How to impress at an assessment centre

An assessment centre is usually the last stage of the recruitment process.

An assessment centre is a way for an employer to:

  • get to know you more than they can in a traditional interview
  • see how you interact with other people and work as a team
  • see how you approach a range of tasks and activities
  • assess lots of candidates at the same time

It’s usually the last step in the recruitment process before you find out if you’ve been successful for the role. It also gives you a taste of what working there might be like.

How does an assessment centre work?

  • An assessment centre usually takes place over the course of a day, but this varies depending on the employer.
  • They might be virtual or face-to-face.
  • They may include a mixture of activities such as: 
    • ‘ice-breaker’ and getting to know you activities
    • group projects or presentations
    • individual written tasks
    • individual interviews
    • personality tests or psychometric tests

There’s also an opportunity to ask questions, meet some of the people you might be working with and find out whether the environment matches your personality.

Although assessment centres can be intimidating if you’ve never done one before, you should see them as a positive.

Top five things to do before your assessment centre

  1. Make sure you’ve carefully read the email about the assessment centre, so you know what time you need to arrive, where you’re going, and what, if anything, you need to bring with you.
  2. Make sure you’ve completed any preparation material you’ve been asked to do, like tasks to bring with you on the day. Don’t panic if you haven’t been sent anything – every employer will work differently.
  3. Be prepared to make conversation. You may want to have some ‘fun facts’ to hand in case there’s an icebreaker activity and prepare some questions you can ask both other candidates and the employer.
  4. Research the company and make sure you know what they’re about and what they stand for. It’s useful to look at their social media profiles, as well as previous projects they might have worked on that you’ve liked. You might also want to look at their competitors to see who else is operating in the industry.
  5. Know your CV and application inside out in case you get asked questions. Assessment centres often include face-to-face interviews. You can follow our interview guidance for more tips.

Top five tips for performing well in an assessment centre

  1. Focus on yourself and not other candidates. It’s easy to sit and compare yourself to others, but the most important thing is to be yourself and focus on demonstrating your key skills.
  2. Speak up and get your voice heard. Remember, it’s not always about being the loudest person in the room, but you also need to make sure you contribute. Be confident and assertive when getting involved with tasks.
  3. The assessors aren’t expecting you to know everything. It’s about showing how you approach a task, and how you apply your skills and knowledge. Even if you’ve got the wrong answer, it’s about showing how you tackle tasks. Individuality and clear, thought through ideas will stand out.
  4. Smile, and be friendly, respectful and polite to everyone you meet. Make sure you interact with others wherever you get the opportunity. Even if it’s informal conversation and getting to know them. It helps show you can get on with people and that you’d be a good team fit.
  5. Enjoy yourself. If you try to relax and enjoy the day, this will reflect off you and onto the interviewers. They want to see how you’d act in a typical everyday environment. Don’t put on a big show – be true to yourself and show them what you’ve got.

Sheona, apprentice at Coca-Cola European Partners

Make sure you get involved on the assessment day, as you need to stand out for being confident… I made sure I spoke with the staff running the day as well as other applicants, and I think that made a huge difference in my application.

Other things to think about

As well as performing well, you’ll want to show good assessment centre etiquette to make a good impression. This means:

  • Dress smartly, just like you would for an interview. But make sure you’re comfortable so you can take part in tasks easily. Some activities might be physical, like building a tower out of toilet rolls, as an example.
  • Arrive early. At least 15 minutes if it’s face-to-face, and about five minutes if it’s virtual. Test your technology if it’s virtual to make sure your camera and video work.
  • Make sure you’re well rested and have eaten. A good night’s sleep will help you feel calmer, and you’ll be able to engage your brain in tasks a lot easier.