Advice from a recruiter and a candidate – assessment centres

By Jan.19, 2017

Yep – you guessed it – my book!

Helen – graduate recruiter for a leading supermarket/international retailer

We select candidates with a versatile skill profile so we can place them anywhere within in the organisation, now and in the future. My advice to candidates is not to underestimate the level and the time pressure of ability assessments. If you haven’t done any timed tests for a while don’t expect to sit down and fly through it. Go online, find practice tests and spend a couple of hours preparing in order to give yourself the best chance of success.

Be commercially savvy. Understand concepts such as profit and loss. Do your research on the company, its five year plan and where it sits within the market. You could have a great degree, do well on the assessments then fall down in the interview.

Be able to adapt your thinking. Some numerical assessments use ‘dollars’ rather than ‘pounds’ in questions. The process is exactly the same.

Ability assessments are usually the first hurdle. If you fall, pick yourself up and learn from it. You can always apply again next year.


Zain Shaikh– recent graduate and successful assessment centre applicant

Zain Shaikh's Profile Photo, Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Zain now works on Red Bull graduate management scheme in Austria

Obviously try any practice tests you may be sent as this will make you aware of the type of questions you will face. But this can lull you into a false sense of security as the actual tests can be harder. I applied for loads of graduate jobs just for the experience. Many companies use the same tests so once I’d done them a couple of times I remembered how to do them and some of the answers.

Expect the unexpected – whilst many of the assessments used are the same, I had one which was really different. The questions were numerical and verbal randomly interspersed with strange questions asking my opinions. Although it was tough I actually enjoyed the challenge!

I had loads of rejections before I finally got offers on two graduate schemes. I know people who gave up after two rejections. You just have to look at the statistics of how many people are applying and don’t be surprised when you don’t get through… be surprised when you do!

Source: How to succeed at assessment centres. Kath Houston & Eileen Cunningham (2015)


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