Assessment Centres

An employer may invite you to an assessment centre where they will test out your skills, aptitude and potential. It is important to know what sort of activities you are likely to encounter so that you can practice and prepare.   

Assessment centres are mainly used by large employers who are recruiting several graduates, and last for a whole day or sometimes two days. Normally assessment centres are used to shortlist for the next stage of interviews.

Typical activities

  • Information session on the company – you may need to use information from this in the other selection activities
  • Psychometric and aptitude tests
  • In-tray exercise – a simulation where you are given various messages, reports, memos, etc, which you have to prioritise and decide how to deal with in a set time
  • Presentation – a short talk to the other candidates and/or selectors
  • Group exercise – a discussion or practical task designed to test how you interact with other people in a team. Examples are provided in our assessment centre exercises booklet.
  • Case study – simulation where you analyse information and write a brief report
  • Interview
  • Social events, such as meals with the selectors and other candidates – beware, this is still part of the assessment!

Top tips

  • Cultivate a calm state of mind, before and during the assessment centre so that you can fully concentrate on the tasks you have been given.
  • Do not allow other candidates to psych you out: the recruiters wouldn't have selected you to attend if they didn't think you had potential.
  • Be aware of time passing: assessment centre exercises have strict deadlines and you will be assessed on your time management skills. 
  • Remain professional during social events. Choose food that isn't difficult to eat and limit alcoholic drinks.
  • Do not dominate conversations: employers are assessing your team work skills and looking for candidates who can listen and support others as well as put forward their own ideas.
  • During problems solving activities take time to work out how you will approach the task rather than diving straight in.
  • Include quieter members of the group during group activities. This shows that you are aware of group dynamics and sensitive to the others.
  • Participate fully in group work by giving your thoughts, suggestions and ideas - recruiters are not mind readers and can only give you points for what you actually say.     

Throughout every exercise, employers will be assessing your employability skills. Find out more in our information about what employers want.

To find out more

Download our handout on assessment centre (PDF 68K, Downloads file) activities or visit the Careers Centre where we have books and DVDs on assessment centres. 

Sites containing useful information about in-tray/ e-tray exercises