SO… you complete an online application and then you get an invitation to do some assessments online or attend an assessment centre. What can you expect and how can you give it your best shot?
What is an Assessment Centre?
An assessment centre is not an actual physical PLACE but a format which is used in recruitment (though obviously it happens in an actual place). It is designed to get lots of information about job applicants so that the company can make well informed decisions and hopefully select ‘the right’ people for the job.
Why do employers use them?
They are much better at predicting future job performance than interviews alone. From your point of view a great thing about an assessment centre is that you can be sure you have had lots of chances to show your stuff!
Assessment centres are increasingly used by companies looking to employ graduates for a couple of reasons. First of all, competition levels are high and they can get to see lots of applicants this way and secondly, when they invest time and money in training a new graduate they want to know that they have long term potential to do well, not only in their first job but hopefully in many different roles later on in their career. So many companies are keen to find ‘good all-rounders’ who have the skills
What happens at an assessment centre?
You will have a timetable of assessment activities which might include any of these:-
How can you do your best?
It is totally normal to feel nervous about going to an assessment centre but most people forget nerves once they get started as they don’t get the time to worry!
These are tests which have been scientifically developed to give an accurate and objective picture of your abilities. You may face:-
You may have already done these online as the timing of the tests differs between employers. You may be asked to repeat them to check you didn’t get someone else to do it for you!
How to shine
Assessments are usually strictly timed so you need to work really quickly but not so quickly that you make mistakes.
Although there is an element of ‘raw ability’ involved in some tests, that is, things that you haven’t specifically learnt (e.g. abstract shapes and number patterns) there are also things which you can revise and refresh your memory about (e.g. working out percentages, verbal comprehension).
Don’t worry if you think everyone else is better than you at these type of tests. It doesn’t mean you won’t get through. Usually there will be a pass mark, which might not be as high as you think. They may want to know that you have at least a ‘good enough’ numerical ability, not that you are an A* Maths student.
In personality assessments don’t try to second guess what the test is trying to find out or what kind of a person they are looking for. Many of these assessments have an in-built lie detector but more importantly, do you really want to change your personality to fit in? Be your ‘best self’!
Even if you are not successful in the end it will have been valuable experience so reflect upon what you have learnt from it and what you could improve next time. Lots of people actually enjoy the experience of the assessment day and feel quite euphoric at the end… believe it or not!
Do lots of practice psychometric assessments and if there is something you struggle with, learn how to do it.
If you still have an active university email address you can use the ‘Graduates First’ portal which allows unlimited test-taking practice of numerical, verbal, and logical reasoning tests. It also includes a Situational Judgement test and a trait-based personality test. If you don’t still use your university email address, contact the Careers team in askUs and we can add you as a user of the system manually (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Check out this great website Assessment Day set up by two graduates who wanted to pass on their experiences
Saville & Holdsworth develop many of the tests you may encounter so try some of their practice tests
Read this advice from a recent graduate and a graduate recruiter taken from Houston, K. & Cunningham, E (2015) How to Succeed at Assessment Centres. Palgrave Macmillan
Read Salford Careers guide on assessment centres and Psychometrics.
Watch this video from Career player about Assessment Centres.