Assessment Centre Tips & Preparation Guide 2020

The assessment centre is one of the final hurdles in the recruitment process for a variety of organisations and roles. With the right preparation and practice, you can ace your assessment day and make it clear that you’re the best candidate for the job. Here are some must-know assessment centre tips to help you excel…

In this free assessment centre preparation guide we will show you:

  • 6 assessment centre exercises you can expect to take part in
  • An example schedule and rundown of what happens at an assessment centre
  • 5 essential tips to help you succeed on your assessment day

Get our top recommended assessment centre practice tests and exercises here.

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What to expect at an assessment centre

An assessment centre or assessment day is a common way for employers to bring together and assess a group of candidates for a particular company or role.

It is a full or half-day event where you must complete a series of exercises and tests that help employers evaluate your suitability and choose the right person for the job.

Typical assessment centre exercises include:

  1. Aptitude and psychometric tests – This could be a combination of numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning, logical reasoning, situational judgement and personality tests, among others. There are also specialised psychometric tests for certain industries and roles such as mechanical comprehension and spatial reasoning tests. 
  1. Group exercise – This could be a discussion or problem-solving exercise where you must work together in a small group to complete an activity or come to a conclusion that everyone is happy with. 
  1. Presentation or case study – As part of a case study exercise, you may have to present your conclusions individually or as part of a group. In some situations, the case study is a written exercise. 
  1. Role play – You can be asked to role play an imaginary scenario that’s likely to occur in the workplace, where you must use your negotiation, reasoning and general people skills to get to a desired outcome. 
  1. E-tray or in-tray exercise – This is a business simulation exercise where you must manage the workload of a typical day, either electronically (e-tray) or on paper (in-tray). 
  1. Interview – This could be either one-on-one or with a panel of interviewers. It will usually be focused on reviewing your CV, core competencies and motivations for applying.

These assessment centre exercises allow employers and recruiters to assess a variety of core skills and competencies including communication, teamwork, adaptability, organisation and planning, leadership, decision making, critical thinking and time management.

The group setting can be competitive and daunting, but remember that you’re being assessed against the employer’s criteria – not against the other candidates.

The goal of an assessment day is to cooperate and work together to complete the tasks you’re given.

Assessment centres vary in length and format, but a typical assessment day schedule can look something like this:

  • 09:00 – Arrival and introductions
  • 09:15 – Welcome briefing
  • 09:30 – Psychometric tests
  • 11:00 – E-tray exercise
  • 12:00 – Lunch
  • 13:00 – Group exercise
  • 14:00 – Presentation
  • 15:00 – Role play
  • 16:00 – Interview
  • 17:15 – Evaluation and feedback
  • 17:30 – Finish

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5 essential assessment centre tips for a successful day

#1: Read the briefing carefully

You’ll receive a brief or information pack before your assessment day which will have all the important details to be aware of.

Make sure you read through this carefully, and if there’s anything in it that you’re unclear about, contact your recruiter for clarification.

As well as the date, time and location of your assessment centre event, the brief should also tell you what you need to bring, the exercises you’ll take part in, and how the day will be structured.

Some candidates may be required to put together a presentation before the day – if so, all this information will be included too.

Make sure you schedule enough time to complete any pre-prepared tasks, and that you follow all instructions to a T.

It’s also a good idea to review your application and CV at this point. You want it to be clear in your mind why you applied for the position and what skills you can bring to the table, and your CV should be customised to clearly reflect that.

#2: Research the employer and the industry

While you probably already did this for your initial application, it’s worth digging a little deeper before the assessment centre.

You can make a great impression on assessors by showing your awareness of current company news and initiatives, as well as wider industry developments.

Go through the company website, blog and social media pages to find out what they’re talking about.

What projects are they working on? What are they excited about? You can also check Google News to find out if they’ve been in the media recently, and industry-specific news sites to learn of any issues or trends that are affecting their industry as a whole.

Pro Tip: LinkedIn can be an excellent resource for learning more about the company, the recruitment process, and what it’s like to work for them. Reach out to current employees with a friendly message, and ask them if they have any tips or advice for you before the assessment day – you might be surprised by what you learn!

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#3: Practice assessment centre exercises and interview techniques

Once you know which aptitude tests and exercises you’ll be doing at the assessment centre, spend some serious time practising them until you feel confident.

On our website you’ll find plenty of free, in-depth guides full of tips, practice questions and explanations to help you ace your assessment centre exercises and interview. We highly recommend you check them out!

You can find our most popular guides here or browse our website for more:

#4: Be your best self

On the day of the assessment centre, remember that assessors are always watching so it’s essential to come across as someone they would want to employ.

Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not – it’s still important to let your personality and individuality shine – but make sure that you’re portraying your most professional, job-ready self.

Even if you’re feeling nervous, a genuine smile can go a long way. Remember to always be friendly, polite and positive (even during lunch and coffee breaks), and show that you’re enthusiastic and cooperative. Initiate conversations, ask questions and act confident – even if you’re not feeling it.

Pro Tip: Pay attention to your health and wellbeing too, as it can have a major effect on how you feel on the day. Get enough sleep, eat well, drink plenty of water, exercise and meditate. Take care of your body and mind and you’ll be rewarded with better performance!

#5: Plan the practical details

Don’t leave it till the day of the assessment centre to figure out where you’re going and how to get there.

Punctuality is part of a strong first impression, so plan your journey beforehand – we even recommend doing a practice run at a similar time on an earlier day so that you know what to expect on the route.

Lay out your outfit and pack your bag the night before. Dress smartly, as you would for a job interview, and double-check the brief to make sure that you’ve got everything you’ll need.

And finally, remember to relax, be yourself and enjoy the day. You’ve got this!

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