My Experience of an Assessment Centre

If you’re applying for a graduate-level job or an internship you’ll probably need to attend at least one assessment centre. But don’t worry; they’re not as scary as they sound. Katy Barker, MA Translation, told us about her experience. 

Keeping calm and reading questions carefully is key to assessment centre success.

Keeping calm and reading questions carefully is key to assessment centre success.

Over the Vacation, between consuming copious amounts of chocolate and getting to grips with CAT tools, I had an interview with a language services provider in Surrey. This was my first ever assessment day for a graduate role, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.

The morning started with meeting the other candidates and staff. We also briefly met the company’s CEO. One piece of feedback we received later was that our first impressions, in particular how smartly we had dressed, had been very good – definitely worth dressing ‘too’ smartly.

The rest of the morning was dedicated to practical assessments. There was a proof-reading exercise, and a multiple choice assessment on time management strategies. There was a lot of vocabulary and questions that seemed more suitable to a GCSE Business Studies paper; keeping calm and reading questions carefully was the key.

“My first ever assessment day experience was certainly a positive one, and I learnt a lot. Hopefully it might be helpful to you for knowing what to possibly expect.”

There was also one fairly entertaining assessment, called ‘Talent Simulation’. Its name sounds a little scary, but was in fact a series of videos showing mock work situations. For example, one video showed a manager asking for feedback on a difficult colleague. Underneath each video was a series of possible responses your character could give, and we were asked to select the most and least effective responses. My best piece of advice for this would be to try not to get pulled in to the story too easily in case it starts affecting your answers – I quickly found myself not liking the colleague ‘John’ in the videos, who seemed determined to complain about absolutely everything!

All the assessments we completed were provided by SHL, an interview assessment provider. The Career Zone has access to free online tests https://www.assessmentday.co.uk/exeter/ so it’s really worth having a go at some. However, a word of warning – as the mocks online are for general use and form part of the company’s mechanism for collecting research data, don’t be discouraged if you do badly. I did a couple of (quite hard) practice tests and received a feedback report entirely in red. But when I came to the actual assessment day, they were appropriate to the role, adapted to a graduate with little experience of a work environment, and the right mix of difficult and easy questions. So don’t panic.

The final assessment of the morning was the competency-based interview – time to bring out the old faithful, the STAR technique! For anyone who isn’t sure about interview technique for this type of interview, I can really recommend the Interview Experience run by the Career Zone. It prepares you well for this type of interview, as during the day you get to grips with the format and structure, and how best to answer questions, both the easy and tricky ones. Well worth doing before you leave Exeter.

The afternoon started with an informal lunch with the CEO and some staff. This was a lovely relaxed way to meet members of the team, and ask questions about the company and their experiences of the sector. It doesn’t all have to be business-oriented though – at one point, we were discussing the wonderful entries in the Easter hat competition the company was currently running for its staff!

Lunch was followed by presentations. We had each been asked to prepare a 5-minute presentation on a subject of our choice. We had all picked something different, and had all chosen topics we really enjoyed talking about – for me, the places off the beaten tourist track in Padua, where I spent my year abroad! Hopefully, our enthusiasm therefore came over in our presentations.

My first ever assessment day experience was certainly a positive one, and I learnt a lot. Hopefully it might be helpful to you for knowing what to possibly expect.

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