Spotlight on assessment centres

After the rush of Autumn application deadlines, Winter is when successful candidates go through to the next stage of the selection process and are invited to take part in an assessment centre. But what is an assessment centre and how should you prepare?

In answer to the first question, an assessment centre normally takes place at the company’s office and involves taking part in a range of work related activities or tasks, which are either completed on your own (e.g. a case study or written task) or with other candidates (a group presentation or group business problem solving exercise).

Why do recruiters like them?

Seeing how potential candidates respond to different tasks is almost like having them work for you for the day. It is allows recruiters to observe how you behave with others and how use your skills in simulated work environment. You can argue that this is a fairer and more accurate way of getting to know a candidate, rather than simply hearing how they respond to questions at interview. It’s an opportunity for you to demonstrate your abilities, knowledge and motivation for the job and company. The key to doing well is all in the preparation.

How should I prepare?

To start with, think about what the employer is looking for. Look at the job description and consider the competencies they require, as this is what they will also be looking for on the day. For example, if you are applying for a job involving data analysis, you will probably be tested on your accuracy, speed, and attention to detail in a data task. Whereas for a job that involves dealing with clients, you may be asked to give a presentation and take part in a group negotiation exercise.

Whatever the role, team work and communication skills will always be valued. Speak clearly and make considered contributions, actively listen to others’ ideas in any group work and ask the opinions of those who aren’t speaking for example.

Be prepared to be assessed from the moment you step through the door, so be polite and professional to everyone, starting with the receptionist. You will continue to be assessed during ‘informal’ sessions such as a drinks reception or dinner – so prepare questions to ask and don’t drink too much!

Recruiters are also keen to see that you have done your research into the company /
organisation, so make sure you know who they are, what they do, and who their clients are for example. Don’t just look at the area of the organisation that you are applying to.
Have they won any awards or prizes? Has anything been written about them in the press recently?

For further information check our calendar of events for our assessment centre workshops. Helpsheets with tips and advice on Assessment Centre activities are available here. We’ve also written posts about specific elements of Assessment
Centres that you can browse also.

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