Assessment Centres

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Getting to this stage in the recruitment process means that you are in a strong position - this employer is definitely interested in you! But you can't afford to think that a job offer is a sure thing. This stage is highly competitive and is designed to give both you and the employer a more in-depth assessment of each other.

What is an Assessment Centre?

Assessment Centres are usually the final stage of an employer's recruitment process.  Employers use Assessment Centres to determine if a candidate has the required competencies for the role.  They use a number of exercises designed to assess the full range of skills and personal attributes required. Assessment Centres have been proven to be a much more reliable method than interviews for assessing candidates. They can vary considerably in duration, format and content. Candidates engage in a range of activities which will be assessed by a team of trained observers, often senior managers in the organisation. To try to make the process as objective as possible it is likely that different observers will see you in each of the activities.


What exercises and activities do employers use?

Each Assessment Centre will include a range of exercises and activities to help the employer assess that the candidate has the competencies for the role.  Most employers try to make the exercises as realistic as they can to reflect what actually happens in the role and in the organisation.  Common exercises used at assessment centres are:



These are a "getting to know you" type of exercise.

Group Exercises These vary in style and format and are designed to observe how individuals function as a group and how they respond and react to each other.
Interviews These could be similar to the first interview but be prepared to answer questions in more depth. You might be interviewed by more senior members of staff or your future line manager.
Psychometrics Tests designed to assess your numerical, verbal, diagrammatic, logical reasoning and situational judgement. Employers will administer those appropriate to the role.
In/E Tray Candidates are given a selection of letters, memos and reports in either paper or electronic format and a scenario. Most of these type of exercises require you to analyse, prioitise and make decisions. 
Presentations Candidates can be asked to prepare a presentation in advance of the assessment centre or to present conclusions from one of the exercises.
Role Play Exercises designed to observe how you react in a situatuion related to the role. Candidates are given a scenario. Role play is commonly a one to one exercise.
Case Studies These are designed to observe how candidates solve a business problem.


How do I prepare?

Things to do:

(Please note: these videos work best with Chrome or Firefox)

to watch the video with subtitles visit the Subtitled video index or view the At the Assessment Centre DVD and the Assessment Centre Video (part of Selection Success in One DVD) in the Resource Centre.

  • Read TARGETjobs advice about assessment centres
  • Read Prospects advice about assessment centres
  • Read University of Kent's advice about assessment centres
  • Practise Psychometric Tests
  • Research the sample materials in the Assessment Centres folder in the Careers Resource Centre.
  • Contact the Careers Service to practice 'FastTrack' - a test designed to identify individuals who are quickly able to evaluate and analyse new information and use it to make decisions
  • Have a go at example online Case Study Interviews
  • Read Prospects advice about giving presentations at an assessment centre
  • Download our Assessment Centre Checklist

Before the Day: 

  • Research the organisation - again! You should have done the research for the first interview - refresh your memory!
  • Reflect on your first interview. How could you improve? If you weren't asked technical or functional questions you can expect them at the final interview - are you prepared?
  • Expect the unexpected - you may be required to some work in the evening for the following day while at an Assessment Centre. This might involve preparing a presentation or reading a discussion paper. Be careful not to over indulge in the hospitality!
  • As best you can - get a good nights sleep.
  • Stay calm and be yourself!


How am I assessed?

Assessment Centres are designed to be impartial and assess each candidate's ability to do the job.  Candidates are not in competition with each other but are scored individually.

The exercises are designed specifically to highlight particular competencies. Below is an example of the guidance notes given to assessors for an exercise which includes positive and negative indicators that they have to look for. In this case they are judging the candidates on the following competencies:

  • Communication
  • Team-working
  • Leadership
  • Analytical Ability
  • Problem Solving
CompetencyPositive Indicator Negative Indicator 
Communication Fluent in speech
Uses appropriate language
Unclear, uses jargon
Long winded, rambling sentences
Team-working Shares information and ideas
Involves others
Shows little interest in the views of others
Creates conflict in the team
Leadership Motivates and encourages others
Is decisive, has 'can-do' approach
De-motivating remarks
Relies on others for suggestions
Analytical Ability  Identifies the key issues  Does not take account of the objectives
Problem Solving Thinks creatively
Draws appropriate conclusions from the meeting
Considers a narrow range of information
No evidence of innovation
Assessment Centres - Strathclyde students' experiences