Careers and Employability Service

Example Assessment Centre

Below you will find examples of two typical assessment centres. These should give you some idea of what to expect. The first day for each selection centre is identical. 

Day One

6.00 p.m. Arrive at hotel 

7.00 p.m. Briefing session for all candidates:

  • Introduction to the company
  • Outline of the following day's programme

7.45 p.m. Drinks and dinner

  • Candidates
  • Human Resources Director
  • Graduate Recruitment Manager
  • Recent graduate recruit

DAY 2 (Company X)

hot air balloon

Interviewers will be annoyed by too much hot air ...

The content of this selection centre is fairly standard. Exercises such as group discussions and in-tray exercises are used by a wide range of employers, in industry, commerce and the public sector.

Day 2 (Company Y)

The format of this selection centre is more interactive, focusing on interpersonal and communication skills rather than intellectual and analytical ability. This might be used by employers recruiting into marketing, sales, retail or advertising

Day Two (Company X)

9.00 a.m. Group introductions

This is a short exercise whose purpose is to serve as an ice-breaker. Candidates might be asked to:

  1. Introduce themselves to the group, taking two minutes to talk about their background and what makes them tick. Competencies assessed: verbal communication; presentation skills
  2. Spend five minutes talking to their neighbour and finding out about them. Each candidate then introduces their neighbour to the group and outlines what they have learned about them. Competencies assessed: verbal communication; listening and presentation skills

9.30 a.m. In-tray exercise

Candidates work individually on this exercise. Each will be presented with a dossier of papers - memos, notes, telephone messages, reports - similar to that which a manager in the organisation might find in his or her in-tray in the morning. You will need to read through each and decide on the action that needs to be taken on each one, and the priority to be allocated to it. By the end of the exercise, each item should have moved from the in-tray to the out-tray! Competencies assessed: planning, organising, time management, written communication. 
See our In-Tray Exercises Page

11.30 a.m. Group discussion

This may be leaderless - the group as a whole will be given a topic to discuss as they wish - or each member of the group may be allocated a role. In the latter case, candidates may be briefed beforehand on their role and the background to the topic under discussion. Competencies assessed: verbal communication; leadership; assertiveness; confidence; co-operation; listening; negotiation; problem-solving; analytical skills. 
See our Teamworking Skills page which includes a comprehensive set of tips on how to perform well in group exercises.

Examples of structured discussion exercises:

  • Each candidate is given a job description for a post to be filled by internal promotion and the biography of a candidate. You must argue the case for "your" candidate to be the one promoted.
  • Candidates are given a background briefing on a number of sites under consideration for the location of a new manufacturing plant. After being allowed a short time to read through this briefing, the group as a whole must consider the pros and cons of the various options and reach a unanimous decision on which site to approve.
  • Candidates are allocated roles within a management team that is working on a project such as the development of a "revolutionary" new washing powder. You will be given a briefing on your role and the background agenda to it (such as "Recently-promoted marketing manager; wants the product launched as quickly as possible with maximum publicity to make a name for himself" or "R&D manager, 20 years experience with the company, inclined to be cautious, believes product should undergo a further series of tests in order to meet highest possible standards") and then a problem to discuss and reach an agreement on in relation to the further development and/or launch of the product.
  • Case Study Example of the type of case study that might be given to you at a selection centre.

1.30 p.m. Psychometric/personality tests

  • Psychometric tests (also known as aptitude, cognitive, ability or intelligence tests) are structured pencil-and-paper (sometimes computer-based) exercises, often in the form of multiple-choice questions. The most likely competencies to be assessed through these tests are verbal, numerical and (less frequently, except for programming and engineering vacancies) diagrammatic reasoning ability.
  • Personality questionnaires gather information about how and why you do things in your own individual way. They look at how you react or behave in different situations and your preferences and attitudes. They are therefore not really "tests" - "assessments" or "evaluations" would be better words. These exercises are perhaps not as frequently encountered as psychometric tests, but they are quite widely used.

Competencies assessed: verbal, numerical or diagrammatic reasoning; working under pressure; analysing information. 
See our Psychometric Tests page for more information and lots of practice tests.

3.00 p.m. Individual interviews

Since you are likely to have already had an interview with the company, you may have some idea of what to expect. Only in a few cases, such as the Civil Service Selection Board, will this be your first interview.

How will the second interview differ from the first?

For a start, it will almost certainly be with a different person. Your first interview may well have been with somebody from the Personnel department; the second will probably be with a line manager - a manager from the department or function in which you would be working as a graduate recruit. You may be interviewed by more senior members of staff. Your first interviewer may have made a note of points to cover at the second interview. These may be points that could not be fitted in to the time available for the first interview, or perhaps weaknesses that s/he felt should be probed further. Second interviews for work of a technical nature may go into technical questions in greater depth. 
See our Second Interviews page.

