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Careers and Enterprise

How to prepare for an assessment centre

What is an assessment centre?

An assessment centre is normally the final stage of the selection process and involves completing a range of tasks that are relate to the role you’re applying for (e.g. a presentation, group task, case study, interview, written exercise or networking session). It is an opportunity for you to showcase your skills abilities in a practical setting. Our downloads section contains details about how to prepare for and perform well at the different types of activity you could be given on the day. 

How to prepare?

  • Use the job description to see what sort of tasks you can expect on the day. For example, jobs that involve dealing with numbers might include a data analysis related task, whereas roles that involve a lot of writing may have a written task.
  • Brush up on your commercial awareness beforehand, so you are familiar with what the company does and what the key issues in the industry are.

On the day

Pay attention to the instructions - Make sure you understand the task, and leave time at the end to check for errors. If it’s a group activity, try to agree with the rest of your group how you might split the tasks between you, to make the best use of the time available.

Make a good impression - Be pleasant and professional with everyone you meet. Employers are observing your ability to communicate effectively and they’ll be looking at your eye contact and body language, and how well you use appropriate professional language and behaviour.

Be a team player - Whilst you should be confident and to and make contributions to discussions, listening to and encouraging others is just as important. Remember, if you work together and produce good results as team, it will reflect well on you all. The recruiter wants to see how your skills match against what they’re looking for and are not scoring you against the other candidates.

Network - Assessment centres often include lunch and coffee breaks. Although these are seen as the 'informal' parts of the day, you are still being observed! Ask questions to current employees about what they are working on or what they enjoy most about the role/company for example.

Afterwards

Think about what you did well and any areas you found challenging, as this will help you prepare for future assessment centres.

What is a virtual assessment centre?

Virtual Assessment Centres (VAC’s) can include a number of activities typically found in face-to-face versions; a presentation, group task, case study, interview, tests and/or networking session. Recruiters are utilising technology to run VAC’s, so expect to use Zoom, Microsoft Teams or similar programmes on the day. You will normally be sent a timetable for the day in advance and be given clear instructions on how to access each assessment on the day. There will be an interviewer or assessor involved in each activity to explain the format and to assess your skills.

Preparation for VAC’s should be broadly similar to face-to-face – you will need to research the company and have a clear understanding of the role you’ve applied for, and have an idea of the strengths and skills required for the role. It’s also advisable to familiarise yourself with the technology in advance, by setting up any relevant logins and practising collaborating with friends or family to see how you communicate virtually. Remember that you will be assessed throughout the exercises, so make sure you are smartly dressed with a tidy background.

Assessors will particularly be looking at your engagement and enthusiasm, so join in on conversations with staff and fellow candidates, and use positive body language such as nodding or looking into the camera to show interest. Stay calm if you have any issues with your connection or internet; these things happen and allowances will be made if needed!