Assessment days are a common way for companies to choose new employees. Like anything that requires you to perform under pressure, they can be a little stressful. In this guide, we show you what to expect and how to prepare.
What is an assessment day?
Assessment days are referred to by various names - sometimes they’re called ‘assessment events’ or ‘assessment centres’, but they all mean essentially the same thing: it’s an event to test a group of candidates to decide on their suitability for a particular job.
Assessment days will usually take place at a company office, conference centre, or hotel. They can last anywhere from half a day to two full days.
You’ll be given a variety of specifically-designed tests and exercises which will tell the company about your ability to carry out the job in question. These might be individual tests, group exercises, or a combination of the two over the course of the assessment.
Each of the exercises should deal with a certain aspect of the job description (for example, your ability to problem solve) and give you the opportunity to demonstrate how your skills match with those required to perform that role.
These tasks can include:
- Situational judgement tests. These are designed to find out how you’d behave In a work-related situation. You’ll be given a scenario, e.g. a customer complaint, and asked to choose from a range of options which outline possible ways of dealing with it.
- Group exercises. These will measure your ability to work in a team, contribute to discussions, delegate responsibility, and solve problems. Assessors are often looking for someone who can listen to other people’s ideas, be positive, and articulate their own ideas.
- In-tray exercises. You’ll be given a set of fictional documents from which you must answer questions and decide on a course of action. A classic example is to be told you’ve just returned from holiday to a full inbox and you have to meet certain deadlines. You’ll be given 12-20 items and a time limit, which can be between 30 minutes and two hours.
- Presentations. You might be asked to deliver a presentation to the group, in which case the assessors will want to see if you’re able to deliver a well-structured, clear, confident presentation.
- Psychometric tests. The most common at assessment centres are personality questionnaires, numerical reasoning tests, and verbal reasoning tests. These tend to be strictly timed (usually between 15 and 30 minutes) and multiple choice. If you’re curious to learn more about psychometric tests, check out our guide The lowdown on psychometric tests.
How do I prepare?
- Research the organisation and job as you would for a normal interview. Make sure you’re familiar with the competencies for the job.
- Read the organisation's website, social media profiles, and key literature (e.g. business plan, financial reports, and corporate social responsibility strategy), making sure you're prepared to share your views and ideas.
- Think about how you are going to introduce yourself to staff and other candidates in the introductory session and during social activities.
- You may be asked to deliver a short impromptu presentation on a familiar topic (common ones are ‘The best day of my life’ or ‘My favourite hobby’), so think about some potential topics.
- If you know there are specific, concrete skills the job requires - like speaking a certain language or using a certain computer programme - get in some practice in the days before the assessment. You don’t need to learn new skills, just brush up the ones you have.
On the day
- Don’t be shy - if you have an opinion, share it, and try to be fairly assertive during group exercises.
- If you make a mistake, don’t sweat it - it’s far more effective to focus on performing well in the next task. Employers like to see that you can bounce back confidently from a simple mistake.
- Remember to listen, and listen well - assessors won’t be impressed by candidates who talk over other people or are unnecessarily critical of their ideas.
- Be friendly - you’re being assessed on your general fit for the company, not just your aptitude for the role - so try to show that you can easily get on with a range of people.
Remember: you’ve been invited for this assessment because the company thinks you’re a promising candidate. So be confident, and try to enjoy yourself!