Student and Graduate Publishing

How to Approach An Assessment Centre

Thursday, 07 November 2013 15:18

Cast aside fevered imaginings of dystopian sci-fi assessment centres, where the worst candidates get brutally (but creatively) eliminated, Dr Evil style. Assessment centres aren’t as terrifying and clinical as they sound; they usually involve a series of tests, exercises and interviews designed to measure your competency for a job.

Assessment centres are often used by large employers to hire a number of people for a similar job and can take place over one to three days. As assessment centres are so costly, they are typically the final or penultimate stage of a job application, so you shouldn’t fret too much about getting invited to one; it means you’ve already done pretty well!

Yes, they can be nerve-wracking, but assessment centres are universally believed to be the most accurate means of recruiting people. They test your competencies more objectively than a single job interview. They are a chance for you to show, rather than tell, them what you can do. But don’t worry; the beauty of an assessment centre is that if you think you’ve flunked one exercise or interview, you can wow them in the others. So Mr Eminem, you haven’t ‘only got one shot’, but multiple.

How can I prepare for an assessment centre?
The best way to prepare is to thoroughly research the company and also do a mini assessment of your own to work out what your strengths and weaknesses are. The main thing is to keep in mind the selection criteria they specified in the job application. Odds on, every exercise and interview will be geared towards testing you against this. There will probably be a social event incorporated into the day, so prepare a list of questions you want to know about the company to ask the current employees.

What kind of exercises will I be required to do?

The exercises you do will reflect the type of work you have applied for. You may be tested in a group of people or alone. Group situations will usually reflect real working environments. For instance, you might be asked to work through a problem or case study as a team or to complete an exercise. You might also have to undergo a competency interview or be interviewed by a panel.

The kinds of tests you might have to complete individually are: personality tests, aptitude tests, case studies, giving a presentation or completing an e-tray exercise or in-tray test. The assessment centre might also involve social events with the employees and/
or information sessions. This is a chance for you to find out more up- to-date and in-depth information about the company. When faced with an onslaught of tests and interviews, it’s vital to pay close attention to any instructions and try to keep your concentration and motivation up all day (even if it requires herculean effort).

You should treat the assessment centre like a job and go dressed in smart business wear; put that little sparkly ‘Primarni’ number away. Be sociable, friendly and shake hands with everyone you meet. Forget ‘dog eat dog’... That friendliness should extend to other job candidates as well. Don’t go all ‘The Apprentice’ and back- stab in the board room. You are not in a competition; it’s about proving yourself rather than dragging down other people. After all, the employer might just be looking for candidates at a certain standard and hire everybody who reaches it. Concentrating on bringing down other candidates will only serve to make you look bad (and it won’t make your mother proud).