The term ‘assessment centre’ refers to a process, not a place. They are widely used in recruitment for graduate programs as they are a strong predictor of job performance.
An assessment centre usually consists of a number of exercises or activities that are designed to find out how you relate to others or how you would cope with the tasks and demands of the job you’re being considered for.
While you are undertaking these activities, you will be observed by trained assessors (observers) who will evaluate your performance against predetermined criteria.
The number of candidates invited to attend each assessment centre will vary. There will usually be around 8 to 20 people. One important thing to remember is that you may not actually be competing directly against the others who are attending the assessment centre at the same time as you. None or all of you may be selected to go through to the next round.
The stage of the selection process at which you might be asked to attend an assessment centre varies, but it will be after the initial screening of applications.
Assessment centres generally run from half a day to two full days.
Types of activities
As a member of a small group you are asked to solve a problem (such as building something with LEGO®) or discuss a topic of general interest or concern.
You are asked to make a recommendation based on information that is presented to you.
You are asked to assume the role of someone who is new to the job. You are then presented with an in-tray of ‘typical’ issues and asked to deal with the contents. Notes need to be made to indicate the action you would take. You will need to deal with paperwork and make decisions within a tight time frame.
You are asked to prepare and verbally present a proposal. You may have to prepare your presentation in advance (on a given topic), or you may be asked to interpret and analyse information that you are given on the day. You are expected to be able to argue in favour of your recommendations.
Tests of productive thinking
These tests look at the quantity, diversity and originality of your ideas. You are presented with open-ended problems and are asked to generate ideas within a set time limit.
You are asked to make a decision starting from only partial knowledge. Your task is to decide what additional information you require to make this decision, and possibly to question the assessor in order to acquire that information.
This is an opportunity for the potential employer to comment on your performance in the assessment centre activities and to ask you about your reaction to the tasks presented. You may also be questioned as you would be in a first interview, but in greater depth.