Assessment Centres Explained
Assessment Centres are like an extended job interview, where you will take part in a number of formal and informal activities designed to test how suitable you are for the role.
They're usually after the first round of interviews, but some employers use them as an initial selection process to indentify candidates for interview. They can be a day or two long and might include an overnight stay in a hotel.
Many employers think that assessment centres are fairer and more accurate than standard job interviews, as they get a chance to see what you can really do, not just what you say you can do. It's also great for you, as it's a chance to really show off your skills through practical tasks and activities.
You'll probably be in a group with other candidates and will complete a number of tests, exercises and interviews which will have been designed to test the qualities you have against those required for the job.
Common assessment activities include group discussions, team exercises, interviews, psychometric tests, case study scenarios and presentations. They may also include more informal activities, such as team games or a chance to socialise with current employees.
Recruiters will be testing you against the skills needed for the job (these where probably mentioned in the job advert which is good point of reference if you're unsure) as well as other essential skills such as communication, team work and problem solving. They may also want to see how you react in practical situations, whether you can keep cool under pressure and think on your feet.
How to prepare
Read all the information the company send you about the day carefully. Make sure you know where you are going and how to get there and if you're unsure check with the employer first. Also make sure you have a contact number of either the venue or the employer in case you get lost or your train is delayed.
Check whether there is anything you need to do to prepare for the day, such as a presentation, and make sure you take along a backup copy of any computer files you may need, just in case.
The dress codes likely to be smart business dress but if there are social events planned, such as an evening meal or a get to know you session, you might want to check up on the dress code before you go.
Have a look back at the original job advert and any other information on the company you can find. Draw up a list of the skills they have specified for the job and add in some of your own that you feel are relevant. Use this to think about how you might answer the interviewer's questions about your strengths and weaknesses and think of any scenarios when you have applied these skills to achieve a goal. Also think about some questions you might like to ask the interviewer about the company and the role.
Check out what your careers service has on offer. Many run skills workshops on presentations and interviews, and they may be able to give you practice psychometric tests too.
Throughout the day stay focused and motivated as the assessors will be looking for candidates with energy. If you think you've done badly in a particular task don't let it de-motivate you. You'll probably be able to make up for it in areas you are stronger in later.
Don't mistake other group members as the competition. You might be going for the same job but don't forget employers will also be testing your personality, how well you work as part of a team and whether you'll fit in if you get the job. So make friends early, try to include weaker members of the group and show off your leadership qualities.
Don't forget that if you have a disability that could affect your performance on the day you should make this aware to the employer beforehand.
Common tasks at Assessment Centres
The employer may ask you to prepare a presentation to other candidates or the interviewers. You could be asked to prepare one before hand or they might ask you to prepare one on the day. You'll probably be given a subject or a theme to base it on.
Try to choose something familiar if possible and make sure it's not too simple or too advanced. Don't stress too much on the content, the real test here is whether you can organise and structure a presentation and present it confidently and clearly. Try to pick something you know a bit about as there might be questions on the subject after.
Most will ask for a power point presentation, but if this is not specified make sure that if you are hoping to do a computer presentation the equipment you need will be available on the day. Don't forget to take a backup of any computer files you might need
Aptitude tests are designed to measure your knowledge and skills, most often questions are associated with reasoning and logic. You will have a set time to complete the test and it will be under exam conditions.
Although you can't really prepare for this kind of test, if you haven't had to do basic maths for a while a quick brush up on the basics before hand is a good idea.
You should read the instructions carefully before you start and keep an eye on the time. Skip questions you get stuck on and mark them so you can come back later. Examiners tend to be looking for accuracy rather than speed so don't worry if you don't answer all the questions. Most employers would rather see a job done steadily and well rather than poorly but fast
If you have a disability or English is not your first language make sure you notify the employer before the day so they can put in place extra time or help if needed.
These are designed to find out your personality type and how you handle different types of situations. Questions will be quite informal, you'll have plenty of time to complete it and there are no right or wrong answers. Some employers believe it's a good way to see how you might fit in with the company.
This is a common exercise that employers use to test how well you can organise and prioritise your work load.
You will be given a heaped in-tray or a full email inbox containing memos, telephone and fax messages, reports and other correspondence. You then have to work through this, prioritising which ones you need to respond to first.
You should make sure you have looked at all the documents first before you begin, as the item at the bottom of the pile could be the most important.
Again, there are not necessarily any right or wrong answers but you may have to rationalise your decisions afterwards.
This could be a practical task or a group discussion in which you will be working with other candidates. You need to show the employer that you can work effectively and efficiently as part of team, can contribute to the group and listen to others contributions, and achieve a set goal.
You should be an active member of the group, making valid contributions to discussions, listening to what others have to say and encouraging quieter members to talk.
If another member of the group tries to dominate at the expense of others don't be tempted to compete with them, let it ride, and when you get a chance to speak try and include the whole group and actively ask the opinions of others.