Top Tips for Standing out at an Assessment Centre

It’s normal to feel daunted by the idea of having to spend hours under such scrutiny. To help you out, we’ve compiled some top tips to help you put your best foot forward at your next assessment centre.

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After weeks of polishing your CV, writing cover letters, completing competency tests, and submitting application after application, you finally receive an email (or, if you’re lucky, a few) inviting you to one of the final steps of the recruitment process. Congratulations! This calls for a celebration! For many large graduate employers, this penultimate or final step will be an assessment centre. Assessment centres are events lasting from half a day to several, designed to assess your skills and behaviour in workplace situations. You will be evaluated with a group of other candidates by a panel of recruiters to assess your skills against a set of competencies. 

It’s normal to feel daunted by the idea of having to spend hours under such scrutiny. But with the right approach and mindset, assessment centres are a valuable learning opportunity that gives you a chance to demonstrate your skills. And if all goes well, they serve as the stepping stone towards the next step of your career!

To help you out, we’ve compiled some top tips to help you put your best foot forward at your next assessment centre. 
 

1. Be Prepared

As with any other recruitment scenario, you should make every effort to prepare for the assessment centre as much as possible. If you’ve received an information pack, make sure you go through it several times and memorise any necessary details. 

Ahead of time, please read up on the company and the role description so that you’re aware of their values and the skills and competencies they want. On the day of the assessment centre, keep these in the back of your mind and try to demonstrate them throughout the day.

It also pays to research potential activities you’ll be given at the assessment centre and have a go at practising them in advance. There are resources available online for practising common assessment centre tasks, and the career centre at your university may have some too. 

Being prepared shows the employer that you’re keen, organised, and take your job seriously – essential qualities to get hired. A bit of preparation will also help you stay calm during the assessment centre and ensure you’re able to show off your skills in the best light.

2. Be Cooperative

As you will be assessed with other candidates, treating the event as competition may become tempting. However, remember that assessment centres are designed to evaluate your abilities against the employer’s criteria, not necessarily against the other candidates. Assessment centres are an excellent opportunity to meet like-minded people interested in the same career path as yourself. Treat the other candidates as teammates and make an effort to network with them – after all, you may end up working together, which is a great way to start on the right foot!

Most assessment centres will include group exercises to assess your teamwork and negotiation skills. With these exercises, try to balance listening and speaking and help the group complete the task whilst promoting your abilities. Share your ideas, but also be prepared to compromise. Interpersonal skills and cooperation are critical for success in the workplace, meaning it pays to show the recruiters that you have these skills. After all, who wouldn’t want to work with an easy-going team player?

3. Be Confident 

The recruitment process puts you on display, and it’s normal to find this nerve-wracking. Assessment centres can be incredibly intimidating because you’re on display in front of a large group of people – the panel of recruiters and other candidates.

Just remember that everyone else is in the same boat and try your best to present yourself as confidently as you can. Give a confident first introduction, present your ideas with conviction, and believe in the choices you make at each of the activities. Throughout the day, try to express confidence through your body language – keep your shoulders back, make steady eye contact, and avoid fidgeting or crossing your arms. 

At the assessment centre, the recruiters will be looking for candidates with the necessary skills for the role. Confidence shows that you believe in yourself and your abilities. Thinking that you’re the best fit for the position is the first step towards the recruiters to feeling it too. 

4. Be Enthusiastic and Proactive

If you’re at the assessment centre, you’re likely interested in the company and the role you’re applying for - so don’t be afraid to show your excitement! Throughout the event, show your enthusiasm by smiling and maintaining a positive attitude. You can also show your interest in the company and other candidates by asking questions and making the most of any networking opportunities that arise. If any staff members pop in during breaks or at lunchtime, strike up a conversation and show them that you’re excited to be here. 

Being enthusiastic and proactive, you demonstrate a passion for the company and a willingness to put in the effort to be there. Enthusiasm is a two-way street much of the time – if you’re happy to be there, they’ll be glad to have you on board. 

5. Be Yourself

It may sound cliché, but one of the best things you can do at an assessment centre is just to be yourself. Assessment centres run for several hours. Rather than try to keep up an act, you'll feel much more comfortable and confident if you focus on demonstrating the best version of your genuine self; this will ensure you consistently perform your best qualities. The employers will see you present a consistent set of skills and values and the authenticity behind it. If they like what they know, they'll see the real you as an excellent fit for the role and company – which is likely to lead to you moving onto the next step of the recruitment process or even a job offer.

The assessment centre is also an opportunity to evaluate the company's suitability for your career desires. By being yourself, you will best gauge how comfortable and happy you feel in this environment and whether the company is the right fit for your career.  

It’s completely normal to be intimidated by the prospect of attending an assessment centre. However, it’s also important to realise that assessment centres are usually amongst the final stages of the recruitment process. If you’ve made it to an assessment centre, you’ve already impressed the employer, and it’s worth commending yourself for making it this far. 

At their best, assessment centres are an excellent opportunity to show off your skills in action, proving that you’ll be a perfect fit for the role. Remember to be prepared, confident, keen, and try your best – you’ll do perfectly fine.  

- Wendy Xu, Nxtstep Content Writer

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