There’s no two ways about it: interviews can be scary. Faced with questions about your CV, application form and employment history, on top of meeting one or two potential employers in a new space make the experience high-stakes, and predictably full of nerves.

What happens when you’re faced with an assessment centre, then? Take one of everything above, but add more candidates, more interviewers/assessors, group activities and on-the-spot presentations. It’s easy to be completely psyched out by the environment and the tasks – but you needn’t feel that way.

Keep reading to find out some tips and tricks to nail the assessment centre, and help make the whole day a lot more palatable (and hopefully a lot less shaky, too).

Prepare in advance

As with an ordinary interview, preparation is key. Make sure you understand the business structure, their mission statement and company values.

You will usually be asked as a group to pick out some key facts or figures about the company – so make sure you know the basics, and then some more niche information. Have they recently acquired a new site, or client? Are they due a relocation? Have they just won an award in their field?

Find out something that’s off the beaten track – it’ll help you to stand out when all the candidates are faced with the same question – because there are only so many ways to say when a company has been founded.

Group of people


Be confident and speak up

Now is not the time to be a wallflower or a fly-on-the-wall. It’s imperative that you contribute to conversations and discussions, and get your voice heard.

This isn’t to say you need to shout over your peers – you will be continually assessed on your collaborative and team working skills – but you can’t breeze through an assessment centre and not say anything.

Consider the subject. If you have been given a case study to analyse, figure out an interesting spin for your response, like we have suggested in the preparation segment.

If you can, try to align your response with the company’s values or ethics – this will prove that you are capable of thinking in tune with the business, and this will really speak to your assessors.

Keep track of time and make notes

You will more often than not be handed a collaborative exercise, and this will be timed. It’ll be up to you and your group to monitor this – so make sure at the beginning you start timing. This is a great role to take on if you are not totally confident, as it shows attention to detail and organisation.

Similarly, most exercises will rely on you coming to some sort of conclusion as a team as a result of your discussion. Make notes throughout the talk with the key points, and keep track of who said what.

This will further corroborate your organisation and meticulous nature, and show your collaborative skills as you are clearly listening to other people, and giving credit where it is due.

Don’t get frightened by loud candidates

You only have one shot at an assessment centre, so don’t be put off by the number of attendees. If someone is being obnoxiously loud and confident, don’t give up – an employee isn’t always looking for the candidate who can shout the loudest, so try not to shy away if and when this happens.

Woman giving meeting


Keep going until the end, keep your energy high and your thoughts and opinions clear and well-articulated. Listen to other people, add to their thoughts, and try not to discount anything.

Assessment centres are a great way of getting to know candidates in a real office situation. You learn a lot about yourself, and a company also learns a lot about you, too.

Use them to your advantage, and take our tips on board to ensure that you don’t get psyched out next time you’re invited to an assessment centre.

Lucy Farrington-Smith writes for Inspiring Interns, which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and graduate jobs.

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