This IBM assessment centre guide includes practice tests, coaching videos and tons of tips and tricks for IBM assessment centre success.
2 useful starting-point resources
- You can practice the IBM assessment centre tests here.
- Check out my Ultimate Interview & Assessment Day Guide.
About this IBM assessment centre guide
The IBM assessment centre is notoriously long and challenging, and sadly the reality is that most candidates fall short.
I received so many emails from people asking for help that I decided to create this guide to give candidates all the tools they need to succeed. Let’s get started!
IBM assessment centre overview
Ok, let’s cover the basics first. What do you have to do at the IBM assessment centre?
- Group exercise 1 – Logic
- Group exercise 2 – Case study
- Confirmatory IPAT Test
- Paired team exercise
- Individual communication exercise
- An Interview and/or Presentation.
Phew! As you can see there’s a lot here. Despite the IBM assessment centre having a tough reputation, it’s pretty standard stuff. (This is how most big corporate employers recruit nowadays.)
We’re going to look at each element of the IBM assessment centre in detail. But before we do, here’s a short video from IBM UK with successful candidates sharing their top tips.
(It will give you a useful and broad overview before we dive into the detail of each activity.)
How To Succeed In Group Exercises
Before we look at each of the IBM assessment centre exercises in more depth, I’d like to prepare you for group exercise work as a whole. The IBM assessment centre focusses heavily on group exercises, so it’s vital that you perform well in this area.
- How do you get yourself noticed?
- How can you appear to be a team player but still shine individually, and show leadership qualities?
- What are the elite behaviours the assessors are looking for? How should you behave?
Go and have a read and come back here when you’re done.
Ready to continue? Ok, let’s look specifically at the IBM assessment centre group exercises.
IBM group exercise 1 – ‘Logic’
The assessors at your IBM assessment centre will split the candidate pool into smaller groups of 5-7 people. Each group will be watched by 3 assessors, who will concentrate on 2 candidates each.
They will remain silent during the 30 minute exercise and will evaluate your performance and take notes throughout. (You will be scored on each element throughout the day.)
Your group will be asked to make a decision about a fictitious event or scenario. You will be supplied with plenty of background information in order to come to your decision but be aware that you will need to be able to explain how and why you came to your conclusion.
3 simple-but-impactful tips for this part of the IBM assessment centre:
- Try and be the person who the reads the brief to the rest of the group. This shows assertiveness and drive and immediately makes you the early ‘leader’ of the group.
- Offer to be the timekeeper, to ensure the group stays on track. This is a brilliant and non-aggressive way to ensure you will be a central figure in the discussion.
- Make sure you read the brief thoroughly. It’s amazing how often nervous and eager-to-get-started candidates miss an important point or misinterpret the brief!
IBM group exercise 2 – ‘Case Study’
In this part of the IBM assessment centre you’ll remain in the same group; this is helpful as you’ve already had a chance to assess the other candidates. If you felt unhappy with the first exercise, don’t worry. Take this opportunity to redeem yourself and show the assessors what you’re made of!
- This exercise is also 30 minutes long.
- You will be asked to plan an event for a would-be client.
- There will be plenty of information available to analyse and inform your planning.
Here’s the exciting bit: There will also be an opportunity to question your ‘client’ for 4 minutes. (The ‘client’ will be one of the assessors of course.)
You must work together in order to get the most out of this time. This is a pivotal point in your IBM assessment centre, choose your questions wisely.
TOP TIP: Open questions are solid gold
A killer question to ask is: “If we were having this conversation a month after the event, what has to have happened for you to feel that the event was a huge success? Tell us what your dream solution looks like.”
The assessor/client will initially be deliberately coy about sharing this info (you have to work for it, that’s the whole point of this exercise!) so this killer question cuts through all that uncertainty, forces the ‘client’ to give up the most important details, and this provides a very clear brief for the group to work to.
(Throughout your IBM assessment centre you will be assessed against IBM’s core values – we’ll cover this in more detail later. One of these is ‘client focus’. This is a great opportunity for you to put a huge tick next to this important box.)
Your group will then have to present your plan to the client. It’s vital here that the timings and responsibilities are clear.
TOP TIP: If possible, be the person who provides the final summary/plenary. Again this marks you out as a signifcant member of the group.
IBM assessment centre video
This is what IBM’s HR team are looking for from candidates in the group exercises at the IBM assessment centre:
The confirmatory IPAT test
You will have completed the online version of this test earlier in your application process. This version will be hand written and shorter in length, at 22 minutes. (Calculators are not allowed.)
Time to brush up on your skills. This is what this site is all about! Check out some of my other success guides:
- Numerical reasoning guide (includes practice tests, coaching videos and Top Tips)
- Verbal reasoning guide (as above, loads of helpful stuff here)
- You can practice the IBM IPAT test here
Time for lunch and a well-earned break
After the IPAT test you get to take a breather. Phew!
Unfortunately for most of the candidates, they will be sent home at this stage. Let’s make sure that you are not one of them.
The paired team exercise
The IBM assessment centre afternoon session begins here, with this role-play exercise.
You and your partner will be given 20 minutes to prepare for a task. You will need to digest lots of information and to plan your Big Idea during this period.
