How assessment centres work
If you are successful with your initial applications and pass the psychometric tests, the next stage in the graduate recruitment process is usually an invitation to attend an assessment centre or selection centre event. Assessment centres are costly both in terms of financial outlay and staff resources so tend to be used mainly by larger organisations offering structured graduate training programmes.
Assessment centres are usually designed to include exercises that measure you against key aspects of the job. By using a range of methods the selectors will have a chance to examine your potential as an employee in their organisation more closely. An assessment centre usually involves:
- in-tray exercises
- group exercises
- social events such as dinner or lunch with prospective colleagues
A student’s view of an assessment centre
Sebastián Pineda Carrillo, MSc in Telecommunications Engineering from LJMU, successfully gained a place on the BT graduate scheme (technology) following an intensive application process. Sebastián shares his experiences providing an insight into each stage of the process.
The assessment centre lasted for a whole day, although we were asked to get to the venue the evening before. That evening I met the other 11 candidates and we listened to a presentation from the Graduate Development Manager introducing the company and explaining the timetable for the next day. We then had the chance to meet one graduate employee and talk to the other candidates.
On the day each activity/task was observed by a different assessor and they included:
- A presentation – The presentation topic was given to us one week before the assessment centre. I felt nervous before starting but those were the fastest ten minutes I have ever experienced!
- A technical interview with one of the line managers. Attending the Careers Team’s “Preparation for Interviews” workshop helped me a lot for this stage. I felt a little nervous as is normal, but the interviewer was very friendly and it helped me relax and perform better.
- An individual exercise about a fictitious company and a project report with some figures that presented some problems was provided. Applicants had ten minutes to structure a 30 minute meeting - this was a role play exercise.
- And finally the group activity was a case study with a 30 minute group discussion.
If I were to give students my top tips, they would be:
- Prepare yourself for each activity. There is plenty of information online and the workshops offered by the Careers Team are really helpful. Preparation will give you the confidence you need to perform well in any situation.
- Always keep in mind the type of candidate the company is looking for (they often publish this with the offer) and also the company’s strategy and values. This information will help you structure your answers well.
- On the times when you are not being assessed try to talk with the other candidates, current graduates or the staff about relevant topics. Show interest in the company and the position.
- Be yourself and let the others be too. You are not competing against each other so try to show the best of you and contribute so that others do that.
An employer’s view of an assessment centre
Sara Reading, Head of Early Career Recruitment & Selection, The Royal Bank of Scotland offers an employer’s perspective on an assessment centre.
Our assessment centre takes place over one day and involves a number of different exercises. We assess each of the activities individually and they are designed to give candidates an opportunity to demonstrate the key competencies we are looking for. To be successful, individuals have to meet the benchmark in all areas. It is possible for someone to do well in one area, and less well on another. We assess against different exercises so that an individual’s ability against a competency can be assessed at least twice throughout the day. We always look for contrary evidence to ensure that our assessments are robust. There are many websites that offer exercises to practise and these can be really helpful, however most assessment centres are designed so that you can’t prepare for them - as we want to see what you actually do and how you respond in different situations.
Help and support available to you:
One to one support in the Careers Zone
For individual advice on preparing for assessment centres, speak to our advisers. To arrange an appointment, call into a Careers Zone or phone us on 0151 231 2048/3719.
We offer mock assessment days to help you prepare for an assessment centre. For dates of upcoming sessions, check our events website.
Practice tests online
Looking to find out more about assessment centre exercises? Head to Careers Zone 24/7 and sign up to get practising in your own time, at your own pace.
Download our Career Mini Guide
For further advice on assessment centre, visit the resources page and download a copy of our handy mini guide on this topic.