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assessment centre

What to expect from an assessment centre

If you’re looking at graduate scheme options and trying to find that perfect graduate job, it’s important that you make a good impression and stand out from the crowd. Attending the assessment centre is a key part of the recruitment process; whilst it gives you a chance to showcase your skills and competencies, you will be competing against other graduates too.

To help you to give your best throughout the process, we’ve put together some important points on what to expect from an assessment centre.

Be prepared – should be obvious, but it’s important. Even before the assessment centre date arrives, know where the company is located, and maybe do a dummy run to make sure you know the route, how long it takes, where to park; turning up late won’t look good and on the day, you want your mind to be fully focused on doing well in your assessment, not stressing about getting there.

Do your homework – learn as much as you can about the company, because it will pay off when you have interviews with the various personnel. Fully understand the role you are hoping to secure, and get to grips with the company’s core values, because that’s what they’re looking for in their recruits too. It would also be a good idea to research what some of the people you will be meeting do, the career path they took and how they reached the level they are at, so you’re educated if they ask if you have questions.

Follow the dress code – please do follow the dress code for the company you are hoping to join. A good rule of thumb is to assume dress code for an assessment centre is always formal, so go with full business attire unless otherwise stated by the company.

There will be group activities – these are designed to assess how you communicate with others, listen to their views and work with their needs and skills to reach a solution – and it is how the group works together rather than the solution that is usually more important.  Be self aware, especially during these assessment centre group activities; don’t try to force your personality on a situation, just be yourself, and make sure to act as a team player at all times. Remember it’s not who shouts the loudest, but rather who builds on people’s arguments and clarifies understanding.

Role play scenarios – these can often be scenarios based on experiences you may encounter in the business. These scenarios can show future employers how quickly you absorb information and deal with the situation confidently, even if you are not fully up to speed with the subject matter. You can practice for these by researching the company and the business sector, finding out the kind of real-life business decisions the company has to deal with on a daily basis and maybe practising with yourself beforehand as to how you think you would react.

Practice your interview technique – there will be individual interviews as part of the assessment centre programme, and this is really your opportunity to shine. If you’ve done your homework then you will know plenty about the company, which is ideal. It is also important to have good insightful questions to ask. Prepare them well, including some not only about the company and the role you are applying for, but questions for individual assessors who will be there too.

Networking opportunities – be prepared to network with assessors and other company employees. Having questions ready when there are opportunities to mingle with the assessors will give you confidence to start a conversation, and another way to be remembered at the end of the day.

The In-Tray test – don’t think this is a filler activity; do take your time over doing them. Often to test your written skills, you can be given a series of letters or emails varying in degrees of importance, and asked to deal with them. These in-tray tests are valuable and important to assessors, and they will be looking at your decision-making skills, time management and how you work under pressure.

Your presentation – you will have prepared many presentations during your time at university. The more time and effort you put into this one the better; it will show you really want this job and are happy to work hard to get it. The assessors will be looking for communication skills, confidence and quick thinking, so it is important to plan the presentation well with a good structure and follow any guidelines the company may have given. Take plenty of opportunities to practise out loud, making sure that you speak at a reasonable pace, varying your tone of voice and engaging with your audience, and more importantly, the assessors.

So now that you know what to expect from an assessment centre, here’s our top tips on how to get the most from the experience…

  • Say hello to everyone you meet, interacting from the moment you enter the room.
  • Demonstrate positive body language; firm handshakes, and big smiles (even if you are nervous); these are confidence characteristics that will be noticed.
  • Listen carefully to everything that is said, whether in tasks or scenarios. Ask if you are unsure, as the most common mistakes made by candidates are often due to not reading or listening carefully.


At Gradvert, we know how much you want to secure that perfect graduate job, the one that meets all of your career ambitions, but we also know how difficult that process can be. We can coach you through every step of that recruitment process. Why not get in touch today?

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