Employee candidates that are in graduate-level are usually put through an assessment centre (AC) as the final stage of their interview process for a graduate job. This process goes for an extended period of time and candidates are usually put into small groups in which they are given interviews, tasks and assessment exercises to be evaluated and assessed by recruiters. The AC can last for almost the whole day, many for 24 hours and some even up to three days.
With the amount of candidates that are in the AC, you have to know how to stand out to the recruiters and be able to see your potential as a candidate. Assessment centres are used to evaluate the performance of candidates in situations whether it be individual or group situations that are based off real work scenarios. Assessment centres take a lot of time and space to organise and so candidates that are chosen are those that are most likely to be hired.
The assessments given vary based on the job and are developed by employers and tailored for the specific job that could fulfil the needs of the recruiters. Regardless of the employers, these assessments will include tasks and tests that make up of a selection of both individual and group assessments.
Typical Interviews, Tasks and Assessments1
There are a few typical interviews and tasks that you may be able to expect when participating in an AC.
- Typical interviews
- Competency interview The questions asked during this interview style is to evaluate a candidate’s key attributes. They would usually require candidates to demonstrate their skills or competencies that the employer is looking for by using situational examples. This kind of interview would allow interviewers get to know the candidate’s personality, skills and competencies.
- Partner interview Partners are senior members and the purpose of this interview is to see if your personality would fit and is suitable for the company or industry that you are joining. This kind of interview is in a form of a conversation in which questions about why you want to join, what you hope to achieve, and what you can bring to the plate would be asked.
- Technical interview This interview would have questions that are specific to the job that you applied for, brain teaser questions, and/or numerical reasoning questions. This kind of interview is used to assess candidates that applied for technical or specialist graduate job positions such as IT, Engineering and Science.
- Panel interview This interview is just like a regular interview, however, rather than being interviewed by one, you may be facing three to five people. The people joining the panel can include members from various department and candidates will be through a brief explanation on the structure of the interview. This interview also depends on the type of role you applied for and is used to assess your ability in answering questions, interacting with individuals, communication techniques and how you maintain and build a connection with the panel members. These interviews are frequently used for jobs in educational institutions, non-profit organisations, government organisations and partner agencies.
- Typical individual assessments
- Aptitude tests (verbal reasoning, diagrammatic reasoning and/or numerical reasoning)
- Personality tests
- Case study
- E-tray exercise
- In-tray exercise
- Written exercise
- Professional conduct questions
- Typical group assessments
- Case study
- Group exercise
- Role play
These exercises and how you perform in them are then assessed based on a checklist of key abilities and attributes that are necessary for the job and may include competencies such as:
- Critical thinking
- Decision making
- Interpersonal skills and teamwork
- Organisation and time management
- Verbal and written communication
How to Stand Out2
Before going to an AC, make sure you have had time to prepare yourself. Being unprepared can lose you the position, however if you were prepared, assessors will be able to sense your confidence and also help you relax.
- Do Research Make sure you have done research before an interview assessment. A candidate should be able to know information about the employer and the role you applied for. There is essential research that should be done before going into an AC interview including:
- Their purpose, strategy and value
- Key challenges and priorities
- Trends and their competitors
- Your role completely including tasks and activities
- Prepare Responses Prepare answers that could be useful for you during an interview including the ‘standard’ answers for questions employers ask. These questions may include about your experience, your skills etc. Other than preparing responses, also practice them on your own to help build your confidence.
- Review your CV Look through and review your CV. If you’re asked about your CV, this will help you refresh your memory and be able to talk about it without any problems.
- Know the Outline When you turn up to an AC, make sure that you have looked at the types of activities and tasks that you’ll be expected to be doing. If you are not given the outline of the assessment centre, be sure to ask.
Other than the essential preparation, there are also tips and tricks that could help you along the way with the various tasks during the AC.
- Interviews Anticipate the questions and prepare answers for your interview. There are a few questions that you can focus on including the generic questions, questions about the industry or organisation, and also questions about your role.
- When preparing for answers be sure to describe the situation you were confronted in, the action you too that demonstrates your skills and also what you achieved from the situation. Although you can never anticipate the questions asked in an interview, make sure that your answers are what you want the employer to know.
- Presentations If an AC requires a presentation, candidate are either asked to prepare beforehand or on the day. The presentation would most likely require you to make a solution to a problem or situation. A tip on how to make a presentation is similar to preparing for an interview:
- Introduction – introduce yourself and the topic
- Content – cover the contents and key points of your presentation
- Situation/problem – describe the situation that you were given
- Proposal – Propose your solutions (3)
- Solutions – describe each of your solutions, how they will be implemented, and the results that will be achieved through the solution
- Conclusion – summarise your presentation and give a conclusion
- Questions – end your presentation with a Q&A
- Group Assessment The other candidates you will be with should not be considered as direct competition as assessors will be evaluating you on how you can work in a team, communicate with others and show leadership skills. You are usually given a problem to solve as a group in these exercises. Throughout these group activities, there are a few things that you should keep in mind.
- Be assertive, not dominant
- Stay focused
- Be supportive
- Be original
At an assessment centre, it is also important to stay professional as you will be evaluated and are expected to behave and wear appropriate attire throughout the time there. During the time at the assessment centre, the first way you can make a good impression is to arrive on time and also make sure your phone is silent to avoid disruptions during assessments and interviews.
Another way to create good impressions are during the breaks. Take your time and opportunity to start a conversation with other candidates, staff members, and even your assessors. This is the time you can introduce yourself and even strike a conversation about the company and industry. Other than trying to stand out during the assessments, also find ways to stand out during breaks.
1 WikiJob, Assessment Centre: Tips and Preparation Advice, 2016. https://www.wikijob.co.uk/content/application-advice/assessment-centres/assessment-centre-tips-and-preparation-advice
2 Cross, R. Assessment Centres: How to Shine, 2010. http://www.blog.grad-expectations.com/?p=20