Assessment centres are often described as large rooms filled with strangers where you’re asked to play games, give presentations and tackle a range of tasks with varying levels of difficulty. But at the bottom of it all, it’s really just a place for recruiters to assess your suitability for the company.
But unfortunately, because of the stress and uncertainty involved, you may feel like you’ve just jumped into a scene from The Apprentice. In fact, some candidates even take their cues from the show and, visualising on-screen bashings, overstress themselves and come unglued.
But being at an assessment centre is, frankly, not at all like being on a reality TV show.
It’s not Battle Royale/The Hunger Games
First of all, you’re not in direct competition with the other candidates, where the last (wo)man standing wins the sole position available. Usually, there’s more than one winner at an assessment centre.
This is because you’re being assessed against the employers’ criteria, not against each other, and it’s important that you show how well you can work in a team. In an assessment centre, you need to find a way to work together with your “colleagues” to achieve the goals and tasks set.
Secondly, assessment centres are two-way streets – this is your chance to evaluate a prospective employer as much as they assess you and see if the shoe fits. After all, it’s better to find out something like this sooner rather than later!
Know the difference!
Although there are some similarities between The Apprentice (or any other reality TV show, really) and an assessment centre, there are several key differences. The main difference is on a reality TV show, the objective of the participants is to serve as mere fodder for audiences, while in an assessment centre, candidates are looking to do their genuine best to show recruiters they are the right people for the job.
How do you know if it’s all going well?
One of the easiest ways of figuring out if your day has gone well is to think back and remember if you went through a range of roles over the course of the day – and enjoyed yourself while you were at it!
What you should expect
Although graduate employers usually design their own assessment centres to test for skills and aptitudes needed in their own organisations, most of these assessments typically contain similar elements and exercises. You can expect to do a combination of the following in most assessment centres:
• Group work exercises
• Aptitude and psychometric tests
• In-tray/e-tray exercises
• Case studies linked to the job function
During these exercises, recruiters will assess you for a number of things, including how you demonstrate core graduate skills and other important skills such as problem-solving skills. The group setting also makes it much easier for them to assess your teamworking skills. On top of that, you’ll be able to showcase your influence and persuasion skills, and employers can see how others respond to you.
How you should behave
Remember, your goal in an assessment centre is to show what you’d really be like if you land a spot in the company. Here are some tips on how you can be your best self on the spot!
Don’t lose your concentration. Try to make sure you have a good night's sleep beforehand, as you’ll need to stay alert and engaged, even during meals and teatime.
Get your hands dirty during group exercises. They’re designed to see how well you work with others, so make an effort and take part, whatever the task!
Be professional. Be sure you dress the part and arrive on time! Be friendly but polite, and be prepared to initiate conversation. Assessment centres often double as social exercises, so chat with other candidates at lunch and break times.
Don’t be someone else, just be yourself! Try to relax and behave naturally. You might even find that you’re enjoying yourself despite the nerves. Besides, a smile is more likely to make a better impression than a face frozen in fear.