Survival of the fittest: Your essential guide to assessment centre success – Part I

Today’s job seekers have to jump through a number of hoops in order to get the internship they want or land their first job after graduation. One of the most common to be mastered is the assessment centre.

For some the very thought of being in a room full of other applicants all gunning for the same role while under the watchful eye of a panel of anonymous assessors, fills them with a sense of dread. But it really doesn’t have to be that way.

The real reason why so many interns and graduates struggle with them is simply because they haven’t prepared properly. That’s where this article will help you.

We will give you the low down of what you need to think about before the assessment centre day to help you get a head-start over your fellow job seekers. Then in Part II, we’ll take a look at what you will be expected to face on the day itself and how best to make it one where you’re the one who comes out on top!

Here’s what to do before you attend an assessment day.

  1. Understand how an assessment centre differs from an interview

To be invited to attend an assessment day is an achievement in itself and proof-positive that the employer thinks you may have what it takes to do the job. Now all you have to do is show them how good you could be by performing a range of tasks designed to test your abilities before you’re offered the job (that comes after your interview).

Typically assessment centres consist of the following:

  • Multiple tasks to assess your skills and abilities through a series of group exercise, presentations, psychometric testing, role-plays, interpersonal activities, and in-tray exercises.
  • Multiple assessors who will monitor and analyse how well you perform in a series of given tasks.
  • Be held over the course of half a day or a full day and include a number of other candidates
  1. Understand what you will be assessed on, but know your limits

Employers are looking for the best and most talented people, which mean they are not just assessing you against a list of core competencies; they’re also looking to see if you are the right ‘fit’ for their business. The key skills they will be looking for include:

  • Communication skills
  • Adaptability
  • Leadership
  • Creativity
  • Organisational
  • Negotiation
  • Planning
  • Team working
  • Time management

The great thing about assessment centres is that even if you think you’re a little weak in one skill, you will get the case to compensate in another.

  1. Know what is expected of you and practise, practise, practise

Like most things in life, you the more prepared you are the better you will perform. It’s the same with assessment centres – practice some of the exercises you are likely to undertake on the day with a friend. This will help relax you and help you tackle many of the challenges with greater confidence.

  1. Do your homework – research the company beforehand

Do some checks on the company – look at their website, social media profiles and those of their competitors. See what stories have them have appeared in the news and get a good understanding of how they position themselves in their market.

Are they leaders (or aspiring to be), fast growing, or well established for example? The more you know and the more you understand the company you wish to work for, the better your chances of job success.

  1. Check, recheck and triple check again

If you are unclear on how the day will be structured, call the company’s HR or graduate recruitment team. If you think the job advert was too vague, call the same people and ask for a copy of the full job description.

If you are given a presentation to do, check the time limit you have been allocated. And if the venue of the assessment centre is somewhere you haven’t been before, plan your route – showing up late for the day because you haven’t allowed for delays or traffic will throw you off your stride and could dent your confidence too.


Each person attending will have just as good a reason for being there as you, having overcome all the same hurdles that you did during their studies. Whilst there is no silver bullet to success at an assessment centre, being as prepared as you possibly can be will certainly give you the advantage and increase your chance of getting the job you want.

Assessment centres Intern AvenueIn Part II we take a look at what happens on the day itself and what you need to do to really stand out – for the right reasons!





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