Interview Assessment Day – how should you prepare?

Friday, April 10th, 2009 - Article, career management, career transition, cover letter, credit crunch, Employer, Employment, Job Application, professionalism

Interview Assessment Day

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Creative Commons License photo credit: പ്രതീഷ് പ്രകാശ്

Boris asks: I’m in a Sales / Marketing role at the moment with a very good track record throughout my 6 year’s employment with my existing employer. Due to the current economic climate, the Company is ‘downsizing’ with me and my colleagues having to re-apply for our own jobs. I’ve been invited to an Assessment day later this month, and could use some advice on what to expect and how to prepare. Here’s what I’m expecting:

  • A series of Psychometric tests – Data analysis, Verbal reasoning etc
  • A formal interview
  • Group exercise / role play
  • Presentation exercise

In terms of my own preparations, I’ll be taking a number of measures: –

  • Make sure my CV’s up to date
  • List my key skills / achievements to date
  • Be able to discuss my strengths / weaknesses
  • I’ll make sure I’m up to speed on current affairs, financial climate etc.

So here are the questions you might be able to help with:

  1. Do you know of any websites where I can find sample Psychometric tests?
  2. Could there be anything else covered on the assessment day I haven’t listed?
  3. Is there any other preparation I could do that would help?

Any advice offered would be very much appreciated, the thought of this fills me with dread!

Thanks – Boris

In answer:
Great questions Boris! You must be nervous, and there is probably a whole negative feeling/vibe going round your employer at present: one of the big downsides about approaching downsizing exercises, let alone via assessment days.

The advantage to an employer of an assessment day is that the results mean a decision is made on mainly “hard” criteria under the control of the HR department, rather than “soft” criteria with input against various “favourites” liked or other wise by the team managers. This could count for or against you, but companies like to use assessment days to avoid later legal action – and are normally used when large numbers of staff are required to be released

Firstly, you stand a better chance than most of “surviving” the exercise, if that is what you want to do? Positive attitude is the first thing required.

Secondly, I would recommend just checking those assumptions you are making in your question:

  • Is your track record actually clean and clear? Even if you know it wholly is, ask for a copy of your staff record – you should be automatically entitled to it under an assessment situation
  • Ask what the schedule and task of the assessment day are. They can always say “No, just turn up” but I doubt they will – think their legal liability here

I am hence hoping that the activities you have listed are those outlined by the company already to you – they would make-up a consistent and regular assessment day. The only missing element is a medical: you might want to be prepared, but they should advise you if a medical assessment is part of the evaluation.

The assessment day should be thought of and addressed as a wholly real job interview. Hence in answering your first question, approach it mentally as an interview for a new job – this should widen the resources you can look at on the internet. Cisco have the toughest interview process for IT people, and it is recognised as one of the toughest in HR terms as well – try having a look at their website

The whole point of psych tests – and specifically when under taken at assessment days or with regards job interviews – is that the test is set up to have you on edge, and most modern versions are designed not to create better results with practise. If you want to improve your score, start playing something like word association games or Sudoku, or maths puzzles – anything that gets your mental brain churning to answer questions quickly. You can easily improve your mental agility through such simple exercises, which will make you better prepared and more capable of getting a better result. Directing you to a website for a particular type of psych test and then finding yourself faced with a different type of test would seem worthless, and only give you a psychologists appreciation of test design.

With regards questions (2) and (3), I would sit down with a piece of paper and seek to create a three part answer:

  • What do I want to do personally?
  • What do I want to do professionally?
  • Does that sit with this company for the next 2+ years? To answer this part, you will need to fully read the companies annual report

If the answers to these questions all sit comfortably together as part of your personal plan, then eventually you should be able to write out a one page letter – call it a Cover Letter if you like – to say why you think the companies great, and why you know – not just want – to stay with it. In the interview exercises, use this letter and the associated creation notes as a crib sheet. At some point the interviewer will say “what’s that then” – have a clean copy ready to give them: planning, thought and commitment which will impress any HR person.

Stay positive Boris, stay flexible and mentally agile, and know where your heart and motivation lies – and you won’t go wrong.

Good Luck!

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