How to Prepare for an Assessment Centre

Finishing your studies at University provides great reward and satisfaction; however, this is soon followed by the stark reality that you will no longer be a student. Entering the world

of work can be an overwhelming leap for the majority of students, which is only made worse by the disheartening figures released earlier this month from the Higher Education Careers Service stating that only 62% of graduates have jobs within 6 months of leaving university.

Despite the fact that there are 123 applicants per graduate job opportunity, there are still plenty of great graduate positions and schemes available with the opportunities set to rise by a further 2.6% in the coming months.

If you haven’t already started applying for positions and conducting research on future employment prospects there are many things you can do to improve your chances of employment straight from university.

Firstly marketing yourself through networking, professional social media platforms and recruitment agents can improve your chances dramatically.

Secondly, it is vital to have an understanding of the recruitment process that you will have to succeed through in order to gain the dream position. Many recruitment processes for graduate schemes now involve assessment days/centres along with the more established techniques such as face to face interviews, telephone interviews and application forms.

What is an Assessment Centre?

Assessment days are an extended period of interviews, assessed individual/group tasks and assessment exercises all of which are moderated by the recruiters. These are becoming a more common and popular method of assessment for graduate level recruiters as they allow for far more accurate selection through a broader range of methods. Recruiters will use an assessment day to analyse the following:

  • Assess and differentiate between candidates who are of a similar standard on paper.
  • They use work related tasks to assess a candidate’s future abilities in the role.
  • Combine a range of situations and activities that allow for a fair recruitment process.

How to “survive” an Assessment Centre?

The assessment centre will be held by the in house human resources department or by an external recruitment firm and usually involve 8-15 applicants. Preparation is vital to not only survival but success at an assessment centre. Be prepared for giving presentations, being involved in group discussions and potential role play exercises.

The environment can be very intensive, stressful and challenging therefore anything that can be done to help you relax prior will be of benefit. Arrive at the location of the assessment centre with plenty of time to spare, this will do your nerves a world of good and help you settle down for the day.

When the assessment day commences with the activities be ready to get involved in a highly competitive environment. Having an understanding of what each activity is evaluating will stand you in good stead prior to involvement.

  • Group Exercises – Used to assess teamwork, leadership and time management capabilities.
  • Presentations – These are used to assess public speaking, sales and knowledge. Ensure eye contact with the audience is maintained and revert from overusing a script.
  • Role-Plays – Are used to assess your direct ability to deal job relevant situations. Although no one likes these try to be as natural as possible.
  • Debates – Communication and persuasion skills be tested during this stage of an assessment centre. Get involved in the debate but don’t be overpowering listen to others in the group and empathise with their viewpoints.


Finally remember to enjoy the assessment centre as much as you can, be yourself and exhibit bags of confidence as this will in turn reinforce your potential employer’s confidence.
Here are a few stand-out tips to remember: –

  • Preparation– “fail to prepare- prepare to fail” although it is Cliché this is so true. Perform background research on the potential employer, practice presentations and common interview questions.
  • Relax– Try to be yourself and relax as much as you can. Remember that you are being assessed from the moment you arrive even if the situation seems informal, exuberate confidence.
  • Get Involved– Don’t let the day and opportunity pass by, grab it with both hands. Get involved in group discussions and be outgoing, don’t feel inadequate and sit on the fence. The fact you have been invited to the assessment centre means you are good enough on paper for the role so fulfil that potential in person.

Follow up After the assessment day follows up with a thank-you e-mail to the organiser and reiterate your interest in the position. This will do nothing to harm your application and keep you fresh in the recruiters’ minds.

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Melissa Jones
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