IBM is a well-respected US technology company that has headquarters in Armonk, New York, but they have a presence in more than 170 countries.

For those who want to work at IBM, the competitive salary and benefits package as well as the opportunities for learning and development are big draws - but you have to get through a thorough recruitment process to become an employee.

With so many different roles in different countries available for applicants, the recruitment process does have some local differences, but you can expect something along the lines of the following:

  • Online application

  • Screening

  • Online assessments

  • Assessment Center/Interview

  • Decision

You will be informed through the process when you have moved into the next stage, and will be given more details by the recruitment team.

Why does IBM use assessment centers?

The IBM Assessment Center is an opportunity for aspects of your soft skills that are not always easy to evaluate in other ways. During the assessment center, you will be consistently under evaluation by the assessors.

Through a series of different exercises, both as part of a group and as an individual, you will be tested on your communication, teamwork, and leadership skills, as well as the actual tasks that you are being asked to complete.

The assessment center is also an opportunity for candidates to visit the IBM offices, meet current employees, and ask questions about the role, the wider company, and the industry.

What skills is IBM looking for?

what to expect at a ibm assessment center

When you head to the assessment center, you will be consistently evaluated on several different skills.

Some of these are specialized skills related to the role that you have applied for. These might include programming languages or numerical knowledge, for example.

However, there are certain competencies that are particularly relevant for the assessment center, including:

IBM assessment center format

The assessment center is held at the IBM offices, and they have a reputation for being tough to pass. While the content of the assessment center is pretty standard, if your performance is not good enough then you could be asked to leave at any point in the day.

The day tends to follow a similar pattern, and you need to bring your best throughout the whole time so that you can give the best demonstration of your skills and abilities.

IBM group exercise 1 – Logic

The first group exercise will see you put into a group with 5-7 people. In this exercise, you will have 30 minutes to work through a fictitious scenario and event, making a logical decision about the information.

As you are working through the exercise, you will be under constant assessment, and you will need to combine teamwork and leadership skills to be successful.

The best way to be successful in this exercise is to make sure that you read all the information, and you are able to explain how and why you have come to the conclusion.

IBM group exercise 2 – Case study

For the case study exercise, you will usually remain in the same group - which means that you will feel more comfortable and know more about the people that you are working with.

Again, you will have 30 minutes to complete this exercise, and this time you will need to plan an event for a client, following their instructions.

As part of the exercise, you will have four minutes to speak to the client (played by one of the assessors) to ask them some questions about what they want from their event.

To complete the exercise, you and your team will need to present the plan you have made for the day, setting out the responsibilities and timings for the event according to what the client wants (and the other information that you have been provided with).

IPAT Verification Test

As part of the initial recruitment process, one of the assessments you will be asked to take is the IPAT test, and as part of the assessment center you will need to take another confirmatory test.

While the first test was taken online and you could use a calculator, the one that you take at the assessment center will be shorter (just 22 minutes to answer 10 questions), you’ll have to use a pen and paper, and you will not be allowed to use a calculator.

This test is administered during the assessment center to ensure that there has been no change in your numerical ability, and that there was no cheating in the original online test. Test takers report that the questions tend to focus on just numerical series questions, rather than the numerical reasoning questions that are also found on the online version.


After the IPAT test, there will be a break for lunch - which is an excellent opportunity for some networking and you might get the opportunity to speak to some current IBM employees and meet your potential line managers.

While you are on break, it is worth remembering that you are consistently being assessed, so remember to stay professional - but get to know the other candidates if you can, because they will be in the same cohort as you if you’re successful, so it will be good to have some familiar faces when you are completing the onboarding process and initial training.

IBM paired role play

The next stage in the assessment center will need you to work with another candidate to complete a role play.

In this section, you will be given 20 minutes to read through and understand lots of information about a case study, and you will need to behave as if you are a representative of IBM. The details of this role play usually depend on the type of role that you have applied for, but it usually includes something where you will need to analyze data and plan something for a client (played by an assessor).

To complete the exercise, you will need to pitch the idea to the client - but remember that you will also be assessed on the planning stage, too.

IBM written exercise

Following on from the pairs task from earlier, the written exercise is about taking the plans you have pitched for the client and turning them into a detailed email or a report.

This is something that you will complete individually, and you will be assessed on your written style, spelling, and grammar, as well as your business acumen and commercial knowledge.

You will only have 20 minutes to complete this section of the assessment day, so you need to make sure that you are efficient in following instructions and answering all the questions thoroughly.

IBM presentation

The presentation part of the day is the only bit that you will be provided any real information on beforehand - you will be given the topic that you need to discuss before you attend the day so you can prepare.

Topics might include something personal - such as a detailed presentation on one of your hobbies, or something more relevant to IBM, like a presentation about a particular technology, piece of hardware, or some software that they have designed or created.

You will need to present a 10-minute PowerPoint presentation on your given topic, and be prepared to answer questions on it afterward too. This is an opportunity to demonstrate that you have excellent public speaking abilities, and that you are confident in talking about subjects that you have prepared.

IBM final Interview

The final interview at the assessment center will take place with your line manager, and it will combine questions about your CV alongside behavioral questions.

You will need to know your CV and the details about your previous positions inside out. You will also need to be ready to discuss the experiences you have had in previous employment as well as why you left.

You will also be asked to give examples from your previous experience that demonstrate that you have the skills, competencies, and attributes that they are looking for in a candidate. These are usually based on the details in the job description, and you need to be ready with a relevant example - so some preparation is key.

You might find it useful to revisit the SMART mnemonic when you are discussing your examples so that you cover all the essential information.

Questions might include:

  • Why did you leave your last employment?

  • What does good customer service look like?

  • Tell us about a time when you had to lead a team.

  • Why do you want to work at IBM?

Tips for passing the IBM assessment center

what to expect at a ibm assessment center

1. Be prepared

At IBM, one of the attributes that the recruiters and the assessors will be looking for is passion for IBM, and you can demonstrate this by doing your research before you come to the assessment center.

You will want to know the details of the role you have applied for, including the particular skills and competencies that you need to demonstrate.

You will also want to be able to talk confidently about the performance of the business in general, including anything that has recently been in the news, the information that the company shares on its website, and even the details from its annual report.

The more prepared you are, the more you will be able to demonstrate that you are the right person for the role.

2. Be confident

It is a nerve-wracking experience when you are taking place in an assessment center. Not only do you have to contend with completing different activities, you will also need to be able to work with new people too.

Confidence is important - you want to be confident enough to be heard in group scenarios, as well as being recognized by the assessors as someone who can demonstrate leadership skills when necessary.

Be confident - you’ve got this far into the recruitment process because you have demonstrated that you have what it takes, so you can be successful here too.

3. Be yourself

The assessors know that you will be nervous, but they are really looking to see what type of person you are and how you can demonstrate that throughout the day.

While you might be tempted to put on a mask or pretend to be someone else, the best thing you can do is be your authentic self throughout so that the assessors can see how well you align with the values of the business, as well as the competencies needed for the role.

4. Be curious

Ask questions! There will be many opportunities to learn more about the role that you have applied for throughout the day, but one of the biggest will be at the end of your interview, of course.

The questions that you ask can show that you have done your research and that you are genuinely curious about what the role and IBM as a whole can offer you - think about the values and the future goals of the business, for example.

5. Be part of the team

Through the assessment center, one of the most important skills that you are being assessed for is teamwork.

A way you can help yourself - and your teammates in the group exercise - is to encourage other people to speak out and get involved. Teamwork is about collaboration, and if you can draw others out and help them get involved, you might be able to find out more about the skills they can offer to help your group work more effectively.