How to Excel at an Assessment Centre
At an assessment centre the candidates are invited to participate in a series of tests and exercises that can last between a couple of days and a week. Here, you will have to show rather than say what your strengths and weaknesses are.
The structure of an Assessment Centre
It can be held before the final selection of the hiring process or can be used as a screening technique before the one-to-one interview. It starts with an informal social event where you meet the assessors and the other applicants. Make sure you make the most of it. Ask questions about the company, express your enthusiasm, show your interest in the position and try to connect not only with the assessors but with your competitors as well. Since there will be group exercises, you'd better try to get acquainted with them. It is usually followed by a session where you are provided with further details concerning the company, the position(s) and the assessment itself. Take notes, if you are allowed to, because this info might come in handy later on. After the 'briefing' comes a number of activities. Each of them are made to measure and assess one or more skills and competencies.
What is usually assessed?
The same things as during a traditional interview. Only now, their judgment is based on your performance rather than on your resume. They will focus on your:
- decision making;
- ability to cooperate;
- leadership skills;
- communication skills;
- reasoning ability;
- problem-solving skills;
- resistance to pressure;
- and personal attributes.
What exercises to expect?
During the aptitude test they will focus on your reasoning abilities and your time management. The in-tray exercise is more like a simulation. They will assess whether you can decide what is a more important task, whether you can come up with recommendations and so on.
As far as the group exercise is concerned, it can be either a discussion or a practical task or even a role play. But one thing is sure. The assessors will be interested in finding out who is a good team player, who has good communication or leadership skills.
You will probably be asked to give a presentation as well. They'll want to see whether you are a good public speaker or not. At some point during the assessing you can also count on a personality test. The good news is, there are no wrong answers. All you have to do is answer the questions honestly. These are for finding out what tasks would suit you the best. If you don't fit for the role, the odds are, you wouldn't enjoy it either. So don't worry about the personality test.
What to do and what not to do?
- Research the company and prepare a lot of questions. Since the assessing is several days long, you will have time and you should talk to the assessors. Never underestimate the power of showing your interest.
- Take your time to work out your answers to the common interview questions. Though there might not be a formal interview, while socializing, some questions will inevitably come up.
- If you have a disability inform the recruiters before the exercises.
- Don't calm your nerves by drinking too much during the opening social session. Remember: the assessment doesn't start with the exercises.
- Don't panic. Try to concentrate on the task. Show how resourceful and competent you are.
- Listen carefully when instructions are given and ask for clarification if you don't understand them.
- Don't despair even if you think you performed badly at a test. There will be plenty of chances to show your strengths. Try to stay motivated and enthusiastic throughout the whole event.
- If not given, ask politely for feedback.