The day you have been anxious about all week has arrived, you like the company, you want the job, but you are worried about the assessment centre.
Don’t worry, you are not alone, the thought of having your every move scrutinised by a panel of judges like an X Factor auditionee isn’t the most appealing proposition in the world. With The People Pods help and advice we’ll show you that assessment centres are a great tool, not only for your potential new employer to find out your suitability to them, but also for you to understand more about the company you are looking to join, their culture and the people you would be working with.
Just remember they’re on show just as much as you are, you never know, you may just have some fun along the way. Assessment centres are used more now than ever before, particularly with retailers. They are very expensive to run, your place on the day could cost the company up to £800, therefore showing that they are committed and willing to invest in finding the right people. So all you need to do is, be yourself, give it 100% and follow some of our tips, which will help you stand out from the crowd…
There are many different types of exercises used in assessment centres. Below are 4 of the most popular ones you are likely to encounter.
To stand up in front of a group of people you don’t know and deliver your message with confidence and conviction is never going to be easy and I’m sorry to say you either have it or you don’t. There won’t be a lot we can do which will take away the nerves and give you the confidence of Alan Sugar. Just remember most of the candidates there will be feeling exactly the same. It is important not to make the type of preventable mistakes that people often do. Here are some helpful tips, which should point you in the right direction:
Beginning, middle and end – it is important that your presentation is clearly structured with your beginning being your introduction, your middle being the main points and the end, finishing with a satisfactory conclusion. Don’t forget, ask the assessor if they want to ask questions during or at the end of the presentation.
Body Language – it isn’t just what you say but how you come across when saying it. If you are nervous try and use body language to your advantage, good arm movement and a confident persona will help you relax and give your presentation more impact.
Tailor the message – your presentation needs to appeal to the audience in front of you, so tailor the message accordingly, for example, your presentation to a general manager would be different to a chief executive.
Visual Aids – these may be limited but use any you have to your advantage, for example, if you have a flip-chart and pens make use of colour and add pictures or diagrams to make the presentation more interesting.
Eye contact – if you have more than one person in the audience then try to make eye contact with everyone, make sure you don’t focus on one person and ignore the rest.
Stick to the time limit - it is called a time limit for a reason, the assessors are looking for you to deliver your message in the allotted time not 10 minutes more not 10 minutes less so make sure you are as close as possible otherwise you will be marked down.
Rehearse – you will be given time to prepare whether its 30 minutes or 1 hour use it wisely, rehearsing is a big part of this preparation. Don’t write everything down word for word otherwise you won’t have enough time and you will also send everyone to sleep so just write notes to jog your memory and rehearse it as many times as you can, remembering to speak slowly and clearly, this will also give you more confidence and in turn will add to the overall quality of the presentation.
Add Humour – This is a great way to get your audience on side and a great confidence boost for you at the same time. Use any pauses for laughter to take a deep breath and plan what you are going to say next but always remember to make sure the humour used is not going to offend anyone.
In this exercise you are generally confronted with a problem, which you need to solve or a point you need to discuss. As a group you will be given a brief by one of the assessors and time to make some notes, you will then be asked to come to a collective agreement on the answer. During this exercise the assessors will be looking for you to demonstrate various skills such as, how you work with and influence the team, your interpersonal skills and your ability to make decisions. Here are some points to remember when doing this exercise:
Read the brief carefully – Don’t skip through it and jump straight in, make sure you understand it and digest it before giving your opinion.
Stick to the time limit – As with every exercise you will be timed so ensure someone watches the clock to avoid running over which could mean no decision is made. You don’t want to be rushing at the end and force a decision.
Take up a prominent role early – Be first to speak and be enthusiastic, get involved as much as possible, suggest that someone takes notes and if confident enough offer to present back to the assessors.
Involve everyone – Not everyone will be getting involved so it is important to bring in quieter people by asking for suggestions, but be careful not to bully anyone or come across over-powering.
Be collaborative – Seek acknowledgement and agreement, try to lead the team in a collaborative manner.
Don’t waffle – Be concise in everything you say and be aware of anyone else doing the same, if they do, don’t cut across them, wait for an appropriate time to intervene politely.
Agree with valid points – Although you want to bring people round to your opinion if someone makes a valid point it is always better to agree than become argumentative.
Stay calm – If someone is trying to dominate the discussion or someone says something silly don’t get frustrated or annoyed, stay calm and focussed on what you want to achieve.