At the end of the 20 minutes you will both be invited to role-play, with your assessor acting as the client. You and your partner will be acting as representatives of IBM who are pitching your idea to the client.
Remember that the planning is being assessed as much as the pitch itself. Allow your partner to share their input, during both planning and pitching stage. This is a 50-50 split remember. (And that works both ways – don’t be afraid to firmly assert yourself if your partner is taking over.)
TOP TIP: Get clarity on your idea early on, then spend the majority of your time on how best to pitch it.
(A classic mistake candidates make is spending too long deciding on the Big Idea and not having enough time left to discuss how they’ll communicate it with massive impact.)
Role-plays can be daunting, but you can boost your competence and confidence quickly with the right guidance:
- Check out my Role-Play Masterclass, Role-Play Success Guide and Role-Play Podcast for much more help in this area.
- Remember you can get learn many more tips and tricks for success at your IBM assessment centre in my Ultimate Assessment Day Guide.
The interview and/or presentation
The last exercise of the IBM assessment centre depends on the role that you have applied for. (Your joining instructions will make this part clear.)
If you have to do a presentation you’ll have been given your topic in advance, allowing you to research and prepare beforehand. You should read my success guide for assessment centre presentations.
The interview will be with the hiring manager and will be CV-based. You need to base all elements of your communication posture on IBM’s core value competencies:
- Client Focus
- Communication Skills
- Creative Problem Solving
- Passion For IBM
- Taking Ownership
ACTION POINT: Set aside 60-90 minutes in your preparation for the IBM assessment centre preparing an example of when you’ve demonstrated each of these competencies. Think of examples from your own experiences, that show each competency in action and make sure you communicate the outcome.
Competency-based interviews are formulaic – you must communicate in that formula to score highly.
Learn more about IBM’s core values and recruitment strategy on the IBM careers site.
Learn about IBM’s history and your role
This is vital. You will be asked why you want to work at IBM. You will be asked what you know about IBM. Spend an hour or two learning about its history, the company has an interesting background.
Here’s one of IBM’s development team, explaining what they look for in successful candidates at the IBM assessment centre:
Review IBM’s annual report
Spend at least 1 hour going through IBM’s latest annual report.
- How is the company performing at the moment? Turnover? Net profit?
- What areas of the business are growing? What areas are shrinking?
- Is the market up or down? In which areas?
- How are IBM’s competitors performing?
- What are IBM’s aims? What are they looking to acheive in the next 5-10 years?
One of the mistakes many young graduates make is they fail to see the ‘big picture’. At your IBM assessment centre, you can impress your interviewers by having a grasp of these big picture metrics and discussing them with confidence.
These are the metrics all large corporations use to measure their progress; candidly discussing them marks you out as a potential future leader.
Prepare questions for your interviewer
At the end of your IBM assessment centre you will be given a chance to ask questions of your interviewer. It’ll be tempting at the end of a long day to say “no thanks, we’ve covered everything”, but you should ensure you ask at least 3-4 questions.
(Even if you’re not genuinely curious, having questions shows that you are engaged, hungry and interested in the company and the role.)
This video has a host of questions from real IBM interviews. It also has some useful hints and tips for how to answer.
Behave with confidence
Be confident, be energetic, be positive. Interviews can be a thing to dread or a chance to shine, it’s all about your midset. Seize the chance to shine at your IBM assessment centre.
Few things are more disappointing than a missed opportunity, especially when nerves are to blame. Anxiety can undo all your hard work and preparation.
If you’re concerned about your nerves, read my guide “how to cope with nerves at your assessment centre“.
Go through your CV with a fine-toothed comb
You need to know your CV inside out. You will be asked about it in more detail, including your previous roles and why you left them. Be prepared for this. Your CV will form the basis of your interview, this is the framework you and the interviewer will walk through, so own it!
Important! Update your CV before your interview
Lots of candidates make the mistake of thinking they don't need to improve their CV once they've been invited to interview.
Big mistake. Here's why:
1) You should update your CV before the interview event and take a fresh, new-and-improved version with you. (Ideally one that is TAILORED to the role you want.)
2) At interviews and assessment days, your CV will form the basis of your interview. (Whether the interview is competency-based or not.) You'll be expected to answer questions on your CV and usually to walk your interviewer through it.
3) This is the big one: After you've left your interview or assessment day, your CV will be held in the hands of the people who are making the hiring decision. They will literally be looking at your CV while making the hiring decision.
(I've been in this position many times. After spending an entire day meeting and interviewing lots of people, the candidates' CVs are the documents you use to remind yourself which candidate was which and also to revisit the candidates' skills and experience.)
Your CV summarizes the 'professional benefits' of you and is what leaves the last impression. So one last time: Your CV makes your first and last impression; it's a crucial document. Make is as strong as it can be.
A final piece of advice
If you take only 1 thing from this guide, let it be this: Your success will be decided by your preparation.
Here’s 3 action points for you that I would describe at ‘must-do’:
- You can practice the IBM assessment centre tests here.
- You should read my guide “how to prepare for an assessment centre“.
- You should read my “group exercises success” guide.
I hope you enjoyed this free guide? I wish you the best of luck in your future career and at your IBM assessment centre.