Everything you need to know about assessment centres

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Everything you need to know about assessment centres

Have you been invited to an assessment day? Assessment days can seem pretty nerve-racking but with the right preparation, you’ll be ready to show off your skills and bag the job or apprenticeship.

We’ve teamed up with IBM to bring you the ultimate assessment centre preparation guide. In this post, we’ll tell you everything you need

to know about assessment centres, including what to expect on the big day and how to make sure you really stand out from the other candidates. 

What’s an assessment day anyway?

Assessment days – or assessment centres, as they’re also called – are used by large employers use to see whether applicants are suitable for a particular job. They’re usually made up of a series of different activities and tests. The idea is that the centre gives you a chance to demonstrate your skills and qualities more than a straightforward job interview would.

Assessment centres are often the last step in the entire application process, so if you’ve got this far – well done! The company now wants to see how you might put your skills into practice. 

The hiring process at IBM has multiple stages, where candidates progress on to the next step if they pass each stage. 

Helen Sherwood is IBM UK’s School Leavers and University Placement Scheme Lead, and Early Professionals Manager. She explains: “Assessment centres are used as a stage within the hiring process which also includes an initial online application, application form and testing, and then a final interview if you are successful at the assessment centre stage.”

What kinds of jobs are assessment centres used for?

Assessment centres take place in many different industries. They are often used to recruit for school leaver programmes or graduate traineeships. 

IBM uses assessment centres for apprentices, undergraduate and future placement students and graduates as part of the recruitment process.

So what’s an assessment centre actually like?

Assessment centres can last from an afternoon up to two days – sometimes you’ll need to stay overnight. The length depends on the company (there are no multiple-day assessment centres at IBM). Other candidates will be doing the assessment centre with you. The activities and tests you’ll do vary depending on the company, but they might include: group discussions, presentations, role play, psychometric tests, case studies and written tests. 

We asked IBM to walk us through a typical IBM assessment centre - what can applicants expect? What kind of group activities or exercises take place?

They told us: during an assessment centre, candidates will spend time in group exercises and in an interview showing a pre-prepared

presentation. One of the group exercises is based on logical reasoning, and the other is based on discussion. There will also potentially be a business interview on this day.

IBM candidates will also complete an individual interview where they will give a pre-prepared presentation. The presentation should cover all about you and why you applied for the role. 

What skills, qualities and characteristics is IBM looking for during an assessment centre? 

At IBM, they look for the following core competencies: Adaptability; Communication; Client Focus; Creative Problem Solving; Drive; Teamwork; Passion for IBM and Taking Ownership.

And what’s the best way to prepare for an assessment centre?

Here are a few tips on making sure you’re ready to shine at your assessment centre:

  • Review your CV and your application form.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to prepare any material or presentations you’ve been asked to do beforehand (like IBM’s presentation). 
  • Figure out which skills and qualities the employer is looking for by re-reading the job description. 
  • Contact the company’s recruitment team if something doesn’t make sense or is unclear – asking questions shows you’re committed!
  • Practice exercises or discussions with a friend or family member. 
  • Like with a job interview, do your research by reading everything you can on the company, including its social media profiles and business plans you find online. 
  • Dress smartly and plan your route so you’re not stressed about being late. 

IBM said: Gain an understanding into what IBM does by researching what we do before your assessment centre. This will show your passion and interest into the company! 

Most importantly, be yourself and remember to smile! It’s important that we can see your true qualities. Providing that you are successful at an Assessment Centre, we try to match you to a role that suits you.

For more brilliant assessment centre preparation tips, check out this post from Helen at IBM

Photos courtesy of IBM


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