The Intern’s Guide: How to Rock Assessment Centres

From our work helping graduates into their first jobs, we are quickly seeing Assessment Centres becoming an essential part of the recruitment process. Many large companies and organisations now use Assessment Centres to get a better understanding of their applicants in order to make a better informed hire. The process usually involve a day were candidates are invited to participate in several tasks alongside other applicants. The day will differ depending on what industry you’re applying for, what company you’re with and what role you’re trying out for. Despite this, there are some definite common themes amongst different graduate assessment days, particularly in the way you should approach challenges and carry out tasks. Intern Avenue have done some field research and collated the essential information you need to know as a graduate heading into one of these sessions.

What is an assessment centre?  

  • Assessment centres are usually a one, two or three day long program held by companies during the hiring process in order to determine the potential of a candidate.
  • They are a more in-depth extension of the common interview. And often a better chance for you to showcase how you work to the employer. An interview is often quite limiting in testing most of the ways someone will work in a business. The different tasks allow employers to see how you handle a range of challenges, and allow you to show rather than just tell.
  • The challenges throughout the day are typically modelled off scenarios you might face if you got the job with the company. Although some companies choose to test candidates broader values and competencies that fit their culture.

What to expect:

  • The assessors are usually a mix of recruiters and line managers that will work together to assess your performance and decide on whether they want to hire you
  • They will assess you against a framework of competencies that measure how well you perform in each task
  • The day involves a mixture of group and individual tasks including:

Interviews… Including competency interviews, partner interviews, technical interviews, and panel interviews. The later two you may not have heard of before. Technical interviews are mostly for STEM related jobs and require you to think on your feet and respond to ‘brain teaser’ type questions. Panel interviews involve multiple examiners to assess how you interact with multiple individuals and showcase your communication techniques.

Presentations… Intend to showcase how persuasively, concisely and astutely you can convey a message to a group of people. You will be required to support your statements with convincing evidence, such as statistics or example cases, and work mostly off a brief set of notes or cues.

Role plays… This task will require you to adopt a persona of an employee within the company, and react appropriately to a hypothetical scenario. The scenario will often involve a conflict or controversy that you will have to show your professionalism to maneuver

Group Exercises… this assessed discussion involves a small group of potential candidates (usually about 8-10) responding to a question. Candidates will be presented with a problem and perhaps a bit of background research to read before the task begins. The aim of this task is pretty obvious – to see how well you work in a group. Showing good teamwork, valuably engaging in the discussion, and listening to your peers are all characteristics you want to demonstrate.

Written assessments… Usually taking between 30 minutes to an hour, this task will test your ability to communicate clearly and professionally in your writing. The aim is not to test your knowledge, but how you process and present given information. Example pieces may include writing letters to clients, summarising case files and drawing up a report on a set of facts or statistics.

In-tray exercises… This test aims to see how you would cope with the demands of a busy office environment. Essentially, the test replicates your in-tray or inbox being overloaded with requests, demands for work and tasks. The aim is to see how well you prioritise and multi-task.

Top Tips…

Love thy enemy. It’s hard not to forget that everyone in the room is competing for the same role, but try to. Especially as one of the most valued attributes of a new employee is how well they work with others, you don’t want to give off the impression that you’ll sabotage others to get what you want. If there is more than one role going, you may very well end up working with some of the people in the room, so play fair and play nice.

You’re not superhuman. Despite your best efforts, you probably won’t nail every single task during the day. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and the assessors know that. If you think you may have done badly on a task, don’t let it get you down and certainly don’t throw in the towel! Take a deep breath, let it go, and focus on the next task ahead of you. Even more important than your successes is how well you pick yourself up after your failures.

Wallflower’s are not good employees. There are times when being reserved and demure will do you a great deal of good in life, but assessment centres are not one of those times. You need to show that you are assertive, sociable, friendly and engaged. That’s a lot of skills – we know – but basically you just need to show you can contribute to the company and interact well with others. If you tend to be a little shy in bigger group environments, try practicing with friends before the big day. During the assessment centre, don’t get too caught up on what everyone else is doing. Listen closely and find the best way to contribute to the conversation.

Finally, it’s important to remember that attitude and presentation are crucial. Dress appropriately according to the company culture (if you need tips check out this article HERE). Be friendly, conscientious and proactive and you’re sure to succeed!

Good luck!

The IA Team


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  1. Nice Work. Great points on the difference between large and small companies. I think as an intern you should consider which company to intern at depending on your chosen field.

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