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Assessment centres

Many organisations will include an assessment centre as part of their recruitment and selection process. Assessment centres bring multiple candidates together in one location and are designed to assess how each candidate demonstrates the range of skills, behaviours and personal attributes that are required for the job.

Why are they used?

Assessment centres allow employers to gain a more in-depth view and understanding of your suitability for the role. Typically, assessment centres can last a day or more. They are costly to run, so they tend to be very structured, well planned and will usually involve a range of individual and group exercises to assess your competencies as an individual, as well as understanding how you might perform within a team. They are usually held at the end or latter stages of the selection process

Selection through assessment centres is seen by many employers as a more accurate or reliable way of recruiting the right candidates rather than by interview alone.

What do they involve?

Typically, there will be a number of individual and group exercises to complete. These can include:

  • interviews
  • presentations
  • psychometric testing
  • role play
  • tasks or problem-solving activities
  • social aspect (eg, dinner, lunch etc)

What is being assessed?

This will vary for each employer according to the skills, experience and behaviours required for the role or organisation. However, most employers will be looking for all or some of the following:

  • Good communication skills: Clear and confident speech and tone, ability to present information effectively and concisely, active listening, logical thinking, ability to make well-reasoned arguments, lateral thinking.
  • Problem solving: Logical and/or lateral thinking, identifying key issues, finding original solutions and alternatives, recognising links and connections, inquisitiveness.
  • Decision-making: Logical and considered thought processes, prioritising decisions or activities, using available resources effectively, recognising and assessing advantages and disadvantages, taking responsibility for decisions etc.
  • Commercial awareness: General knowledge of the sector, company and role you’re applying for, understanding of relevant business issues, being up-to-date with the latest industry trends or the competitive environment relevant to the job/sector, appreciation for how a business works, enthusiasm for a business-focused career.
  • Leadership: Strategic thinking, vision, welcoming and seeking responsibility, clarity of communication, appropriate delegation, setting standards or procedures, motivating and encouraging others, persuasion, handling conflict effectively, solution orientated.
  • Organisation and planning: Contribution towards structuring planning; setting objectives and / or time scales; evaluating / reviewing progress; goal setting; prioritising.
  • Teamwork: Active role in team, making effective contributions, co-operation with others, being sensitive to the views of others, keeping others informed and involved, seeking opinions from quieter or nervous participants.
  • Personality: Friendly, sociable, confident, thoughtful, trustworthy, professional, ambitious, driven, reliable.

These are just some of the skills and attributes that may be assessed. Some recruiters will provide you with an outline of the competencies they are looking for, however most will not.

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed by trained individuals, against an agreed set of criteria. At the end of the assessment centre, the assessors come together to review and score the performance of each candidate. There is usually a group discussion about the various candidates and this enables the group to make a final decision about which candidate(s) they want to offer employment to.

Assessment centres can be quite daunting and stressful, but they can also be a great chance for you to shine as an individual and as a team player. Unlike interviews, which usually last about an hour, assessment centres give you more time and opportunity to demonstrate your skills. They are a fantastic chance for you to get a better idea of what the role requires and learn more about the company’s values. The assessment centre is as much about the employer getting to know you, as it is about you finding out how comfortable you feel with them.

The Kent University Careers Service website provides excellent information on assessment centres – what they are, how they fit into a company’s selection process, what is being assessed on the day and what’s involved.