The nature of assessment centres has changed a lot over the years. Traditionally used to recruit graduates or junior staff they have recently become popular for more senior recruitment. However, there are still many myths and misconceptions associated with them and this has led to many people looking on them with a sense of dread. Here, we try to dispel the idea of assessment centres as the gruelling gauntlets of recruitment.
Assessment centres may vary from company to company, but the way you approach them should always be the same; with careful preparation!
Be yourself…but more so
You should, of course, always be yourself in any part of the recruitment process but in assessment centres it is especially important to make it obvious that you are engaging in the process. Approach assessment centres as you would a driving test; you need to emphasise everything that you do to make it clear to the assessors. You may well be listening to someone’s point of view but if the assessors don’t notice then it counts for nothing.
Needless to say, you should be friendly and courteous to everyone you meet on the day, from the receptionist to your fellow candidates.
Just like a one-on-one interview, you are being assessed from the moment you walk in through the front door, so leave everyone with a good first impression. You will also be watched on any breaks that they give you throughout the day so make sure you’re on your best behaviour at all times.
Cover the basics
Pick out an appropriate outfit for the day and make sure that it’s clean and pressed or ironed. Plan your route and make sure that you turn up on the day; the biggest complaint that employers have throughout the recruitment process is of candidates not turning up for assessment centres. Not turning up will put a permanent black mark on your record for that company as well as any agency you’ve gone through.
Know what to expect
The assessment centre will typically consist of a combination of tasks which could include role plays, group exercises, a one-on-one interview, psychometric testing, a presentation exercise and a prioritisation task. It will help if you can find out what the exercises will be beforehand by asking the person who invited you.
There are other things you can do to prepare which can put you ahead of the competition such as visiting the company’s stores and website to get a good feel of how they do things (and make sure you mention this in the assessment centres).
Be prepared for standard interview questions on your experience and skills, strengths and weaknesses. Make sure that you’ve prepared a list of your achievements and examples of any challenges you’ve faced and how you’ve resolved them.
Know when to talk and when to listen
In group exercises, you will doubtless be desperate to show you are making a contribution but remember that leadership skills include listening as well as talking! Remain calm, polite and professional.
Don’t talk over people, try not to interrupt them and, while standing up for your own point of view, make sure you showing willingness to listen to other points of view.