The assessments are held at the employer’s premises or at a recruitment consultancy, and can run over a half or full day. They are most commonly used by large companies and government departments, or when many people are being recruited at once.

The purpose of the Assessment Centre is for the employer to observe how you work; they are looking for your levels of self-awareness, ability to analyse information and situations, your comprehension of tasks, and how you operate as a team member.

Activities could include:

  • individual or group activities
  • interviews – individual or group group interviews
  • presentations
  • case studies or written exercises
  • testing – often psychometric or aptitude tests 
  • company information sessions
  • independent assessment activity, sometimes called an ‘in-box’ activity
  • social functions.

Group activities may involve:

  • a practical activity, e.g. building a paper tower
  • scenarios for a plan of action, e.g. planning an event
  • problem-solving activities
  • role playing
  • discussions or debates
  • verbal presentations of findings.

You must actively participate in the activity to be adequately assessed. The assessors will be looking for your ability to interact with others – an essential requirement in the workplace. You might also be assessed for intellect, adaptability, communication style, cooperation, negotiation, business sense and drive. Don’t dominate the group discussion: add to the discussion and encourage other group members to contribute their ideas too.

You might be asked to prepare a short presentation about a given topic. 

  • Plan your talk according to the time you’re given.
  • Use visual aids if they’re provided and make sure they look professional.
  • How you present yourself is as important as what you say.
  • You’ll be judged on your ability to communicate with others and how you’d represent the organisation.
  • If presenting the results of an activity, be prepared to argue in favour of your recommendations.

You may be asked to analyse information and then make a recommendation (written or verbal) based on your decisions. Often there’s a lot of information to review in a short time, so use a systematic approach and be prepared to explain the thinking behind your solutions. 

Consider using SWOT analysis to help you manage your thought process when you’re presenting a case.

SWOT stands for:

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats.
You might be invited to a social event, e.g. a dinner or cocktail party lunch with the company’s graduates recruited last year. Although you won’t be officially assessed, employers  those there from the company will be looking at your social skills, how you mix with others, and whether you’re a good fit for their organisation.
  • Research the company – its products, services, culture and strategic framework.
  • Study the selection criteria for the position and prepare examples from your experiences to demonstrate your capabilities.
  • Practice giving presentations to a friend or colleague.
  • Dress professionally.
  • Allow additional time for transport delays so you don’t arrive late or stressed.
  • Be friendly and polite to everyone, starting with the receptionist. You’re 'on show' from the moment you walk in the door.
  • Keep your focus on the task, not the assessors who will be moving around the room.
  • Promote your strengths in the assessment.
  • Don’t panic if you’re unhappy with your performance on one particular activity – you’ll be assessed across all the activities.