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Interviews and Assessment Centres

Interview Guidance

Interviews can take many different forms including traditional interview formats and assessment centres. For more information about interviews please read our How to Succeed at Interviews guidance and watch our You Tube video.

Don’t forget you can get individual interview support tailored to your job interview by booking a careers appointment, call 0151 291 3427 or alternatively look at our Getting Advice and Information page. 




What are Assessment Centres?

Research has shown that putting candidates through assessment centres can dramatically increase a company's likelihood of recruiting the best candidates for the role, and larger recruiters do tend to favour using assessment centres at some stage during the application process.

If you are invited to an assessment centre, you will attend along with a small group of other candidates. The thought of being put through your paces alongside other candidates at an assessment centre can sound daunting, but it can be much more manageable (and much less stressful) if it's broken down into smaller parts.

The Main Components of an Assessment Centre

Candidates are assessed against a list of competencies: skills, knowledge and attitudes. The competencies sought will depend on the job role and the company, but will often include leadership qualities, teamwork skills, communication skills and attention to detail. You may be asked to take part in any combination (but not necessarily all) of the following -

Company Presentation - Only ask a question afterwards if you are certain that what you're asking about wasn't covered!

A One To One, or Panel Based, Interview - This might be your first interview, or a follow-up interview.

Group Tasks, Discussions & Scenarios - Usually these tasks test your ability to work in a group, your problem solving skills and your ability to complete a task on time. You may be given a specific problem to solve, a debate topic or ethical dilemma. Remember that the assessors will be looking for people who listen and promote other people's ideas, as well as people who have their own ideas.

Individual Exercises - Individual exercises often take the form of role-plays, where you may be asked to negotiate, deal with a difficult customer or sell a product. You may also be asked to complete a task, testing your technical competencies, such as an in-tray exercise or spread sheet task.

Written Exercises - You might be asked to write about why you want to work for the company, why you're a good candidate or discuss a more general topic.

Individual Or Group Presentations - You may be asked to prepare a presentation in advance, or you may be asked to prepare a presentation in a short time frame during the assessment day. If you are given free rein to choose your topic, choose something that isn't too complex and make sure it is something you genuinely have enthusiasm for!

Psychometric Testing - Psychometric tests cover three main areas - ability, aptitude and personality.

Ability tests have correct and incorrect answers and examine your verbal reasoning, logical and analytical ability and your IQ.

Aptitude tests have correct and incorrect answers and examine how well a candidate is likely to perform in a specific role.

Personality tests work out your behaviour and temperament and may also test your values. There are no right or wrong answers in this type of test and companies tend to use them to build teams with a broad range of skills and interests.


If you are not automatically told about the format of the assessment centre, it is always worth contacting the company in advance to ask them more about the structure of the day. They may not want to give out full details beforehand, but asking will show initiative.

Research the company as fully as possible - find out about the company's products, services, ownership, competitors and reputation. If you know anyone with a contact at the company (or one of their competitors) then try to talk to them before your assessment centre.

Practice your presentation skills and familiarise yourself with any equipment and software that you may be expected to use. Pay particular attention to any skills you have mentioned in your application forms or CV.

It's a good idea to practice psychometric tests - believe it or not, it is possible to improve your performance. You can come along to one of our workshops on Psychometric Test or you could practice some online. Some companies may also give you examples from previous recruitment cycles.

Try to get a good night's sleep!

On the Day of the Assessment Centre

Don't worry too much if one part of the day goes badly - there are plenty of other opportunities for you to make up for it and shine!

It's important that you act as naturally as possible and be yourself during the day. Research shows that assessment centres are designed to match the right person with the right role and, if you aren't offered the position, it's probably not the right job (or company) for you.

Be constantly alert during the day. You will be observed at all times during the day, even in more informal situations such as breaks and lunch.