How to Succeed at a Graduate Assessment Centre

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Succeeding at a graduate assessment centre is a common dream amongst many graduates who are looking for their next step. I have had multiple experiences of graduate assessment centres and can testify to how intense they can be! Unlike a single interview, they assess you from many different angles. Often, a graduate assessment centre includes elements such as a:

  • 1:1 interview
  • Panel interview
  • Presentation
  • Written test
  • Written exercise
  • Role play
  • Group exercise

It won’t necessarily include all of these things but is likely to include at least three or four. This means you need to be prepared and energised for the whole day. Some can even be spread over two days! Although they sound scary, there are things you can do which will mean you are fully prepared. Here are the key things you should do to succeed at a graduate assessment centre:

  1. Maintain your energy levels throughout the day

Think about both your mental and physical energy levels throughout the day. Since assessment centres can be quite intensive, you have to be at your optimal level of energy continuously. This energy will translate into every activity you do. You might also be walking a lot as you move around different rooms for different parts of the assessment centre. Nourishment with food and drink is really important here. You might be given food, water and snacks throughout the day. But still be prepared with water and snacks in your bag, and find out beforehand if lunch is provided so you know whether to bring your own. Even though it’s natural to be nervous and running on adrenaline throughout the day, you want your mind to be as relaxed as possible. Try techniques used for stress release and mind relaxation, like meditation, beforehand. If you are able to, try to free up the day before and the day after the assessment centre to relax.

  1. Prepare on a practical level

You’ll have a lot to think about in terms of performing in each of the exercises you’ll be asked to do. So it’s best to have done the logistical preparation for the day so you don’t have to worry about things like being late or forgetting something. Make sure you know the venue, including the journey there and back. If you can, take a trip there beforehand so you know roughly how long it takes (although take into account rush hour if you will be travelling there early in the morning on the actual day). Try on your outfit a week before and the day before, pack your bag with what you need – water, snacks, notebook, pen, and your phone (on silent).

  1. Know yourself and the company in depth

There are a few things you should research and reflect on in depth to prepare for an assessment centre:

  • Your skills and experience, including qualities that show your leadership potential – a lot of graduate schemes don’t just look for technical knowledge, but for your potential to become a leader in the company in the future.
  • The initial application you sent through – they are likely to look back on this and base some interview questions on this.
  • Examples to demonstrate your experience, in a STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) format, to answer competency questions
  • Company research – their products/services, customers, values, purpose and mission
  • Industry awareness – know who their main competitors are and any significant recent events in the industry that could affect the company
  1. Practise as much as you can

You can’t avoid practising here! It will make a world of difference if you can practise for the interview and presentation elements of a graduate assessment centre, preferably in front of at least one other person. It means you will be more prepared to articulate yourself clearly and confidently on the day. Even thought assessment centres are intense, they can honestly be enjoyable too! It’s quite a social experience as you meet others who are going through the same experience. It’s a great learning experience and once you have done one, you will know what mindset you need if you ever face one again. If you do have to do one for a second time, make sure you get feedback from the first one so you know what areas to address.

If you are ready to take your career outside the lab and want to know how to start, watch our webinar on How Science Graduates Can Get a High Paying Job Outside the Lab Even if You Have Little to No Work Experience.

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