Working at a graduate assessment centre

How to be your best self at graduate assessment centres

The assessment centre may seem artificial, but you should be able to show what you'd really be like if you got a place on the graduate scheme.

Here are our top tips on how to behave at assessment centres for graduate jobs:

1. Be professional

Arrive on time and look the part. Be friendly but polite. The assessment centre is partly a social exercise, so do chat with the other candidates at coffee breaks and over lunch. Be prepared to initiate conversations. It's fine to make small talk with assessors, but don't be overfamiliar.

2. Get stuck in

Don't stand back and don't turn your nose up. Be enthusiastic and make an effort, whatever the task. Group exercises are designed to see how well you work with others, so make sure you take part. Concentrating on the task in hand will help you to forget your nerves.  

3. Don't lose concentration

It's going to be a long and tiring day, so try to make sure you have a good night's sleep beforehand as you'll need to stay alert and engaged. Even if you are assured that the informal food and drinks do not play any part in the selection process, you should be careful not to drink too much. It's safe to assume that if you let your hair down too far, then someone will notice. Don't let the nervousness that you will probably feel translate itself into inappropriate behaviour.

4. Don't act a part

Be yourself, but be the most positive version of yourself. Try to relax and behave naturally. You might even find it's possible to enjoy yourself, despite the inevitable nerves, and a smile is more likely to make a good impression than a mask of fear.

It will help to be aware of how you normally behave in groups. If you tend not to speak up, make sure that you articulate your thoughts. If you know you can sometimes be overbearing, let others have their say too and be careful not to interrupt.

Don't over-compensate for your nerves by behaving aggressively. It's quite easy, having studied an organisation's selection criteria, to convince yourself that you need to come across much more assertively than normal, but while it's important to contribute, you don't want to come across as domineering.

It may help to remember that you are not in direct competition with the other graduates at the assessment centre; one or all of you may be selected. You are being assessed against the employers' criteria, not against each other, and it's important for you to show how well you can work in a team.