I was recently asked for hints about attending graduate assessment centres.  These are some tips that I gave:

  • read as much as you can about the organisation and the associated industry – sometimes you will be given an exercise to assess your connectedness with current events.
  • it is important to contribute, but not dominate or talk too much at these assessment centres. 
  • meet the assessor politely, but do not monopolise their time.
  • remember they will be looking for graduates who can become leaders of the future, so the focus will usually be on looking at your team and leadership skills. Leaders have a future focus, show drive to achieve results, communicate in a way that influences others, have high ethical standards, and manage relationships well.
  • while it is a competitive process, most organisations want to create a community feel for graduates (with social activities, Wiki etc). Expect that they will be observing your skills in engaging and getting along with others.
  • you will usually have to do something as a group and produce a result like a presentation, or solve a multifaceted problem.  The  group task may be general or may focus specifically on the things that are important to the organisation e.g. corporate responsibility, green projects. It might be worth doing a bit of reading in case some content knowledge of these areas helps.
  • if you have a planning task – think of the tools that you have learnt (SWOT, brainstorming, stakeholder analysis, project planning…….) and introduce these as a way of getting the group bonded and started. Show that you respect different styles, while also including everyone’s ideas. If it is a large task, you might need to agree on roles and responsibilities.
  • remember ‘forming’, ‘storming’, ‘norming’ and ‘performing’.  Show that you are comfortable in the storming stage, and that you try to find solutions to move through this to create norms that will assist the group to deliver. Think about ways that you can manage situations when someone else dominates the group or has ideas that you disagree with (have words up your sleeve like ‘that’s an interesting point, can we consider the alternate…  or .. we seem to have some different ideas on how to progress this, let’s go back to our objectives and look at our time remaining and see if we can move forward……..etc)
  • it really helps – especially if an interview is part of the assessment centre, to visualise yourself actually being a graduate in company.  Have a look at the photos on the graduate page of the Company’s website (orFacebook Page) and picture yourself there next year.
  • think of the 5 most complex things that you have achieved (study, work, volunteer, sport..) and prepare a CARLA to tell a story about each of these.   What was CHALLENGING (or Complex) about this?    What ACTIONS did you take and why?     What RESULTS did you achieve relative to what was the expected outcome?   What did you LEARN from this experience?      How could you APPLY this learning to add value as a graduate (and future leader).
  • if you cannot find out exactly what is going to happen at the assessment centre, expect a range of tasks.  You may be asked to do a written task, technical assessment, psychological testing, role plays or prioritising tasks.
  • have a good night’s sleep, stay enthusiastic and positive – and expect to be tired towards the end.

Most of all – be yourself (i.e. the most professional version of you).  The more comfortable and congruent you are, the better you will present.

 Some more tips can be found at:





If you have other ideas – please add in the comments section.