Assessment centre tasks

There’s no need to fear the assessment centre. In this guide we’ve broken them down so you can understand what you’re getting yourself into and succeed.



All that’s certain about presentations at assessment centres is that you’ll get one. The fact is it can take many different forms. You might be asked to do a 5-minute presentation that you plan and deliver on the spot, or you may be asked to prepare a longer one in advance. It could be a presentation about you or your own interests, or a particular arm of the business. It could be individual or group, and everything in between.

You know more about your passions, your talents and yourself than anyone – play into that.

The possibilities are endless. In these many eventualities, it’s important to bear the below tips in mind.

    • If you have a free choice, choose a subject you know or understand well. Going for a subject just because it will make you seem like an intellectual when you don’t know much about it is risky and inadvisable. It is better to present confidently on a simple topic with which you feel comfortable. You know more about your passions, your talents and yourself than anyone – play into that.

    • Give your presentation a beginning, middle and an end. At the beginning, let your audience know what you will cover. In the middle, don’t try to cram in too much detail: a few points, well made, is best. The end should be a summary of what you have covered and achieved.

    • Reference things that may have already been said, invite questions from the audience and when it’s all over, thank them for their attention. Your assessors will eat it up.

    • Nervous energy will make you want to brazen through your presentation by talking quickly. There’s no need to start right away when you step in front of the group. Before you say anything, pause, take a couple of, deep breaths and look around the audience. When they are settled and ready, you can begin.


Group exercises

Group exercises are used to see how your communication and problem-solving skills hold up when you’re working as part of a team. The group will need to come up with the solution together and you’ll need to support them in doing that. Employers will be looking for flexible team players in these tasks – people who encourage the ideas of others while having plenty of their own.

Typical group exercises in the assessment centre include:

    • An exercise where you tackle problems you would potentially come across in the job, sometimes with each group member given a specific role to play.

    • A scenario where you have to solve a problem as a group with no designated leader, designed to test your teamwork and compromising skills.

    • A scenario designed to test your leadership skills. The assessors will be looking for you to delegate tasks, use people’s strengths, oversee tasks and generally show positive leadership traits.

    • A roundtable discussion where the candidates will debate or talk about a given topic, either work or current affairs related.

There’s no telling what type of group exercise you could have but generally speaking, here are the golden rules to remember if you want to play well in a group, but also mark yourself out from the crowd:

  • Be assertive, but not aggressive. You need to contribute, but not to dominate.
  • Listen and don’t interrupt. Be aware of what others in the group are contributing and try to draw out quieter members and seek their views.
  • Be diplomatic. Don’t be confrontational with other members of the group if they aren’t following the etiquette. Be prepared to compromise.
  • Keep an eye on the time and stay focused on the overall objective. From time to time, try to summarise the group’s progress.

In-tray exercises

Of all the exercises you do over the course of an assessment centre, in-tray exercises are probably the closest it gets to the real experience of the job. In-tray tasks (sometimes known as ‘e-tray’ exercises) are designed to test your ability to deal with the requests, time demands and information overload that comes with being in an office. Your work emails will be like a spaghetti junction every morning; it’s your job to untangle it and figure out how to reply and what courses of action to take.

Communicating logically, clearly and appropriately in a professional environment is a key part of landing a graduate job.

Recruiters will want you to do this in front of them at the assessment centre so that they can see whether you can process things quickly, analyse problems, make decisions, take action, manage your time, work accurately and express yourself tactfully in the workplace. Time is precious on a graduate job, so you have to make every second count.

The exercise itself will consists of an in-tray of paperwork or an inbox full of emails that you’ll have to work through in a specific time limit. The objective is to read through the info, put it in order of priority, then explain what type of action is needed. Here are a few tips to help you out:

  • There aren’t really right or wrong answers. The battle is won when you make quick and thoughtful decisions and work calmly under pressure.
  • Read everything before doing anything. Then, assess the requests. Identify those needing immediate or urgent action; those you can delegate; those you can delay; and those you may be able to drop.
  • Manage your time. Deal with everything in your in-tray or e-tray, but don’t rush and miss key information or act in a way that conflicts with a decision you need to take on another item.

Written exercises

From hyper-real in a careers sense to something just like university, some assessment centres might chose to roll back the clock to exam season and give you a written assignment. This is used in cases where recruiters check that your communication skills are up to scratch. Communicating logically, clearly and appropriately in a professional environment – with good spelling and grammar – is a key part of landing a graduate job. The written exercise is most likely to be related to the employer’s industry sector and the tasks you would be doing on the job.

How to succeed at assessment day written tests

To a certain extent, you should treat a written exercise as a written exam:

  • Read through the instructions or brief and highlight what you need to do and the most essential points.
  • Write a quick plan to clarify your thoughts and to get your structure right.
  • Create the right tone. To be safe, keep it formal. However, you should also keep it simple, direct and straightforward.
  • Get to the point and tackle the most important and most complex issues first. Ensure that any conclusions you reach, recommendations you make or any actions you call for are expressed unambiguously.

There are a lot of hoops to be jumped through in assessment centres, but with the end not being far away, it’s important that you don’t lose focus at this crucial time. You’ve got this!

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