Day Two (Company Y)

9.00 a.m. Group task

This combines some of the functions of an ice-breaking exercise with an assessment of the candidates' abilities to work together. You will be given a task to complete and some instructions for how it should be accomplished - procedures to be followed, time constraints etc. - and left to work out together how best to go about it.

Examples of tasks:

  • Using children's building bricks and any other materials that come to hand (paper, plastic cups, etc) build the highest possible structure with the fewest possible bricks
  • Devise a poster with a slogan to advertise one of the company's products

Competencies assessed: verbal communication; leadership; assertiveness; teamwork; co-operation; creativity; initiative; time management.

10.00 a.m. Personality/psychometric tests

  • Psychometric tests (also known as aptitude, cognitive, ability or intelligence tests) are structured pencil-and-paper (sometimes computer-based) exercises, often in the form of multiple-choice questions. The most likely competencies to be assessed through these tests are verbal, numerical and (less frequently, except for programming and engineering vacancies) diagrammatic reasoning ability.
  • Personality questionnaires gather information about how and why you do things in your own individual way. They look at how you react or behave in different situations and your preferences and attitudes. They are therefore not really "tests" - "assessments" or "evaluations" would be better words. These exercises are perhaps not as frequently encountered as psychometric tests, but they are quite widely used.

Competencies assessed: verbal, numerical or diagrammatic reasoning; working under pressure; analysing information. 
See our Psychometric Tests page for more information.

11.30 a.m. Group discussion

The group as a whole will be given a topic to discuss as they wish

Example topics:

  • Advertising should be banned during television programmes aimed at the under-sevens
  • All public places, such as restaurants and pubs, should be required by law to provide a non-smoking area
  • Public funding should not be used to support arts activities of minority interest, such as opera

Competencies assessed: verbal communication; leadership; assertiveness; confidence; listening;
See our Teamworking Skills page

1.30 p.m. Role-play exercises

These may be conducted as a group - each member of the group may be allocated a role and briefed beforehand on their role and the background to the topic under discussion - or on an individual basis.

Example role-playing exercises:

  • A member of the recruitment team may play the role of an awkward customer and candidates will be asked to deal with their complaint on a one-to-one basis
  • Each member of the group is allocated a role as representative of one of a number of clubs using a university sports centre (badminton, five-a-side football, fencing, etc). An assessor will play the role of Sports Centre Manager and each representative must make a case for their club to receive an increased allocation of time for their activity.
  • The group discusses the layout of a new supermarket, each member of the group playing the role of a departmental manager (Produce, Meat, Bakery, Delicatessen, Wines & Spirits, etc), who will argue for the best possible location, floor area and facilities for their own department. The role of Store Manager, with overall responsibility for co-ordinating the discussions and decisions, may be allocated to another member of the group or may be played by an assessor.

2.30 p.m. Presentations

Candidates may have been asked to prepare their presentation beforehand, or may be required to speak off-the-cuff with only a few minutes to prepare. In either case, the topic may be left for you to choose or may be allocated.

If you are allowed to choose your own topic, try and make it relevant in some way to the company, or the job, applied for. For example, it is fine to your travel experiences but, rather than just outline the places you visited and the experiences of travel itself, try and offer some insights into the culture and society of other countries. Similarly, if talking about your hobbies, don't just outline the rules of some obscure sport but give an insight into what you have learned or gained from it in more general terms.

Don't use the presentation as an exercise in conspicuous self-promotion. The candidate who brags about their achievements, lists the prizes and trophies they have won and the records they have broken can be embarrassing to listen to and will not help their candidature in this way.

Competencies assessed: verbal communication; confidence; time management. 
See our page on Presentation Skills

3.30 p.m. Individual interviews

Initial interviews are often conducted by personnel staff and second interviews by the person who will be your manager, but this is not always so.

For a start, it will almost certainly be with a different personYour first interview may well have been with somebody from the Personnel department; the second will probably be with a line manager - a manager from the department or function in which you would be working as a graduate recruit. You may be interviewed by more senior members of staff. Your first interviewer may have made a note of points to cover at the second interview. These may be points that could not be fitted in to the time available for the first interview, or perhaps weaknesses that s/he felt should be probed further. Second interviews for work of a technical nature may go into technical questions in greater depth.
See our page on Second Interviews.

 

 

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The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7ND, T: +44 (0)1227 764000 ext. 3299

Last Updated: 13/07/2017