Assessment Centres – How To Succeed

What are “Assessment Centres”?

Assessment Centres are becoming increasingly popular with employers and are considered by many to be the most reliable, objective and fair process of selecting suitable candidates. Traditionally, Assessment Centres have formed the second stage of the interview process, but employers are now often using them as a first interview, enabling them to create a shortlist of the most suitable applicants.

Assessment Centres generally consist of a series of individual and group exercises and tasks specifically designed to gauge your actual ability to perform a job – rather than simply relying on what you say your capabilities are. As a result, the employer can make an informed judgement on your future job performance based on the personal and technical skills that you have demonstrated.

The programme of events is often very intensive and may require an overnight stay with the other candidates, so it is essential to create a positive impression for the duration of the programme. Although certain stages may appear to be informal, you are more than likely to be monitored throughout. The programme may include a social or informal gathering with other candidates, selectors, senior managers and employer representatives who have recently graduated from the Assessment Centre themselves. This is an invaluable opportunity for you to find out more about the company from people at different levels within the organisation. The potential employer may well be assessing your ability to entertain future clients so your behaviour should be impeccable.

Group Activities

A number of the activities undertaken at an Assessment Centre will involve working in groups enabling the employer to assess your teamwork skills, your ability to listen to others and the way you react if your opinion is challenged. Group activities can include discussions (where you are assigned a particular subject and asked to form a conclusion as a group), and role play exercises involving each member of the group taking on a particular role and participating in discussions and negotiations to demonstrate their interaction and communication skills. Additionally, business scenarios can be simulated whereby the group has to perform certain tasks or challenges that may well arise in a normal business environment.

One of the keys to success in group activities is to remember that you will be competing against a set of pre-established standards, rather than against your fellow group members. Also, the employer may not necessarily be looking for someone who immediately takes the lead, but perhaps someone who integrates well with others, is willing to take on board the opinions of others and is capable of following instructions.


This is much more likely to be undertaken on an individual basis and involves dealing with a typical in-tray, consisting of various forms of correspondence and documentation. The task will be to ensure that appropriate action is taken to deal with each piece of information which can include drafting formal and informal written responses and preparing statistical reports. You may be assessed on how you prioritise the workload that you are faced with, how effectively you deal with each document, and how well you have read and understood the information. You may also be assessed on any notes you have made indicating further action that may be required, and on how much of the workload you are able to complete within the allowed timeframe.


The interviews that take place at Assessment Centres may differ from standard interviews in that they may be more in-depth and may also involve facing a panel of interviewers rather than just one interviewer. If this is the case, it is important to focus your attention on the specific interviewer posing the question while also ensuring that you include the other panel members in your glance to show that they too are included.

As in any interview situation, it is always beneficial to have done your homework on the company and be prepared to provide evidence of your skills and knowledge. Advice and tips on successful interview techniques can be found in Coping with Job Interviews, also compiled by The CV Centre®.


Sometimes, you may be required to prepare and deliver a short presentation, although you should be given prior warning of this to enable you to carry out any necessary research and to practice your presentation. Some key tips for the effective delivery of a presentation include: using notes but not working from a script; maintaining eye contact with your audience; using visual aids and handouts where appropriate, and ensuring that both the introduction and conclusion of your presentation are strong and effective. Further help on presentations can be found in Interviews – Presentations, also compiled by The CV Centre®.

Psychometric Tests

Psychometric tests are generally taken under exam conditions and are aimed at assessing your logical/analytical skills and your capacity for reasoning. Quite often, they will also be tailored towards the specific role for which you are applying so that the employer can get an idea of how you would perform in the role. It is essential to make sure you read and understand each question before attempting to answer it – don’t be tempted to rush and risk making careless mistakes.

Another commonly used psychometric test is a personality test where you may be assessed on how you respond to a given situation.


In general, you should do your best to relax and enjoy the Assessment Centre as much as you can, while remembering that you may be under observation at all times, even in seemingly informal situations. Try to be yourself at all times and show the employer that you have confidence in yourself and in your ability to perform the job for which you are applying.

Professional Interview Coaching

At The CV Centre®, day in day out, we successfully coach our clients to truly excel at interview.  This enables us to bring you the very best of what we have learnt – helping you to excel at interview yourself.

When it comes to interviews, people often think, “Well, I’ll just turn up and be myself.”  Which is fine, but it won’t get you the job!  You need to plan and prepare for an interview as you are still up against many other applicants and this is your key opportunity to make an impact. Your CV may get your foot in the door but you’re on your own in the interview – and sometimes the most able candidate on paper can really shoot themselves in the foot when they actually get to the interview.

On average, there’s likely to be at least 5 other candidates being interviewed for the same vacancy. So, everything else being equal, that gives you, at the most, a 20% chance of getting the job.  But there’s so much you can do to improve your odds of success.

Analyzing job adverts to ensure job hunting success

Responding to the right job adverts is crucial if you want to succeed at job hunting.

It’s always a waste of time to send out as many job applications as possible. You need to be more targeted in your approach and analyzing job adverts is a way of identifying the jobs that are really worth applying for.


Before you even start looking at job adverts as part of your job search, analyze your own experience, knowledge and skills. Ensure you tick the boxes in terms of what the employer is looking for. You should also aim to pick out keywords and phrases in job adverts and use them in your resume and cover letter.

