Assessment Center Training for managers

Preparing for an assessment center is a critical step for any manager who wants to prove their suitability for higher levels of responsibility. Targeted training that sharpens the specific skills required in such assessment procedures lays the foundation for sustainable success. This requires not only knowledge of the expected tasks, but also practicing strategies and delving into relevant training content.

Professional assessment center training prepares managers to effectively demonstrate both their analytical and interpersonal skills to succeed in this competitive environment.

6 quick tips for a successful assessment center

  1. Don’t try to play a role!
  2. Be active in the assessment center!
  3. Before the exercises, think about what the observers might expect in the respective exercise!
  4. Pay attention to the time!
  5. Engage with others in group tasks!
  6. Show your strengths – and deal with your weaknesses confidently!

References from over 35 years of experience

md stellt sich vor
Play Video about md stellt sich vor
Bild von Olaf Ringelband zur Kontaktaufnahme
Dr. Olaf Ringelband, Managing Director md

Management Diagnostik

Our consultancy focuses exclusively on management diagnostics and can draw on benchmark data from over 30,000 executive assessments.

Making the right management staffing decisions. Recognize competencies and potentials of managers. Avoid bad investments due to miscasting.

Assessment Center Definition

Assessment centers serve as a multifunctional instrument for personnel selection and development. At the assessment center, candidates, including potential managers and applicants for specific positions, undergo a series of tasks and exercises ranging from individual assessments to group exercises.

The aim is to create a comprehensive profile of each candidate by testing a wide range of skills. Professional observers – company executives, HR managers and/or psychologists – evaluate the behavior during these exercises in order to make a well-founded, criteria-oriented assessment.

This process provides an in-depth insight into the participants’ competencies, be it their analytical skills, their team dynamics or their potential for future job roles and positions. Assessment centers are therefore not only a test of current performance, but also a predictive tool for future job performance and a decisive step in the selection process for vacant positions. They provide a realistic insight into a candidate’s working style and potential to ensure that each position is filled by the most suitable person.

Assessment Center procedure at a glance

The process of an assessment center varies, but the basic structure is designed to evaluate a wide range of competencies. Typically, the duration of an assessment center is as follows between half a day and three dayswith one- to two-day events being the most common. As a rule four to twelve participants who are accompanied by two to six observers are evaluated.

Assessment centers (ACs) are aimed both at external applicants to an employer as part of recruitment assessments and at existing employees within the company. They are used either for selection for promotion, inclusion in a management trainee group or to determine potential as a development center.

The procedure includes a mixture of individual tasks, tasks in pairs and group tasks. The assessment center exercises include presentations in which individuals present their ideas and solutions, and employee interviews that test communication and conflict resolution skills. Group discussions also promote teamwork and make it possible to assess the social skills of the participants.

In addition to these practical exercises include assessment centers also include specific tests. Such an assessment center test aims to test cognitive abilities, logical thinking skills and subject-specific knowledge. These tests can be both written and computer-based and are an essential part of the assessment process.

Online Assessment Center - the future of personnel selection

Online assessment centers are a progressive answer to the requirements of modern personnel selection. They extend the scope of traditional processes by using digital technologies, which benefits companies and candidates alike. Access to these platforms is uncomplicatedas only an Internet connection is required, enabling participation regardless of location.

An essential part of these online procedures are video lessons. They serve not only to introduce and guide participants, but also to convey specific content relevant to the assessment tasks. Video lessons offer an interactive component that enables candidates to prepare more effectively for the assessment center exercises and tests.

In addition, digital assessment tools enable a detailed analysis of participants’ behavior and performance in real time. The use of such tools in online assessment centers helps to obtain a more objective and comprehensive picture of each individual’s skills.

The 3 most common assessment center tasks

Here we have compiled an overview of the different exercises in the Assessment Center and step-by-step instructions for optimal preparation:

1. group discussions
Group discussions are a typical assessment center exercise. The candidates receive a Task – e.g. a specific topic to discuss togethera solve a problem or to produce something together produce (e.g. making a given object out of LEGO bricks or paper and glue).

Step-by-step instructions for a lively group discussion:

  1. Research the topic: Gather information on potential discussion topics in advance.

  2. Plan your contribution: Think about how you can contribute your ideas clearly and constructively.

  3. Active listening: Practice listening attentively to others and responding to their contributions.

2. presentations
Presentations can often be prepared at home in advance of the assessment center; otherwise you will almost always be given sufficient preparation time during the AC. Classic topics for presentations are the own person (“self-presentation“) or a technical topic (e.g. “How can our company be made interesting for potential Generation Y customers?”).

