How to Ace an Assessment Centre

Discover effective strategies to help you sail through your assessment centre and make the most out of the experience.
Jasmine Mun_Writer_gradmalaysia_round
Jasmine Mun
Writer, gradmalaysia
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If you’re applying for a graduate position with a larger employer, you can expect to go through an assessment centre as part of the hiring process. Assessment centres are where recruiters will evaluate candidates’ personality traits, abilities and how suitable they are for the role in question.

Assessment centres vary widely in duration, format and content, and include a range of different activities that will be done in groups. As a fresh graduate, an assessment centre may sound daunting to you, but let’s take a look at some tips to help you put your best foot forward in your very first assessment centre.

Know What to Expect

While most graduate employers typically design their own assessment centres to test for specific skills and aptitudes, most of these assessments contain similar elements or exercises.

 Assessment centres typically involve a combination of the following activities:

  • Aptitude and psychometric tests
  • Case studies linked to the job function
  • Group work exercises
  • On-the-job exercises
  • Presentations

Your email invite to the centre will usually outline the activities you’ll be asked to complete. But for a little more clarification you could also check employment forums (e.g. Glassdoor or Jobstreet) to read about the experiences of past candidates. However, take such information with a grain of salt, as assessment centres are often modified to fit specific roles and their requirements. 

Know What Your Assessors Are Looking For

During your assessment day, recruiters want to see real-life evidence of specific skills and qualities – usually those most relevant to the role you applied for.  Recruiters will also be observing how well you can demonstrate your potential fit with their company culture too.

If you know in advance that an assessment centre is part of the screening process, make sure to take advantage of your first interview with the employer! Ask detailed questions about the necessary skills and competencies for the job. Get them to tell you more about their company culture and what they expect from potential employees as well.

Otherwise, revisit the job description of your desired role, and highlight the key competencies and attributes required. You should also research the organisation’s core values, where it stands in the market, how it intends to move forward, and how your role would contribute. The more background information you have, the better your understanding of what the assessors will be looking for.

Keep Those Nerves in Check

It’s natural to be nervous before an assessment centre, but try your best to relax on the big day! This will make the whole experience much more enjoyable for you and, as an added bonus, you’ll be better at making the right decisions and leaving a good impression.

Candidates often get too preoccupied with fears that recruiters will be judging them for every little thing.  But remember that employers genuinely do not want candidates to fail! Recruiters all want candidates to perform their best and prove that they are the right person for the job. So don’t be too hard on yourself, and just focus on doing the best you can.

Try smiling! Yes, it’s that simple – a bright smile will help ease the tension in the face and reassure the people you meet at the assessment centre.

Be Proactive

Candidates that stand out at assessment centres and make a lasting impression are the ones that throw themselves into the experience. You’re being evaluated at every stage – including breaks – so be on top of your game at all times.

Remember to show your social skills by actively networking with other candidates, and demonstrate your passion for the opportunity by asking questions. Step up as a leader in a discussion to show your leadership skills. Essentially, take any chance you can to get involved beyond the tasks assigned to you.

With that in mind, it’s crucial to maintain a balance between listening and speaking. Don’t dominate discussions or interrupt others just for the sake of speaking up. Just as you wouldn’t like hanging out with someone who’s overpowering, recruiters may think twice about hiring someone like that too.

Follow Best Practices for Group Exercises

Group exercises such as discussion groups, role-playing exercises on a specific brief, and leadership tasks are the most common tasks undertaken at an assessment centre. Recruiters may have you work with your group towards a common goal to see how well you can work in a team. They may also decide to place you in conflict with other group members to test your negotiation skills.

Whichever scenario you may find yourself in, make sure your actions and words during these exercises help the group to complete the task while still making your stand. Every team consists of different personality types, and it doesn’t matter which role you play as long as you’re contributing productively to the team dynamic.

Remember that the end goal is for the group to achieve success as a whole, not for you to prove how insufferably brilliant you are as an individual! Be patient, be positive, and be helpful to your fellow teammates. Make sure you all get across the finish line together.  

Brace Yourself for Surprises

Recruiters may also want to test how well you adapt to sudden changes or spontaneous surprises. For example, you may have been asked to prepare a 15-minute presentation, but find you’re only given 10 minutes on the day. Or the assessors may introduce new information halfway through a case study that requires you to throw out everything you’ve worked on so far.

This is designed to test your flexibility and resilience under pressure, which will happen sooner or later in the workplace. The key is to stay calm, think things through logically, and adapt as best you can. In this situation, getting things done is ultimately more important than getting things perfect.

Always Be Communicating (ABC)

Lastly, make it a point to always talk through your thoughts out loud. Whether you’re in group discussions, working on a case study, or solving an aptitude problem, it’s important that you explain your thought process at all times.

Recruiters aren’t always looking for the “right” answer to the problems they throw at you. In fact, sometimes those problems have no “right” answer at all! What they’re keener on observing is your ability to think through different situations logically and critically. So make sure you constantly demonstrate your approach to problems step by step.