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Graduate Series: Assessment Centres

What are they?

Assessment centres are one of the final steps of the graduate recruitment process which directly assesses potential employees’ suitability and skills for a position. They commonly feature multiple in-person activities and tests across one day at the employer’s office, however some companies have shorter or longer processes than this.

Assessment centres feature in the graduate selection process because they are a good measure to assess a potential employee’s behaviour and cultural fit to the workplace. It allows applicants the opportunity to practically demonstrate their skills and suitability for the role.

What skills are assessed and how are they tested?

Generally, in-person assessment centres assess both technical and soft-skills through group exercises, individual tasks, or interviews. Skills tested include teamwork and leadership skills, communication, customer service, decision-making, time-management, problem solving, conflict resolution and goal setting.

While every assessment centre has different processes, common group-tasks include ice-breakers, debates, and problem-solving activities, which not only display your individual skills, but also how you work, communicate, and express your ideas amongst a group of people. Other tasks may simulate work-place tasks for the role you have applied for, including verbal presentations, role-play activities and ‘in-tray exercises’ – where you are asked to prioritise and fulfill a range of tasks.

More individualised tasks include psychometric testing, interviews with a panel, and case study interviews. Case study interviews differ from most interviews – rather than incorporating question and answer responses, the interviewee is given a problem scenario and is asked to solve it in front of the interviewer. The interviewers are often less concerned about the solution, and focus more so on the applicant’s thought process, communication skills, ability to think under pressure, and reasoning skills.

How to prepare?

Before the day, ensure you read the information provided by the organisation carefully, to ensure you complete any pre-tasks, bring any documentation needed, and arrive on time. Assessment-centre days can be lengthy, so ensure you have time to relax and prepare before the day.

Check the information provided to gauge the sorts of activities you may be required to undertake. This could help you find practice tests and resources for case-studies and psychometrics online.

It will also help if you review the job requirements and research the organisation. Even if the assessment centre doesn’t feature a standard interview, applicants may be asked questions about their motivation to apply, and a comprehensive understanding of the role and employer could give you an insight into the sorts of skills they will be assessing you for

Remember to act professionally – whilst you may be ‘competing’ with other applicants to secure the role, assessment centre activities assess how you work and express yourself as part of a group, to ascertain if you are a good cultural fit. While being collaborative is important, try to demonstrate initiative to prove that you are capable of working with others and a valuable contributor to group problem solving.


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