Assessment Centres: who, what, when, where + why
  • Posted on: 14/08/2018
  • Category: Hints + Tips

Assessment Centres: who, what, when, where + why

We grabbed some time with Star Account Delivery Manager, Dan Everitt, to talk assessment centres, and just what it is that makes them so valuable for both candidates and clients.

So, Dan, what’s the purpose of an assessment centre?

Assessment Centres give candidates the chance to shine and demonstrate their suitability for the role they’re being considered for. It’ll usually follow on from a first-stage interview and will include a number of applicants (typically two to four), being considered for one position. A well-designed assessment centre will assess performance against a pre-set of broad selection methods, and also helps to predict future job performance.

Assessments are designed to show assessors that candidates possess the personal and technical skills for a specific vacancy, and that they’ll fit into the overriding culture of the organisation. The specific exercises are used to obtain information about qualities, which the more traditional methods don’t so readily elicit.

Exercises are carried out in the presence of trained assessors, who through a continuing exchange of views, are able to build up a picture of each candidate’s social and intellectual skills, relevant to the vacancy they’re being considered for. The assessment process also gives the candidate a strong insight into the organisation and role as the exercises focus on the position itself. All candidates conduct the same exercises and process, which ensures consistency and fairness.

What sort of exercises will a typical assessment centre involve?

In the sectors we recruit for, it’s typical that there will be a presentation, role play and a CBI (Competency-Based Interview). Group exercises sometimes also feature. The presentation could either be prepared in advance or prepared on the day at the assessment itself and will usually be in the form of a business plan. For example, ‘my plan for the first 6 months in the role’.

The role play will usually be a scenario to assess how the candidates interact with a customer and based on information and data provided. The CBI will usually be a second-stage interview following on from the first interview, which took place prior to the assessment.

When it comes to the Group Exercises, here the candidates being assessed will debate a topic and the assessors will be looking for how the candidates interact together and manage to convince others in a group setting. Numerical and verbal reasoning tests are sometimes used, especially for a role where numerical skills are required.

It sounds like an incredibly detailed process. Who runs, facilitates and manages assessment centres?

Star’s business covers both Outsourcing (Contract), recruitment and Resourcing (Permanent), recruitment. Generally speaking on the Outsourcing side, Star will run this and use set materials and tasks pre-agreed with the client. These assessments will be run by one of the management team such as myself, or the Project Manager dedicated to that client. On the Resourcing side, the client will generally run the process themselves and will be led by the hiring manager, members of the HR department and senior members of organisations such as a National Sales Manager, or a member of the Marketing team.

There must be a lot of people attending these sessions at a time. How do you ensure that they run smoothly?

Yes, exactly. Numerous candidates will be assessed at the same centre so it’s imperative that timings are really tight. If any of the sessions start late it always has a knock-on effect and the rest of the day’s timings suffer. It’s important all the assessors know their roles, exactly what each exercise involves and what criteria is being measured. Well organised assessment packs, with the correct materials including candidate briefs and scoresheets, need to be ready in advance.

General tips for candidates attending assessment centres:

• Be punctual and always wear smart business dress

• Ensure you’re familiar with exactly what the assessment will involve in advance and practice the relevant areas as much as possible, for example presentations skills and competency-based interviewing

• For the interview part, ensure that you do more research into the organisation and be prepared to discuss different examples of success. You can’t rely on demonstrating the same things that got you through a first interview prior to the assessment

• Always be positive and enthusiastic throughout the whole process

• Nerves can be a factor, so try to control these and use them to help you think on your feet and be alert, rather than take over

• Remember the assessment is a series of exercises scored separately, if one part doesn’t go well, you can still perform well overall

Great tips! Do you find that there’s much variation between what different clients look for?

This really does depend on the type of role, and within the sectors we recruit for there’s a wide range. Generally speaking, clients are looking for candidates that are well prepared, make an impact, and demonstrate enthusiasm for the specific role and the opportunity to work for the company. Also, they need to instil confidence that if successful they’ll both do well in the role and be an asset to the organisation.

Before we wrap things up, what’s your favourite part of the process personally?

For me, it’s really satisfying when a candidate really excels, and all the assessors are in no doubt that they’re the right individual for the role. It’s also great to see our candidates represent Star so well.

A recent example that comes to mind was for a client who were open to both experienced Medical Sales Professionals and driven graduates looking to break into the industry. Despite being up against two experienced candidates, a graduate performed exceptionally well, had done a massive amount of research and was the clear top performer on the assessment centre. This candidate has now been in the role for nine months and is one of the team’s top performers.

See impact right from the start with Star.

If you’re on the hunt for a new role, or just curious what’s out there, email your CV to, or call 0161 914 7660 for roles in the north, or 01225 336 335 for roles in the south or contract opportunities, and speak to a member of our dedicated team.