Assessment Centres are a combination of assessed tasks and activities that test your suitability for the job. They will take place at the employer’s office (or similar, e.g. large conference facility etc.) and can last from half a day up to two full days.
Note: During 2020-21, Assessment Centres are likely to take place in a more digital format.
You’ll typically find that Assessment Centres are one of the final stages (if not the very final stage) in the recruitment process and so the candidates who are invited will be those who the employer thinks has a real chance of being right for the job. Being invited, obviously, does not guarantee you a position so it’s important to make the most of this opportunity.
The kind of tasks and activities that may take place at an assessment centre could include:
A common exercise at an assessment centre that is often used as the first activity. Icebreakers help candidates to relax and settle into the day by creating a welcoming environment. Tasks could include: Human Bingo, introducing your partner to the group, building a tower from straws, paper and pins.
You could be asked to repeat online tests that you completed during the application, or you could be given a personality questionnaire to complete.
Candidates will be given the ‘in-tray’ or inbox for an appropriate work role. You will then be asked to make decisions on the priority and handling of each item and will be working against the clock. Tasks could include: responding to queries, drafting replies, making decisions, writing a report or delegating tasks etc.
During an assessment centre, there are a number of ways that you could be asked to present, and presenting is a popular choice of activity with recruiters. You could be asked to prepare a short presentation on a topic in advance or you may face a presentation task on the day based on an exercise that you have completed. You may be presenting individually, or as part of a group too.
Whilst these activities can vary greatly, they will often involve candidates working on a specific brief to tackle an issue facing the organisation/workplace problem. You’ll need to come up with an agreed solution and can expect to be working with a group of around 8-10 whilst being individually observed.
Gamification and VR
A relatively new trend is that some employers are starting to use gamification or VR technology in their assessment centres in order to make them more engaging. Here, candidates would undertake tasks such as a series of abstract games or scenarios that simulate the types of situations that the job includes.
You could face your first interview with the organisation at an assessment centre but it’s likely that you had some kind of interview experience with them previously (e.g. telephone, video). If this is a second-round interview, it’s likely that you will be asked more probing questions. You could also be asked to reflect on how you thought the day has gone – remember that the information we covered earlier this week on interviews will also apply.
As well as being assessed against job competencies, the employer will be aiming to ensure that you’re the right fit for their organisation. Assessors on the day will generally be a mix of the recruitment team, line managers and former students who are currently on or recently completed the graduate scheme. Our top tip for assessment centres would be that no matter what you’re told, always act as if you are being assessed from the moment you arrive at the venue (including over lunch!).
As you’ll be facing a number of tasks and activities, preparation for the day is essential – you’ll receive information about the day itself in advance and it’s vital that you read this carefully and know what will be happening on the day. Research the organisation and make sure that you understand what you have to offer, as well as what their values are and how you fit into this. Keep up to date with recent trends in the sector, what is relevant in the news and any recent development that the organisation are involved with. You’ll also need to think about how you’ll introduce yourself to others and do ensure that you join in with every activity, otherwise the assessor won’t have anything to assess you on!