Careers and Employability Skills Centre

Careers and Employability Skills Centre


Research has shown that the interview is the most invalid method of selection and that Assessment Centres are by far the most effective selection method for predicting successful performance in a target job. The Assessment Centre is an integrated process of simulations designed to generate behaviour similar to that required for success in a target job or job level. It provides an opportunity to observe candidates' behaviour directly and it enables candidates' performance to be measured objectively against specific key criteria:

There are four components to an assessment centre:

  • Pre-selected candidates
  • The profile of skills or capabilities sought
  • A variety of exercises or tests
  • Trained assessors

A candidates performance is assessed against a profile which is specific to each organisation. The most commonly used tools are:

  • Ability tests
  • Group exercises
  • Interviews

The purpose of assessment is to elicit behavioural evidence to justify selection decisions. The stages of assessment are:

  1. Observe and record examples of good behaviour
  2. Classify them according to profile criteria
  3. Evaluate performance on each criterion on a rating scale

The development of personal transferable skills in graduates has received attention in recent years. This stems from the realisation that, for most jobs, academic achievement alone is unlikely to lead to success. With the rising supply of graduates, employers are increasingly using these skills as a differentiator. In general, it is these qualities with different weightings depending on the orientation of the organisation or even departments within it, that you are appraised at an assessment centre.

Criteria can be broadly grouped in a number of ways and viewed from different angles. For example key criteria:

  • Interpersonal skills and leadership
  • Analytical and planning skills
  • Results orientation and implementation

At an Assessment Centre you will be asked over 2 days to take part in a number of exercises. You must above all be yourself, know your own strengths and market them. At each stage try your best to prove that you have the skills they are looking for. If one exercise goes badly for you don't worry - try to do better at the next one. You will be able to cope. They are each seeking specific skills while at the same time gathering evidence about you and your ability to demonstrate that you possess the skills they require.


Logic/communication game

You will be asked to solve a problem in a group using communication skills but also logical thought processes. How you solve the problem is as important as solving it.

Key skills - team work, communication skills, problem solving.

Communication Exercise

You will be given a problem and asked to come to a decision as a group how to solve the problem e.g. lifting a ship from sea bed to land level. Relating to others in the group will be observed see Gateway booklet Applications and Interviews for information on positive behavioural traits which you should try to adopt.

Key skills - interpersonal communication skills.

Participation in and contribution to discussion are vital.

Psychometric Tests

The term psychometric covers all aptitude tests from ability tests to personality inventories. Ability tests test your innate ability in key areas; The three most common tests are verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning and logical reasoning. Practice tests ae available in the Careers Office. Personality inventories are not tests they consist of a series of questions about you and your personality. There are no right/wrong answers so just relax and answer the questions honestly.


See hand out Making Effective Presentations.

In Tray Exercise

Pretend you are a manager - you go into work and 20 messages are on your desk - prioritise them into a list 1-20 with most urgent No 1.

Key Skills: Your ability to quickly assimilate problems and come up with reasons in relation to level of importance.

Personal Interview

Will focus on you, your course, why you did it. Think about yourself, your achievements, reflect on what you have done, what use have you made of opportunities as they were presented to you? Strengths and weaknesses.

Technical Interview

Knowledge based - how your course relates to the job to which you have applied. What benefit will you be to the company? What can you offer the company?

All of the stages are important. All they are seeking is evidence of qualities needed for the job. Don't worry about the exercises what is important is that you play a part in all of them. They will look for:

  • Participation and contribution
  • Analysis, presentation of a reasoned argument
  • Communication (effective use of language, confident tone, good non-verbal skills)
  • Listening abilities
  • Negotiation and co-operation

If brought over the night before and invited to dinner - be sociable but remember you are still being assessed. Ask intelligent well founded questions. Team work is a vital skill - show you can get on with others. If you drink alcohol then take a drink but do not over indulge - be careful that any attempts at humour could not be regarded as sexist/racist etc.


  • You are not competing against the other people in your group.
  • Assessment Centres are a fairer means of selection than the traditional interview.
  • Be natural and present the best image of yourself as you can.
  • Get involved - remember it is the quality of your contributions that's important in the group exercise not the quantity.
  • Assessment Centres are a good experience and should be fun so enjoy it.