Assessment centres

Assessment Centres

You may be invited to attend an assessment centre, particularly if you are applying for a job with a large employer. Invitations to an assessment centre usually follow on from a first successful interview, although this is not always the case.

Why are they used?

Assessment centres give employers a chance to assess your performance in a more specific and analytical way and see your skills and personal qualities in action. The activities will have been carefully selected to provide the best chance of identifying candidates who are the best match to the job. The exercises may simulate typical duties in the job, or be more abstract, e.g. problem-solving games. No matter how odd or silly these activities seem, have a go and enter into the spirit of the task. The day will be challenging but stimulating, and students often report enjoying the experience.

Remember, everyone you meet during the day is important: staff, fellow interviewees and company representatives. How you present yourself to them and deal with them is likely to be noticed.

Be aware that it is not a competition within the group, you are all aiming to do well. All of you may get through or none of you

Example exercises

Some main examples are outlined here but you may come across other exercises. Ask at the Careers Service for materials that will help you prepare.

  • Aptitude and Personality tests - You may be asked to repeat online tests you completed when you applied, or be given a personality questionnaire to complete. Our page on psychometric tests will help you prepare
  • Giving a presentation - is a popular choice at assessment centres as it shows the employer your ability to research, understand and communicate information well. It's worth brushing up on your presentation skills prior to attending an assessment centre
  • Report writing - in this exercise you will be provided with information about a particular issue and asked to write a short report or draft a response to a letter. You may have to discuss your ideas with a selector afterwards. You will be tested on your ability to:
    • analyse information quickly
    • think logically
    • use your judgement
    • express yourself clearly and accurately
  • In-tray & E-Tray exercises - you are given an appropriate work role (marketing manager for example) and the email in-box or 'In-Tray' for that job. You are asked to make decisions on the priority and handling of each item and will be working against the clock. 
    This exercise shows your:
    • ability to handle complex and unfamiliar information
    • basic job skills
    • communication and decision making skills
    • common sense
    • how you cope under pressure
  • Try out our sample in-tray exercise - what would you prioritise first? 
  • Group tasks and role play - Group tasks and role play exercises vary greatly but often involve candidates working to a brief with defined roles (as the finance manager, sales manager etc.) to tackle a workplace problem. Demonstrates your skills in:
    • group work. Particpate without dominating and try to involve others if they haven't said much.
    • communication. Listen to others without interrupting, but contribute your ideas, be prepared to challenge them if necessary
    • build on what others say - don’t just repeat it.  
    • adaptability and flexibility. Show you can adapt your ideas to achieve consensus
    • working under pressure. It's important to help the group achieve the task within the allocated time
    • determination, perseverance and commitment. The task is likely to be challenging, so keep focused
    • analysing information and problem solving. Help to generate possible solutions
What to do if you are not successful

Ask for help. If you are getting to interview or assessment centre then your applications are fine, so something could be going wrong during selection. Think about how well you prepared, what happened, how you responded to questions, and whether you really came across as enthusiastic about the job.

Ask the employer for feedback. Not all employers will discuss their decision but they may give you advice. Discuss things with a Careers Adviser to help identify any problems.

Remember, there may not be much wrong with what you did. You may have only just missed out!

Keep trying; you will become even more skilled and confident with practice.