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What is an Assessment Centre?

You’re hearing the words assessment centre brandished around for too often for your liking. “What even is an assessment centre?” you cry with a panicked tone evident in your voice. Calm down, assessment centres are part of the recruitment process that companies use to narrow down candidates or make a decision on who they’re going to hire.

The name assessment centre is quite misleading. They aren’t full-blown, swanky buildings with separate rooms for each type of test or exercise. Sometimes an assessment consists of an interview and presentation but, usually for roles at larger firms, assessments can also take the form of group work and psychometric tests.

Preparing for an Assessment Centre

When you’re invited to attend an assessment centre, the employer should mention the specific tests that will take place (e.g. an interview at 10am followed by a presentation at 11am). If this isn’t highlighted, don’t hesitate to contact the employer with any questions. You could ask who will be interviewing you and what role they have in the company, for instance.

Additionally, find out what the dress code is. Usually for interviews and assessments, you’re expected to dress smart, but for smaller companies and specific industries, the dress code may be more relaxed. There’s no worse feeling than turning up to an interview or group exercise dressed in a suit when all other candidates are wearing more casual attire.

It goes without saying that you should be well washed, fed and dressed before showing up for your assessment.

Nerves & Behaviour

Obviously nerves will be a factor at any kind of assessment in life, be it end-of-year exams or driving tests. The best way to deal with nerves is by preparing beforehand. If you’ve got an interview, go see a careers adviser for a practice interview and anticipate the questions they’re going to ask. Competency questions are always likely to come up, and you can prepare and memorise these beforehand. If you have to deliver a presentation, then practice in front of your parents to get a sense of timing and to address any issues.

Your behaviour at assessment centres should reflect how you would actually behave in a real-life situation, particularly when it comes to group work. Don’t assume the role of project leader just to impress the employer. Not everybody has leadership skills and there’s nothing wrong with not being project lead but making sure that you listen and follow instructions (whilst also contributing your own ideas). If you act naturally, your skills will shine through. If you try to showcase skills that you don’t actually possess, you’ll probably mess up and blow your chances of landing a job.

Social Occasions

Some jobs may require you to attend an interview followed by lunch with the current team. This reveals to employers how you might interact with other employees and also put to the test your spaghetti eating skills – which is, of course, often the deciding factor.

The most important thing is to be yourself, not too rigid or too lax. If the conversation turns more social, don’t try to relate everything back to work. Similarly, don’t try to force a conversation about how amazing you found the World Cup.

Avoid lots of tipple too.

Assessment centres are daunting when first mentioned, but lots of preparation coupled with you being yourself, will ensure that you perform well.