What happens at an assessment centre?
Assessment centres have always been prominent within recruitment. Traditionally they were used for bulk recruitment campaigns aimed at graduate or junior level roles; however more recently, there has been a trend towards applying the same techniques to more senior positions. This method of selection normally consists of a variety of activities, scheduled throughout the day assessing various skills.
So what can you expect when you attend an assessment centre and how do you prepare to ensure success?
Key points to consider prior to your assessment day
- Plan your journey carefully to ensure you arrive in good time.
- Always ask if the employer is willing to fund your transport/ accommodation. Often travelling down the evening before your assessment will mean you feel fresher on the day.
- It is highly recommended that you visit the company website to gain further understanding about the business, in addition to any other related publications or reports that will allow you to develop your knowledge on the business, and any factors affecting the business at that current time.
- Complete a list of your main strengths, particularly those you feel may be applicable to the area for which you have applied. Think of ways you can utilise your key strengths in accordance with what the role requires.
- Consider any areas of potential improvement and think about how you will address them.
- Prepare any questions regarding the role and the company and take these along with you to discuss with the assessors.
- Practice Aptitude tests online to familiarise yourself with the types of assessments you may be asked to complete on the day.
- Always try and mingle with other candidates, this can sometimes make it less daunting during group exercises and at times assessors may be monitoring your communication skills and your ability to build relationships with others.
- Use any coffee breaks to speak to assessors and create an impact. Use this time to ask questions and put across your interest.
Common Assessments and tips for success
At assessment centres the day will be planned in relation to the different exercises that will be due to take place. You are commonly provided with a schedule of the day, and informed of any specific times allocated to you to complete tests. You will need to focus upon each exercise as it happens. Remember your overall score is based on an accumulation of your scores throughout the day. So, if you think one aspect didn’t go very well, don’t give up, just ensure you try harder on the next task, and keep going.
Group exercises are in place to measure your ability to work within a team. Within these types of exercises, assessors are looking at how you articulate your ideas and your ability to listen to your team members. Exercises normally take the approach of an open discussion. Try and consider a valuable point to make, avoiding being seen as the loud or passive candidate.
You may be required to complete aptitude and psychometric tests in addition to a variety of other individual exercises at an assessment day. These types of exercises predominately assess personal skills and your reasoning capacity. Ensure that you plan your work productively, considering the allocated time given to complete the work, and make sure you spend enough time on each section of the exercises.
It is common to be asked to complete a presentation at an assessment day. This may be something the recruiting company has asked you to prepare in advance, in which you will have to plan your time to ensure it’s ready to present to the assessors. The most common format assessors will look to follow is to ask you to prepare a presentation at the assessment day. Normally you will be given a topic or a choice of topics and each candidate will have 5- 10 minutes to prepare on the subject and present it to the group. You should aim to speak clearly and confidently being precise and to the point.
These types of tests are assessments not of your skills but of your personality. Employers practise these types of tests to evaluate your personality and behaviours. You may be asked to complete these types of tests online prior to or even during the assessment day. You need to be aware that there are no right or wrong answers to these types of tests; you just need to answer honestly. This can be one part of the assessment day that is of no stress to you!
Role play exercises are normally based around a scenario which is directly related to the role you are applying for. Role plays allow the assessor to see how you cope with certain situations, in addition to how you demonstrate the required competencies for the role. The most common format followed is to be given a strategy paper and some allocated time to review and plan your response. This part of the planning will be assessing your ability to prioritise and manage your time effectively. Ensure that you demonstrate a positive approach and consider the key attributes employers are looking for within the role profile.
In addition to completing specific exercises, it is common to have an interview at your assessment day which will focus upon your qualifications and work experience. The interview will also address any areas assessors wish to discuss. It is helpful to take along a copy of your CV for this part of the day and use it to assist you with your discussion of your experiences and the responsibilities you have undertaken in your career.
After the assessment day
Clarify with the assessors when you will hear from them again as to the outcome of your performance. If you are unsuccessful you are entitled to ask for feedback. Most employers are happy to give this and it can be extremely helpful for making improvements and understanding how the scoring is completed at an assessment centre. Think about your performance and implement any changes you feel are necessary to improve your performance.
Overall, it is important to demonstrate a passion for the role and to demonstrate your skills and personality are a right fit for the recruiters brand.
Written by Louise Birch, a recruiter at recruitment process outsourcing company PPS.