The Basics: Assessment Centres

Sitting nervously in a room surrounded by strangers, participating in group discussions and activities, all the while being watched by someone with a clip board – sounds like the stuff of nightmares right? Well Assessment Centres are not as scary as you might think. If you have some idea about what to expect and how to do well, it can be a great opportunity for you to shine!

students group

What are they?

In a nutshell, assessment centres are part of the selection and recruitment process designed to evaluate how well you handle various work related tasks. For the employer, it’s a great way a) of testing lots of applicants at the same time and b) seeing how applicants cope under pressure, interact with other people etc.

They can be a half day, a whole day or sometimes even a weekend, and can include a variety of things from interviews, to group exercises and maybe psychometric tests. Different assessment centres will have different components, so if you are invited to attend one, always make sure you know exactly what you will be doing, so you can prepare properly.

What to expect

Each assessment centre will also be different depending upon the role/industry you have applied to. For instance, if you have applied for a position in retail you might have a group task that revolves around customer service. For a more technical role, you might be given more psychometric tests. To help you prepare, it’s a good idea to have a look back over the job description and to research the company.

Broadly speaking, expect there to be a lot of applicants and a number of recruiters whose job it is to watch you and make notes. You will probably be split into different groups and giving an itinerary of the day (what will happen when). For some bits you may stay in your group (group exercises or presentations), for others you might be split off (interviews).

How to do well

  • Make sure you’re presentable and professional at all times.
  • You’re being watched, even on your lunch break, so always be polite and friendly.
  • Talk. Even if you feel overwhelmed or shy. This is particularly important in the group task – if you don’t talk you’ll get a zero by your name.
  • Practice – if you have to give a presentation, practice this out loud beforehand and get feedback from other people.
  • We sometimes have mock assessment centres here at QMUL. Take a look at our events calendar to see if one is coming up that you can book onto:
  • Join the committee of a university society. This is a great way of experiencing what it’s like working in a small team, having a meeting and coming up with a decision on how to address an issue (like where to hold your end of year party).

And feel free to book an appointment with the Careers & Enterprise Centre to talk to a Careers Consultant about group work or practice a presentation, for example.


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