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Tips to Prepare for an Assessment Centre and Succeed

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About Assessment Centres:

Recruiters and heads of companies will set up an assessment centre for a group of candidates. There are extended interviews, tasks, and exercises designed to identify the most qualified and desirable candidates on assessment days.

The assessments are usually organized by a group of assessors or recruiters, including members of an employer’s HR team, departmental managers, and partners at the firm.

Companies use assessment centres to test candidates in specific situations that are reflective of how they would act in job-related scenarios. This is a popular recruitment process for companies with large groups of equally qualified graduates.

The term ‘assessment centre’ refers to the single location where all assessments and recruitment activities occur. Usually, the employer’s office or a venue like a hotel or function room will be used as the ‘assessment centre’.

When Does Assessment Day Take Place?

‘Assessment Day’ refers to the day(s) where extended activities and tasks are done. This can be in the middle of office hours or after work. It all depends on the company organizers.

Assessment Day is often the penultimate and last stage of the interview process prior to the final interview. This is because organizing Assessment Centres is expensive, and employers will only like to spend the effort and money on the ideal candidates who they’re most likely to hire.

Many applications have already been rejected at this final stage, and all qualifying screening has taken place – application forms, telephone interviews, and short interviews.

What to Expect at an Assessment Centre:

The tasks and tests will often be a combination of the following:

1. General Information Presentation

Candidates will have to watch a presentation about the company or listen to a brief talk to find out more about what the business does, its mission and its values.

Listen carefully to this because the information you learn here can help you perform better throughout the Assessment Centre. This presentation can be the ‘crip notes’ to all interview questions and tasks.

2. Ice-breakers

Yawn. While these are often boring or cliche activities, they are helpful, short presentations of yourself. Pay attention to what others say and do, and use this as an opportunity to debut yourself as an ideal group member and candidate instead of a bored participant.

3. Aptitude Tests

Even if you have already completed these, you may be asked to repeat them. The most commonly used tests will be numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning and diagrammatic reasoning. To practise these reasoning skills, visit JobTestPrep.

4. In-tray exercise/E-tray exercise.

Employers will want to test your ability to retain information, establish priorities, reach informed decisions and communicate effectively.

5. Group Exercises

This will take the form of a discussion or activity, often around a case study, based on the kind of work that you would be expected to do in the role. The group aspect will also inform the recruiters how you work and act as a team player.

6. Presentation

This could be done individually or as a group, and the presentation is unlikely to be more than 10 minutes long.

Oral communication and planning skills are what recruiters will focus on. Sometimes, you will be given the presentation topic on the same day, in which case it’s more a test of quick thinking and coping with the pressure.

7. Interview

You may have one or several interviews, from individual interviews with a senior employee in your department and even panel interviews.

8. Role Play

Assessment centres may hire a professional actor to play a furious customer or disappointed supplier. The actor will be pushing for a specific outcome, so you’ll need to focus on negotiating and de-escalating tactics. Remember: these assessments are trying to highlight the best employee, so take on that role when acting out the scenario.

9. Written Exercise

You may be asked to summarise critical points or review a course of action relating to a professional document. This is a test of comprehension and communication skills.

10. Breaks.

Break times are not a formally assessed activity, but some recruiters may take into account your interpersonal skills and social dynamics in a less formal setting. The whole day of assessment can be used as a test.

How to Prepare for an Assessment Centre and Succeed

Business people gather for the meeting

1. Know What to Expect

  • Read through your invitation to the assessment centre carefully
  • Note what kind the day’s schedule: what exercises and activities you will be doing and if you have to prepare anything in advance, like a presentation
  • Check if you need to bring anything with you.
  • It can also be helpful to search for previous candidates’ experiences and descriptions of the company’s assessment centre online.

2. Research the Company and Your Role

  • You should go into the Assessment centre knowing the company/firm inside out and understand your role if you’re hired.
  • Look at the employer’s website for information: business activities, its ethos and what they look for in employees.
  • Study the job description!
  • Read up on any news stories involving the company and/or its business sector.
  • Speak to or research people who already work at the company.

3. Review Your Application

It may be some time since you first submitted your application, so read through your application form and CV so all that information you provided is fresh in your mind because recruiters may refer to some details for their interview questions.

If you have been asked to take a CV with you on the day, make any corrections or edits to present the best impression and version of yourself possible.

4. Display the Key Competencies

Recruiters will test you and others on a range of characteristics and key competencies essential to the position. These competencies will vary depending on the sector, and the role applied for.

You also need to make sure you can demonstrate that you meet the key competencies. In each activity and assessment, keep these traits and competencies in mind.

5. Prepare Your Presentation

  • It is likely that you will be required to give a presentation.
  • Find out who your audience will be (just recruiters or company heads?)and check what equipment will be available (projector, laptop, etc.)
  • PowerPoint slides are preferable to a flipchart or overhead projector but keep them simple.
  • Avoid lots of text
  • Aim for no more than one slide for two minutes of speaking.
  • Use simple, clear language and memorize as much as possible. This way, you can make eye contact and not rely on your notes when speaking.
  • Rehearse the presentation out loud. We read faster in our heads, so read out loud in rehearsal, so you have an accurate time frame.

6. Practise Aptitude Tests

JobTestPrep is a valuable resource for sample tests.

Assessment Centres may have you repeat aptitude tests or present new ones. Prepare from practice tests online so that you can excel at all reasoning skills required.

7. Become an Interview Pro

Use the STAR technique to structure your answers effectively. In each question, refer to the

  • Situation
  • Task
  • Action
  • Result

If you have already completed an interview as part of the application process, ask for feedback to see where you could improve your performance.

Practise answering interview questions at home, so you have good answers that are clear, concise and confident.

8. Succeed in Group Exercises

Group Discussion between employees

Your performance in group activities is essential to your overall success at an assessment centre—recruiters assess how you would work as part of the company and existing team.

  • Support and encourage other candidates in group discussions – not everyone will be applying for the same position, so don’t think of fellow candidates as your competition but as possible co-workers.
  • Show confidence in each group exercise
  • Don’t be afraid to take the lead or put your ideas forward. Recruiters will be looking for leadership skills.
  • Give others a chance to contribute too, and remember to give all ideas and contributions respect.

9. Look After Yourself

These are intense days and tests. Take care of your mental health to improve your professional abilities. Here are some tips:

  • Get enough sleep before the assessment day. Sleep will improve your alertness and concentration
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet in the weeks leading up to the assessment so you don’t fall ill.
  • Have a good breakfast that morning – to avoid energy slumps – and drink plenty of water.
  • Regular exercise in the weeks before can help reduce feelings of anxiety or stress. Even gentle exercises like walking or swimming can help tremendously.

10. Plan Ahead

  • Give yourself plenty of time to plan how you will get to the assessment centre and plan any necessary travel arrangements.
  • Aim to arrive earlier than the specified time and allow for delays.
  • Deciding on your outfit in advance will also help avoid last-minute panics and unnecessary stress.

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