Assessment centres

Assessment Centres involve a series of activities designed to determine whether your skills, experiences and personal qualities match the organisation's selection criteria and culture. They are a common recruitment method used by employers.

Knowing what to expect is the key to performing well. They will vary in structure, but typically:

  • Several candidates will be present for a full or half day of assessment
  • Some exercises will involve other candidates, some will be done on your own
  • You are assessed against a number of key competencies (skills) required to do the job
  • You are not being assessed against other candidates, however your interactions and attitude are key

Some of the selection activities may include:

  • Aptitude tests
  • Personality and motivation questionnaires
  • Assessment exercises
  • Behavioural interviews

Tips for success

  • You may be told in advance what kind of exercises you will be doing and if you need to prepare anything. Familiarise yourself with the process and complete any practice exercises that are relevant.
  • If you feel you have not done well in one assessment, keep trying as you can make up for it in another exercise. Assessment Centres allow you to show a range of abilities in a variety of different situations; your performance on all the different exercises is taken into account.
  • In group activities, loudest does not equal best. However, if you are too quiet the assessors will have nothing to judge. Find a balance - and make sure you listen to others.
  • Pace yourself in timed activities in order to achieve the most correct answers (not the most questions answered!)
  • Ensure you are up to date with what is happening in your industry or the organisation. If you can slip real-life current examples into an activity this will help you stand out from others.
  • Be your (professional) self! Remember that you may be assessed outside of the formal activities, so be friendly and professional at all times.

Assessment exercises

Assessment exercises are designed to imitate work-place tasks, behaviours or skills. The most common types of simulation exercises include:

  • Group exercises / case studies

    Group exercises are timed discussions, where a group of participants work together to tackle a work-related problem or case study. Sometimes you are given a particular role within a team, for example the team leader or marketing assistant.

    Other times there will be no roles allocated. You are observed by assessors, who are not looking for right or wrong answers, but at how you demonstrate the skills listed in the above table, and how you interact with your team.

    For example: You role-play a member of the marketing team for a beverage company. The team is required to discuss the launch of a new product, covering issues such as advertising, ethical concerns, packaging and pricing.

  • Presentations

    You may be required to make a formal presentation to one or more assessors. In some cases this will mean preparing a PowerPoint presentation in advance on a relevant topic. In other cases, you may be given information and a short period of time to read, analyse and prepare.

    For example: You are asked to present recommendations about the proposed relocation of a community legal board. You present your recommendations, fully explaining the reasoning, and are then questioned by an assessor about your proposal.

  • Fact-finding exercises

    In a fact-finding exercise, you may be asked to reach a decision about something which you have limited information on. Your task is to decide what additional information you need to make the decision, and sometimes also to question the assessor to obtain this information.

    For example: You take on the role of a Manager in a travel agency, dealing with a customer complaint. You are asked to decide what further information you need in order to reach a decision about providing compensation to the customer. You will have a time limit in which you can question the assessor to obtain this information, before presenting your fully reasoned argument.

  • Role plays

    In a role play, you are given a particular role to assume for a certain scenario. The task will involve dealing with a role player in a certain way, and there will be an assessor watching and taking notes.

    For example: You take on the role of a new employee in an Accounting firm. You are required to have a meeting with a client whose account is going to be your responsibility to manage. You need to introduce yourself and find out if the client has any issues which need sorting out. If there are, you need to explain to the client what you are going to do to assist him.

  • In-trays

    In-trays or in-baskets involve working from the contents of a worker’s in-tray, which typically consists of letters, memos and background information. You may be asked to deal with paperwork and make decisions, balancing the volume of work against a tight schedule.

    For example: You are asked to take over the role of Public Relations graduate of a company who is organising a booth at an expo. Your tasks are based around organising the stand and banners, managing issues such as personnel, budgets and marketing.

The exercises are designed to assess such skills as:

  • Structured thought
  • Reasoning and logic
  • Analytical and problem solving skills
  • Professionalism and engagement
  • Communication
  • Creativity