Assessment Centres: what to expect and how to prepare


assessment button on computerCompanies use Assessment Centres as part of the interview process to check whether you can apply the skills you have on paper and if you are a good fit for the organisation. The purpose of an Assessment Centre is to test the candidate’s range of skills and abilities in a number of situations they would perform in the job itself.

All candidates will complete the same activities and each activity will be scored against each of the competencies required for the role. Candidates will be assessed by several interviewers over the course of the day who will evaluate your performance against pre-agreed framework of competencies. Scores will then be reviewed by the panel and a decision taken whether to hire you.

Typically, an Assessment Centre will comprise of exercises and tests which will fall into the following categories (although they will vary dependant on employer and role)

Tests and Exercises

Group exercise - This task demonstrates your communication skills and if you can work productively in a team. There are various types of group tasks, from discussing a topic to having a specific problem to solve, and ‘ice-breaker' exercises.

A typical task may be; ’As a group decide ten things to take to a desert island and rank in order of importance’. The interviewers are watching how you all reach a team decision rather than from a safety point of view of what you would actually take! Of course they will ideally be looking for a correct order so try to ensure everyone’s voice is heard!

In tray/e-tray exercise - This is designed to assess organisational, decision making and problem solving skills. You will be asked to assess and prioritise data and make rationalised decisions under pressure and within a set time frame.

Role play - Depending on the position you are interviewing for, you may have a role-playing task. This could be something like resolving a customer service issue to test your problem-solving abilities and communication skills. Keep calm and stay focussed. To prepare in advance, think of some possible scenarios and practise what you would say. Even though you can’t predict every scenario, think about how you have resolved similar situations.

Case study based analysis - If the position you’re applying for involves writing reports or communicating with clients over email, it is quite likely there will be a written task.  Clients we have previously worked with have been asked to read a case study and then offer ideas for the next course of action, or summarise findings to a colleague.

The client wants to see how well you communicate so ensure you understand what the task requires and pick out what content you want to include.  Present this information back concisely, concentrating on the most important issues first and ensuring the tone is relevant for the intended recipient. Finally, leave yourself time at the end to check for spelling and grammar.

Psychometric personality questionnaire - This is a popular test in today’s job market. Whilst you can be asked multiple questions and have your answers listened to, these tests will determine how well you will fit within the team. The best way to identify values and characteristics is to undertake these personality profiles tests. It is really important you answer these questions honestly and don’t try and change your answers to reflect what you think they are looking for. Working with the Coaching team at Renovo will give you access to a range of these tests so you can pre-empt interview questions based on your answers.

Competency based interview - As part of this process you will at some point be interviewed, whether it’s within the assessment centre or on a separate occasion. Preparation is key! Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. If you were interviewing yourself for the position what information would you want to find out? What questions would you ask? You should know the job spec inside out and start thinking of relevant examples and scenarios you can recount to demonstrate the competencies within the role:

• Why should they hire you?
• What do you know about the company?
• What are your strengths and weaknesses?
• What relevant experience do you have?
You will need to think and plan your answers ahead of the interview.

Make an impression

This may seem obvious but first impressions count. Until people know you they judge you on how you appear so dress smartly and look professional. Be punctual and allow plenty of time for the journey arriving at least 10 minutes earlier than the specified time. Successful candidates are those that are ready to have a go at any exercise, show genuine interest in fellow candidates and participate actively in discussions. Try and take the lead where possible and encourage quieter members of the group to contribute.

Demonstrate listening skills through your body language, seeking to build consensus and helping the group to focus on the task in hand are more effective ways to demonstrate leadership than issuing instructions. Be friendly, complimenting others on their input and thanking them for their ideas. Be courteous allowing everyone to take part, you want to come across as a strong candidate but equally you need to show you can collaborate with and respect others within a group situation.

Ask for feedback

Whatever the outcome of the Assessment Centre ask your assessors for feedback soon after you get the decision. This can pinpoint any specific areas you may want to improve in when preparing for your next Assessment Centre and once in the role.

Renovo is one of the UK’s leading providers of outplacement and career transition support. We work with both organisations and individuals to support all their career transition requirements. If you would like to understand how Renovo can help you please call 0800 612 2011 or email

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