Make a note of the skills they are asking for and the nature of the company. For example, a company may be described as ‘fast paced’, which means they need someone good at handling pressure and working to deadlines. Ultimately, you need to fit into the company and their values. Also, even if you only have 90% of the attributes they’re looking for, be clear on your potential and perhaps use experiences outside of work to demonstrate that you have everything they want.

Remember that it’s usually wise to apply for jobs that are the next level up in terms of seniority, unless you have a solid case to make about your ability to perform in a much more senior position.

You can use LinkedIn to obtain an insight into the skills and responsibilities of professionals who are doing the job you’re applying for. It may also be wise to speak to someone doing the job to gain a real insight that will place you ahead of your competition.

Following these tips and analyze job adverts, whilst comparing them against your abilities. It’s a sure-fire way to ensure you won’t be wasting anyone’s time by applying for the role.


Writing a high impact executive resume

To write a high impact executive resume, you must identify the key messages you wish to convey in advance and write your resume once your message in a clear and well-presented manner. Here’s how to write an impressive, high impact resume:

Use the right language
Try to convey leadership skills, behaviors, strategic thinking or other business skills when describing the achievements you have accrued throughout your career. Steer clear of examples of working under pressure or leading a team, which should be a given from someone of your caliber.

Use the right format
Use a clear, easy to read format and font. Remember that Arial and Times New Roman are favored. The most common file format is Microsoft Word.

Format is important
The best place for your personal information is the upper right hand corner. Use a personal email address rather than a work address too. Make the file name for your resume sensible too. Remember, at this stage, the smallest of details matter and help create a good impression.

Write a professional summary
Your professional summary will be noticed as it’s on the first half of the first page, so make sure it’s well written. Focus on your experience, knowledge and the skills you have acquired that set you apart from other executives.

Always put your experience in context too throughout your resume, explaining which skills and achievements apply to which job role. Focus on the past 3-5 years and use the second page to explain your experience and education in briefer detail. Ensure that you cover all of your education and work experience though, so there are no obvious gaps.

Be brief when describing education and training
Space on a resume is very valuable and is in short supply, so keep the details of your training and education brief. If you have attended a negotiation skills seminar, explain how you use negotiation in the workplace instead.

Alternatively, consider deploying the skills of executive resume writers. The Resume Center uses the services of professional resume writers, to give your resume the professional touch.


Avoiding cover letter mistakes

With a cover letter, you will undoubtedly want to stand out from the crowd and make your ‘sales pitch’ to a potential employer. A cover letter is an extremely important tool in the job searching process and if written and targeted correctly, it should achieve its objective of enticing the reader to look at your resume.

Make sure that your cover letter and resume is given serious attention. Here are the mistakes you will need to avoid to make sure your letter hits the mark:

Forgetting to check your letter before sending
In order to make the right impression, your letter should have no spelling or grammatical errors. A letter with errors is likely to be instantly disregarded.

Being unoriginal
Put a little of your personality into your cover letter and ensure it doesn’t sound like someone else’s words.

Addressing the letter incorrectly
Use your initiative to find out who it is you need to be addressing the letter to, including their name and job title. Doing so will portray the right professional touch.

Forgetting to research
It’s important to target your cover letter to the job in question and the company. Your cover letter should demonstrate some basic understanding of the company, what they do and the industry in general.

Lacking professionalism
Don’t always refer to ‘I’ and your own wants. What can you offer the company? Which objectives can you help them achieve? Keep the tone of your letter professional.

Making the letter too long
Your letter needs to be structured with short paragraphs and overall, should not be longer than one page. The letter should also be presented neatly and legibly on high quality white paper if printed.

Enclosing a photo
An employer will see what you look like at an interview, so a photo is not necessary at the initial stage. The exception is if you’re going for acting or modelling roles.

Not asking for an interview
Don’t forget to let the employer know that you want an interview and that you will be following up the cover letter with further communication.

How to make your resume stand out

If you’ve identified a job you want to go for and need to brush up on your resume, the most difficult aspect of this is making yourself relevant for the role to secure an interview.

To make your resume to stand out, these are the basics to cover:

Check for errors – Recruiters hate poor spelling and grammar! Use spell check and proof-read your resume each time you amend it. You could even ask a friend to check for you. Alternatively, use a resume writing company such as The Resume Center who work with professional resume writers.

Read the job description – Make sure you read a job description thoroughly and don’t just glance at it. You need to be confident that you can fulfil the requirements of the position to ensure success. Use your resume and cover letter to demonstrate that the perfect candidate for the position is you.

Tailor your resume – Ideally, you should have a different version of your resume and cover letter to match the multiple positions and industries you are targeting. If you research the company, industry and competitors, you can effectively target your cover letter and fully explain your suitability. The extra effort will be worth it.

Use specific keywords – Include the keywords in your resume that relate to the types of positions you’re looking for and use the correct industry terminology. Recruiters often use job sites and search for resumes that contain specific keywords.

Use examples – If you are selling a particular strength of yours, always back it up with an example. It’s easy to say you’re good at something but it won’t come across as sincere or valid if you don’t back your statements up with examples.

Great resume writing is a real skill that takes time and effort. So, whether you want to improve your own resume writing skills or if you want to leave it to the professional resume writers, ensure that you would be proud to present your resume to any prospective employer.