How To: ace an Assessment Centre – the ‘green room’ time

This series is long overdue, but recent requests for help from both friends and LinkedIn/blog connections have prompted me to finally write up some guidance on assessment centres. And because there are a few stages to them, I have broken them up into four parts so that they are easily digestible: the case study, the group exercise, the interview and the ‘green room’ time.

Assessment Centre: a process where an organisation can examine candidates by using techniques like interviews, group exercises, presentations and simulated work exercises. Created to recruit officers in World War I – they are widely used by solicitors’ firms in the recruitment process for vacation schemes and training contracts. They are also one of the most feared parts of the process – but I am here to tell you that there is no need to fear them, as long as you read this post carefully and follow the steps and advice laid out below! People think of it like something from The Hunger Games – but in my experience, that is far from the case.


I will start with a caveat (the best way to start any piece of advice…) I have only completed three assessment centres – two for vacation schemes and one for a non-law position with a FTSE 100 asset management company. Three isn’t a huge number and each were very different – however, I was lucky enough to be offered positions for all three, so I hope my musings will help a little. I have tried to make this advice generally applicable, even with the variances, although I do appreciate that firms often structure ACs differently, sometimes including a written exercise or other practical assessment.

‘Green room’ time:

By ‘green room’ time I mean the time where you aren’t being formally assessed – the time you spend in a waiting room, reception area, lift, lunch room, etc. I think people forget that this is also part of the assessment centre. Indeed, I know a few people who have not acted appropriately and this has cost them dearly. So it is worth being aware that you will be being assessed from the minute you walk in the front door, to the minute you leave. That means that the receptionists will be on the look-out, the security team will be aware, and everyone else will be keeping an eye out for how you behave. Make sure you are polite, friendly, respectful and self-aware throughout. This principle applies anywhere and everywhere you go during the assessment day. Below are a few tips to make sure you set yourself up for success before, during and after any formal assessments.

  • Plan your route to the assessment centre/office beforehand – this way you arrive calm and composed, not stressed and sweaty.
  • Pick a (work appropriate) outfit that you feel your best in – dress more smartly if in doubt.
  • Bring some snacks for the day, and make sure you have eaten a good breakfast even if they provide food it sometimes isn’t the best for keeping you alert and energy-filled.
  • Be friendly and approachable with the other candidates.
  • Smile and say good morning to the reception and security teams.
  • Make sure you know the names of the Graduate Recruitment team.
  • Be self-aware.
  • If you’re tired – don’t yawn openly (this happens a lot from what I’ve seen).
  • Try to make sure you look engaged and awake for the whole day – it is a draining experience, but it’s important to give the day your full attention and commitment.
  • Remember that an assessment day gives you the opportunity to also assess the firm/company too – if you don’t like something you see or hear then that’s useful information when/if you come to have to make a choice further down the line.
  • Also remember that putting on an assessment day is very expensive for a firm – the Partners time, the Trainees time, all the prep work, reimbursing travel costs, etc. That should help boost your confidence – the firm has shortlisted you for a reason, and has given you a slot because they see something worth investing that time and money in.


I hope that this series has helped you feel more comfortable and confident with assessment centres. As I have written previously, my advice in a nutshell is as long as you do a little research beforehand, be yourself and use your common sense – there is no reason to fear an Assessment Centre nor worry it will be your undoing. Like me, you may even surprise yourself and enjoy parts of the process!

(Don’t be shy…click ‘Leave a comment’, share this post if you like it; email, tweet and generally pester me if you want to hear more/share your stories/say hi)

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