Get the lowdown on assessment centres

Looking for a new job? You might find yourself getting a mysterious invitation to an assessment centre. If you're new to this type of recruitment process, you'll need to know what's in store for you. Luckily, we've got the inside scoop. Here's everything that you need to know about assessment centres, how to prepare for them, and what you can expect when you walk through the door.

What is an assessment centre?

If you've been invited to attend an assessment centre or assessment day, you might be wondering what it's all about. Unlike a traditional job interview, this part of the recruitment process allows prospective employers to test a wide range of your skills. Most of the time, you will attend a half or full day alongside other candidates. Throughout the assessment centre, you'll be tasked with a variety of activities and tests, which will allow the recruiter to see whether you're suitable for the role. 

While a range of employers use this method to find the perfect person for the job, assessment centres are most common for graduate roles. Going up against your peers in a test environment can be tough and intimidating. However, as long as you prepare for the assessment day well in advance and put yourself in the best possible position, there's no reason to be nervous about this process. 

What activities and tasks will you do?

Often enough, an assessment centre will take place at the company premises or a third-party venue, such as a hotel. Of course, since the pandemic broke out, many employers have been forced to carry out virtual assessment centres via Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Regardless of where the event is held, the activities that you're asked to do will likely be the same. While the specifics of each task will vary depending on the role you're going for, you're likely to have to engage in the following: 

  • Written tests 

The type of test you undertake will depend on the industry. However, you should expect questions surrounding the role, best practices, and any laws that would affect your position. Ahead of going to the assessment centre, ensuring that you brush up on all of the above will help you to prepare for this aspect of the day.

  • Interview questions 

Often enough, assessment centres involve a traditional interview. You should prepare for this part of the day as you would any other job interview. Make sure that you have some of the most popular interview questions covered ahead of time. 

  • Role-play exercises 

Role-play exercises allow interviewers to evaluate how you might perform on the job. For example, if you're attending an assessment centre for a sales position, you may have to role-play a transaction with other candidates. Before you attend the day, take the time to consider what role playing tasks you may come up against and practice each one of them.

  • Group activities 

Is teamwork a core part of this role? If the answer is yes, chances are you will be asked to do some group activities. These tasks may include ice breakers or larger discussions. During these tasks, recruiters will be looking out for key traits such as enthusiasm, teamwork, critical thinking, problem-solving, and persuasiveness. 

  • Case study analysis 

Case studies tend to be a large part of assessment days. When these tasks come up, the recruiter will put a scenario to you - either by describing it to you or in writing - and you have to respond with advice. For example, if you are going for a role in social care, you may learn about a fictional child that needs some support. While you're not expected to know everything about the correct protocol, the recruiter will be looking for how you respond to this situation. 

  • Psychometric testing 

Psychometric testing tends to fall into two categories: personality-based tests and aptitude tests. You may be asked to take a traditional personality test, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Aptitude tests can vary depending on the career and industry. Preparing for these tests is tough, since you don't know what the recruiter has up their sleeve. 

  • Presentations

Perhaps one of the most nerve-racking of tasks, presentations often feature heavily in assessment centres. If the recruiter would like you to put together a presentation, they will give you all of the details in advance. It's worth spending a lot of time and effort on this task, as it's likely to be a deciding factor when it comes to ruling out candidates. 

  • In-tray (or e-tray) exercises 

How do you prioritise your workload? That is the question that recruiters are hoping to answer with these tests. For this type of activity, you'll be given a whole host of tasks to complete. These could include emails, phone messages, memos, minutes, and reports. You will need to put these tasks in order of priority and explain how you would approach each of them.

How are your results measured?

During the event, the recruiters will be using a competency framework to score all of your tasks. While the framework can differ from role-to-role, you will likely be scored on teamwork, critical thinking, problem-solving, interpersonal skills, communication, achieving results, and other key skills. Of course, you will not get to see the scoring matrix during the testing process. 

When the assessment centre is over, you may find out whether you're successful immediately. However, in most cases, it will take recruiters a matter of days (or even weeks!) to compile their results and come back to you. That means that you may have to exercise some patience here. 

Assessment centre tips and tricks 

Are you heading to an assessment day soon? Before you don your best clothes and head to the event, make sure that you have some key tips in mind. Here are some simple ways you can set yourself apart from the crowd (for the right reasons!):

  • Move past mistakes quickly and don't dwell 

  • Show and tell the recruiters why you are doing certain things 

  • Take the lead in discussions but bring others into the conversation

  • Don't focus on the other candidates - focus on yourself

  • Listen to instructions and make sure you understand them 

  • Don't be afraid to ask questions and clarify things 

  • Try to relax and let your personality shine

Knock them out 

Let's not beat around the bush - assessment centres can be tiring and tricky. With that in mind, the more you prepare and learn about the process, the easier you will find things. Take the time to start preparing now and do as much research as possible. 

Hoping to land a new job? Why not submit your CV for a free CV review to make sure it's up to the task?

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