Knowledge centre

Assessment centres – What are they?

It’s not uncommon these days to be asked to attend an assessment centre as part of a recruitment selection process.  They are often conducted for apprenticeship, graduate or other bulk intakes of new employees who will be performing the same or very similar roles.

So, what is an assessment centre? For a start, it’s a process not a place and you will be attending with a group of people, not alone.

This can be a scary prospect for many, but it shouldn’t be.  One of the fundamental principles of an assessment centre process is to be yourself…and you don’t have to study for that.  The activities are designed to find out more about you in relation to the requirements of the role. Whereas in an interview, the panel asks you about what you have done in the past, an assessment centre gives the assessors the chance to see you in action, participating in work-based scenarios.

Assessment centres are held with groups of individuals to assess how you behave as part of a team, when supervising others, and when allocated tasks that you haven’t done before. The exercises are usually fast, complex and challenging, but most people usually also find them fun. You may be asked to participate in group discussions, role plays, prioritisation and in-tray exercises, team activities such as group design and construction, or sales pitches, presentations, and sometimes, ability tests. These can include an assessment of your written skills, numerical skills and if you can think outside the square.

An assessment centre will usually come after some sort of screening process, and before a medical and reference checks. As with all recruitment steps, an assessment centre is only one part of the selection process. Not everyone who applies for a job will be invited to an assessment centre. Usually if you are chosen, the assessors/interviewers believe you are a good candidate. However, so is everyone else…so to prepare, you should think about all the aspects of the role you have applied for, what skills and personal characteristics you have that might make you successful in the role, and the successful ways you have interacted with others in the past. Be yourself, because if you try to behave in the way you think the assessors want you too, the assessors will know.

Our advice is to get involved, interact with others and enjoy the process, but take it seriously.