Assessment centres: Turning hell into heaven

When I realised after months of tedious application forms, online tests and telephone interviews I had finally been offered several assessment centre invitations I went through various emotional stages:

1. Relived – yes there is some light at the end of placement search tunnel

2. Happy – hard work pays off and I’m one step closer to securing a placement

3. Contemplative – what, where is Brentford?

4. Pure fear – what will happen on the day?!

Having learnt from experience there are three tips that I think turned my Assessment centres into a feared hell like experience to perhaps not exactly heaven, but pretty close in the context!

Assess blog

1. Be prepared

It really is a cliché but it’s the truest cliché that’s ever existed! Being prepared doesn’t only mean swatting up on the company’s financial report, being prepared ensures confidence in every aspect of your assessment centre timeline.

  •  Logistics: Make sure that you have written down your arrival time, I arrived at my assessment centres about 15 minutes early which felt perfect as I was able to ensure I was there in plenty of time without being there so early you don’t know what to do with yourself!

Insider tips: if you will be travelling by tube buy your tube all day travel card online with your train ticket if you don’t have an Oyster card and see via google maps if there are any coffee shops nearby where you can relax before your assessment centre starts.

  • Company and business knowledge: I really benefited from talking to current interns of the companies that I had assessment centres for, if you have a placement tutor sometimes they can put you in contact with them or try websites like for great advice on the specific company.  By business knowledge I mean keeping up to date with what is generally going on in the business e.g. corporate sustainability report and seeing anything happening in the news. If the info doesn’t show up on the first page of results of google when you search the companies’ name, then you are sure to have some great facts to differentiate you from other candidates.
  • CV and situational behaviour questions: Knowing your CV off by heart is a winner as in three of the interviews I experienced in assessment centres, the only thing the employer had in front of them was a copy of my CV, also bring a copy of your current CV as things are likely to have changed since you applied for the job.  Also have some examples in the STAR format (situation, task, action, result) and more than one example as I was asked the exact same questions for the same company in two different interviews!
  • Behavioural: by behavioural preparation I mean that it definitely helped me to go to an assessment centre preparation 2 hour session run by the Careers Network. I gained invaluable advice from how to sit correctly, how to do a great handshake and most importantly how to create a good first impression!

2. Be confident

Although this may sound like a command as opposed to advice, confidence really comes with preparation and remembering that you have done a great job to get to the assessment centre so far so you have to believe in yourself.

3. Have fun

Assessment centres can actually be really fun where you can mix with like-minded people and show an employer how great you are. The exercises although challenging can be a real opportunity for you to demonstrate some creativity. I found that after each of my assessment centres I felt a sense of achievement of completing them and definitely took each of them as an overall positive experience.

Finally, even if you feel that the day did not go to plan, assessment centres can be thought of a good  experience for long-term development so don’t be disheartened and get ready for another one!


About careersbham

Student Engagement Officer for Careers Network University of Birmingham

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