Assessment Centres are a staple of most graduate recruitment processes and it is no different in a digital era. You may be familiar with the concept of an in-person assessment centre, an opportunity for you to go to a company's offices and be tested over a range of skills and competencies, and a virtual assessment centre is similar, you're just remote! Here you're likely to be assessed via a series of video interviews/presentations, as well as have the opportunity to talk to a number of employees at the company you're interviewing for. You'll still have the opportunity to find out more about the company, as well as demonstrate your skills and abilities for the role.
As part of you digital assessment centres you can expect to be faced with interviews, online tests, a presentation and an opportunity to meet some of the team.
They may give you an insight into the office culture, the type of work you’ll be doing, or testing you for core skills that you need to fit in with their brand. How will you know what to expect? Often you’ll be sent information ahead of the day outlining what exercises will be involved. If not, there is no harm in asking the recruitment team for some more information.
Below are three typical ‘exercises’ you could expect on the day. Remember, you deserve to have got this far – and as long as you have done the right preparation – you have just as much chance of succeeding as anyone else!
As much assessment centres are for employers to get an understand of who you are, it is crucial you get an insight into the company to make sure they are also right for you. For this reason, it's likely you will be given a presentation by former graduates or by employees who already work there and have the opportunity for a Q&A session. Prepare some great questions for the employees about life working at the firm to show you have done your research and that you are really passionate about working there.
Digital assessment centres will inevitably contain an interview but it is important that you prepare for both biographical and technical ones. Biographical – just in case you’re not sure – will be about you, your experiences, strengths, weaknesses.
Technical interviews, on the other hand, tend to feature question that are specific to the role you have applied for. These are more commonly used for graduate jobs that are technical or specialist (e.g. engineering).
You could be shown a diagram to complete, or a line of code to fix. It could be something to do with your coursework. They can be used by companies that require graduates with analytical mind-sets. For example, Investment Banks will often use these to test how numerate a candidate is or to test how logically they think.
You could be asked a brain teaser – e.g. how many people go in and out of Heathrow every day? – or a tricky arithmetic question – e.g. what’s the square root of 200?
It is important to tackle these interviews much as you would as if you were having them in person. It is key that you are dressed appropriately and have considered the background behind you - make sure everything is clear and professional. Remember to be fully prepared for any questions they may ask and if it is helpful for you, have key points you'd like to mention written on the wall in-front of you.
It is likely you will be asked to do a test at your Assessment Centre. There are a huge variety and you may be asked to do more than one. Depending on how you do on one, you may then be asked to do another.
Here are the most likely ones you should prepare for...
1. In-tray Exercises
An in-tray exercise typically takes the form of a business simulation where you are given a task (normally typical to the role you are applying for) where you are asked to pretend to be a member of staff and tackle accordingly. These can be paper-based or electronic. A typical example is being presented with a busy inbox and you are asked to prioritise tasks. Key things to bear in mind:
- There will likely be a lot of information to read so make sure you use your time wisely.
- You will have a time limit to keep a close eye on the time. Sometimes you won’t have enough time to complete everything so don’t panic. Just ensure you prioritise and justify why you didn’t get everything done.
- Beware of curve balls – often things will be added in half way through and you’ll have to show how you deal with it.
- You may have to write emails / letters to demonstrate your writing ability.
- There may be a de-brief afterwards where an assessor asks you questions about your work / decisions so make sure you think logically as you are going through.
There are many different types of psychometric tests and it would be very hard to prepare for them all. Find out what you will be facing so that you can prepare accordingly. See our top tips for handling psychometric tests here.
Ability tests vary as they will be tailored to suit the role you are applying for. They may check things like your understanding of the basic principles of the technical side of the role, your writing ability, or your basic arithmetic.
4. Case Studies
Case studies are becoming more and more common – they test how candidates deal with large volumes of information to come to logical business conclusions. These can be individual or in groups. Read our top tips on case study interviews here.
Presentations are used to assess your communication skills and how you work with / analyse information. Again, they vary depending on what job you’ve applied for. You might be sent information ahead of the day to prepare your presentation.
If this is the case, make sure you read the instructions very carefully so that you follow the presentation guidelines.