Careers advice: How to ace your assessment centre day

02 April 2019

Your assessment centre day will consist of a variety of exercises set to test your skills and suitability. Give yourself the best chance of success with Careers Manager Krish Ruparelia’s top 10 tips on how to ace your assessment on the day.

From interviews, presentations and group discussion, to report-writing, networking and informal exercises, assessors will use a selection of exercises to score you in line with various key competencies. At this stage, your performance will support the decision making process in relation to whether your application is progressed any further.

How to perform well on the day:

1. Perfect your interview technique.

Keep in mind your key achievements and draw upon these during interview. The STAR structure (Situation, Task, Action, Results) is a useful tool to keep your answers focused and on track.

2. Prepare well for presentations.

Do your research in advance; the topic is likely to be something related to the recruiter’s business. Stick to your allocated time limit and use a clear structure (introduction, central content and conclusion). Keep slides or sheets clear and easy to read; only use pictures and diagrams where appropriate. The information you include should support what you are saying, not be a word-for-word transcript. Keep a few notes or keywords in front of you to help jog your memory, though no more than half an A4 sheet.

3. Be open to challenge.

Assessors will often be interested in seeing how you come to any conclusions and how you respond when challenged.

4. Remain relaxed, positive and professional during role play exercises.

Role plays are designed to reveal how you might behave in real-life work situations and to test your skills and ability to work under pressure in various scenarios.

Read any brief carefully and ensure that you understand the task at hand. Make a confident first impression and have a way to conclude the meeting in your mind. Remember to be adaptable as you cannot predict how the situation will unfold. Pace yourself and ensure you have some time before the end of the task to conclude the meeting and agree ways forward. Keep any notes to one page with clear bullet points and don’t allow these to impact on your eye contact and engagement.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Many candidates fall into the trap of thinking they have to talk lots to resolve the situation during role plays. Think about real life conversations and ask open questions to illicit information.

6. Use group exercises as an opportunity to evidence your team-working and communication skills.

Assessors will be analysing your interactions as a team, how well you articulate your points, listen to others, manage your time, answer the brief, and influence others. When making a group decision, consider the commercial impact: do you know about the industry sector or competitors? Ensure that you participate and contribute to discussion, build on other’s ideas, listen to other viewpoints and avoid interruption. Refer to people by name and maintain confident, positive body language – don’t take a stand back or dominate.

Person presenting by whiteboard
Ask questions, listen to others and contribute to group discussion

7. Remember that your assessment starts the moment you arrive.

Some recruiters may post ‘spies’ in reception to listen in to conversations as candidates arrive. Don’t ruin your chances with any offhand remarks.

8. Be inquisitive.

Use your assessment day as an opportunity to find out more about the company and its employees; ask questions and find out about their personal experiences of working there.

9. Avoid suffering an afternoon slump.

Take something to eat and drink lots of water. Although the recruiter may provide food at lunchtime you will (hopefully) be so busy talking to people that you may not get the chance to eat much. Prevent yourself from flagging and bring some precautionary snacks.

10. Practice report-writing.

This task will assess your professional writing skills and ability to process large amounts of information.  

Prepare by condensing a large company report or news item into a summary of key information under a time limit. You can bring this report to a careers appointment for feedback on the structure and style.

Remember that business writing is a different style to academic writing; be accurate, clear and concise, and avoid academic words such as ‘hence’, ‘thus’, ‘firstly’, ‘secondly’, and ‘thirdly’. Structure your report using an introduction and conclusion that outline your recommendations, and be selective with the information that you use. Divide your report with sub-headings in bold text, bullet-points and line-breaks instead of indentations for paragraphs.