Assessment centres assess your suitability for the role through various tasks and activities, allowing employers to test skills that aren’t necessarily demonstrable in a traditional interview. They could vary in terms of activity and timings. It is often the final stage of the selection process. Employers will review the candidates’ performance during the assessment centre and consider all aspects before making a decision.
Assessment centres usually involve a combination of individual and group tasks. Some of the tasks might be designed to mirror the job, while others focus on the employers’ desired competencies or behavioural characteristics.
Alongside interviews, potential tasks include:
Ice-breaker exercises intended to help groups of people to get to know each other better. They are often used as a warm up activity for a group that will later be working on group tasks together.
Case study exercises completed as an individual task or as a group. You will usually be provided with some information about a work-related scenario and invited to examine the evidence before presenting your findings and solutions.
Group discussions are a key part of the day. This activity is used to see your communication and problem solving skills in action and to ensure you can work effectively in a team. The activity could involve discussing a particular issue, constructing something or analysing a case study and presenting your findings as a team.
Presentations will either be required in a group or individually. You will be asked to present on a case study or on a group discussion or a particular topic. It is best to practise for a presentation even if you do not know the topic.
In-tray exercises test your ability to deal with a real work scenario with requests, demands on your time and information overload. Items normally found in this activity include phone messages, memos, letters, documents, reports and emails. You have to then put them in a list of priority for action and then explain what type of action is required.
Psychometric tests which attempt to objectively measure aspects of your mental ability or your personality. These tests aim to measure attributes like intelligence, aptitude and personality, providing a potential employer with an insight into how well you work with other people. You may complete a psychometric test during a preliminary screening stage, before receiving an invitation to an interview or further stages, or as part of an assessment centre. The tests can include verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning, logical reasoning, and situational judgement tests. There are a number of providers of free practice psychometric tests online.
Social events which could be a specific social slot at the end of the day, or could include lunch and tea breaks. It is advisable that your questions focus on the industry and employer. Do chat to other candidates as this will show your confidence in meeting new people.
Employers usually look for the following key skills:
Communication, creativity, decision-making, leadership, negotiation, teamwork, time-management, adaptability, analytical thinking, enthusiasm, confidence and commercial awareness. However, they are likely to make it clear what skills and qualities they value in their employees, so you should research this for each company you apply for.