After initial assessments and interviews, an assessment day is the next, and often last, step in any graduate recruitment journey. On an assessment day you’ll be brought together with fellow candidates and complete a series of exercises, tests and interviews that are designed to evaluate your suitability within the organisation.

Assessment days are used because it is an easy and efficient way for employers to see the range of skills and competencies you offer, and that you can apply the skills you have on paper, them compared with a single interview. For you, it’s a great opportunity to meet current employees, get a better understanding of the career paths available to you and meet your potential employer.

It’s likely that before the day your potential employer will send you over a schedule outlining the exercises that will be involved and inform you where the assessment is being held, what you need to bring and let you know whether there is anything you need to do beforehand. If you’re not sure about anything email the recruitment team for some more information ahead of time.

It’s likely that your assessment day is just one of many the employer is running. Remember that it’s a way of finding candidates suitable for a role; you are not in competition with the other candidates at the assessment centre. If every candidate ticks all the right boxes, the employer will hire all of them. If none of the candidates meet the necessary standard, the employer will hire none of them.

Activities

Your assessment day will be jam-packed, as the employer will want to see how you perform under a heavy workload, and simulate a busy day as you will have in real life. What you’ll do on the day will depend on the company you are applying to, however some of the following elements are popular:

Group Exercises

Information Session. You may be given a presentation about the business, or have the chance to find out more through informal discussion.

Psychometric Tests

In-tray Exercises

Presentations. These may take place either alone or in a group.

Interviews. These may take a number of forms including one-to-one or panel interviews, and you may meet the HR department, senior employees or your future boss along the way. Be aware that you may also have more than one interview in the day as well!

Social Events. You won’t be formally assessed at other times, but during your breaks and any other social events that may be tied to the day remember to use the opportunity to demonstrate your interpersonal skills and find out a little more about your prospective colleagues, the business and your fellow candidates.

What are employers looking for?

Your assessors are usually a mix of HR consultants and line managers and they will score your performance against competency frameworks. At the end of the day your scores are tallied up. Your assessors will discuss all aspects of your performance before reaching a final decision on whether or not to hire you. They may be assessing you with a particular job in mind, or just as a good fit for the company.

Key skills that employers may be looking for include:

  • adaptability
  • analytical thinking
  • commercial awareness
  • communication
  • creativity
  • decision-making
  • leadership
  • negotiation
  • organisation
  • persuasion
  • planning
  • teamwork
  • time management.

If you failed to gain a place at the organisation, almost all employers are happy to provide you with feedback after the assessment day. Sometimes the assessors also ask your opinion of the day to help them with designing future assessments.

How to succeed?

A few tips can get you far in assessment centres, so here are our top ones:

Practice: Most university careers services run practice sessions for assessment days. You may be able to practise psychometric tests and interviews or book sessions to prepare for activities such as group exercises.

Plan ahead: Read all the information the employer sends you beforehand. Check whether or not you will have to complete any tasks prior to the day, for example reading through a case study or putting together a presentation. And remember not to leave it to the last minute.

Research: Revisit the research you did for your application and go back to the employer’s website to check whether they provide any tips for assessment day candidates. Go back to your original job description to help you understand what competencies the employer is looking for.

Read through the organisation's website, social media profiles and key literature (e.g. business plan, financial reports and corporate social responsibility strategy), ensuring that you're prepared to share your views and ideas.

Reflect: Turn up with an open mind and be ready to get involved. Reflect on your performance as you go along. If you think you are being ultra competitive, take a step back, and if you think you are being too shy remember to speak up. Be a listener and a talker, a team player and a leader.

Enjoy it: Remember that you are not being pitted against the other candidates so use the opportunity to work with others to achieve the goals and tasks set. In fact, employers are looking for people who can work in a team and get on well with others in a professional setting. If you relax, your personality will shine through, and you never know, you might make some new friends along the way.

And finally: Don’t be late on the day!

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