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Assessment centres: putting your graduate marketing skills to the test

From being a motivated team worker to presenting yourself or an idea to a target group, assessment centres are your chance to show graduate recruiters you can operate in a marketing environment.

Employers want to know who you are and what you can do in a given situation.

Recruiters in the marketing industry often use assessment centres to test a candidate’s suitability for their organisation and the position itself. The selection event (typically lasting one or two days) is considered to be a fairer and more effective selection process compared with the standard job interview, which can be very subjective. You will undertake a series of exercises and tests alongside a group of other candidates, giving you the opportunity to demonstrate a range of skills, not just your effectiveness at being interviewed.

What marketing employers are looking for

We spoke to senior lecturer, author and occupational psychologist, Bob Stead, from the University of Hertfordshire Business School, and this is what he said: ‘The old ways (CV, followed by interview, followed by job) are the equivalent to sticking a pin in a phone book, ringing the number and saying “do you want a job?”,’ Bob argues. ‘They were very subjective – you can effectively fail within minutes because they don’t like the colour of your nail varnish – but new assessment methods move towards an objective mode of selection.’

‘To pass assessments you need to be aware, flexible and reactive – and not, as might happen in an interview, attempt to force your personality on the situation and hope for the best,’ he says. Turning up with an open mind and a can-do attitude is important but standard preparation also applies.

It’s not a competition!

Even though it might seem like survival of the fittest, this is not the case. In a group of eight people for example, it’s possible that all of you might get a job offer or you may all be rejected. You are assessed against the organisation’s criteria not against the other candidates. You may need to suppress your self-marketing instincts for the duration. Ultra-competitive behaviour could easily come across as arrogance.

Interviews alone are not entirely fair: they benefit the self-confident and articulate. Assessment centres are, however, because they give you the opportunity to shine in a variety of settings, so are much more accurate way to choose between individuals. The advantage is that if you do not perform well on one of the exercises, you can compensate for it in another.

Your careers service can help

Careers services vary as to the level of help available, but most will run practice sessions for assessment centres. At the very least, there’ll be practice psychometric tests, either DIY versions or proper, simulated tests, run by trained staff. There may even be sessions preparing you for other types of assessment centre activities, like group exercises.


It is possible that, as part of an assessment for a marketing role with a major fast-moving consumer goods retailer or other large employer, you will be asked to undertake some form of psychometric testing. This could happen pre-interview, or even as part of an assessment day. If you need help, why not check out some of these practice tests online?