What to Expect in Group Exercises
The group exercise is another regular feature at assessment centres, where a group of candidates are put to work together on a single activity. Groups will usually consist of no more than four to eight people at one time.
Ultimately, success at this exercise is dependent on how well you showcase yourself as a good team player: whether or not you’re able to contribute to a discussion without dominating it, and if you’re able to motivate or assist your teammates.
Skills to demonstrate in group exercises
- Contribute to the discussion without being overly forceful.
If you know that you’re a generally shy person who rarely expresses yourself, then make an effort to articulate your thoughts. Alternatively, if you’ve been told that you can be quite pushy, learn to restrain yourself. Recruiters want to know that you’re able to speak tactfully – that you know when to push and when to pause.
- Keep your speech clear and confident. Listen, and don’t interrupt.
If you’re interrupted, be as diplomatic as possible about it. Wait for the other party to finish speaking before you resume – for all you know, they may have a valid point.
- Take some time to learn how to listen actively.
Active listening isn’t just about hearing someone out, but also paying attention to them and responding in real time. Nod your head when appropriate, and maintain the necessary amount of eye contact.
- Make it a point to include all members of the group.
You’ll find that some candidates can be overenthusiastic in their attempt to impress the recruiters, pushing the quieter candidates into a corner as they do. In these situations, don’t forget to invite the quieter ones to contribute! Recruiters value attentive applicants who can motivate their colleagues.
- Another valuable trait to have is the ability to negotiate and persuade.
It’s a given that all applicants will have their own opinions as to how something should be done, so it’s important to show that you can compromise in times of need. No one likes working with an excessively stubborn person!
That said, here are some common types of group exercises that you can expect to encounter:
1) The ice-breaker
On occasion, recruiters will use ice-breakers to help applicants mingle and warm up to each other. The activities can range from practical or physical to intellectual. For instance, recruiters might ask you to construct something, such as a building from a packet of straws, or to assemble a tent within a time limit.
Recruiters typically don’t assess you during the ice-breaker, but they will use it as an avenue to make early observations about the applicants.
Don’t forget to watch out for the time as you work with your group mates – many applicants make the mistake of spending too much time discussing and planning, causing them to fall short in the execution of the idea.
2) The group case study exercise
This activity can often be combined (or overlap) with the assessment centre case study. Applicants will be given a case study to work on in a group, and will be asked to present their findings or opinions as a group at the end.
The scenario given will usually imitate an actual business situation. You will be given a pack of documents such as reports, emails, letters, and article clippings to gather information from, and your group will need to look through those and decide on the bits of information that are relevant to their task.
Depending on the recruiter’s criteria, they may adjust the format of the exercise accordingly. For instance, if the recruiters’ primary focus is to assess candidates’ abilities to work in a team, then they might ask applicants to cooperate as a team to tackle one single problem.
On the other hand, if recruiters are looking to test candidates’ negotiation skills, then they may place each of you in different roles and ask all of you to work out a common conclusion despite conflicting views.
3) The discussion group
Applicants are given a topic (or topics) to debate or discuss, and recruiters will listen in on the discussion. The topics can be quite varied – from social and environmental to business issues – but most recruiters tend to stick to subjects that will either directly influence applicants or have been recently featured in the news.
You will have little to no preparation time for these discussion exercises, so an existing knowledge of current issues is a must. Keep up to date on the latest news in the weeks before the assessment, and take some time to think about how the things you’re reading about may affect the company you’re applying for.
As you discuss, make sure you actively listen to other applicants. Be diplomatic and understanding even if they do not share your point of view. Make sure you don’t get emotional – recruiters aren’t just assessing your commercial knowledge and ability to discuss as a team, but also your ability to remain level-headed even if things get heated.
Keep track of the time and the progress of your discussion. Always remind yourself of the scope of your topic so that you don’t get side-tracked into discussing something unimportant. Be sure to wrap up with a summary of your points as well as your conclusion on the matter (if recruiters ask).
4) The leaderless task
In a leaderless task, each member of a group is given a separate briefing – which may or may not be similar to others’ – and a time limit to complete a task as a group. Aside from that, there are no further instructions, and it will be up to applicants to figure out what they should do in order to achieve their goals.
Since no one has a complete set of instructions, everyone will have to come together to offer their thoughts on how their roles or tasks can fit together in order to complete the broader objective.
For this kind of task, recruiters will want to see initiative, teamwork, and the ability to compromise. Recruiters want to see if you’re able to initiate things on your own without needing someone to tell you what to do.
Be sure to speak up whenever you think you need to clarify something, but refrain from dominating the situation. The leaderless task is all about completing something together, not as a leader leading a team.
5) The leadership task
A complete change from the leaderless task, the leadership task is designed to test your leadership skills. You’ll be given a specific task, and asked to lead your team to successful completion of that assignment. This type of task only happens on rare occasions when recruiters wish to assess your suitability for a managerial or leadership position.
Recruiters will expect you to assess your teammates’ abilities and to assign duties according to their strengths. For instance, if you’ve noticed that candidate A is an exceptionally meticulous individual, then you may want to delegate organisational or fact-checking duties to them instead of doing those yourself.
A good leader is also always aware of the bigger picture instead of concerning themselves too much with the little details. While it is important for you, as a leader, to know what your team members are doing, you do not need to micromanage them.
Make it a priority to monitor what’s going on, how everything should fit together in the end, and what needs to be amended if something goes awry.
Pay attention to striking a balance between being decisive and listening to your team members’ opinions. You want to come across as someone who is willing to take your team’s views into consideration, but still resolute enough to stay your course despite conflicting views.