Firstly, if you have been invited to an Assessment Centre, “Congratulations!”
You have already been successful in being shortlisted to this stage and in the current jobs market that is no mean feat. So, well done! As most Assessment Centres generally have a very similar format, we have collated here our Top Tips for their most common key elements.
Normally in the Group Exercise you will work as part of a team to find a solution to a problem. The key things to focus on are :
Reading the Exercise Instructions
Reading them thoroughly will not only ensure that you completely understand what you have been asked to do but also help you ensure the rest of the team stays on track. It can be very easy for a team to get sidetracked, especially if there are one or two more domineering individuals who try and take over and push perhaps irrelevant points. If you see this happening, it is best to politely state that what they are saying is a good point but that you should all stick to the main issues. This will ensure you get noted by both the rest of the team and the assessors.
Speak out and share your ideas
Do make sure that you contribute to the group discussion. Initiate discussion points and respond to things that the other team members say. Vocalize your ideas. After all, Assessors are looking for people who are good communicators and who can demonstrate fresh thinking. Don’t let yourself be shouted down by the loudest most dominant member of the team. Make your points clearly without aggressively shouting over anyone else. And be self aware. If you find yourself being much quieter and less of a contributor than the others, chances are the assessor is thinking exactly the same. So, do something about it.
Play a definitive role
Even if you are not naturally comfortable with leading a group, there are certain things you can do to make sure that you play a significant part. Volunteer for a role that you are most comfortable with and do it well. Don’t just wait to be assigned a certain task. If there is no definitive leader in the group, you can still demonstrate certain “leader” like qualities. Ensure everyone participates by encouraging the quieter team members to get involved – ask them for their thoughts and opinions. Be assertive but not bullish or aggressive. Make sure the team stays focused on the main issues.
The presentation element may be on a subject of your choosing , but is more likely to be on a topic allocated to you. Whichever it is, the key things to focus on are :
Find out how much time you have , what facilities you will have ( flip chart, Power Point etc), who exactly you are presenting to.
Unless you are advised to the contrary, your presentation should have a fairly standard structure :
- An Introduction on yourself and your subject – make sure that this is brief and concise.
- The Main Content – make this in the form of key points. If you are using slides, don’t simply read out what the audience can see. Expand on the points you have highlighted. Use prompt cards if you have to.
- A Summary and Conclusion – Try and tie everything together here – a quick recap and summary of your main points are all that is needed.
Try to relax as best as you can and to overcome any nerves. Speak clearly and audibly . Make eye contact with your audience and don’t bow your head, reading from your notes. Be mindful of your body language – try not to be over expressive with your hands.
Of all the Assessment Centre elements, this is probably the most relevant to the job you have applied for. Often you will be given a problem or a situation that mirrors exactly the type of thing you would face should you be in the job. It is critical here therefore to prove you are up to the task.
Whether you are doing this as in individual or as part of a group, you should focus on :
Identifying the Main issues
Quickly try and establish the core problems are and what your overall objective is.
Finding a Solution
Your Assessors will not necessarily expect you to find a perfect solution, but will be looking for well thought out, considered and realistic ideas nonetheless.
Keeping track of time
Don’t forget about the time deadline. Plan your allocated time from the off so that you are able to complete the task in hand. Don’t dwell on one aspect of it and ruin your chances of finishing the exercise. If this is a group task, appoint yourself as the Timekeeper and do the role effectively.
The Intray / E-tray Exercise
For this role-play like element you will be assigned a certain role within the company and will be presented with either an Intray or Electronic Mailbox filled with emails, reports messages and memos. Whether it is paper based or email , your focus should be the same:
- Scan through all the contents and make quick notes of what you have.
- Prioritise the most urgent and important tasks.
- Identify what can be delegated or passed to someone else.
- Establish key action points that you must take and whether or not there are any deadlines or time issues.
Remember for this, there are no right or wrong answers.
The Assessors are simply looking for your ability to think clearly, make decisions, prioritize tasks within a definitive timeframe.
Overall, the key thing to remember about an Assessment Centre is that very few candidates will excel in every area. So try not to be too hard on yourself if you haven’t performed as well as you would like in one area in particular.
If you have attended an Assessment Centre or even been an Assessor, we would love to hear your tips and more about your experiences. Please feel free to let us know via the comments section below.