What are “Assessment Centres”?
Assessment Centres are becoming increasingly popular with employers and are considered by many to be the most reliable, objective and fair process of selecting suitable candidates. Traditionally, Assessment Centres have formed the second stage of the interview process, but employers are now often using them as a first interview, enabling them to create a shortlist of the most suitable applicants.
Assessment Centres generally consist of a series of individual and group exercises and tasks specifically designed to gauge your actual ability to perform a job – rather than simply relying on what you say your capabilities are. As a result, the employer can make an informed judgement on your future job performance based on the personal and technical skills that you have demonstrated.
The programme of events is often very intensive and may require an overnight stay with the other candidates, so it is essential to create a positive impression for the duration of the programme. Although certain stages may appear to be informal, you are more than likely to be monitored throughout. The programme may include a social or informal gathering with other candidates, selectors, senior managers and employer representatives who have recently graduated from the Assessment Centre themselves. This is an invaluable opportunity for you to find out more about the company from people at different levels within the organisation. The potential employer may well be assessing your ability to entertain future clients so your behaviour should be impeccable.
A number of the activities undertaken at an Assessment Centre will involve working in groups enabling the employer to assess your teamwork skills, your ability to listen to others and the way you react if your opinion is challenged. Group activities can include discussions (where you are assigned a particular subject and asked to form a conclusion as a group), and role play exercises involving each member of the group taking on a particular role and participating in discussions and negotiations to demonstrate their interaction and communication skills. Additionally, business scenarios can be simulated whereby the group has to perform certain tasks or challenges that may well arise in a normal business environment.
One of the keys to success in group activities is to remember that you will be competing against a set of pre-established standards, rather than against your fellow group members. Also, the employer may not necessarily be looking for someone who immediately takes the lead, but perhaps someone who integrates well with others, is willing to take on board the opinions of others and is capable of following instructions.
This is much more likely to be undertaken on an individual basis and involves dealing with a typical in-tray, consisting of various forms of correspondence and documentation. The task will be to ensure that appropriate action is taken to deal with each piece of information which can include drafting formal and informal written responses and preparing statistical reports. You may be assessed on how you prioritise the workload that you are faced with, how effectively you deal with each document, and how well you have read and understood the information. You may also be assessed on any notes you have made indicating further action that may be required, and on how much of the workload you are able to complete within the allowed timeframe.
The interviews that take place at Assessment Centres may differ from standard interviews in that they may be more in-depth and may also involve facing a panel of interviewers rather than just one interviewer. If this is the case, it is important to focus your attention on the specific interviewer posing the question while also ensuring that you include the other panel members in your glance to show that they too are included.
As in any interview situation, it is always beneficial to have done your homework on the company and be prepared to provide evidence of your skills and knowledge. Advice and tips on successful interview techniques can be found in Coping with Job Interviews, also compiled by The CV Centre®.
Sometimes, you may be required to prepare and deliver a short presentation, although you should be given prior warning of this to enable you to carry out any necessary research and to practice your presentation. Some key tips for the effective delivery of a presentation include: using notes but not working from a script; maintaining eye contact with your audience; using visual aids and handouts where appropriate, and ensuring that both the introduction and conclusion of your presentation are strong and effective. Further help on presentations can be found in Interviews – Presentations, also compiled by The CV Centre®.
Psychometric tests are generally taken under exam conditions and are aimed at assessing your logical/analytical skills and your capacity for reasoning. Quite often, they will also be tailored towards the specific role for which you are applying so that the employer can get an idea of how you would perform in the role. It is essential to make sure you read and understand each question before attempting to answer it – don’t be tempted to rush and risk making careless mistakes.
Another commonly used psychometric test is a personality test where you may be assessed on how you respond to a given situation.
In general, you should do your best to relax and enjoy the Assessment Centre as much as you can, while remembering that you may be under observation at all times, even in seemingly informal situations. Try to be yourself at all times and show the employer that you have confidence in yourself and in your ability to perform the job for which you are applying.
Professional Interview Coaching
At The CV Centre®, day in day out, we successfully coach our clients to truly excel at interview. This enables us to bring you the very best of what we have learnt – helping you to excel at interview yourself.
When it comes to interviews, people often think, “Well, I’ll just turn up and be myself.” Which is fine, but it won’t get you the job! You need to plan and prepare for an interview as you are still up against many other applicants and this is your key opportunity to make an impact. Your CV may get your foot in the door but you’re on your own in the interview – and sometimes the most able candidate on paper can really shoot themselves in the foot when they actually get to the interview.
On average, there’s likely to be at least 5 other candidates being interviewed for the same vacancy. So, everything else being equal, that gives you, at the most, a 20% chance of getting the job. But there’s so much you can do to improve your odds of success.