Assessment centres are a popular and traditional selection method, often used for graduate recruitment.  Organisations regularly use assessment centres to manage their high volume recruitment.  They also use assessment centres to identify high potential talent. Initially, you may feel anxious just thinking about what to expect.  This is natural and most candidates will be feeling a little apprehensive about the day, even if they appear very confident!

The good news is that you get lots of opportunities to demonstrate skills and competencies throughout the day.  Unlike an interview where you get one chance to make a first impression. During an assessment centre, you’ll have a range of different activities and tasks to showcase your skills and competencies. If you don’t particularly like tests then you’ll still have lots of other exercises, case studies, role plays and interviews that you can gain those all important additional points.


Here are some of the typical activities included:

  • Group Exercises
  • Role Play
  • Ability Tests – Numerical and Verbal Test
  • Psychometric Tests or Personality Questionnaires
  • Case Studies
  • Presentation
  • In-tray Exercises (assessing the ability to prioritise a set of tasks)
  • Practical Tests
  • Scenarios

Usually, an assessment centre will be well designed to match the requirements and criteria of the job role.  They will be assessing associated competencies (behavioural and technical). There are some common competencies (behavioural competencies / softer skills) that tend to be included in most assessment centres such as:

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Team working skills
  • Communication skills
  • Customer services skills
  • Presentation skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Commercial awareness

Do listen & read all instructions

Listen carefully to the instructions and read thoroughly all the information you are given throughout the day. This point might sound really obvious but you’ll be surprised how many participants on the day of the assessment want to steam in. They may simply panic, wanting to complete the task in the allotted time before they have given the instructions the attention required.

Do stay motivated

Stay motivated and focused throughout the day.  It’s a tough and often long day – so make sure you’ve had an early night and slept well. It’s easy to beat yourself up when you think you haven’t done well at a particular task, exercise, test or role play.  However, it’s now history and you need to maintain a positive focus and concentrate on the next exercise.  Try to remain upbeat as you’ll gain more from the day with an open and positive mindset. Assessors want to see you at your best throughout the event. The tasks are designed to get the best out of the participants.  Assessors also want to see how you handle yourself when things don’t go to plan.

Don’t be too competitive

This point may surprise some of you.  We (recruiters) are always talking about standing out from the competition and here we are telling you not to be competitive!! Remember you are being measured against predetermined criteria – not necessarily against another candidate.  So try not to be in too much competition against your fellow candidates. Work with others on the assessment day.  Encourage others to participate and voice their opinion.  Ask them questions to demonstrate you are actively listening.  

Remember you are not in competition with them on the day or during the exercises. In fact, it will go in your favour if you do work as a true team player and involve others in the discussions.  Good leaders have excellent teams.  They don’t do all the work themselves, they know how to get the best out of others and they are very good at utilising talent. You don’t have to be a leader to demonstrate good leadership skills.  

This will help you get noticed as potential managers and leaders of the future.  Businesses know they need to do more “future proofing” and planning for succession. Therefore, don’t ignore the quieter people in the group, don’t rail road your peers, this is not demonstrating teamwork or leadership.  Never interrupt others when they are expressing their opinions – this will be noted!

Do take time to prepare

Whether you are attending your first assessment centre or tenth assessment centre – you must take the time to prepare.  Every assessment centre will have elements of similarity however, they’ll also have elements of uniqueness. Ideally, you’ll have a job description or a brief about the event in good time to prepare against the competencies and at least start to think about examples where you have demonstrated these skills and behaviours.

Be yourself throughout the day – be professional but don’t try to be someone you think the assessors are looking for otherwise you will find it difficult to maintain this act, this can be very stressful and there’ll be inconsistencies in your behaviour and your performance.

Do act confidently

Self-belief is a very important factor in how you perform during this event. The way you think about yourself in relationship to the challenges you face will have a definite impact on your ability to succeed.

To quote Henry Ford, “If you think you can or can’t you’re right.”  This is referring to the concept of self-fulfilling prophecy.  

So start believing in yourself, your capability and be your biggest supporter. My last point – don’t forget to smile and enjoy the experience!!  It’s a fantastic opportunity and you may learn something valuable about yourself and how others behave.  

It’s a great opportunity to network and meet other like-minded professionals in your industry. Most well designed and facilitated assessment events will factor in giving you feedback on the test results and the other exercises you’ve taken part.  So if you don’t get through on this occasion you’ll know what to expect and how to improve for the next event.