10 tips for assessment centres

Follow The Gateway's top tips to succeed in this tricky recruitment challenge

Assessment centres are usually the most feared step in the graduate recruitment process. But with the right preparation, they don't need to be. Assessment days are your opportunity to show off your skills. There's no set formula, but they tend to include a mixture of written tests, group work, presentations and interviews. Here's how to prepare and perform well...

1. Ask questions

When you're invited to an assessment centre, you should be told what the day will involve. If not, or if anything seems unclear, get in touch with the graduate recruitment team and ask them for more details.

2. Preparation

Now you know what's involved, put in some preparation. Look for practice tests online or at your university's careers service, ask friends to do a group case study exercise with you, deliver a presentation to your parents, and practise common interview questions.

3. Allow plenty of time

On the day of your assessment centre, get up early, have a good breakfast and allow plenty of time for your journey. It's essential that you're on time to make a good impression, and you don't want to miss important introductions. If there are any hiccups, phone ahead to let them know you're running late.

4. Read the paper

Having broad commercial awareness is crucial. But you should show assessors that you're up to speed with the daily news too - especially if an important story about your potential employer has just broken that morning.

5. Be friendly and polite

Spending a whole day with your competition can be a little awkward, and you may be reluctant to give away any of your secrets. That's fair enough. But recruiters will be watching how you interact with other people, so make sure you're friendly and respectful.

6. Wear a watch

Throughout the day, your assessments will be timed. Chances are there'll be a clock in the rooms you use, but don't count on it. It's a good idea to wear a watch so you can always keep an eye on how long you have left to complete a task.

7. Work as a team

If you're well-prepared and knowledgeable, it might be tempting to take the lead during group exercises. That's fine, but assessors will also be looking for evidence of your teamwork skills. Don't hog the limelight, and make sure you let others answer questions and demonstrate their strengths, too.

8. Be aware of your surroundings

If there are white boards and pens in the room where you're preparing a presentation,feel free to get up and start writing. Assessors want to see you use your initiative, so they won't necessarily spell it out for you. If you've been provided with any equipment or information, use it to your advantage.

9. Don't let your guard down

The eyes and ears of the firm will be on you all day, including when you come out of a really tough task and when you're having lunch. Remain professional at all times and save complaining about difficulties for when you're back in the comfort of home.

10. Be confident

Don't let yourself be intimidated by other students at the assessment centre. Everyone will come from different degree disciplines, and some may have more industry-specific knowledge than others. You've been invited to an assessment centre because recruiters liked your application and saw your potential, so show them your strengths not your weaknesses.