This piece was written by Sherry Zhang, who studies MSc Management Consulting at Leeds University Business School.
Last year, I attended an assessment day at one of the ‘The Big Four’ (the four largest professional services companies offering audit, assurance, taxation, consulting, advisory, actuarial, corporate finance and legal services). The single most important thing I learnt from this experience is that if you want to perform well at an assessment centre, good preparation is necessary.
Here is an account of my experience and some more tips to share with you:
What is an Assessment Centre?
It refers to a combination of tasks and activities that test if you are the right person for the advertised role. It provides an opportunity to showcase relevant skills through exercises such as a group discussion; written assignment; presentation and face-to-face interview. Employers’ generally have a set of competencies and a benchmark to assess your performance against.
What happened at my Assessment Day?
The assessment centre was located in the employer’s office. I was allocated to a group with four other candidates.
• 08.15 – Arrival and Breakfast networking
• 09.15 – Employer presentation (pay attention to the business introduction which may form the basis of the group discussion and questions at the partner interview)
• 10.15 – 12.15 Group Discussion and team presentation (five people in a team)
• 12.15 – 13.00 Lunch time and networking
• 13.00 – 14.00 Written exercise (to analyze a financial report and give some recommendations)
• 14.00 – 15.00 Department introduction; their structure and culture
• 15.30 – 16.00 Partner Interview (motivation, commercial awareness, logical thinking and other competencies were assessed. The interviewer may ask you which part of the day you liked the most. Pay attention to previous introductions and communicate with staff to help you to answer this question effectively)
• 16.00 – 16.45 Networking time
My advice to help you prepare for an Assessment Centre:
• Attend employer open days/events if possible. You can get more information about the position and employee perceptions of the company and culture; ask employees about their experience of working for the company.
• Research the employer website/social media platforms and view recent news, this will help you learn about the business and increase your commercial awareness.
• Actively visit the Careers Centre, professionally qualified staff can give you advice and guidance about succeeding at assessment centres and help you with your career plans. The careers centre website is also full of advice on how to impress at an assessment centre.
• Make the most of other online resources such as Glassdoor, Wikijob for company reviews and candidate experiences. Check out Prospects for general advice and tips.
• Build a team with friends to practice the group discussion. If you would like to practice further, Assessment Day have produced a useful Assessment Centre Guide to help you prepare for a range of assessment centre activities.
Although this can vary, I received the result of assessment centre within one week. I would recommend that soon after the event you reflect on the day and your performance. What was involved? What did you do well? What would you do differently? You can also request feedback from the employer to help you prepare for future interviews/assessment centres.