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.
Disclosing a disability: If you have a disability which you think may affect your performance at an interview or assessment centre, you can disclose this to an employer who should then make reasonable adjustments to their selection processes. This includes making the assessment centre facilities accessible, additional time on individual exercises, or making information available in alternative formats. Whether and how to disclose a disability can be a complex topic and we have further advice.
Try our Virtual Reality (VR)
We have a suite of Virtual Reality assessment centres to help you practise. Assessment centres include:
- stranded on a desert island
- damaged space ship
- saving your library
- planning a summer fair
As a student, login into Career Connect via MUSE or go to Career Connect as a recent graduate. You can book a room within the Careers Service to use one of our VR headsets.
|Types of exercises recruiters use||
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.
Gamification / Virtual reality exercises
To make assessment centres more engaging, some employers are starting to use gamification / Virtual Reality technology whereby candidates undertake tasks such as a series of abstract games or scenarios which simulate the types of situations that the job includes. The immersive nature of games / VR means you will quickly feel involved and engage naturally with the task. Although far from commonplace, these forms of assessment may well be used by more employers in the future.
|Sample assessment centre exercises||
Through our partnership with Graduate First, Sheffield University students and graduates have free access to:
If you are a graduate, you also need to use your University of Sheffield email address AND then email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask us to activate your account. Please supply your name, registration number, department and graduation date.
Graduates First offers a variety of psychometric tests and other job assessment preparation solutions for students including detailed step-by-step guides to top graduate employer's recruitment stages and hints on how to pass their assessment process.
|How to handle job offers||After an initial verbal or email offer, you will usually get a formal written offer with details such as:
The offer may be ‘conditional’, e.g. subject to satisfactory references, medical checks, a specified degree class, or security checks.
The offer forms one half of your contract of employment. If there is anything you do not understand or think has been omitted, you need to ask the employer. If you are unsure about any aspect, discuss it with a careers adviser before contacting them.
You probably have a good idea about whether you want the job but do think carefully about your needs and options. Accepting an offer of employment in writing constitutes your half of the employment contract. When the job is confirmed and no longer conditional, you should withdraw from all other job offers, interviews, and remaining applications.
Job offers can cause problems if you have other applications pending, but do not accept one with the intention of hoping to turn it down in favour of another employer. Verbal and written acceptances are legally and morally binding. The best advice is to thank the employer, explain you are definitely interested and ask for some time to consider it, giving them a date by which you expect to respond. If you are uncertain what to do, discuss it with a careers adviser.
If you decide to decline an offer, let the employer know as soon as possible so they can offer the job to someone else. Thank them and outline your reasons if appropriate. Be professional and considerate as you may come into contact with this employer again in the future.
|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 consultant 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.