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Andrew Arkley

Assessment day tips: What to expect

Assessment day tips

Your CV has impressed and so you’ve been invited to an assessment centre — now you’ll be frantically hunting the web for some assessment day tips. 

Don’t fear, PurpleCV is here to help!

Nailing the assessment day is the difference between getting the job and not, so you want to get it right. But what will the company be looking for? And what typically happens on the day?

Read these essential assessment day tips so you can put your best foot forward on the day.

What is the aim of an assessment day?

The assessment day is usually the final stage in a company’s recruitment process. Running an assessment day takes a lot of time and resources so employers will only invite short-listed candidates who they think stand a good chance of being a suitable hire.

Inviting candidates to an assessment day is common practice for a variety of roles and industries, from graduate starter jobs to management selection and anything in between.

The assessment day is designed to test candidates so they can show how they might respond to situations and problems in a work environment. It is considered to be a far more effective recruitment method than just an interview because the assessment day activities allow candidates to show a broader range of skills and competencies relevant to the job. 

What to expect on the day

An assessment centre isn’t actually a physical place – it’s a term used to describe a series of interview exercises. This means you may be invited to the company’s office or to an off-site venue. It will usually last a full day, but could also be only a half day or span several days.

One of the best assessment day tips we can provide is knowing what you’re up against. While every company will have their own methods, here are some typical assessment centre exercises you might be asked to take part in.

An ice-breaker: With everyone feeling a bit nervous, the employer may ask the group to take part in a little ice-breaker. You will probably be asked to tell the group a little bit about yourself – so try to think of something memorable! 

In-tray or e-tray exercise: An in-tray exercise (or e-tray when done on the computer) is a simulated task that tests your aptitude and attitude when dealing with a problem relevant to the job you’re applying for. A common in-tray exercise is to imagine you’re a manager returning from holiday with an overspilling in-tray of documents (emails, memos, reports, and the like), and you have to demonstrate your ability to prioritise and delegate tasks.

Group exercises: Assessment day group exercises may include discussing a business-related problem, analysing a case study and presenting your findings, or a practical task that is seemingly unrelated, such as building a  tower from straws! The purpose of these is to assess your communication, problem-solving and social skills. 

Psychometric tests: There are two forms of psychometric test you may be required to take for an assessment day: an aptitude test and a personality test. Aptitude tests will often involve verbal and numerical reasoning, while personality tests assess how you might respond to typical workplace situation.

Interviews: These could take place throughout the day, either one-on-one or in groups. The assessors may ask you to walk them through your CV and previous experience, or they may ask you a series of technical questions related to the job you’ve applied for. You should prepare for both, just in case.

Breaks: While not strictly a test, the assessors may be watching the group to find out who interacts well with others. Make sure to be on your best behaviour during these periods.

Assessment day tips: How to prepare

Now you know what you are going to face, let’s talk about how you can best prepare for an assessment centre.

Find out what might happen: As we mentioned earlier, every company will do it slightly differently. So one of our top assessment day tips is to find out what you are up against. Some companies will provide you with a schedule but, if they don’t, ask your contact what might take place.

Practice, practice, practice:  As you’ve probably been told a million times before: practice makes perfect. Once you know what you will be up against, practice those tasks as much as possible. You can find free online psychometric tests or brush up on your interview techniques with our handy guide. 

Stay calm: You may feel a bit nervous on your assessment day and that’s totally natural. While some nerves are absolutely fine (and to be expected) you don’t want them to overwhelm you. Figure out some calming techniques that work for you. We’ve already looked at how to calm interview nerves, or you can check out mental health charity Mind for some more great tools.

Reread the job description: Identify the skills, interests and experiences that the employer is looking for so you can tailor your answers accordingly.

Research the company: Find out as much as you can about the company’s work, history and ethos by going through their website, especially looking out for any case studies or strategy reports they’ve published. Then prepare to share your views and thoughts on the assessment day!

Assessment day tips: Our final thoughts

As the old saying goes, “by failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail” – but if you know what to expect, then you’re already halfway to success. So shake off those nerves and give yourself the best chance of impressing with our assessment day tips.

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