Hi, all. I’ve recently attended a couple of assessment centres, and I’m still waiting to hear about their outcomes. In this article, I’ll write a bit about my experience and I’ll give some of my own hints and tips.
An assessment centre, as you may already be well-aware, is the final stage of the recruitment process for many large graduate employers. After submitting the initial application form, there are normally some online psychometric tests, which tend to involve a numerical test and a verbal reasoning test. The successful completion of this is often followed by a competency-based telephone interview, and last of all, an assessment centre.
I’d never been to an assessment centre, before this. However, I did go to a mock assessment centre that was run by the Careers Development Service, which gave me a good idea of what to expect for the real thing. My first tip, then, is to attend a mock assessment centre with the Careers Service, because this is the best way to know roughly what to expect, and to get some constructive feedback.
An assessment centre can sound like a daunting thing. While it can be quite intense, it can also be a fun day. Regardless of the outcome, it’s a good experience, and it can provide a greater awareness of one’s own strengths as well as areas to improve on. In addition, assessment centres are a fair way of testing candidates, because it assesses different areas through each exercise, which in turn provides plenty of opportunities to shine a light on your strengths. Finally, they give you a chance to ask any questions about the graduate scheme, the role in general, and to address any concerns that you may have. This can help you to decide on whether the company is definitely one that you would like to work for.
Assessment centres usually have the following: a group discussion exercise, a written exercise, a presentation, a face-to-face interview, and possibly more psychometric tests. For one of my assessment centres, my group discussion exercises were based on a fictitious company, for which I was given a pack of information. The objective was clearly stated, where I had to identify problems, suggest possible solutions and make recommendations based on the information that was given and on the stated criteria for an ideal recommendation. I was given 15 minutes to read through the information alone and to make notes, and then 45 minutes for the group discussion.
My advice would be to ensure that you understand exactly what it is that you are required to do, and ask before you get started if anything is unclear. In the group discussion, it’s important to contribute your own ideas, listen carefully to others, and add to what they’ve said. I think that it’s important not to dominate the scene, because while this may look like leadership to some, it may also show that you’re not considering the ideas of others. It is a group discussion, after all. On the other hand, sitting back and being quite the whole time would be a mistake, too. It’s best to be somewhere in the middle.
Another good idea is to wear a watch and to keep the time, reminding the group of how much time is left, as well as helping to coordinate tasks. It can be easy for people to become fixated on certain points or small details, and if everyone seems to be spending too much time on one small point, it’s important to move things along, so that everything can be covered.
As for the presentation, the interview and more in general for the rest of the day, it’s important to be able to demonstrate that you’ve done your research on the company, and to show that you have a good idea of what the role involves. The company website will provide the most important information on the company, including its vision, mission statement, as well as aims and objectives. Annual reports and financial statements of the company provide useful information. In addition, some wider knowledge of the industry in general shows that you’re serious about the role. Finally, think about yourself, why you’ve applied to the role, what your motivations are, as well your strengths, which should be backed up by specific examples.
To summarise, my main tips to do well at an assessment centre are to attend a mock assessment centre, to be yourself on the day — which I’m aware is kind of an annoying thing to be told — to do your research, and to reflect on why you’re applying and what your motivations are for doing so, as well as examples that demonstrate your key strengths. Doing all of these things will help you to be well-prepared, and you’ll feel more relaxed and confident as a result. Last of all, try to enjoy it and remember to smile.