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What's involved at assessment centres

Dealing with assessment centres

No matter what sector it is, assessment centres are becoming more and more prevalent. Let's find out what's commonly involved.

An assessment centre, which typically lasts one or two days, brings together a group of candidates who undertake a series of exercises and assessments. The tests provide an opportunity to demonstrate that you possess the personal and technical skills for the job. Every organisation will design its own specific assessment centre. If you identified its selection criteria for your first interview, keep them in mind throughout your time at the centre. Every test, exercise and interview will match you against these criteria.

What the tasks involve

Group exercises can include discussion groups, role-playing a specific brief, leadership tasks and job-related scenarios designed to test your ability to handle the type of tasks specific to the area you have applied for. While promoting your own cause, remember that you must help the group to complete the task. You may be required to give a presentation, usually to a mixed group of candidates and assessors. Structure is important, as it will keep your mind focussed and will help the audience keep track. Use whatever form of notes you feel comfortable with, but avoid using a script. Don’t hit your audience with too much information. You may only have five minutes, which is only enough time to present four big ideas or messages. Remember that your body language can make a huge difference to your presentation. Smiling will ease the tension in your face, and make your audience more comfortable.

Ability tests assess both general and specific intelligence. General ability tests ask you to use complex information, in the form of words, numbers and diagrams, to solve problems using logical or lateral thinking. Ability tests are most likely to be numerical or verbal reasoning tests, specific to the role you have applied for.

Aptitude tests assess your ability to learn something new. Employees are increasingly expected to adapt quickly to changes in the workplace, so prove your ability to develop new skills quickly. During the recruitment process, employers have a limited time-frame in which to get to know you. Personality tests give them an idea of who you are, so be honest, and remember there are no right or wrong answers. A relaxed state will make the experience much more enjoyable for you and give your assessors a more confident impression of you.

The other candidates are rarely in direct competition with you. You’re being assessed against the employer’s criteria, not against each other. The assessors want to see that you can work in a team. Alternate between taking charge and taking a back seat to show you can both take initiative and follow orders. Be yourself. Or rather, be your best self. Remember though, if you have to try make major personality changes to fit in with an organisation, it’s probably not for you.