How to Succeed at a graduate (internship) Assessment Centre

Canary Wharfian

So, your application has been accepted, then you've passed the aptitude tests, then nailed your telephone interview and you are now on first name terms with your HR coordinator. You might be thinking that you're a part of the company now, but before you go and pick out your outfit for the Christmas night out, you do have one more thing to think about. The assessment centre.

Although most companies’ graduate recruitment processes tend to differ, the assessment centre is usually the common denominator between them all. This is especially true if you’re applying to one of the more popular programmes, such as those in The Times 100 Graduate Programmes list.

What to expect at your Assessment Centre

The assessment centre is usually the very last step in the recruitment process for a graduate job and entails a variety of exercises and activities designed to assess how well you'll fit both with the company’s culture and into your role.

Some of the exercises at your assessment centre could be test-based and have a specific outcome while others might focus on your personality and how you act in situations. It’s best to be ready for anything and cover all bases when you’re preparing for the big day.

Here are some examples of activities to expect at your assessment centre:

- Aptitude (reasoning) or ability assessments (usually done to validate your original, online test scores)

- Attending a presentation to learn more about the company

- Taking part in an Icebreaker event with other candidates and/ or current employees

- Creating and/ or delivering your own presentation

- Being interviewed by a different panel to your previous interviews

- Completing team-based problem-solving tasks

- Shadowing an employee

In some cases, your HR coordinator might give you a rundown of the day's events, allowing you to prepare effectively. However, in other cases, the schedule might be secret. Of course, if this is a large company, you might be able to get some tips on student forums – but don't always count on the company using the same system as the previous year! It's best to work on improving your skills in all these areas if you want to succeed.

The reasoning behind assessment Centres

Assessment centres are used to obtain more information about you and your work style than an employer could find through a traditional interview or online test. By meeting you in person and, in many cases, seeing you at work, the recruitment team will have a much more well-rounded picture of how you'll fit with their company.

How to Succeed on your Assessment Centre

For many graduates, the assessment centre is the most nerve-wracking part of the recruitment process. After jumping through so many hoops, the finishing line can seem so close, yet so far at the same time. The thing that will set you apart from the other candidates, though, is how much you prepare – and how well you really fit into the job. Since assessment centre creators use the most advanced recruitment techniques to find the right candidates for the company and the job, don’t be disheartened if a rejection letter makes its way into your inbox. Instead, just use the experience as encouragement to find a company who you’re a better mutual fit with.

Our top tips for your assessment centre

Make sure you shine on the big day with these top tips! Have a friend or family member with an assessment centre coming up? Don’t be shy – share these with them and help them find success, too!

Act like the best version of yourself

It's important to be natural at these events. After all, the people assessing you are well experienced in spotting fakes! Just make sure that, while you're acting natural, you're still coming off as a suitable candidate. Speak up when you can, but avoid speaking over people or acting like a know it all. Demonstrate your skills but be mindful of the other candidates, too.

Don’t let your guard down

As the assessment centre is going to be attended by the key influencers in the recruitment process, it’s extra important to be displaying the best version of yourself all day. You might think that lunch-time is free-reign, but it’s probably best to save bragging about your weekend antics for a more appropriate occasion. Although the downtime isn't a formal part of the recruitment process, your behaviour throughout the day is being assessed – even when you might not expect it.

Do your research

Having already passed the first few stages of the recruitment process, you should be pretty clued up on the company. However, that doesn't mean that you should slack off on this area of your preparation. Get your old notes out and geek up again. Forgot to take notes? The "About" page on the company website is a great starting point for refreshing your knowledge. After that, have a look at the news section on Google and read as many articles about the company as you can.

Revisit the job listing, too

The starting point of your recruitment journey would have been the job listing. However, after getting caught up in preparing for all the other steps, it's natural to have forgotten about what the employer was actually looking for in the first place. If the key traits don’t immediately spring to mind, get back onto the career's section of their website and re-read the listing. Keep an eye out for words that describe skills and characteristics and think about the ways that you embody them and the experience you have to back this up. If you go to your assessment centre with this in mind, you’ll be one step closer to signing that prestigious contract.

Practice, practice, practice

Whether or not you believe that practice will actually make you perfect, you must admit that it will get you pretty close! Before your assessment centre, take as many opportunities as you can to practice. Practice interview questions in front of your bathroom mirror. Ask your university careers service if they offer any assessment centre practice sessions. Pull out those online aptitude tests and get practising. While it might take a good 10 years of practice to get a perfect numerical reasoning test score, you will surely do better than the person who didn't practice at all.

Check your email

The HR coordinator will have sent you over an email containing all you need to know about the assessment centre. Make sure to read every single piece of information and every single attachment. The information in there is crucial and could give some vital pointers about what to expect on the day. Don't dismiss the little details either, though. Miniscule things like the date, time, dress code and location can be easily overlooked. Double, triple and quadruple check all this information. Being 5 minutes late will put you at least 50 places behind the person who showed up 10 minutes early!

Relax and learn as much as you can from the experience!

The assessment centre is the perfect place for you to get a glimpse into the company you might be a part of in the future. Relax, enjoy it and remember that every assessment centre will help you on your journey towards recruitment perfection!

Let us know, what's your assessment centre success secret?

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