Assessment Centre 101: Guide for Candidates

Customer Service Tips & Tricks
Emma Harvey
Assessment Centre

“Congratulations you’ve been progressed to the assessment centre!”

So, what is an Assessment Centre?

Assessment centres can be a popular and effective recruitment process where candidates are assessed to determine their suitability for specific types of employment, and usually where the intake/number of positions available is larger than just one or two spaces.

Over the course of half or a full day; it takes several candidates at one time, though a range of exercises, such as interviews, group activities, written assessments, role plays, scenarios and verbal tasks, all designed to assess one’s suitability against competencies required for success in the respective position.  This ensures a fair and robust process, instead of candidates being compared to each other.

In my two years at Madison, I have assessed and more recently facilitated, a number of assessment centres for our clients. I will share my tips and advice to those who may find themselves going through this particular recruitment process.

Tips before the day:

1.  Do your Research

Firstly, if your application has progressed to an assessment centre, well done! A lot of candidates are declined before this stage in the process. Spend time researching the company, the position and any particular current events surrounding this company. Why? Candidates with knowledge and understanding of the company will impress the employer, as it demonstrates you are serious about wanting the position. This will also enable you to ask in-depth questions in the interview.

2.  Preparation is Key

Find out how many candidates have made it to the assessment centre, and how many positions are available. This gives you an idea of your chances and how many faces you can expect to see on the day.

Read through all materials provided to you. The job description should indicate the competencies assessors will be looking for. Using the S.T.A.R technique (Situation, Task, Action, Result), prepare examples from your previous work experience that relate to these competencies because chances are, interview questions will be tailored around these!

Ensure your Recruitment Consultant has informed you about the day, including what activities you will be completing and how the day will be run. Knowledge of what to expect will shake off any nerves or anxieties you might have at the centre.

Tips on the day:

1.  Dress to Impress

First impressions can make the world of difference, and again, shows how serious you are about the position. In my time of running assessment centres, I have cringed at the odd candidate’s choice of clothing for the day. Casual tee shirts and sneakers will stand you apart, for the wrong reasons! Please don’t do it! A clean shirt and tidy shoes on the other hand, is taking pride in appearance and is guaranteed to impress employers.

2.  Be Punctual

As you have already figured out the exact location, and the route to get there, allow yourself plenty of time without being in a rush! Murphy’s Law can get the best of us, and I’ve heard the stories of unexpected traffic, accidents etc. and the resulting look of strain, fluster and sweat on a candidate’s face as they arrive late, doing their best not to attract too much unwanted attention to themselves. Those who arrive even just 5 minutes early always start cool, calm and collected. Give yourself a time buffer to start the centre with confidence.

3.  Be Professional

Use your manners and be friendly and polite – to everyone. How you interact not only with assessors, but other candidates doesn’t go unnoticed.  Professionalism and respect is expected from employees in any workplace, period. You’re best to prove yourself as employable for this reason alone.

4.  Follow Instructions, and Ask Questions

Each assessment will be different, and therefore imperative you read each set of instructions thoroughly. If you are unsure about a particular task, seek clarification before it’s too late. Assessors want each candidate to do their best, so ask questions to give you a better chance of completing a task correctly.

5.  Be Yourself

It’s only natural to feel somewhat self-conscious at an assessment centre, for after all, it’s no secret you are being assessed in every activity. You’ll find each activity will be easier if you stay true to your personality and approach. Overthinking what to say or how to act in each exercise could make you come across slightly awkward and robotic. Successful candidates are those who have been themselves in each exercise during the assessment centre. Meeting competencies, employers also get an idea of candidate’s personality.

After the day:

Your recruitment consultant will give you a timeframe as to when you can expect feedback. Should that feedback be positive, and progressive to the next stage (usually secondary reference checks) – congratulations! Should that feedback be constructive, but conclusive, make sure you get feedback from the day to understand your strengths, and areas for improvement. What competencies did you demonstrate, and what competencies did you not meet?

Regardless of whether or not you are successful, understand the experience is one to learn from moving forward. Any single job interview after that should be a breeze in comparison!