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10 Social Etiquette Tips For Interview & Assessment Centre Success

[NOTE: You can download my new Ultimate Assessment Day Guide here.]

Interviews and assessment events can be perilous environments for candidates; along with the challenging mental and intellectual aspects of the day there is also a highly influential social element.

Successful candidates showcase their inter-personal skills and consistently strike the right balance with interviewers, assessors and their fellow candidates.

Let’s look at how a successful candidates should behave:

Remember, you can practise real assessment day exercises and psychometric tests that employers use here and here.

1) Be professional

As an absolute minimum candidates are expected to arrive on time and be well presented. (Have your best business outfit professionally cleaned a few days prior, get a sharp haircut,  polish your shoes etc.)

It is vital that you thoroughly prepare beforehand and the extent of your preparation will become clear as the day unfolds, to both yourself (during any difficult interview moments or tricky assessment exercises) and also to the assessors who will gauge your hunger for the role by the amount of preparation it appears you did beforehand. (Read my article ‘How To Prepare For An Interview Or Assessment Centre for some expert guidance.)

Be sure to visit the Resources & Tools page for essential equipment to ensure you look the part.

2) Be positive

Positive people are not only more pleasant to interview but they are easier to work with (remember that your future line manager -and possibly some peers- will be involved in the interview and selection process).

Your aim is to come across as someone who is not only capable, but who would fit into the team well and be easy to work with.

Don’t allow negative candidates to throw you off track during group exercises or in between activities. Remember everything is being monitored and assessed at all times.

PRO TIP: It has even been known for companies to ‘plant’ existing employees or managers into the candidate pool to give an extra perspetive and pair of eyes – you have been warned!

3) Be personable

It’s not always easy, but try and be yourself (your best professional self), in front of the senior management figures.

Try to get your personality across in a way that’s natural. Don’t force it, but when you have the opportunity to talk about yourself, do so and make that time count.

Give them something to remember you by, for example, if you’ve recently returned from a backpacking trip to Cambodia, tell them, it helps cement you in their mind and gives colour to your personality and candidate profile.

4) Be friendly

Some candidates are so focused on the challenges of the day that they forget that:

    • Their behaviour is being assessed at all times (how they interact with other candidates and assessors).
    • The assessors are human beings and are pre-disposed to favour people who are pleasant!

5) Be interested

On a similar note, ensure you chat with the other candidates and assessors during breaks. The way you carry yourself in these interludes is important and helps the assessors build a more complete picture of you.

Discuss other people’s backgrounds and current roles, even if you’re not interested, pretend to be interested.

6) Be collaborative

Don’t be the jackass who undermines, criticises or talks over other candidates during group exercises. Some people see this as a good opportunity to score points against their competition, but they are digging their own grave.

Far better to be the candidate who strongly takes part, but also actively includes and promotes the other candidates and their input. (Particularly those who may have been suppressed by more assertive candidates thus far.)

Being collaborative like this throughout the day demonstrates refined inter-personal skills, inclusiveness, leadership and a host of other elite character traits that will elevate you above the other candidates.

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7) Be confident

Confidence puts everyone at ease and projects a message that says, ‘I’m happy to be here, I’m capable and comfortable in this environment.’

It’s not easy to look confident, particularly if what you’re actually feeling is nervousness, but it is absolutely possible and something you should strive to do as it makes a very positive impression on the assessors.

The number 1 way to boost your confidence before the day is to prepare, prepare, prepare.

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8) Be relaxed

Similarly, looking relaxed projects an image that you’re in control. Again this can be difficult, especially if you’re anxious or feeling ‘on edge’.

Have a read of my guide ‘How To Cope With Nerves And Anxiety At Your Interview Or Assessment Centre ‘ to discover a host of ways to remain calm, focussed and deliver your best possible performance.

9) Be ‘politely discreet’

One of the other candidates may privately ask for your help or advice at some point (for example you may have performed an individual exercise in the morning that they will perform in the afternoon). They may ask you to give them the inside track – this is especially common if you’re applying for an internal promotion and you know the other candidates well.

Ultimately it’s a personal choice, if the person is a friend you may want to be candid, but if not I’d recommend you keep your cards close to your chest. The other candidates are your competition and it’s not really fair for one of them to put you in this position. (After all, it is cheating.) In this scenario I recommend you be ‘politely discreet’. Field their request politely but firmly and don’t tell them anything of genuine value.

10) Be conscientious

If you’re not sure about something, ask. Make it clear to the interviewers/assessors that you’re taking the day seriously.

You don’t want to appear neurotic, but it’s important that you’re perceived as someone who is giving 100% to be the successful candidate.

Important! Update your CV before your interview

Lots of candidates make the mistake of thinking they don't need to improve their CV once they've been invited to interview.

Big mistake. Here's why:

1) You should update your CV before the interview event and take a fresh, new-and-improved version with you. (Ideally one that is TAILORED to the role you want.)

2) At interviews and assessment days, your CV will form the basis of your interview. (Whether the interview is competency-based or not.) You'll be expected to answer questions on your CV and usually to walk your interviewer through it.

3) This is the big one: After you've left your interview or assessment day, your CV will be held in the hands of the people who are making the hiring decision. They will literally be looking at your CV while making the hiring decision.

(I've been in this position many times. After spending an entire day meeting and interviewing lots of people, the candidates' CVs are the documents you use to remind yourself which candidate was which and also to revisit the candidates' skills and experience.)

Your CV summarizes the 'professional benefits' of you and is what leaves the last impression. So one last time: Your CV makes your first and last impression; it's a crucial document. Make is as strong as it can be.

Some final questions for you…

  • Lastly the Tools and Resources page is packed with useful equipment and ‘A’ List recommendations that will make your life easier.

Thanks for reading

I hope you enjoyed this article? I’d love to hear your feedback and also to learn how your interview or assessment centre goes, so please feel free to get in touch and let me know. Thanks and good luck!

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