Assessment centres are becoming increasingly popular and are used as a method of employee selection based on measuring job related competencies. Most assessment centres are designed to measure a range of competencies and will do that using several different exercises.
These exercises can vary and may include interviews, group exercises, testing technical skills, role playing, presentations, psychometric tests and aptitude tests. You will be one of a number of candidates attending, so from the minute you arrive to when you leave, you will be evaluated on how well you interact with others as well as how you perform independently.
There will also be assessors/interviewers present who could be current employees of the company or specialists from external organisations. They will make notes of your performance during the exercises and mark you against the competencies being assessed for the job role. Assessment Centres typically last between half a day to a full day but some can be longer.
Preparation – what can you do?
Know where you are going and who you will be meeting – research the assessors on LinkedIn – they could be someone you would report into, so you want to be clear on their role within the company. Look at the company website and search the internet for news items about the company. Research the competitors and know how the company sits within the marketplace. You want to appear knowledgeable if you’re asked at any point ‘what do you know about us’ and ‘what we do’?
Try and obtain as much information from the recruiter or the employer prior to the day to ensure you are full prepared. If you are given too little information to really understand the role you are being assessed for, what would you want to assess if you were the interviewer, what common scenarios could you be faced with? You may find that you will only be told when and how long the assessment day will be– this is so they can see how you respond and react on the day.
The job you are being considered for may require problem solving skills, so you may be presented with a series of problems and be required to find a solution. They are assessing you on how you would naturally respond on the spot if that is a key part of the role. If the role was heavily focused around communicating to large audiences, they may give you a short space of time and topic to present to a panel. This could be to see how you pull together a presentation and communicate effectively in a set time frame. If the role requires you to work as part of a team, there may be a group activity. You could be presented with a topic to discuss or a problem to solve and they will assess you on how you work within that team. Try and play an active part whether you offer to make notes, time check, or engage others in the group it is vital that you are seen as a team player and someone people can work with.
You will be given a number of opportunities to show your strengths. Don’t panic! If you feel a certain exercise has gone badly for you, just concentrate on performing well in the next exercise.
As part of this process you will at some point be interviewed whether it’s within the assessment centre or on a separate occasion. Preparation is key! Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. If you were interviewing yourself for the position what information would you want to find out? What questions would you ask? You should know the job spec inside out and start thinking of relevant examples and scenarios you can recount to demonstrate the competencies within the role. Why should they hire you? What do you know about the company? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What relevant experience do you have? You need to think and plan your answers ahead of the interview.
Now that you have thought of some questions, what do you want to include within your answer? Each answer should last no more than 3-4 minutes long, so now is your time to rehearse and time yourself. Say your answers out loud and not just in your head. The more you can rehearse and get into the habit of answering out loud, the more confident your delivery will be. Record yourself with a Dictaphone, listen to your answers and be your own critic. You won’t be able to guess every question they will ask but if you have already thought through some and rehearsed your examples you will appear more focused, better prepared and are more likely to sell yourself.
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