How to make it through the assessment centre

Assessment centre: applicants put to the test

Popular with companies, feared by applicants: the assessment centre. If you get invited to the showdown of staff selection, you should be well prepared. Because there are numerous traps to trip you up in the self-presentations, group discussions and in-tray exercises.

Virtually or face to face: types of assessment centre

All assessment centres have one goal: to find the ideal new employee. The following types exist:

  • Online assessment centre: Large companies are especially fond of this type. As an addition to their you have to pass their knowledge and personality tests.
  • Individual assessment centre: Are usually used to select managers.
  • Group assessment centre: The classic type. This form of candidate selection takes one to three days.

Shine in the assessment centre thanks to thorough preparation

Assessment centres mean pure stress to many applicants. Anyone who tends to sweat in stressful situations should pack a second shirt. But with the right preparation, everything is possible. Speaking of shirts: the same dress code as in the interview applies to the assessment centre.

In the assessment centre, you are permanently being monitored by what are known as 'assessors'. Depending on the number of participants, there will be three to five of these observers there – and they will assess your professional competencies, your motivation and your personality. Even if assessors are supposedly objective: being likeable plays an important role in the assessment centre. Be authentic – no one can play a role believably while permanently being watched.

A lone fighter or team player: assessment centre exercises

In the assessment centre, exercises usually await you in which you must convince the assessors that you’re a team player or present yourself. Depending on how long you have to spend there, you'll go through three to eight tests.

Individual tasks: The self-presentation is a popular assessment centre exercise. In around 15 minutes, you have to hold a ten-minute presentation about yourself and your professional background. Use it to highlight your own strengths, such as stress-resistance and assertiveness.

Tip: Prepare your self-presentation at home in advance. Ace it with eloquence, competence and wit. If you seem likeable, you’ll make it into the next round.

Group tasks: Follower or initiator? You’ll have to complete exercises in the assessment centre that answer precisely this question. Often you have to solve a problem typical to the sector in a group. Be careful: analyse first, then provide and assert your arguments.

Tip: Pay attention to your body language and try to solve the problem together. This also includes being able to give and take constructive criticism. Your soft skills such as communication and capacity for teamwork are being checked closely by the assessors.

Traditionally a tough one: the in-tray exercise

The in-tray exercise in the assessment centre tests your resistance to stress, your analytic thinking and your ability to make well-thought through decisions under time pressure. In the in-tray exercise, you have to look at a large number of documents in a small amount of time (the symbolic in-tray), solve the problems described in them and coordinate appointments that sometimes happen at the same time. On top of this, there's a constantly ringing telephone and private problems – completing the stress-resistance test.

Tip: Get an overview first and keep your cool. Make it clear which tasks you will take on and which ones you can delegate to colleagues. There is hardly ever an ideal way. Prepare good arguments for your decisions.