Assessment Centres are designed to assess your suitability for the competencies of a specific role. Centres can be used to select candidates towards the end stage of the recruitment process and typically organisations will use their Competency Framework to ensure that each element of the Centre is objectively “assessing” a key competency area.
There are a number of objective selection tools used in Centres:-
- Individual or Group Interviews
- Psychometric Tests
- Group Exercises
- Social activities
- Role Play
Each competency area and technique used will be objectively scored. Remember, you will normally be “observed” throughout an Assessment Centre and your participation, presentation and responseswill be measured and scored by independent assessors.
Do your research and prepare. There is no substitute for preparation so as a minimum:-
- Research: organisation structure, mission/vision/values, annual report, business/operational plan, press releases
- Network: LinkedIn, Facebook and informal networks to find out more about the companyculture and operations
Ask at the Centre if you can refer to your research notes or online sources. The following section provides an overview of each technique typically used at an Assessment Centre.
It is best to answer honestly rather than guessing what the employer wants you to say. Give yourself time and without distraction. Online testing is typically before the Assessment Centre and often is an input to the Interview section.
Aptitude and ability psychometric tests are slightly more involved as they are timed and involve verbal, numerical and spatial reasoning and might also be held in a “controlled” environment (eg at the organisation's premises).
Some candidates are “wired” to perform well with online testing. To succeed with psychometric tests is practice. There are many online free resources for taking these tests should these form part of your selection process, talk to your recruitment consultant for advice in the first instance.
Competency Based Interviews
Preparing answers for key competency areas (normally identified in the job description/specification) ensures you cover the STAR approach to interviews:-
- Situation – where were you, what was your job title etc.
- Task – what was it you had to do e.g. dealing with a dissatisfied customer
- Action – how you positively impacted the situation using different skills such as communication, problem solving etc.
- Result – what was the outcome and what you learned from the situation.
Keep these brief. You will normally have 5 or 6 competencies to cover in 45 minutes to 1 hour (for professional role).
Also prepare for "Why do you want to work for this company?" or "Why should we hire you?
You'll be given a topic either on the day or in advance to prepare. They might want to observe your presentation, IT skills, your knowledge of the topic or perhaps how you command the room. This might largely be role dependant. They might even want to observe your selling skills and want you to try and sell them a product which the company owns.
- Structure your presentation with a beginning, middle and end.
- Anticipate questions in advance and be prepared to answer them or say you would prefer to answer questions at the end.
- Make good eye contact and smile; it will hold the audience's attention.
- Involve your audience by asking them a question.
- Speak slowly, clearly, and with enthusiasm!
- Watch your timings.
- Don't assume you will have PowerPoint/Laptop/USB. Organisations are now also asking for 10 minute presentation (without any media) - always check before the day.
Group exercises allow you to be tested for numerous skills including team work, communication, time management, problem solving and many more. Typically you will be given some sort of task, for example:
- As a team build something physical e.g. a bridge out of paper
- Given a discussion topic and have to decide on an outcome
- You are stranded somewhere and can only take 5 items from the list, you need to negotiate which items you would take
The assessors will be looking for the person who works best in the team not the most dominating person. Make sure you listen to others, involve others by asking for their opinion and keep an eye on
the time. Try to be supportive and friendly but do not talk over anyone else or dismiss their ideas instantly.
- Keep an eye on the time; is everyone in the group on track to complete the task? Perhaps suggest an Action Taker, Minute Minder and Presenter for the group. Get involved and don't
- be nervous
- Stay focused throughout
- Be articulate and respond to others, work well with in the team
- Listen to others and add to what they say or ask a related question
- Be supportive and friendly
- Try to involve others
- Don't be overbearing - even if you are assigned or elected as the leader, understand that this role is to get the best from everyone and guide the group to a successful outcome\
- Don't interrupt or talk over others
Lunch time or evening dinner, tea breaks can also be observed. Conduct yourself as you would in a formal assessment.
- Show interest: ask questions about the organisation
- Be sociable, meet and talk to as many different people as you can
- Don't drink too much. Decide on your limit and stick to it
- Do not stay with other interview candidates as they will not have any influence on whether you are hired
- Don't be controversial in your conversation, e.g. politics, religion, etc.
Role play is the most common assessment centre activity especially in positions such as consulting, sales and retail assessment method. They are based on a common workplace scenario e.g. convince a prospective client to use their service, handle a complaint or sell a customer a product. The majority of candidates can feel quite self-conscious in these scenarios. This is what the exercise is designed to do. Show the employer how confident you are: listen, ask probing questions, to ensure that you are fact gathering during the role play be fore you present options or a solution.
- Know exactly what the role is and get in character.
- Confirm when the exercise begins.
- Adopt the character but be yourself as well: don't say or do anything unnatural.
- Emphasise the key competencies: For example, in a sales role candidates should try and emphasise their persuasion skills, for a customer service role your interpersonal and conflict management skills should be emphasised.
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