Careers and Employability Centre

Assessment centres

Assessment centres form part of the extended recruitment process for many graduate positions. They give employers the opportunity to assess large groups of candidates, seeing how they behave individually and as part of a group.

Candidates are usually invited to an assessment centre after the first interview stage but before the final selection, although they can also be used as an initial method of deciding which candidate to invite to interview. Assessment centres often held at an employer’s offices or at another location, such as a training centre or conference centre, and can last one or two days.

The content of an assessment centre will vary depending on the organisation, but will normally contain a mix of the following:

Social/informal events
  • Usually a lunch or a drinks reception where you can meet recent graduate trainees or senior staff members and ask questions.
  • Not formally assessed, however staff taking part will be asked for feedback on how you came across and how engaged you were.
  • Think of some questions that you might like to ask during the social events.
  • It's a good opportunity to find out information about the company that isn’t obvious in recruitment material.
  • You might be asked to prepare a presentation in advance on a topic of your choice, or you might be asked to put something together on the day, sometimes as feedback from a group exercise.
  • If you have had advance notice of the presentation, make sure you practise your timings beforehand.
  • Think about the content and pace of your presentation.
Group exercises
  • Group exercises and tasks give the assessors a chance to observe how you interact with other team members and can often assess qualities such as: communication, team working, leadership, confidence, logic and how quick thinking you are, time management, data assimilation skills.
  • Exercises may take a variety of different forms and often depend on the organisation. They could include: a moral dilemma, a current affairs issue, a career-related or organisational topic, or a case study.
  • Remember that assessors are not assessing candidates against each other in group tasks, but against a set of criteria relating to the role you have applied for.
  • Assessors are looking to see how you contribute and how you work with others.
  • Be involved in the discussions but try not to dominate unless you have been asked as a group to choose a leader, at which time you can volunteer if you feel this is a role you would like to take.
  • Try not to interrupt other speakers, keep your contributions short, be relevant with your contributions and relevant, and try not to shout over other speakers.
  • Assessment centres can include an interview. It could be a one-to-one interview with a HR representative or a senior member of staff, a panel interview or a technical interview where you're asked specific questions about the role and your area of expertise.
  • Questions might revolve around your CV or be more specific questions about your motivations for the role, or the competencies required to do the job.
  • Prepare for all eventualities beforehand by revisiting the job description and original recruitment material, and also your CV and original application.
  • Practise answering questions beforehand (with a careers adviser or friend) so that you prepare the structure of your answers and think about the examples you plan to use.
  • See our Interviews page for more information on preparing for interviews
In-tray/e-tray exercises
  • In-tray exercises are designed to simulate a situation that might face a manager with a big caseload.
  • You will be given a pile of paperwork to read (or for e-tray exercises, some email correspondence) which might contain letters, phone messages, emails, internal documents etc. You will then be asked to prioritise and respond to the situation within a time limit.
  • You can practise in-tray and e-tray exercises using our online resources (see boxes on this page).
Selection tests/psychometric tests
  • Selection tests or psychometric tests describe a range of exercises used by employers to test an individual’s aptitude and personality. They are often used to give additional insight into a candidate either in the early stages of the selection process or as part of the assessment centres.
  • Practising tests online has been proven to improve performance. You can use our practice tests to prepare for yours.  
  • Try to ignore observers and keep in mind that they're assessing you against criteria and not against other candidates.
  • Remember that you are being observed from the moment you attend the centre until you leave, so be professional and engaged throughout your time.
  • Show enthusiasm and interest for the role and organisation.
  • Speak clearly in interviews, presentations and group activities and maintain eye contact.
  • Try not to dominate discussions and think before you speak.
  • Dress as if you're attending a formal interview. Smart is key!

In-tray and e-tray exercises

How to use us

  1. Come to an Assessment centre workshop


  2. Use our resources to prepare for assessment centres
  3. Get advice. Make an appointment or submit a question online via Ask a Question

Presentation slides on assessment centres