Careers and Employability Service

Assessment Centres and Aptitude Tests

Common questions

Assessment centres (also known as selection centres) consist of a number of exercises designed to assess the full range of skills and personal attributes required for the job.

Generally large organisations, in both the public and private sectors use assessment centres. Some of these include:

  • The Civil Service
  • The Armed Forces
  • The Police
  • The National Health Service
  • Manufacturing companies, e.g. Unilever, Masterfoods, Shell, Corus, GSK
  • Banks
  • Retailers
  • Service companies, e.g. BT, IBM
  • Large professional services firms, e.g. chartered accountants and solicitors

Why hold assessment centres?

  • They are one of the most reliable methods of assessing candidates.
  • They are generally accepted as a fair method of selection, providing equal opportunities for all candidates and selecting on merit
  • They assess what candidates will actually do if selected: not just how good they are at interview!

Are candidates competing against one another?

No: everybody, or nobody, in a group might be successful. There are normally no quotas and everybody is performing against a standard.

How will I know if an organisation I'm applying to uses assessment centres?

Usually, the selection procedure will be outlined in the employer's brochure. You will never have a selection centre sprung upon you unexpectedly: at the very least, the letter inviting you will tell you what to expect.

Large organisations may book a venue such as a hotel or training centre for the selection centre, which may last two days and and involve specialised staff such as psychologists, whereas smaller organisations may just run a day of exercises at their office.

How do assessment centres fit into the recruitment process?

With commercial employers, they are likely to be the final stage of selection. Usually, they follow on from a paper application and a one-to-one first interview.

Public sector employers may follow a different pattern - invitation to Civil Service Fast Stream assessment centres, for example, is dependent on reaching the required standard in the online reasoning tests and the supervised e-tray exercise, but no interviews are held before the assessment centre.

The employer will have a checklist of competencies - the essential skills and personal attributes required for the job. Think about the skills and personal qualities that will be required in the job. For some types of work, the assessors may be looking for very assertive and dominant people: in most areas it's likely that teamwork, co-operation and the ability to listen to others will be important.

What is the most important part of an assessment centre?

Candidates are assessed on their performance across all the exercises and there is no one most important part. If you feel that you have performed poorly on one exercise, you may well compensate for this by doing well in another.

Who are the assessors?

Usually, they are managers from the company, who have been trained in assessment. There will probably be a mixture of managers from the personnel/graduate recruitment function and line managers for whom the eventual graduate recruits will be working.



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Last Updated: 19/02/2019