Step-by-step instructions for a successful presentation:

  1. Choose a topic: Decide on a topic that reflects your strengths and interests.

  2. Create an outline: Develop a clear structure for your presentation.

  3. Practice your presentation: Give the presentation in front of an audience to get feedback.

3. role play
Since assessment centers are often used to determine potential as a manager, the appraisal interviews in the form of a role play a typical AC task. Other common role plays are “sales talk”, “customer complaint”, negotiation tasks or conflict discussions.

Step-by-step in instructive role plays:

    1. Understand the role: Familiarize yourself with the role and the objectives of the role play.

    2. Practice your reactions: Prepare yourself for different scenarios and reactions.

    3. Obtain feedback: Take the opportunity to get feedback on your behavior and learn from it.

The importance of soft skills in assessment center training

Soft skills are the foundation for success in any professional environment, especially in the assessment center. Communication skills, teamwork, problem-solving skills and adaptability are complementary skills. This creates the basis for meeting challenges effectively and presenting yourself as a competent manager. Training that specifically promotes these soft skills not only prepares candidates for assessment centers, but also for a successful career.

Invitation to the Assessment Center

The invitation to the Assessment Center marks a decisive moment in the application process for your dream job. It signals that you have reached an important milestone, and prepares the way to the interview. Take the opportunity to deepen your understanding of the company and the specific requirements of the position.

Thorough preparation not only shows your motivation, but also your ability to adapt to future challenges. Research the company, reflect on your previous experience and how it applies to the new role in order to impress at the assessment center and beyond.

Assessment Training Preparation

md does not currently offer any training courses for individuals. But we advise companies on how they can make ACs fair and valid.

Assessment center training: Targeted preparation

For a targeted assessment center preparation, it is crucial to equip yourself with proven strategies and practical exercises. Our comprehensive blog post offers you in-depth insights and concrete instructions on how to sharpen your skills effectively and present yourself confidently in assessment centers.

You can read more about this in our blog post: Assessment center preparation

Preparing for the AC exercises - whenever possible

Many companies send an invitation to the assessment center with the request to prepare. This should be taken seriously and used.

There are various options here:

Preparation at home

In any case, you should prepare the exercises at home for which preparation is expected at the assessment center. A typical request is for example
“During the assessment center, you will have the opportunity to present yourself, your career, your personality, your strengths and weaknesses to the observers. You have 10 minutes to do this during the assessment. You can use a flipchart, pin board or projector (HDMI connection, please bring your own computer) for media support.”

Knowledge of the current company situation.

Even if it is not explicitly mentioned in the invitation – especially as an external applicant (but also as an employee in the company) you should inform yourself about the current situation in the company. Good sources of information are the current annual report (if the company publishes one) or a search in Google News.

Many companies also publish information about their company history, corporate values or management guidelines on their websites. If you study these, you have an advantage over the other competitors – provided you include this information in the right place.

The feedback.

Another aspect of preparation is to get feedback from colleagues and friends. The question “What do you think I can annoy others with from time to time?” is particularly revealing.

How to use feedback effectively in the assessment center

Feedback is a valuable asset in the context of assessment centers – it offers the opportunity to learn from every interaction and to constantly improve your own performance.

In order to use feedback effectively during the training and especially during the actual assessment center, participants can consider the following 5 points:

  1. Active listening: Be open and receptive to feedback, regardless of whether it is positive or constructive. Listen carefully to understand the key messages and suggestions for improvement.

  2. Reflection: Take time to think about the feedback you have received. Analyze which aspects of your behavior or performance were particularly emphasized.

  3. Implementation: Develop a plan on how to incorporate the feedback into future exercises. Set specific goals to work on the points mentioned.

  4. Seek dialog: If something is unclear or you need further clarification, don’t be afraid to ask. An open dialog can help to clarify misunderstandings and derive even more benefit from the feedback.

  5. Continuous application: See feedback as a continuous process. Take every opportunity to receive feedback and develop your skills.

Concentration on the tasks

What sounds trivial is neglected by many candidates in the assessment center. During the exercises, many are more focused on how what they do and say is received by the observers than on producing a result. This can be seen, among other things, in the fact that some candidates often seek eye contact with the observers to see “how they are received”.

