How to Succeed at an Assessment Centre

 If you are being selected for a management or graduate level position then it is a good idea to brush up on your knowledge of current affairs and global news. The international publication ‘The Economist’ is probably the most useful publication to study for this purpose. It is published weekly, is widely available and covers world & business news in an acceptable level of detail.

You should also read the most recent copies of any relevant industry specific magazine or newspaper. This will enable you to discuss any topical issues that crop up in the panel interview or over lunch or coffee, as these ‘social’ events often form part of the agenda. You may feel that this level of preparation is 'over the top'. If so, then try to imagine yourself engaged in a discussion where you don't have the faintest idea what the other participants are talking about, and knowing that the assessors are listening critically to your contribution. At the very least, this kind of experience will undermine your confidence and cause you to under perform, even on exercises that you have prepared for.

While the assessment centre process is intensive and commonly viewed as stressful, it does provides additional opportunities for you, if you feel that you are not able to demonstrate your abilities fully during an interview. The process also enables you to obtain a first-hand idea of what the employer expects, and will provide opportunities for you to interact with other participants during group exercises.


Many candidates underachieve on the day as they are unsure of what to expect. At the very least you need to have good background knowledge of the sector, the organization and its products and services. Creating the right impression when everyone else is attempting to do the same can be difficult. Just remember that the observers are usually looking for candidates who show evidence of being team players and who fully commit to the tasks they are set. You can't afford to appear too introverted, but you must avoid interrupting others or taking over the discussion. Also, don't try to outmaneuver other candidates or dismiss opposing points of view in a negative or aggressive way.

Some exercises involve candidates taking turns as group leader or chairperson. Try to express your own views clearly and concisely and make an effort to encourage participation from quieter candidates. Be adaptable in your thinking and recognize other candidates' good ideas but remember that talking people round to your point of view will demonstrate good communication skills provided that it is done in a positive and inclusive way. Above all, remain positive, team oriented and focused on the task.

Byham, W.C. (1997). Landing the Job You Want - How to have the best Job Interview of Your Life, Pennsylvania, USA, DDI Press

Smith, A.K. (2006). How to Succeed at an Assessment centre, Warwick University, UK

Landy, F.J. (1989), Psychology of Work Behavior, 4th edition, California, USA, Brooks/Cole Publishers

Newton, T.J. (1994), Discourse and Agency: The Example of Personnel Psychology and 'Assessment centres', Organization Studies.

Robertson, I, Gratton, L, Sharpley, D (1987). The Psychometric properties and design of managerial assessment centres: Dimensions into exercises won't go. Journal of Occupational Psychology.

Woodruffe, C. (1990), Assessment centres: identifying and developing competence, London, Great Britain, Institute of Personnel Management.

You may also be interested in:

What is an Assessment Centre?
Who uses the Assessment Centre?
What are the Different Types of Assessment Centre?
What Format Does an Assessment Centre Take?
Who are the Assessors?
What are Assessment Centre Exercises?
What is an In-Tray Exercise?
What is a Presentation Exercise?
What are Group Exercises?
What are Role Play Exercises?

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