Assessment Centres, a Survival Guide Part 2

Do you know what to expect?


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Assessment Centres, a Survival Guide Part 2

In my last BLOG I started a series describing how to prepare and conduct yourself at an Assessment Centre. But what actually happens on the day and what sort of assessments might you experience? Let’s find out.

1. Introductions Someone from the company will set out the plan for the day and introduce the Assessors. There will be a few of these dependent upon how many candidates have been invited to the assessment day.  They’re easy to spot as they will be armed with the clipboards, or if they’re very fancy iPads, and they will be watching your every move.  Be aware that you are under assessment all of the time.  They are not just looking at how you perform in the exercises, but will also want to see your interpersonal skills in action, so to speak.   So they will be interested in seeing how you behave at coffee breaks and over lunch.  They are deciding whether or not you are the kind of person with whom they want to work and whether or not you fit the company culture.  The Assessors will be made up of HR people or someone from the Recruitment team to add some balance, and the hiring manager or managers.  These latter of course have the most interest in the successful outcome of the day.  Depending how many of you are there, they will split the group into streams, so that whilst one group are being interviewed, others are completing written tests and so on.

2. Verbal Reasoning These are designed to assess your ability to draw conclusions from a mass of written information. They usually comprise a series of multiple choice questions answered by reading some text, perhaps an article taken from a newspaper.  They are not usually industry specific and are completed against the clock.  Many Assessment Centres will now utilise IT rather than good old-fashioned pen and paper to conduct the tests.  

Key tip: remember all of that exam advice you were given at school - you know, manage your time, use rough workings? It all applies here.

3. Numerical Reasoning These are designed to assess your ability to draw conclusions extracted upon a mass of numerical information.  Again, multiple choice answers drawn from your reading of a page of data.  These are not industry specific.  They are also timed.  These also tend to scare people more than anything else.  

Key tip: be systematic, as they do not require an advanced understanding of calculus.

4. Basket Exercise Often this requires you to go through a list of business problems or tasks and then put them in order of priority.  Or it might an exercise designed around an actual decision making process core to the job for which you are being assessed.  They are also conducted against the clock.  These can be designed so that it is impossible for you to finish them so don’t panic if you can’t.  

Key tip: Be systematic, and apply common sense.  The assessor is looking at the way you approach the problem as much as the actual answers that you give. 5.

Personality Profiles I use this term as shorthand for a variety of tests that are designed to assess your suitability for a role.   These are now very common indeed.  It will be virtually impossible for you to reach any level of seniority within your chosen career without undergoing one or more of these tests, probably on a regular basis.  They can probe any number of areas, but the most common investigate your management or leadership style, or your working preferences.  They usually comprise seemingly repetitive groups of questions requiring you to express preferences.  Most people find the results very interesting and you cannot prepare for them.  They ARE NOT IQ tests! They are always against the clock. 
 It is usual for companies to feedback the results of Psychometrics whether or not they decide to offer you a job.  This is regarded as good ethics and is very useful for you.  It is extremely unlikely that they will surprise you in any way other than how accurate they are and most people really enjoy doing them.   Some people try to manipulate the results by "finessing" the way they answer the questions.  Don’t waste your time.  These assessments have “control” questions designed to weed out such vile transgressions.   

Key tip: give the first answer that comes into your head.

6. Industry or role specific exercises If you are applying for a job that requires specific knowledge or skill, there may be a specific knowledge or skill test!   So, for example, if you are a Programmer they may test your specific knowledge of the language you will be using.  

Key tip: don’t apply for the job if you don’t know your stuff!   Next time in the last part of this series I will give you my tips on how to handle those pesky group exercises, presentations and interviews.

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