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Assessment Centres

Defence Graduate Program

What is an Assessment Centre?

An assessment centre is not a place, but a structured combination of assessment techniques. These techniques vary from centre to centre depending on the selection criteria being used. Assessment centres use different activities and exercises to assess candidates’ competency levels against defined selection criteria. This gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your level of competency in different environments and allows the assessor the opportunity to assess competency levels over a diverse range of exercises.

The duration and structure of assessment centres will depend upon the level of skills required, the type of competencies being assessed as well as other factors that may be specific to the jobs that are being filled. An assessment centre conducted for air traffic controllers will probably be longer than one that is designed for graduate recruitment to a Public Service Department.

Why Assessment Centres

  • Assessment centres offer greater accuracy in forecasting job performance. By selecting high performers with greater precision, the return-­on­-investment for assessment centres is very high
  • Assessment centres can be designed to ensure they relate to the job
  • Assessments of individual applicants can help identify further development needs
  • Ratings of individuals are more reliable and less subject to various types of rating and judgement errors when using trained assessors
  • Candidates who are willing to participate in an assessment centre process tend to have thought through their suitability and desire for the position. This results in a high proportion of suitable applicants. In other words, the assessment centre process results in higher levels of unsuitable candidates self­-selecting themselves out of the process
  • Assessment centres are usually perceived by recruiters and applicants as fair

Tip - If you’re unsure of the dress standard for the day – ask, don't guess.

How to Prepare

  • Make sure you are aware of the selection criteria (or job requirements) that are being used. You should research the APSC Integrated Leadership System so that you will have some knowledge of the theory behind each criterion. This will help to demonstrate your competency
  • Read the questions you were required to answer in the application. These questions are based on the selection criteria used. It is more than likely you will see these selection criteria again at an assessment centre
  • Select examples of previous experiences and activities that will demonstrate your level of competence against each criterion. These can be used directly, if needed, in interview. Your experiences may also be used to help you “communicate with influence” in a team environment. Make notes and bring them with you to jog your memory. (You should confirm this is acceptable prior to attending)
  • Use any resource that will provide information about the specific assessment centre such as web­sites, printed material, previous candidates or career advisers
  • Speak to the contact officer or someone else who is involved directly with the assessment centre and find out as much as you can about what’s involved. Obviously some details will be confidential but any information about the make­up of the centre can help
  • Do some basic reconnaissance, familiarise yourself with the location and such things as parking, public transport, security requirements etc. Ensure you have the right start time

Examples of Activities & Exercises


Possible Selection Criteria:

Communication (Theory and Practice), Desire to Work for the Organisation, Thinking Skills, Achieves Results, Working Relationships, and demonstration of Technical Skills against the stream you are being considered for.


  • Relax, the interview is not a test.
  • Practice. Engage in mock interviews with friends, colleagues, career advisers, anyone who is prepared to help.
  • Select examples of previous experiences and activities that will demonstrate your level of competency and support your claims against each selection criterion. These examples can be drawn from all aspects of life, work, university, leisure and home
  • These are examples of some of the assessment techniques that may be used in assessment centres. A combination of any of these may be used to recruit for the Defence Graduate Development Program
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions at the end of the interview. This can be another opportunity to demonstrate your enthusiasm, suitability and interest in the position and organisation. However, ensure they are appropriate. Asking inappropriate questions just to draw attention to yourself is not recommended
  • It can also help to take some brief notes to jog your memory (you should confirm this is acceptable prior to attending)

Tips - Assessment centres have timed activities. Wearing a watch means you don’t have to rely on others

Group Exercises

Possible Selection Criteria:

Working Relationships, Thinking Skills, Communication, Achieves Results.


  • Be aware that you are being assessed on your contribution against the selection criteria – this does not mean the loudest and brashest are the most competent
  • Research the selection criteria to get a better understanding of the theory being assessed
  • Once the exercise begins define the task. If possible organise a mini project plan that will help keep the group focused
  • Demonstrate your ability to lead by keeping the group focused on what you need to achieve as a group (not by coercion or intimidation)
  • As with most exercises, keep track of the time

Written Exercises

Possible Selection Criteria:

  • Thinking Skills, Achieves Results, Communication (written), Technical skills against the stream you are being considered for
  • Before starting plan how you will construct the document
  • Make some rough notes so that your completed work will be coherent, legible and logical
  • Address all issues that are outlined in the exercise. Answer all questions asked as it is likely that they are weighted equally
  • Make sure you know what your time limit is and incorporate that into your plan
  • Use suitable formatting (consider your audience)
  • Consider the selection criteria when framing your answer

Individual Presentations

Possible Selection Criteria:

Communication/Presentation Skills, Thinking Skills, Achieves Results and demonstration of Technical Skills against the stream you are being considered for.


  • Practise beforehand in front of friends, family and colleagues
  • Ask a career adviser if they will be prepared to watch a short presentation and give feedback
  • Stick to the subject, don’t waffle and wander

Work Simulations

Possible Selection Criteria:

Thinking Skills, Working Relationships, Communication and Achieves Results.


  • Find out specifically what kind of work you would be doing and therefore what workplace scenarios might be used
  • Be aware that part of this type of exercise may involve prioritising tasks and you should therefore have an understanding of how and why tasks should be prioritised
  • Take into account importance, consequences, goals (long and short term) and resources available
  • Research the organisation, find out what is affecting/driving its direction. This may help in prioritising

Role Plays

Possible selection criteria:

Communication, Working Relationships, Achieves Results and Thinking Skills.

  • This type of exercise can be stressful, especially when undertaken with strangers in front of people who are going to assess your performance
  • Listen carefully to all instructions and keep in mind which selection criteria are being assessed
  • Undertake your role seriously and do your best to behave as you would if the situation were real

Aptitude Tests

Possible Selection Criteria:

Communication, Thinking Skills, Achieves Results and Technical Skills.


There are a number of different types of aptitude tests available for use in assessment centres. You can’t study for them, however you can prepare yourself.

  • Listen carefully to all the instructions
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand an instruction
  • Be aware of the time limit
  • There are examples of aptitude test available online. These may not help increase your skill level but they may help you understand what to expect


Attendance at an assessment centre can be a demanding and tiring experience. However, they do allow you more opportunity to demonstrate your ability across a wide range of activities.

Not all types of assessment activities will be used at each centre.

Assessment centres also provide a more objective basis for the assessment of your suitability for the position you’re applying for. The collection of data from a wide range of exercises helps to ensure the objectivity of the assessors.

With some preparation for attendance at an assessment centre you will feel more confident when undertaking each exercise. Preparation will help you to relax and demonstrate your skill levels appropriately.

Remember, if you feel you have not done particularly well in one exercise you will have the opportunity to excel in other areas. The overall outcome does not depend on the results from any one exercise.

Things to remember

You can learn a lot about an organisation from their assessment centre. Relax, ask questions and enjoy getting to know more about the organisation you are thinking of joining.

Useful Resources


Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group

Australian Signals Directorate

Australian Geospatial­-Intelligence Organisation

Defence Intelligence Organisation

Defence Science and Technology Group

Navy Civilian Engineering Development Program

Australian Public Service Commission

APS Jobs Online