Assessment Centres

What is an Assessment Centre?

An assessment centre is often the final stage of the recruitment process. It is an opportunity for you to find out more about the company and role, and for the company to 'assess' you and decide if you would be a good fit for them.

It is called a 'centre' because it can last from half a day up to two days (on exception, sometimes more). During this time you will typically be asked to take part in a number of different activities and tests designed to assess your skills and potential suitability for a role. Don't worry, you won't be the only one there. Assessment centres typically are groups of 5-20 students in attendance. They won't all be from The University of Manchester, although you may bump into someone you know!

You won't necessarily, all be applying for the same role. The method of assessment is often quite generic for each company, with elements of the day more tailored to the specific role you have applied for, such as meeting the manager of that department or meeting recent graduates who recently joined the company.

Although it may feel like it, this is not a competitive scenario. The company will be expecting to see a positive approach to working in teams, listening to each other and communicating together. You may feel it is competitive as there are often less jobs available than there are people at the assessment centre, but don't let that put you off. You have already excelled and come really far to get to the assessment centre, so continue with a positive and motivated approach.

Virtual assessment centres are in essence pretty similar, but there are some tips to remember for dealing with situations and scenarios online.

Become assessment centre confident with our learning and support Pathways

Learn at your own speed, whenever and wherever you want. Complete short online modules including a mix of activities to help you gain confidence and build your skills.

Typical things you may do on the day?


Keep in mind the skills the employer wants, think back to your first interview. Were there questions that you answered that you were not satisfied with your answers?

Group Tasks

This will no doubt be a key feature in your assessment centre. You will be provided with a task and time set to complete. This is normally the most information you receive. The rest is for you and your team members to figure out and complete the task.

Common mistakes are not observing the time given, thus running out of time; speaking over one another so nothing gets resolved; everyone writing everything down and wasting time (always have one person scribe!)

There may be a strong leader in the team-that may be you! Having strong leadership skills is great, but be mindful how you put that in practice. Make sure everyone is heard, each point is considered and everyone is addressed on the points/ideas they come up with.

If you haven't already, make sure you all introduce yourselves before you start the task discussion. Finding out what other people study, may prove beneficial depending on the task in hand. It is a lot harder to work in a team when you don't know who you are working with.

Examples of discussion topics: a work scenario related to the job area you are applying for, an issue in the news lately, a task related to a case study you have been asked to read.

Remember- The selectors are likely to put considerable weight on your ability to get on with others. Think of the group as a team engaged with the same task rather than in competition with you. The way you contribute is as important as what you contribute.

Case Study/Written task

A case study usually involves you going through a business scenario. You are sometimes asked to research and report back in written format, or research and present your findings/proposal/solutions.

The interviewer is looking at how you analyse information, conclude, and recommend actions.

In-tray/E-tray exercises

These types of exercises enable employers to test a wide range of your skills and aptitudes in situations that closely resemble those in the workplace. They are very good at seeing how you will cope with the real-world stresses of diary management and prioritisation.


Presenting as part of an assessment centre may be done in a few ways. You may have been asked in advance of arriving at the assessment centre to have a presentation prepared, or you may be asked to come up with one in a limited time during the assessment day.

Presentations can be of various topics and it is down to the individual company to decide. They may ask you to:

  • Present about yourself, why you would be a good fit - demonstrating your experiences and skills
  • Present on something that means a lot to you, completing your Duke of Edinburgh Award, competing in Model United Nations
  • Demonstrate how you dealt with a crisis
  • Talk about achieving something outstanding during your time at university
  • The other option is a more technical or business based presentation on a theme they have given you relating to their company or current affairs

You are always told to be prepared when arriving at an assessment centre, but if you don't know the topic, don't worry!

Social Events

You are likely to meet senior staff, graduate trainees, and other candidates at informal events such as coffee breaks and dinners. Generally you are not being formally assessed, but you are being observed. Assessors will sometimes ask for the opinion of other staff who you have met on these occasions. These times are a good opportunity to learn about the company culture and the experiences of other staff who may be your future colleagues.

What should I wear?

Dress as if you were attending an interview (smart, business dress), unless you have been told otherwise. If you have an overnight stay, remember a change of clothes.

Spaces and backgrounds for video interviews and assessment centres

Most students attend online interviews from their bedroom. If you cannot use your room for any reason there is a room in the Library which can be booked for online interviews and assessment centres. Students can also ask in their School if a room is available there to book.

Employers will understand if you attend your online interview in your bedroom. University branded Zoom backgrounds are available to download if you want to hide your location.