There is no ‘I’ in assessment centre – why you shouldn’t treat them as competitions

When approaching assessment centres, remember that teamwork is key

The very mention of the words ‘assessment centre’ can conjure up images in people’s minds of graduates doing battle against each other with the sole survivor rewarded with a contract. This perception resembles less the reality of assessment centres and more The Hunger Games.

In actuality, assessment centres are not really competitions. Or if they are, what you are competing against is the criteria set by the company that is hiring. But competing against the other graduates? Not so much.

‘You are not there to undermine or get one over on the other applicants,’ Robinder Gill, graduate and undergraduate recruiter for Jaguar Land Rover, told me recently. ‘If everyone is great, they will all be offered positions. Similarly, if nobody meets our criteria, nobody will be offered a position.’

Assessment centres can last from a few hours to a few days, and often combine group, individual and written exercises, panel interviews, social events and case studies with aptitude, psychometric and personality tests. They provide a greater opportunity for the graduate to showcase their competencies than if they were in a straight interview.

Companies who hire through these centres (usually large companies) often do so because it is one of the most efficient ways to recruit a large number of people in a short period of time. And some of them will run as many assessment centres as they need until they find enough people who meet their criteria. As the competencies of any group can vary wildly, it makes sense not to have a set number of people rewarded with positions at each centre.

As two of the competencies they most want to gather from you are how well you can work with others and how capable you are at building effective relationships, being overly competitive or antagonistic towards the rest of your group would probably not be a good idea.

Good idea

The best way to approach these centres is to practise presenting in front of people beforehand and to do some relaxation exercises. Once you get to the centre, you should act naturally and listen carefully.

Bad idea

The worst way to approach an assessment centres is to treat it like a competition and hype yourself up too much beforehand. Such an approach may not only lead to you making mistakes, but could lead the other graduates to resent working with you.

For more information on assessment centres, see

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