Assessment Centres- presentation tips



Pablo Costa is a Careers Adviser here at the University of Leeds. Prior to working in HE he was a graduate recruiter running assessment centres- giving him an insider view of what it takes to succeed.  Around 89% of major graduate employers use assessment centres to evaluate graduate candidates (Institute of Student Employers, 2018), so, it is crucial to understand the variety of activities you may face in an assessment centre.

One common example is presenting yourself to a panel of recruiters. Here are Pablo’s tips on how to approach this exercise.

Assessment Centre: Presenting Yourself

It’s the day of your assessment centre and they have asked you to talk about yourself for 5 minutes in front of a panel of assessors.

If you’re like most people, talking about yourself in front of an audience isn’t the easiest thing to do. But, maybe you like it. If so, that’s great. If you don’t, then we need to look at ways to make this a more comfortable experience.

Why have they asked me to do this?

Well, it’s to see how well you tailor communication and engage with an audience (if they hire you for the role).

OK, what do you mean by tailoring communication?

This would mean understanding what your future colleagues and/or clients want to hear when you are delivering information to them. In other words, communicating what they want to hear and not rambling, waffling or going off-subject.

And, what do you mean by engaging?

Communicating in a dynamic way that makes your presentation/information memorable and holds the attention of the audience. This could mean:

  • Ensuring good eye contact
  • Providing a descriptive example rather than just stating a fact
  • Using repetition in order to stress an important part of what you are saying
  • Finish the communication by stating how the subject matter would benefit the audience

Let’s get back to the assessment centre

You have 5 minutes to talk about yourself. What can you say in a tailored and engaging way?

The basic facts:

Well, we can begin with your name, where you are from and what you are studying.

Now, let’s tailor

They will be interested in not only what you studied, but also why you studied that particular degree. From here, if the subject is directly linked to the role, you can explain your initial and continuing interest in this area and how it has resulted in you applying to this role.

You can then discuss how the modules have developed you further with regards to the subject. You can then talk about the skills you have gained as a result of the course. These could be anything from leadership, time management, communication and analytical skills. And guess what? We’re going to tailor the skills you mention to match up with those they are looking for.

If your degree is not related to the role, then we can still mention some of the modules, but focus  on the skills you have developed (and they are looking for).

Ok, what else?

Well, they want to know about what you do outside of university. Sport, music, blog writing, travelling, whether you like baking etc. Essentially, anything that you do that shows off your personality. But, don’t just state that. Tell them a story regarding one of your interests. Oh, and if you speak any languages, please tell them.


Just like many organisations, we as individuals also have values. Telling them your values will give them a much better understanding of who you are and what you stand for. It is most likely that your values will be similar or even match those of the organisation. Values can include:

Respect for everybody, integrity, honesty, loyalty, diversity. You may also wish to mention other aspects that are important to you such as the environment, sustainability, having a global mindset.

Let’s finish the presentation

It’s always a good idea to summarise what you have said about yourself. Why? Well, if you’re hired, that’s how you would end a presentation in the role. So let’s take key aspects of what we have discussed in order to provide a snapshot of who we are. This could be as follows:  “So to summarise, I ………”

Let’s break down the structure into timelines:


  1. The basic facts/why you choose what to study and modules
  2. Skills developed from university (with examples of how you developed these)
  3. You outside of university (with examples, not just statements)
  4. You outside of university (continued) plus your values (again, not just statements, but why these values are important to you – you can add examples of when you have shown these values)
  5. More about values and end the presentation with a summary

Finally, come and see us at the Careers Centre so you can practice the above. Good luck!

Another blog Prepare for Success: Assessment Centres gives more general tips on assessment centres.  In autumn and spring the Careers Centre runs a workshop programme so look out for any assessment centre workshops which will give you a chance to sample the real thing.

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