Assessing your preparation for assessment centres…..

You made it through the application stage, came through the interview with flying colours, you’re nearly there with that job offer in your hand…..but wait, there’s yet another hurdle – or hurdles –  to leap, the assessment centre!

Not all employers use assessment centre-type activities – though most of the larger graduate recruiters – including the Civil Service Fast Stream, NHS management, large retailers, advertising and marketing agencies etc do (and even your Careers Service – yes, I had to give a presentation, complete personality questionnaires, role-play an exercise, have lunch with all the staff and candidates  – oh, and a panel interview!). And you wont be surprised to hear me say yet again that as with your application and interview, the key to success is Preparation!  – know what to expect, and the purpose of the exercises.

First of all it can be useful – and reassuring – to consider just why employers subject you to such activities. What at first sight may seem like a random series of activities designed to strike fear into you, are actually, on reflection, used to make sure you have a variety of opportunities to give of your best, to show employers just what you are capable of.

Instead of it all resting on one interview, you have several activities to demonstrate your potential. So if one thing doesn’t go quite as well as you hoped, all is not lost, there are other activities in which you may shine. Remembering this can help to make the whole thing seem a whole lot less stressful.

And feedback from students who’ve experienced assessment centres indicates that once they get used to them, they actually start to enjoy them!

It’s also useful to remember that it isn’t a competition with the other candidates – it’s not about ‘winning’. Employers are keen to find out whether you have the potential to do a particular role for them – they decide the criteria they are assessing you for, and everyone at the assessment centre has the potential to meet the criteria – or not. They may take you all – or no-one! As one student put it recently

‘be yourself – it’s not about ‘winning’, it’s about seeing how you behave and react’.

So, what can you expect at an Assessment Centre?

Each organisation will do it slightly differently, and design a programme of exercises to assess their requirements. If you’ve got an assessment centre coming up, and aren’t clear what to expect, just get back to the employer and ask  – most are very happy to clarify. Typical assessment centre exercises include:

You’ll also find a useful summary on what to expect and how to succeed at Assessment Centres in our Careers Service Guide.

And last, but by no means least – the checklist for that vital Preparation:

So assess your preparation for assessment centres – use the resources outlined above to ensure you give yourself the best opportunity to demonstrate your potential at an assessment centre and clear those final hurdles successfully.
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