Preparing for an assessment centre

JodieAssessment Centres, Final Year, Graduates, Postgraduate, Second Year

A group of students working together around a table

If you’re applying for placements or graduate roles, you might be invited along to an assessment centre as part of the application process. Not sure what to expect? Don’t worry, that’s what we’re covering in today’s blog post!

What are assessment centres?

Assessment centres are a common feature of the recruitment process for placements and graduate roles. Employers will invite along a group of candidates to an assessment centre – you’ll then complete a series of exercises, tests and interviews that test your suitability for the job. Assessment centres are the perfect opportunity for you to demonstrate a wide range of skills to the employer.

Assessment centres used to predominantly take place in-person at a physical location, but many employers have recently moved to virtual or digital assessment centres as a result of current social distancing measures.

How you will be assessed

Employers will design the assessment centres to test for skills and aptitudes that suit their organisation’s needs, but they tend to be made up of a range of the following activities:

  • Psychometric tests
  • In-tray exercises
  • Presentations
  • Group discussions
  • Role play
  • Written tests
  • Interviews

How long they will last

The length of an assessment centre will vary between employers – they could last a full day or a half day. Some employers might even run two-day assessment centres (this tends to be employers who have headquarters outside the UK) – they should cover accommodation and travel costs in this case.

What the employers are looking for

Assessment centres are a chance for employers to see if you’d be the right fit for their company. They’ll be looking to see if you demonstrate key skills such as adaptability, communication, organisation, time management, leadership and commercial awareness.

The group setting will also make it easier for them to see how well you work with others, how you influence and persuade, and how others respond to you. Therefore, it’s important to work collaboratively with the other candidates rather than competitively – this will give the employer an indicator of how you might fit into their team.

How to prepare for them

  • Read the invitation details carefully and familiarise yourself with the assessment centre schedule if the employer sends it in advance
  • Revisit the job description to identify which skills, interests and experiences the employer is looking for
  • Practice potential exercises in advance
  • Remind yourself of the company’s work by looking at their website, social media accounts and publications
  • Book an appointment with a member of the C+P team for one-to-one guidance
  • Take a look at the psychometric testing and assessment centres advice and practice software on our website

Tips for succeeding

  • Be assertive in exercises but don’t dominate the conversations – you need to show how well you communicate and work with others
  • Draw others into group discussions
  • Ensure you understand the requirements of each task by reading the brief carefully
  • Don’t dwell on any mistakes – just focus on performing well in the next task
  • Maintain a friendly and polite manner with everyone you meet – you’re always being assessed throughout the day
  • Be yourself and let your personality shine though – employers will warm to individuality
  • Don’t stand back – be enthusiastic and get stuck into all tasks. This also means chatting to other candidates during the lunch break
Jodie, a member of Careers+Placements staff


Written by Jodie Carpenter, Careers+Placements