Prepare for success: Assessment centres


Group tasks are a common activity in assessment centres.

At this time of year we get lots of students asking for advice and insight into what to expect at an assessment centre. If you have got to this stage of the application process then well done, this means that you have already impressed the employer and they can really see you working for their organisation.

Why assessment centres?

Many companies favour assessment centres as it allows them to observe candidates across a range of tasks using work-based skills. It also enables them to assess many candidates at the same time. Assessors will be looking for candidates to demonstrate the competencies they set out at application stage.

What to expect

Assessment centres can last from half a day to two full days. They tend to incorporate a range of activities, these could include:

  • Group exercises: Expect to be set a task or a topic to discuss in a group. Assessors are looking for how you work with other members of the team not necessarily what the result of your task is. As such it is important that you consider how you present information you are given/offer your opinion and how you liaise with others in the group. Remember to listen and show that you are taking into account others’ points of view. Small things like remembering names and keeping track of time are important.
  • Psychometric tests: These are a way off assessing your skills in a certain area, for example numerical, verbal reasoning, diagrammatical reasoning or data interpretation. For practice tests and more information see our website.
  • Interviews: If you have already had an interview for the organisation prior to the assessment centre, try to find out how this one may be different. Who will be interviewing you? Is it competency based, behavioural or technical? Are they going to ask you questions about your knowledge of the company and wider industry? For more information on how to prepare check out our previous blog post.
  • Presentations: You may be given a topic to prepare a presentation on prior to the assessment centre or be given the information on the day. Either way, think about the key messages you want to get across, be aware of time and be prepared to answer questions. We have more advice on our website.
  • In-tray or e-tray exercises: This tends to be a simulated work-related exercise in which you are presented with an inbox or tray of correspondence to sort through, prioritise and respond to. You may also be given other information about the task so that you can respond appropriately to the emails. Try a practice exercise.

How to prepare?

Make sure you research the organisation fully – look at their website, their social media channels and if possible speak to people who work for them. You could do this by seeing if they are coming on campus through our career events, searching for them on the Leeds Network or using your own connections.

Research the role and be aware of the competencies required. Think of examples of times you have evidenced those competencies previously – this will be particularly useful if you have to undertake an interview as part of the assessment centre. Find out as much as you can about what will be involved throughout the assessment centre. Make sure you read through any literature sent to you thoroughly, check the organisation’s website for hints and tips or check out their social media presence for insight from current grads and recruiters.

On the day

  • Arrive early and take a watch – useful for group or timed exercises.
  • Be friendly and professional at all times including lunches and ‘down time.’ An assessment centre can be a tiring day but try to remain upbeat and positive – enthusiasm goes a long way!
  • Remember you are not necessarily in competition with other candidates, they are assessing you all against the same competencies so may hire all of you, or none of you. Collaborate with others and allow the assessors to see how you would work in a team in their organisation.
  • Be yourself and try to enjoy it – whilst assessment centres can be challenging most people who go through one find it a positive experience and learn a lot from it. Channel your nerves to show your motivation for the job and remind yourself that you have done exceptionally well to get to that stage.

For further advice and information, including a DVD showing an actual assessment centre, check out our website. We also have some fantastic employer-led workshops this semester which will give you a real insight. Good luck!

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Filed under Advice, CVs & Applications, Interviews

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