You should also not be too distracted by clever tips that are well-intentioned but often backfire. A tip such as “You have to show in the negotiation exercise that you can negotiate hard!” can lead to the candidate concentrating more on appearing “hard” enough than paying attention to the other person’s arguments in the negotiation.

The observers' assessment is based on the behavior you display

You should keep this principle in mind – in the assessment center you are not assessed or evaluated as a person in general, but only on the basis of your behavior in the assessment center. In other words: even if you are otherwise a very cooperative and sociable person – if you are inappropriately dominant in the assessment center and assert yourself against others, you will receive a low rating on the criterion “teamwork/cooperation”.

Be active in the assessment center!

This also means that you have to be active in the assessment center. Slightly introverted people tend to speak “no unnecessary words”, i.e. not to say anything if their own opinion has already been expressed by others. In the assessment center, you have to give yourself a little push to say something even if you don’t feel you have anything new to contribute. This can be a summary, for example, along the lines of “Let me summarize – you two are of the opinion that… – and I agree. Maybe the others can give their opinion too?”

Responding to others

We are sometimes asked what kind of behavior is rated positively by observers in the assessment. Would you rather appear dominant and show “leadership”, i.e. push through your own opinion in group discussions, take the lead straight away, pick up the pen and jump at the flipchart?

Or would you rather show team spirit, respond to others, summarize, ask quieter members for their opinion and sometimes defer to the group opinion? In short, most companies are looking for the “cooperative tiger” – someone who is a team player, listens, responds to others, can take a step back and is still able to take charge in critical situations.

Show strengths and weaknesses

With a few small restrictions (see above the advice to introverts to be a little more active than usual in the assessment center), you should behave as authentically as possible in the assessment center. The reason is that showing yourself as you are is the least stressful, whereas it always takes energy to play a role. This energy can be better used for working on the sometimes quite demanding tasks.

Identifying the expectations of observers

Empirical studies have shown that candidates who have correctly identified in the exercises which criteria the observers observe and assess are more successful in the assessment center than those who do not. It therefore makes sense to think briefly before each task about what you would assess positively in the exercise if you were an observer and not a participant.

The 3 most common assessment center mistakes

Introverted people in particular tend to show too little of themselves. In the assessment center, however, a lack of activity is “punished”. Even the best idea is only worth something if it is expressed and heard by others.

Well-intentioned tips on how to behave (or not behave) in a certain way at the assessment center are almost always viewed negatively by the observers. It’s easier to be who you are and work on the tasks with commitment.

Even if you have to be active in the assessment center, you should listen and respond to others much more than you should present yourself.

Optimization of your assessment center skills

Enter the assessment center with composure and self-confidence.


The best tips for assessment center preparation are: be active, be yourself and don’t worry too much. Prepare yourself, but don’t let yourself get nervous!


Does md gesellschaft für management-diagnostik offer assessment center training?

No, unfortunately not. As assessment center specialists, we conduct numerous assessment centers ourselves, so we would potentially have a conflict of interest if we were to prepare participants for assessment centers. For this reason, we unfortunately have to turn down requests from people who want to prepare specifically for participation in an assessment center with us.

How long does assessment center training take?

As a rule, assessment center training courses last one day.

What are the contents of assessment center training?

Typical assessment center tasks (see above) are usually carried out together with the trainer or coach. The participants’ behavior is often recorded on video so that tips on how to behave can be given afterwards.

Does assessment center training help to increase the chances of success in the assessment center?

Yes and no. Two effects must be distinguished here:

  • Good coaching in preparation for an assessment center helps to reduce nervousness in the AC and to go into the exercises a little more relaxed. As a result, you can present yourself as you are and show your own strengths and weaknesses authentically.

  • However, intensive preparation for an assessment center can also block you – if you have received too much advice in the assessment center training about what you should not do under any circumstances and what you should definitely show. If you overload yourself with too many of these tips, you will no longer be able to show your strengths and will only have the trainer/coach’s tips in your ear.

Can assessment center training be adapted for specific industries or organizations?

Good assessment center training does not attempt to prepare participants too strongly for a specific procedure (i.e. a specific company or industry), but rather to give participants the necessary self-confidence to enter an assessment center calmly and confidently in the sense of coaching.

What benefits can assessment center training have for my company?

For companies that conduct assessment centers, it does not really make sense to offer preparatory training for the participants of these assessment centers. It makes more sense to create the greatest possible transparency, i.e. to give participants as much information as possible about the content, criteria and exercises.