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By: Ed Mellett, Guest Blogger

Assessment days are common in the graduate recruitment process and they are used by employers as a way to select the strongest candidate for their company. The day will usually consist of multiple exercises, tests, interviews and activities that will be an opportunity for employers to assess your suitability and it will be a chance for you to really demonstrate your strongest skills and competencies.


The format of the assessment day will vary depending on the employer and the opportunity that you have applied for. Many employers devise tailored assessment days to assess a specific set of skills that are relevant to their organization, but they frequently include activities and tests which are similar. During an assessment day you will typically encounter:


Introduction – The day usually begins with an introductory session from someone at the company. This will take the form of a presentation or talk about the business, its goals and vision. Listen carefully to this talk because you might pick up some useful information that you can use later in the day such as during a presentation or through an interview question. It will also give you the opportunity to learn about the company in an informal way.


Icebreaker – The introduction is usually followed with some sort of icebreaker exercise where you can introduce yourself and helps to ease your nerves for the day ahead.


Aptitude or Psychometric test – Candidates may be asked to sit one or more of these tests during the course of the day. Sometimes you may have already completed the test, but employers may ask you to re-take the test for a second time to confirm your results. An aptitude test is a way for employers to assess a particular competency or skill and they require preparation, practice and research to maximize your chances of success. A guide to psychometric tests can be found here.


Group Activities – These can take  many forms from discussing a case study which reflects a common situation that the business would deal with or relate to a key project that you would be involved in. Sometimes the activity could be something such as a problem and you will have to work with your fellow group members to devise a viable solution.


Presentation – This can be either individually or as part of a group. Some employers will set a presentation topic before the assessment day and you will need to prepare a suitable presentation and accompanying slides to bring with you. Other companies will base the presentation on a case study activity that you have completed earlier in the day and you will be given a topic and a period of typically half an hour to prepare your presentation.


Interview – Depending on the employer you may have one or several interviews which could be either a panel interview or one to one. Your interviewers may be senior employees from the company or representatives from the HR department. It is so important that you do your research for the interview before the assessment day to make sure that you are familiar with the types of questions asked by the employer and whether for example the interview will follow a specific style such as competency based questioning.


Social Breaks – Even during social breaks on your assessment day be aware that the way you communicate will be evaluated although not formally. Take the opportunity to demonstrate your skills and network with fellow candidates.


How to succeed at an assessment day


Through the various activities, tests and interviewers, the recruitment team will be able to build an overall picture of your skills, abilities and personality which will be used to assess whether you are suitable for the company and the opportunity. The majority of businesses will assess you against a specific set of values and competencies, so it is crucial that you find out what these are. Many candidates think that the assessment day is a daunting prospect but if you prepare sufficiently and understand what is expected of you, there is no reason why you can’t excel in every area.


#1 Remember You are Always Being Assessed


From the moment you arrive to the second you leave you are under assessment. Even during informal sessions or breaks be mindful of what you say because a throwaway comment or something inappropriate could cost you a job offer. Remain professional throughout the day.


#2 Actively Participate

Even though an assessment day may seem like a scary prospect, it is important that you participate as fully as possible. Sometimes it can be so easy to fall into the background and let others take the lead but try to avoid this as much as possible. When the opportunity presents itself make suggestions, be creative with your ideas and make sure that when asked you have lots of good questions, particularly during the interview. You want to convey that you are an interesting, interested, enthusiastic and intelligent professional who they need to hire.


#3 Prepare for Psychometric Tests


Part of your assessment day will involve a test of some description whether this is an aptitude or psychometric test. Approach these before the day as you would an exam. You must be willing to put in the effort if you are to succeed during the assessment day. Nothing will prepare you better than lots of practice and preparation.


#4 Understand the company

Although it may sound obvious, find out what drives a business, what their values are, their history and plans for future growth. If you can find it a company’s annual report is a goldmine of information. As well as understanding the company in detail, learn the job description and research what skills the company values the most.


#5 Be Confident

Demonstrate to the recruiters that you are confident and can conduct yourself with poise and professionalism. During activities, be proactive and ask insightful, relevant questions. Maintain good eye contact and smile. You want to create an impression of a pleasant, approachable and intelligent candidate who would excel if you were appointed.


Assessment days are demanding, and they require confidence and calmness. The more you practice for each element of the assessment day, the greater your chances of success.


This blog is courtesy of our Guest Blogger, Ed Mellett:

Ed Mellett is an entrepreneur, careers professional and founder of He is known for co-founding and launching the leading student and graduate careers website Now in its 11th year, wikijob attracts over 400,000 unique users per month and is a must-visit resource for students considering their careers post-university. In 2011 he founded, a wiki resource and global community for festival fanatics. Ed’s other interests include AI, neuroscience and psychology.

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