Top 10 tips: learn the skills to succeed at graduate assessment days

What many candidates often miss is that it’s a two-way process. It’s for you to find out and get a feel about the employer and their fit in your career path, as much as it is for the employer to get a feel about you. It’s also not a competition. It’s not like Sir Alan Sugar’s The Apprentice. Believe me, as an employer, if we could, we’d employ every single candidate attending an assessment day.

So, to try to give you the benefit of my experience in helping to run many of these at QA Consulting, here’s our top 10 tips to succeed at a graduate assessment day.

1. Be on time

First impressions are important – you don’t want to be remembered as the person who was late! Plan your journey in advance and aim to be there 30 minutes before the day starts.

2. Be yourself

Assessors want to find out what you would really be like if you got a place on the programme. Relax and be yourself, but remember to remain professional.

3. Look the part

Even if there isn’t a stipulated dress code, you are far more likely to impress if you are dressed smartly – it shows you are taking it seriously.

4. Research the company

As well as remembering all of the important information on your own CV, try to remember at least five key facts about the company that you are applying to. This demonstrates that you have done your research and it will impress the assessors. Visit their website. Look them up on social media. Visit GlassDoor or TheJobCrowd.

5. Prepare for aptitude tests

Many assessment days include an aptitude test. In my experience, people who score low on the aptitude test generally don’t perform as well in the other assessments. Prepare yourself by taking example tests online from third-party websites. 

6. Understand the role

Think about the role that you have applied for. What types of skills and attributes are required to do the job? Look online at job descriptions for similar positions – see what skills are being asked for. 

7. Don’t panic

Try not to let the nerves get to you. Take a glass of water into the interview with you to stop you from fidgeting. If you are required to do a presentation, make sure you know the content and practice what you're going to say. 

8. Contribute

Ensure that you contribute to group exercises and communicate well. You will be observed throughout the process. Think of some questions to ask the assessors in advance. This is as big a deal for you as it is for the assessors, so make sure by the end of the day you have all the information you need to make an informed decision on whether the role is right for you. 

9. It’s not a competition

It’s likely there will be a number of roles available, so whoever demonstrates the right skills and attitude will be offered a place, not just the one best candidate. Assessors will look at how well you work as a team, as well as assessing you individually. 

10. Finally, try to enjoy it!

It will probably be challenging, but also fun. Remember, the more you put into it, the more you will get out. It’s a real learning experience. You may find that you keep in touch with other candidates from the assessment day that could form part of your ongoing network of contacts. You may even end up working together. Look at the day as a great opportunity for you to gain experience and new contacts.

To finish on a general life lesson

It sounds obvious, but make sure you show enthusiasm for the role and the career you have chosen. Just because you’ve applied and made it to the assessment centre, it doesn’t mean that assessors can read your mind and know how much you want the role. Be keen, be passionate and have a real interest in your chosen role.

So enjoy. Relax. Even do some yoga.  If you perform as well as we know you can do you’ll walk away from the day, having enjoyed it, met new friends, a new business you’ll love to work for (as they would love you to work for them), and hopefully that special feeling when you start a new, exciting career!

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