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How to prepare for Assessment Centres

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This article is based on the free eBook "Assessment Centres"
This article is based on the free eBook “Assessment Centres”

More and more organisations are using the so called Assessment Centres to recruit new employees. Research has shown employers that using an interview alone is not the most reliable way to make the best hiring decisions. This is why they are using additional tools such as ability tests and personality profiles, job related exercises with group interaction, presentation-making and so on, to ensure that they have a fully rounded view of a potential new recruit.

In this article career coach Sally Walker outlines what you can expect from and how to prepare for Assessment Centres. Good luck!


What to expect

Assessment Centres typically involve a number of elements:

  • Social/informal events: where you will meet a number of people, including other candidates, the assessors, potentially future peers from the company, the wider staff and management team.
  • Information sessions: these provide more detail about the organisation and the roles available.
  • Tests and exercises: designed to reveal your ability and potential. See below for a comprehensive list.

An assessment centre is likely to consist of a number of tests and activities that are designed to assess the competency areas that are essential to perform effectively in the job. These activities include: Psychometric tests, personality questionnaires, group and written exercises, in-tray / e-tray exercises, presentations (made by candidate), role plays and interviews.


How to prepare

You have been advised by letter, email or phone call that you are invited to attend a company’s forthcoming assessment centre. Great news which means that the hard work you put into developing your CV has paid off! To prepare as fully as possible do not be afraid to ask the organisation for the following information.


Use this as a checklist and call the company to gather any missing details:

  • Date, start, finish times and location
  • Detail about which exercises and tests will be included in the assessment centre. Ask for names of specific tests that will be used.  If you are asked to prepare a presentation make sure you know what medium you are expected to use and the available technology
  • The nature of the interview – type of questions that will be asked and the format used
  • Who will interview you, by name and position
  • Competency or skills profile and/or a job description against which you will be measured
  • If you will be given a tour of the company

Confirm to the company as a courtesy that you can attend and take the invitation letter with you on the Assessment day in case of any mistake.


Research the company and industry comprehensively

You must demonstrate to the hiring organisation that you have made significant efforts to research the company and industry comprehensively. The company running the assessment centre needs to feel that you particularly want to work for them. Equally, you need to use your research to help establish whether this is the right organisation for you to join or not. You can fill in gaps of information whilst you are attending the assessment centre, by asking appropriate questions.


Prepare questions you want to ask at the Assessment Centre

Furthermore, you should prepare questions you want to ask at the Assessment Centre. These may give you an opportunity to demonstrate the amount of research you have carried out, for example by mentioning a business article you have read about the company and asking about a particular new strategy or development of a product.


Review why you are a right match for the job and organisation

If you want this job then you need to differentiate yourself from other applicants by preparing as fully as possible. Review your original CV against the competency profile or job description that the company has provided you with.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What qualifications, experience, knowledge, and skills do I possess that match what this company is looking for?
  • Which achievements of mine fit with what I know about the position?

Create a list of examples of achievements that demonstrate the particular set of skills the company is recruiting for. It is important to make these examples as specific as possible so include quantifiable numbers wherever possible. During the assessment centre these examples will be probed in depth so make sure you have a list of detailed, chronologically ordered actions that you took to resolve the problem. Reflect on how you would have handled the situation with hindsight, or what the key learnings from this problem have been. Recruiters are very keen to see that you have a high degree of self-awareness and self-reflection.


If you are looking for further help on how to prepare for Assessment Centres, you can download Walker’s free eBook “Assessment Centres”. Take a look inside!