well as the possible activities that you will be involved in. It is really important to do your research about the company so that you know what sort of skills you need to demonstrate during the assessment centre activities.
Key practical points for assessment centres are:
- Research where you are going to, and how best to get there.
- Allow plenty of time in case there are hold-ups.
- If you travel on public transport remember to keep your tickets because the employer may reimburse you.
- Dress appropriately for the situation and for the employer.
Assessment Centre Activities
Employers will each have their own style of assessment centre which is likely to include some, or all, of the following:
- Ice-breaker exercises to put you at your ease and meet the other candidates.
- A presentation by the employer.
- Individual exercise(s).
- A group exercise, which may be called a team exercise.
- Feedback from the group exercise.
- Lunch/dinner with recent graduates and maybe more senior staff.
- An interview.
You may be told that certain activities are not assessed and, whilst this may be true, you need to be on your best behaviour from the moment you walk in and greet the reception staff to the time when you thank them on your way out at the end.
You cannot really prepare for these. The most important thing is to be yourself and to join in enthusiastically with whatever is asked of you.
Make sure that you pay attention to the presentation in case you need the information later on. You may learn something that would be very useful for individual or group exercises. Equally you may want to ask a question at your interview based on what was said at the presentation. It could be that they have answered your carefully prepared interview question during the presentation in which case it is better to ask a different question or more of a follow-on question, such as “At the presentation your colleague talked about the rotation through departments during the training scheme. Please could you tell me more about that?”
The employer may want you to carry out tasks as an individual. The exercises will be timed and aimed at assessing your ability in areas that are important to the employer. The exercises could be:
- Repeating any aptitude tests that you took earlier in their recruitment process.
- Additional aptitude, psychometric or personality tests.
- In-tray or e-tray exercises.
- Producing or analysing a report.
A group exercise will involve you completing a task with other candidates from the assessment centre. You will often sit around a table and there will be an outer ring of assessors who will observe you and note your performance. Try to focus on the task rather than the assessors taking notes.
Key things to remember are:
- Make sure that you read the task carefully so that you are very clear about what has to be achieved.
- Be yourself – if you are not naturally a leader do not try to lead the group. Employers want a mix of different personalities anyway.
- You must make sure that you contribute to the group or you cannot be assessed.
- Be heard both in terms of volume and your ideas.
- Achieve a balance between ensuring that your ideas are heard and knowing when to move on.
- Adopt a role such as the time-keeper or note-taker.
- If you have to give a presentation at the end be clear about what you are going to say and use the 3Ts to structure your part, i.e., Tell them what you are going to tell them, Tell them and Tell them what you have told them.
- Be aware of how you performed in case you are given a feedback session or asked at your interview. Remember to think of things that went well but also what you would do differently another time, remembering to present these in a positive, constructive way.
Take the opportunity to talk to individuals and get their perspective on working for the company. You may learn something useful for your interview. Also, remember that recruitment is a 2-way process. You will be spending most of your waking day at work so it is really important that you are going to like being there.
It is essential that you feel properly prepared for your interview. For more information on interviews, including the STAR technique, please go to the Interviews section of our website.
To find out more about assessment centres, including in-tray and e-tray exercises, please select Assessment Centres