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5 Secrets of the Assessment Centre

BlogEmployabilityGraduate Jobs

So you’ve made it to the assessment centre stage of your application...congratulations! Well now you may be thinking ‘what’s next?' Or ‘how do I stand out now?' Or maybe your burning question is ‘what even is that?' Here’s where these thoughts get answered, starting with…

1. What Even is an Assessment Centre? 

The biggest secret of the graduate assessment centre is usually the assessment centre itself. Although they’re used more and more for post-graduate jobs and internships, you may not have come across an assessment centre before. They are an event where candidates are given multiple tests which can range from; aptitude and psychometric tests, interviews, and in/e-tray exercises, roleplaying games and group activities, all for the purpose of finding out how you will perform in the role. The assessment centre can take place on-site at the job’s quarters, or they might be in hotels or conference centres. They may only take a few hours; however, some can span over a couple of days depending on the company and role. Accommodation is usually will be provided if so, that may also give you an insight into the amount of effort an employer goes to putting on an assessment centre. An assessment centre is a way of proving whether applicants are all they seem on paper, so they can be a pretty big deal depending on the role you’re applying for. So, being able to prove that you’re all you seem is important. One of the first ways to prove yourself is to… 

group of adults sat around a large conference table looking at a presentation

2. Meet the Criteria 

What are applicants even tested for in an assessment centre? Like all things, it depends on what role is being recruited for, assessment centres tend to use a premade criterion to determine your suitability for the role. While the importance of the criteria over the test and activity results will differ, it is very rare that an assessment centre will score on competing against the other candidates or offer places on the sole basis of the test results. Essentially, the criteria you’ll be judged against will mirror a successful CV and interview, so review these to identify the qualities and graduate skills they are looking for. Many assessment centres will look generally for teamwork, communication, the ability to work under pressure, leadership, and adaptability, so think about how these qualities might apply to the role you’re applying for and how you can display them throughout the assessment centre. The most important thing you can do is to make sure you know what they are looking for and exhibit those qualities. 

note pad and pen next to laptop

3. Be Yourself 

the version of yourself from your CV and interview, as that version of yourself has been a successful candidate to get this far. One of the main motivations for an assessment centre is to make sure you really are who you’ve claimed to be. To do this, refresh yourself on your CV and try and mentally review what was said in your interview. Ensure your clothes reflects the personality you want to broadcast, so wear something smart, and remember the professional implications of your outfit choice. This means be cautious about wearing branded clothes or clothes with images or writing, make sure you can be taken seriously at all times. Another way of embodying your professional personality is through the way you interact with everyone in the assessment centre, this should automatically reflect your positive characteristics. You never know who will be asked about their experience with you, so assume that anyone you meet could be feeding back on your performance and demeanor or assume they will be future colleagues. Never assume that the receptionist’s opinion will be overlooked in favor of the partner of the firm, and don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ll never see your fellow applicants again.

two women having an interview in an office

4. Social Event or Test? 

There’s lots of tests at the assessment centre, some more obvious than others. It’s best practice to assume that employers putting on assessment centres will be getting the most out of them, so don’t ever think you’re out from under the lense just because you’re expected to let your hair down a little. These events can usually involve a networking style lunch, dinner or drinks so have fun and get to know the other applicants, but always, always remain professional. As referenced in secret two, anyone might be asked their opinion of you or might end up a colleague of yours. Though they’re fun, try to think of social events as another kind of test. Thankfully, not all tests are so subtle!

Assessment centres can include aptitude tests and psychometric tests. These are usually done on computers, and they’re rather self-explanatory. The aptitude tests measure skill, usually in reading comprehension, maths, abstract reasoning, and situational judgment. You can find out more about each of these graduate pyschometric tests and even practice some at home by looking online. A bridge between the social event and the explicit test is group activities. These are usually some form of a game of problem-solving activity, like making a structure out of straws and paperclips, or making up a song. These games sound silly, even embarrassing, but they test for key skills like adaptability, collaboration, leadership and teamwork, and it shows who is going to get involved and roll with the punches the best.


5. What Do I Get Out Of It? 

The big secret about the assessment centre is that you’re assessing the employer just as much as the employer is assessing you. You may find that you didn’t like the people, current employees or even other applicants. If you have left the assessment day feeling demoralised, embarrassed or uncomfortable remember that’s not just how assessment centres are and can be a sign that maybe you aren’t right for the company or role. They can be a great way to get a flavour of your potential workplace, and if it leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth, that can be a precious warning sign that this might not be the place for you. Use your time in an assessment centre wisely, because the skills they want you to showcase are the skills you should be using on the job. Be sure that the skills you demonstrate are really you, if you fall into a job that you’re not right for because of false pretenses this is not helpful on you on the employer. You can learn a lot about what’s in store for you in a role from an assessment centre!

monkey in forest

Enjoyed this blog? Why not read Graduate Schemes: Preparing to Apply and Where to Start! or 40 Questions to Expect in a Grad Job Interview

Jasmine is a undergraduate student reading English Literature in the University of Oxford. She loves reading and sharing her knowledge and experience with others through writing for magazines. Outside of her degree, Jasmine tutors younger students to build their future careers in further education.

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