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Preparing for your interview - No.4 Assessment Centre

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Many organisations have adopted the assessment centre method as an additional hurdle to the normal interview process. Unfortunately, if you do not embrace the process there is no likelihood of you being hired! 


A typical assessment day may comprise of: -

- An interview

- A Group Activity that may include discussions, debates, role-plays and tasks.

- An E-Tray exercise - an e-tray exercise is a simulated computer based exercise used as part of an assessment centre. The exercise requires you to read and respond to a series of messages presented in an email inbox. The exercise is based around a fictional work / business scenario where you have been given a particular job role.

- Psychometric testing which might include a numerical reasoning test, a verbal reasoning test, a diagrammatic / logical reasoning test and a situational judgement test.

- Some companies may include bespoke tests so be prepared for pretty much anything.  The assessment day is designed to see how you behave / react to different situations.



If you are asked to attend an assessment day, the employer has already signalled they are interested in your application as assessment days are not cheap to run and are very time consuming. Often employers will have a target percentage of applicants they wish to progress to the next stage so it is important for you to be confident without being arrogant or too self assured. If you are a shy by nature, you need to take a mega deep breath and overcome your fears as fading wallflowers who contribute little to the day will never progress to the next stage.



You need to assess what competencies the employer is looking for? – if it happens to be leadership ensure you demonstrate leadership qualities but not in a totally overt style.


Look / dress the part

Dress appropriately taking into consideration the nature of the business. An assessment day run by a bank would necessitate individuals dress in a conservative suit, whereas if you were attending an assessment day put on by an alternative wacky media company, dressing conservatively would more than likely go against you. Look good, feel good.



Be prepared – you may be tasked with putting together a 10 minute presentation and then be told at the last moment you are required to present for a 13 minute period. This will test your adaptability and how you perform under pressure.


Know your cv

Know your cv inside-out. If the assessment centre is stage 2 and you have previously met with the employer revisit the answers you gave during the first meeting. If your answers do not reconcile between stage 1 and stage 2 being invited back to attend stage 3 is unlikely.



It is essential you do your homework, as is the case with every form of interview. You must know the company’s business and their key numbers plus any events you have found out about them through your research. Examine the organisations values and how you can demonstrate to the assessors you are a good company fit. If the company strap line is – our number one priority is customer care – ensure that when preparing your presentation, the focus is looking after the customer. This should also be applied during group discussions. Get a feel for the company through not only the web but press articles and any other material you can lay your hands on.


Be rested, remain hydrated throughout the day and eat sensibly.  Get a good night’s sleep.

Pretty obvious advice – if you adhere to the above you are more likely to remain at your best throughout the day.


The venue

Arrive in good time as being late sends the wrong signal. If you can’t be bothered to be on time for an assessment centre, then the assumption is you will be late for both work and meetings. Being late differentiates you from the outset but in all the wrong ways!


Do not drink alcohol or smoke during the day

Even if others are – just don’t!


Join in

During down-time do not use your mobile to read messages, update your Facebook status, upload photos to Instagram – you’ve got the idea - it is out of bounds. Engage with your fellow assessees and the assessors – you will be judged all day so do not let your guard drop.

An assessment day can prove to be quite daunting so remain as calm as you can and try to take everything in your stride. One incorrectly answered question does not mean you will not be asked back to attend the next interview stage. Be visible, be verbal but not in a show-offy way as this will definitely go against you.


Good luck!


This blog piece was written by Philip Macdonald, Co-Founder at Wade Macdonald.





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