How to pass an Assessment Centre

Before being offered a contract the majority of projects require you to pass an assessment centre. Having a level 4 qualification will get you through the door, but this is another hoop that you will have to jump through before landing your desired role with the lucrative day rate. It will be extremely frustrating to have spent months studying to achieve a qualification then to miss out at the final hurdle and intakes can be very infrequent, so you might not get another chance for a while.

I have recently run a number of assessment centres and the candidates appear to be making very similar mistakes therefore I have compiled some useful tips to bear in mind before sitting your next assessment. Generally, the people marking your assessments want you to do well because they need to fill the vacancies as soon as possible and don’t want to have to run endless assessments, as they take up quite a lot of time.

Most assessment centres have a general financial knowledge section and a case study. You will need to pass both elements in order to be successful.

General Knowledge

What does the role involve – this may appear to be basic, however by being mindful of this it will focus you on what areas you need to be visiting when you prepare for your assessment. If you’re going for an investment review role, concentrate on this subject rather than looking at generic financial knowledge.

Refresh your knowledge – for most of us, we only tend to retain the details of the subject we are currently working on or studying for. If you are applying for an investment role, ensure that you refresh your knowledge on the general aspects of that e.g. types of investment, their advantages, disadvantages and tax treatment.

Read the question carefully – so many candidates feel the time pressure on their assessments and rush their answers. Take your time, read the question carefully and ensure you fully understand it before answering e.g. I’ve seen questions that require “3 solutions for a potential issue” only for people to answer with 3 factors they would consider when they could easily have picked up the marks if they had read the question properly.

Be concise and legible – nobody likes to waste their time trying to decipher illegible handwriting, if you know your writing is difficult to read, make an effort to be clearer. Use bullet points to break up your answer.

Over answer – if a question asks for 3 points, then give 4 or 5. You might feel that your 3 points are sufficient but there might be set criteria they are looking for and one of your points might not match this. I have seen several papers where 3 marks are awarded but the candidate has only answered with 2 points. Don’t be that guy / girl.

Case Study

You will typically be given a case study or a Fact Find with the resultant advice and be asked to decide whether this was suitable or unsuitable.

The most successful candidates in this area have come from a review background. The reason being that they know how to structure their answers and which areas they need to focus on. If you have never worked on a review this puts you at a disadvantage, but this can easily be overcome if you follow this advice:

Structure – if you stick to a structure this will ensure that you cover all of the relevant areas that you’re supposed to be considering and it will demonstrate your awareness of the review process. For an investment review I would expect to see a structured answer that co verers the following points:

o Vulnerability – is there anything to suggest that the clients could be potentially vulnerable at the time of the sale e.g. recent bereavement or health scare.

o Needs, timescales and objectives – what were the clients needs? What timescales were they looking to invest for and what was their objective (income / growth)?

o Risk – what is their attitude to risk, are they consistent with each other, how does this compare with the recommendation? Are they in a position to be taking risk?

o Tax Position – what’s the clients’ current tax position? Is this likely to change in the foreseeable future? Does the recommendation fit with the tax position e.g. is an investment bond appropriate for a Higher Rate tax payer?

o Costs / Benefit lost – will the advice result in the client incurring any costs / charges? Will they lose any benefits?

As long as you stick to a set structure, it forces you to explore each aspect and provide your justification, which shows that you have considered it. Reviewing will always be subjective, so your answer might not match what the examiner is looking for but you will still be awarded marks for highlighting the key elements for the case.

If you follow the above guidance this should definitely give you a massive advantage over your peers on your next assessment. Please comment below if you have any questions.


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