A quick guide to assessment centres

thumb_up_thumb_down_190Well Christmas is nearly here and with it the chance to relax and switch off…unless you’re waiting to hear the outcome of applications and first round interviews, in which case the ‘time off’ may be better spent preparing for the next round of the selection process: the assessment centre. There’s plenty of useful online info to demystify the process and help you prepare for assessment centres, but what about hearing from someone who’s been through one? And come out the other side – with an offer. Over to Jim Zhang, 3rd year MORSE student and careers rep for the Statistics dept…

I completed an assessment centre for a summer internship at an Investment Bank and received an offer. This was my experience, but as ever it’s probably worth adding a ‘health warning’. This advice worked for me, but read it at your own discretion.

The day was broken down into four main parts:

  1. Company presentation
  2. Trading/Investment Game
  3. Lunch
  4. Interviews with relevant employers

You have to hit the minimum ‘standards’ in each section. This is vital; employers are looking for well rounded individuals. You have the chance to secure the job; do not think of the day as a competition to beat other candidates.

Company presentation

If a company gives a presentation, make sure you pay attention! This is a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the company so that you have more ammunition to express why you want to work for them. If you don’t have the best memory and that means taking notes, then do it. In the interviews later on in the day, I was asked what I remembered from the company and to describe the particular culture of the company. This day is learning experience so stay sharp. If you have equipped yourself with the right attitude, this section should be interesting!

Group exercises

Group exercises are a bit hit and miss for recruiters, some love them some hate them as candidates can be ‘fake’. Nevertheless, if you find yourself in one then the key thing here is to maintain a cooperative attitude. This means you should NOT at any circumstance be aggressive or attack anyone else’s opinions. Subtlety and professionalism is key here. Also, always be on the lookout to take the initiative when it comes to organising the group. Leaders stand out. Winning is not everything when it comes to group exercises, involvement is crucial.


Lunch is no time for rest. Try and engage with other students. You could be working with these guys in the summer/graduate programme so start building relationships! Sometimes, such as in my case, there may be employers around to chat to during lunch. Take this chance to learn more about the company and connect with them.


Interview advice is standard. Assessment centre interviews are often much more technical, but this again is just the minimum requirement. The technical aspects should not be the hurdle which you fall at. If HR has done their job right, everyone at the assessment centre should be technically aware and able to work in a team etc. What is most important is building a connection with your interviewers and showing that you are able to learn and work with them. This is what separates who gets offers and those who don’t.

I would say good luck but I don’t think luck is the most relevant factor; the offer is there for the taking if you are prepared!

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