An assessment centre is often the last stage in the recruitment process for many graduate roles. If it is part of the process, you will usually be invited to attend an assessment centre after the initial application stage. It may last from half a day to several days, and provides an opportunity for the employers to get to know more about you, to see how you perform at certain tasks and judge your interaction with others. Employers are checking to make sure you have the right competencies and are a good fit for the role.
Below are some of the more common tasks you may face as part of your assessment centre. You may not have to do all these activities and you may encounter tasks and activities not listed here.
Presentation by the employer
Often, the Assessment Centre will start with a presentation by the employer describing the organisation, their graduate scheme and career progression opportunities. Generally, you are not assessed during this activity but pay close attention to what is said as it may be useful to you at a later stage (perhaps during one of the activities). Look interested and ask questions too.
These are initial exercises to get everyone working together. These might involve a short presentation or group task to build rapport.
In these exercises, the group may be given a problem to solve with a specific objective. It usually isn’t straightforward, and every approach may have disadvantages as well as advantages. The problem may be a physical puzzle to solve, such as building a bridge, or a theoretical one, such as a scenario-based emergency situation where you are presented with facts of the case and must logically work out the best option.
Committee exercise / debates
Within a committee exercise, group members are designated roles and the task may be to come up with a consensus plan that the committee agreed on and puts forward. In this case the topic might be very vague, so the discussion has to be kept focused if the committee is to achieve something. Within a debate, a topic question may be given and the members are free to discuss the pros and cons of different angles concerning it.
This could be a group or individual exercise in which you are given official reports, tables of figures, newspaper cuttings, memos, etc. and a problem to solve.
Alternatively, the group may be given a business case study, which has to be analysed and understood before making suggestions for subsequent action. You may be asked to make a presentation about the key issues and suggested strategy, demonstrating that you or the group can respond well to assessors posing questions.
There is often not one specific ‘correct’ answer in this exercise. Recruiters are assessing your ability to analyse problems, prioritise tasks and put forward effective arguments with clarity and tact.
In-tray / E-tray exercise
This task is designed to simulate the administrative features of a job. For example, you may be given a pile of papers representing a post tray containing emails, faxes, memos, letters, telephone messages, reports and computer printouts. Alternatively it could be entirely PC-based (known as an e-tray exercise), where you may be asked to organise and reply to emails in Outlook, amend an Excel spreadsheet, or summarise an article in Word (or a combination of all the above and more).
Report Writing / Essay
You may be required to analyse problems and present your summary and findings in a written report or essay. You will be assessed on how you use your skills to present focused information that others will understand, the reasoning for your decisions and to test your written skills.
This may be about a case study (see above), or about a specific topic given to you either prior to or on the day, with a short time to prepare. These can be individual, or in groups. If an individual presentation is required, but no specific presentation topic given ahead of schedule, it’s worth having a presentation prepared about a topic of your choice. If you know that the subject will be given at the assessment centre, think about how to structure a presentation, consider what type of visual aids you might use, and find out what resources are available.
To prepare for a presentation about yourself, use the Elevator Pitch Builder on Build My Career and the presentation skills advice and information from Academic Skills.
Psychometric Tests (follow link for detailed information)
Usually all Assessment Centres include an interview with one assessor or a panel.
- The competencies the recruiters have identified as being important for the job will usually provide a framework for the interview.
- Be prepared to have your answers challenged as the interviewer(s) probe you further, and test out your ability to think on your feet and put across your ideas effectively.
- See the interviews section for more information.