Essentials: a guide to assessment centres
An assessment centre often forms the final stage of a recruitment process for both internships and graduate roles. These differ a lot depending on the employer but usually contain a range of activities which could include group exercises, presentations and written tests.
In this section you will find information to help you effectively prepare for the day and present yourself well to both potential employers and potential workmates. Watch the video here Career Snapshot: Assessment Centres for an overview, then explore the content - including the different types of assessment centre activities.
Assessment Centres Tabs
Why assessment centres?
Employers use assessment centres to obtain a more rounded view of candidates. Assessment centres commonly follow a successful first round interview, although sometimes they can form your first face-to-face contact with the employer. What differentiates an assessment centre from an interview is that you will interact with other candidates, allowing a wider range of activities to take place than in traditional interviews. In particular, employers are interested in how you interact with others.
A typical assessment centre group would be five or six candidates, and there may be up to about four such groups at an assessment centre. Remember that some, all or none of the members of an assessment centre group could be appointed. It is therefore helpful if you regard the other candidates as people to cooperate with rather than 'the competition'.
Search interview/assessment centre feedback (collected from Imperial students/graduates who are happy to share their experiences)
What’s in it for me?
All selection processes are 2-way. The assessment centre will allow you to find out much more about your potential employer. You will meet a range of employees, understand much more about the culture of the organisation and have the opportunity to ask lots of questions. The information which you gather through meeting and talking to other members of the organisation can help you decide if you would really like to work for them.
How will I be assessed?
An employer's checklist of skills, abilities or competencies against which they are rating you on each of the exercises and interviews may often be stated explicitly in their recruitment information, or given to you at the assessment centre. Typical skills and attributes include problem-solving, team/group skills, drive and energy, and negotiation and initiative. Assessors will keep detailed notes of your performance, grade you against each competence and each exercise and look carefully at your overall performance. Remember that even the best candidates won’t do everything perfectly – if you feel you have made a slip, get over it and carry on regardless. All is not lost!
Types of activities
A typical assessment centre day could include any combination of the following activities:
- Case study interviews (see Types of interview)
- In-tray/e-tray exercises
- Group or team exercises
- Psychometric tests
- Personality questionnaires
- Social activities and networking
You would normally be informed of the activities you will be expected to complete at the assessment centre in advance, upon receiving an invitation to attend. See our types of assessment centre activities page for more information on each of the above - there are also videos on most of these activities on our Resources page.
GET SOME PRACTICE!
Attend one of three Careers Service workshops (Group Exercises, Presentations, In-tray/e-tray Exercises) that cover assessment centres. You can book via JobsLive - just search under the 'Events' section.
The employer should tell you what to expect from the assessment centre and give you an indication of the kind of activities which are involved - so you should know what to practice. You can contact the company for clarification if you are unclear about what to expect.
The Careers Service plans events every year which are designed to enhance your chances of success in the application process. Our events include lunchtime career talks and employer-led skills workshops, both of which include sessions on Assessment Centres. You can also view recordings of previous lunchtime career talks via our events webpage.
ASSESSMENT CENTRE PRACTICALITIES
- Make sure that you arrive at the venue in good time. There is no excuse for lateness!
- Take employer literature and a copy of your application with you for your own reference
- Dress codes may be indicated in the invitation to attend and should be followed. If in doubt, it is better to be too smart - you can always take your tie off
- Most people will only have one suit but have a different shirt/blouse if it is a 2-day event
- It can be useful to make a note of the names of all the company representatives you meet
- Be friendly and cooperative to everyone you meet. You never know who will have the decisive say about whether to hire you or not
- Follow all instructions carefully
- If you are not sure what you are being requested to do, ask for clarification
The following Careers Service handouts cover all aspects of assessment centres:
Search Interview/Assessment Centre Feedback given by Imperial students from their recent experiences at interviews and/or assessment centres.
There is also a detailed series of videos on assessment centres including presentations, role-play exercises and group discussions, viewable from our Resources page.
We also have a range of reference books in our 'Application and Selection' section in our Careers Information Room, covering assessment centres and more specific areas such as psychometric tests, case studies, and presentation skills.
TARGETjobs also have a good section on assessment centres on their website.