Careers Service Assessment centres

Getting to this stage in the recruitment process means that you are in a strong position. The employer is definitely interested in you. But you can't afford to think that a job offer is a sure thing. This stage is competitive. It's 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 exercises to assess the range of skills and personal attributes required.

Assessment Centres can be a more reliable method than interviews for assessing candidates. They can vary in duration, format, and content. Candidates engage in a range of activities. These will be assessed by a team of trained observers. To make the process objective, different observers will see you in each of the activities.

Some recruiters are using tools such as Skype and Microsoft Teams and Virtual Reality (VR) to simulate a typical work environment.

What to expect

Each Assessment Centre will include a range of exercises and activities. These will 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. This is to reflect what actually happens in the role and in the organisation. Common exercises used at assessment centres are: 

ActivityDescription
Ice Breakers These are a "getting to know you" type of exercise.
Group Excercises These vary in style and format and are designed to abserve 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 manger.
Psychometrics Tests are 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 types of exercises require you to analyse, prioritise 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 situation 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 to prepare

Things to do:

Presentation skills

In-tray exercises

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 questions, expect them at the final interview. Are you prepared?
  • expect the unexpected. You may be required to do 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 overindulge in hospitality. 
  • as best you can, get a good night's sleep
  • stay calm, and be yourself

How you'll be 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. They are scored individually.

The exercises highlight particular competencies. Below is an example of the guidance notes given to assessors for an exercise. It 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

Competency

Positive 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 a 'can-do' approach
  • De-motivating remarks
  • Relies on others for suggestions

Analytical ability 

  • Identifies the key issues
  • Does not take into account the objectives

Problem-solving

  • Thinks creatively
  • Draws appropriate conclusions
    from the meeting
  • Considers a narrow range of information
  • No evidence of innovation

Advice on the use of Generative AI (including ChatGPT)

We asked ChatGPT for advice on using it for job applications. Below are the key points, which we agree are helpful:

  • Although ChatGPT can be a helpful tool for drafting content it is essential that you personalise what you write in order to showcase your skills, experience and personal attributes. Always tailor what you write to the organisation and role
  • ChatGPT doesn’t always generate accurate information. Always check facts, edit for accuracy and relevance and ensure the language and tone is appropriate for a job application
  • Be honest: if using ChatGPT might raise issues or concerns with an employer explain why you used it and how it helped you

This advice applies to all submissions you make as part of the application process including CVs, cover letters, application forms, essays, reports, psychometric assessments, and technical challenges. Submitting work written by someone else, including AI, is viewed as plagiarism by employers and as such would result in the rejection of your application.

The Careers Service has many tools to support you in writing unique content for your applications and in preparing for every stage of the application process. Please use them and seek advice if you are unsure so you are not caught out.