How to Prepare for an Assessment Centre
What is an Assessment Centre?
Assessment exercises are used in assessment and development centres. These are events which help employers to build a comprehensive picture of your strengths and weaknesses in relation to a particular job. The results of the assessments can be used to help make decisions about recruitment, development, and promotion.
Types of Assessment Centre exercise
Typical assessment centre events consist of a number of activities that have been specifically selected to help build a picture of your potential performance and style in a role with the employer.
Assessment centre activities can include:
Group discussions – these can involve the whole group of candidates or smaller sub-groups who must work together to meet a challenge
One-to-one meetings – You will work with another candidate or role-player to come up with some solutions to a range of issues
Analysis exercises – In the olden days these were in-tray exercises; modern analysis exercises require you to make decisions based on a range of information
You should learn more about yourself as a result of taking part in an assessment event. The style and approach you demonstrate in response to the assessment activities will offer you insights into your potential performance in the role, the strengths you can bring to bear, and the areas you may choose to develop further.
While the idea of taking part in multiple exercises can seem daunting at first, it will provide you will a much better chance to demonstrate your full range of abilities and skills in a particular role of situation.
Assessment centre days can last anywhere between half a day to a full day, and on rare occasions it has been known for some to span the course of several consecutive days.
Assessment Centre Tips & Tricks
Assessment Centre Tips 1: Preparation is key
Like with any other interview situation, you should always thoroughly research the company you’re applying to before arriving.
Make sure you read up on the company history, aims and any internal values they may have. By researching their key values you’ll gain a better idea of the type of employee they’re looking for, meaning you’ll be able to present yourself in the best possible light, and give yourself a better chance of standing out against your peers.
If you can, try to speak to people who already work at the company and ask what they consider to be the ideal or model employee. You should also be able to answer the following questions:
- What services or products do they sell?
- How many countries are they based in?
- What is their core target market?
- Who are their main competitors?
- What are the company values?
- How has the company performed recently?
Assessment Centre Tips 2: Thoroughly read through any prior briefing information you’ve been sent
By the time you go to the Assessment Centre you should know the job description and what they’re looking for inside out.
Some companies will send you an information pack beforehand and ask you to do some reading prior to the Assessment Centre day taking place. If this does happen, then you absolutely MUST read through the information they’ve sent, and be sure to read it multiple times until you’re confident you can remember any key details you may need during the assessment. If they haven’t sent you anything then don’t be afraid of asking!
Assessment Centre Tips 3: Make sure you know where you’re going and arrive with plenty of time to spare
Whilst this should be obvious to most people you would be surprised at just how many Assessment Centres see people getting lost en-route and arriving late or flustered.
If you know where you’re going beforehand then it will save you a whole load of potential stress, so make sure you research the location the night before leaving. If you’re driving to the assessment then it’s a good idea to check the parking arrangements before you arrive.
Sometimes things will go wrong despite our best efforts (a road closure or car breaking down), if you’re one of these unlucky souls, then you need to inform your assessor as soon as is physically possible. If there is a genuine, unavoidable reason then they are likely to understand. However if you don’t tell them and just stroll in late, then it will likely go against you when it comes to the final selection of candidates for the role.
Assessment Centre Tips 4: Be polite and respectful to everyone you meet
Needless to say this should already be the case. However, being put in an Assessment Centre situation that is out of your comfort zone can stress many people out, and in this state it can be relatively easy to forget your manners and come across as being rude or careless.
Assessment Centre Tips 5: Do a few practice assessments before arriving
Quite often employers will ask you to perform some form of psychometric assessment as part of their Assessment Centre. If you know this to be the case then you should set aside some time beforehand to practice a few tests.
If you can’t find the exact type of test you will be taking, then you should still try the most relevant ones you can find, as this will be good practice, and ease your nerves to give you a better chance of performing well on the day.
Assessment Centre Tips 6: Be confident and brush up on your presentation skills
Generally speaking, the more prepared you are, the more confident you should feel going into your Assessment Centre.
Often an Assessment Centre day will consist of having to perform some form of presentation either to your interviewers or a group of peers. Even if you don’t have to present anything, it will be good practice to get into, and will help give you the confidence to thrive in any other assessment centre situation that they give you.
Assessment Centre Tips 7: Lunchtime
Even though it’s lunchtime and you’re on a break, it is important to remember that whilst you’re not technically being observed, your behaviour will still be judged and as such you should act as if you would at any other time during the assessment centre. Therefore you should try and remain as professional as possible and not mess around. While it may seem like fun to playfully smear your yoghurt on a colleagues face, you will definitely be judged and if you make a bad impression it’ll likely count against you in the selection process.
Assessment Centre Tips 8: Avoid being negative AT ALL COSTS
This ties in with all the above points. Try to remember this even during lunchtime as you never know who may be listening to you.
There have been many past instances where the recruiting company will send a current employee to sit in on the assessment centre, pretending to be one of the potential recruits. Nobody likes a moaner so try to be as positive as possible, even when faced with a potentially negative situation.