Draw to a relevant conclusion – Make sure the group comes to a conclusion, don’t let time run out without a final decision.
The name of this exercise gives it away, Imagine you have come back from a 2 week holiday and your in-tray is full of items which need to be actioned. This exercise is about your ability to plan, organise and most importantly prioritise your workload, the main thing to remember is to keep your cool, you will be presented with a large amount of business material which at first sight may seem daunting. This is exactly the effect the assessors want to achieve and some candidates will crumble at the site of it. Stay calm, take a long deep breath and quickly but carefully read through the brief. This exercise differs enormously from employer to employer and is therefore hard to advise on but here are a few tips that could help:
Always have the objective in mind – The material in front of you is designed to throw a few curve balls, meaning it won’t all be relevant to the desired objective, so focus on what you need to get out of it and not so much on the un-important items.
Stick to the time limit – Again remember the clock is ticking so use your time effectively.
Priorities – Some information in there will stick out like a sore thumb as a priority so as you are reading through pull them out straight away, for example a health and safety issue would be far more important than arranging a meeting for 4 weeks time. You may have to look at the work and ascertain whether its of high or low importance and is urgent or non-urgent, so think logically.
Diarise – You may have the option of using a monthly diary to plan out when your workload is to be completed, USE IT….
Are you a born leader? If so this is your chance to prove it. In this exercise you will be asked to perform a task where you are managing an individual, usually the assessor. This will test your ability to influence, motivate and lead people as well as your ability to communicate effectively, plan and organise, manage time and work in a team. As with the In-tray exercise it is difficult to predict what may be included, but here are some tips to point you in the right direction:
Situation, action and outcome – you will be given a situation which will test your leadership ability, you will be required to put some actions together to resolve the situation to a suitable outcome.
Stay in control – Particularly if you are managing the assessor. You may find they try to knock you off track, so the trick is to remain in control of the situation without being confrontational or emotional.
Listen and speak – Being a good manager is about being a good listener, don’t just talk at individuals, listen to what others have to say you may find they will make some great suggestions which will help you achieve your goal.
Stick to the time limit – Again this is massively important, break down your allotted time and set the group tasks to achieve at each stage within the time restraints.
As we said these are just 4 of the most popular types of exercises you are likely to face particularly on a retail assessment centre. There are other exercises which could also be asked of you, namely, ice breakers, role play, behavioural event interviews, verbal and numerical reasoning, biographical interviews and psychometric tests so it is important you find out well before the day and do as much research as you can.
On The Day
You’ve done the preparation, you’ve rehearsed the route, you’ve pressed your suit and you’ve had an early night now its time for the big day. The key point to remember with assessments centres, is your are going to be assessed from the minute you walk through the door till the minute you walk out, so it is important to remain professional at all times. This includes breaks, lunch, chats in the corridor and even toilet stops. This doesn’t mean be somebody you are not, it just means be on your guard as one wrong action could cost you the job you’ve always wanted. Don’t stop being enthusiastic and eager as the assessors are looking for those attributes just as much as they are looking for the skills to do the job. Whenever you get chance during the day network with both the other candidates (it’s not you against them) and the assessors (don’t try to be a teachers pet but show them you are interested in the job, ask questions and bring out your personality)
As previously discussed there are different types of exercises you could face on the day and each exercise is designed to bring out certain competencies which would demonstrate your suitability to the role such as:
Ask your People Pod consultant what competencies are being measured?
Remember, this is a marathon not a sprint and even if you feel you haven’t performed as best you could on a particular task forget it and move on. You can make up for this on the other exercises, so don’t get in a fluster, pick yourself up and make sure you give 110% from here on.
The more preparation you do the better chance you have of being successful, so invest the time and get it right, here is a checklist of things to do ready for the day:
Plan your route to the centre (do a dummy run the night before).
Give yourself plenty of time to get there but only go to reception 10 minutes before you are due to start.
Put your watch on (you’ll need it throughout the day).
Be courteous (please and thank you and smile).
Remember this could be the start of a long and successful career but to get the job you will need to stand out from the crowd!
Want to be one step ahead of other candidates?
A psychometric profile can be an excellent addition to your CV. Employers will get a better understanding about what makes you tick and how you behave. You will also be prepared if an employer asks you to complete a psychometric test as part of your application.