Careers Service

What to expect

Find out what to expect at an assessment centre including why employers use them and how you will be assessed.

What is an assessment centre?

Assessment centres are very common in graduate recruitment.  Since the onset of COVID-19 it has become most practical for recruiters to run them online. They tend to take place towards the end of the recruitment process, often after you have completed online tests and had a first round interview.

The process tends to be pressured and exhausting, but most candidates report that they enjoy the exercises and the opportunity to make their own assessment of the employer.

Purpose of assessment centres

Assessment centres contain different exercises designed to test your suitability for the job and employer you've applied to.

Employers can see how you operate in a variety of situations, to get a fair and comprehensive picture of your abilities. They can see what you can do, rather than just what you say you can do in an interview.

They are beneficial for candidates too. They give you the opportunity to demonstrate a range of skills across a range of exercises, not just your effectiveness at being interviewed.

How you will be assessed

You will be assessed on your performance in a range of activities, against pre-determined criteria the employer has identified as being important. Employers often explicitly tell you what criteria they will measure you against. You then need to meet the standard as set by the employer.

The exercises are designed so that you can demonstrate a particular competency (such as communication) in more than one exercise. This means you have more than one chance to meet each part of the criteria, so don’t worry if one exercise doesn’t go particularly well.

A final overall assessment will then be made at the end of the assessment centre.

Breaks

Assessment centres will usually include breaks such as lunch, dinner or a drinks reception or, if they are online, some sort of social session. Even if you are told that you are not being assessed during this time, you are ‘on show’ and you will be making an impression on the employer.

Breaks provide an opportunity for the employer to see you in social setting and it's a great chance for you to find out more first hand about what it’s really like to work there, and decide if it’s right for you by speaking with employees.

Top tips

  • Be aware of how you interact with everyone you meet 
  • Show genuine interest in what other people do by asking employees about their work and the employer
  • Think about how you might answer their questions too such as ‘Tell me about yourself’ and 'Why do you want to work here?'
  • If you find this sort of thing daunting, think in advance of questions or topics of conversation. For example: ‘What work have you been involved in over the last 6 months?’, ‘What are your most interesting projects at the moment?’, ‘What do you like most about working here?’
  • If you need to take a phone call or check your messages don't do this in front of the employer and other candidates