Assessment Centre Tips

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012 - Assessment Centre

Assessment Centre Tips

Often, large corporates, retaillers and those who hire people in bulk such as the Armed Forces, will use Assessment Centres in their recruitment process. The point of these is to go beyond an online psyche test, and assess each job applicant in the organisations social environment.

There is no standard “form” to an assessment centre:

  • Some last a day
  • Some 2 or more days
  • They may be used for initial selection, or later interview

The only things that they have in common are that you will meet real employees of the organisation, alongside the recruitment team and your fellow competitor job seekers. Secondly they will involve a series of activities, which will range from group, through active to individual interview. Finally during each exercise, multiple assessors will observe and rate your performance.

Assessment Centre Exercises

Assessment centres typically include a mix of exercises, covering:

  • Approach: assume that the moment that you are invited to an assessment centre exercise, that you are being assessed!
  • Social Meet and Greet: meet a large group of people in what appears to be an informal social mix over coffee, but in which you are always being assessed and measured. So do clam-up, but don’t waffle on or monopolise the conversation, and whatever you don’t just drink non-alcoholic drinks!
  • Information Sessions: what appears to be a presentation with following-on Q&A, allowing interaction. If one is schedule early in the timetable, then assume that its important, listen carefully, and that you have to remember something from it – what stands out? Also, show willing and try to ask a questionrovide more detail about the organisation and the roles available
  • Tests and exercises: basically a series of psychological tests, aptitude tests and mental agility tests. The easiest way I have coached people to get through these, is to pick up a quiz book from your local newsagents, and start going through one as quickly as possible. On average, after four weeks it will speed your brain up by 10%
  • Job Interview: as its says on the packet, a job interview. Think multiple rooms, and multiple interviewers, often in quick succession. Some will use different techniques and assess different things, some times its just a round-robin of different departments

What is being assessed?

The items which are being assessed will depend on the job and the organisation. If you can, get a copy of the Job Description or something from their Recruitment Portal which describes what they look for in potential employees, and read it like a job advert. This should give you the core list of 5/8 competencies. The sort of things that you should end up with listed may include the following items:

  • Teamworking
  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Time Management (so don’t be late!)
  • Listening
  • motivation and enthusiasm;
  • data analysis;
  • decision-making;
  • influencing;
  • creativity;
  • integrity;
  • initiative

Assessment Centre group exercise

The big unknown in the assessment centre is the group exercise, where you will work with and interact with the other job applicants.

This will nominally either be in some form of activity (ie: get from one side of the river to another, using the provided equipment in the room), or a debate (ie: something controversial, like gay marriage or the rights of women to work and have families).

Before answering what you should do in a group exercise, note that I have placed this after the “What is being assessed” section of this post. Those are the key issues here being assessed, and on which you will be marked.

My personal tips for the group exercise are, assuming that this is a one day assessment centre:

  • Don’t volunteer to be the leader: you are in a group of people who have just met that day, and in a high pressureised environment. Concentrate on adding to the exercise over leading this disperate and still forming group
  • Do be active in ideas: do actively add to the group in both debate and activity. Don’t be the wall flower, do give something that can be assessed
  • Don’t get into an argument: once you have put your point across, whether the group flows in your direction of not, accept the groups decision. Don’t create arguments with other group members, and if you do quickly come to a common decision

Assessment Centre Preparation

I can not stress this enough, preparation is key! It is like a job interview, but a bit more interactive and with a few more people in the room. Ideally you will come away with a better idea of the organisation, thinking “What’s all the fuss about re Assessment Centres?” But, that’s the point! You will have been assessed, and won’t even have known it, but come away thinking positively about that organisation.

Much like a job interview, read up about the organisation and what they do. Secondly, read about the market in which they operate: is it growing or declining, is it profitable or growing in competition?

Now look at yourself. Undertake a personal SWOT Analysis of your strengths and weaknesses. You have a career plan or objective, so what is it: might be therefore nice to have an Elevator Pitch! That should also be the time to note down at least 10 questions that you have for that employer.

Finally, plan out your journey. Plan to arrive in plenty of time, so that you are not late.

Your performance

The keys to recogise are that:

  1. You are not being assessed against the other candidates, but a set of defined criteria
  2. You are not being assessed on what you know but on how you think. So be yourself

Hence Assessment Centres should not be seen competitive sprints, but as a trek against the clock in a friendly but unknown geography. Hence if you don’t do so well in one exercise, don’t worry there will be another one along in 5mins that will suit you. So keep your spirits up, and energy high and focused throughout the day.

Assessment Centre Tips

To close this article, lets cover the major assessment centre tips:

  • Be yourself: You are being observed the whole day, from the point of entering reception. If you’re not being yourself, it will become obvious during the day
  • Communication is key: know when to listen, when to talk, and what to say. Listen when company people or designated leaders are talkig, and don’t talk over anyone else. But don’t sit backwards, and don’t waffle. Thoroughly demonstrate your (claimed) good communication skills
  • Tell the truth: simple enough, other wise you will be discovered
  • Be a teamplayer: Assessment Centres are most often held on a companies premises, because that allows them to assess you on their ground ad in their environment. So engage their team, and work within it
  • If in doubt at any time, ask: this is a communication and team exercise, as much as an assessment

Good Luck!


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One Response to “Assessment Centre Tips”

  1. Kira Perry Says:

    Great points on something I have faced, and will face again soon. Wish that I had them the first time around! Thank You – Kira

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