Assessment centres are on the increase as a means of final interview for many companies, a source of great stress and apprehension to most candidates, and, indeed, a challenging hurdle to clear in gaining your next step.
In our experience, when apparently capable candidates with good track records fail it is often a combination of lack of mental preparation through not knowing what to expect resulting in and ‘under par’ performance on the day. Assessment centres will vary depending upon the company but here are a few general tips which may help.
One useful analogy is to consider how many people who are experienced drivers would pass a test if they were to take it again tomorrow. Part of the problem is that they have become unconsciously competent, that is they are performing the job to a high standard, but are no longer conscious of the components which made them good. To pass the test again, they need to return to remembering the components which allowed them to pass in the first place.
Assessment centres are a similar challenge. An experienced candidate needs to apply some thought in advance to the components which have lead to there success, so that they have conscious awareness of these at assessment.
The whole experience
Whatever the content of the centre it essentially provides managers with a prolonged view of candidates in a variety of professional and social arenas in order to get a clearer picture of what they really are. It’s possible for a candidate to ‘wear a mask’ for an hour long interview, but less possible over a 24 hour period.
With this in mind, remember you are creating a perception of yourself from the moment you arrive and throughout the whole time, including arrival the night before and perhaps a meal in a hotel. You are also on view at lunch times, or coffee breaks. The best advice is to continue to be yourself, but avoid the temptation to withdraw your social involvement in order to give yourself a break as this may reflect poorly if observed.
This exercise can look for a variety of skills and competencies, for example, it can look at selling skills as individuals sell their ideas to the group, or of course how people behave in group situations as a team player.
Many candidates quite rightly feel the need to be seen to be involved but find themselves battling to do this whilst avoiding to appear domineering or trying to ‘railroad’ ideas. The trap to which many succumb is to see the initial problem and immediately formulate ideas and proceed to wait the right opportunity to deliver the ideas to the group. The problem with this is that one tends to be so focused upon delivering this idea that you can become detached from the actual debate such that the final comment doesn’t really fit with the conversation.
The sign of a true team player, is one who listens to other’s ideas and is then able to build on them rather than rebut them and present entirely different ideas. It’s good practice to acknowledge the comments of your peers before making your contribution. Speak to your consultant for more specific advice on the assessment centre you will be attending.
Verbal and numerical Reasoning
It is often said that these cannot be practised, however, we feel this is certainly not the case. It’s not that you can artificially generate a high score, but rather avoid under scoring through a poor approach.
Most industry professionals have a natural desire to be seen to do well in these, but also not to be seen to make mistakes. In pursuit of this many candidates find themselves reading and re reading questions, and then checking and doubling checking results. The outcomes here are twofold, firstly, reading and re reading and checking and double checking can be problematic as the choices of answer are very similar creating confusion and self doubt on a second look. Secondly, this practise uses up vital time with the knock on effect of candidates failing to answer enough questions.
In our experience, given measured approach to questions, your first answer is most likely to be correct. In addition, an approach which aims to read once and answer once, ensures a greater overall volume of answers. Stores such as WHS Smith stock paperbacks on these types of questions. They are relatively inexpensive and would be a worthwhile investment in order to practise this measured approach. Speak to your consultant for more advice.
In simple terms these tests give a manager an insight to your character and behavioural patterns in advance. There are no right and wrong answers but they will use the information to guide questions at interview. The best advice again is to completely them swiftly and avoid the temptation to read and re read in order to guess what they may be looking for. Speak to your consultant for more advice.
Competencies refer to the skills and behaviours which a company require to make up the job for which they are recruiting. A competency interview will seek examples of where you have displayed these skills and behaviours before. Draw up a list of what you believe they are looking for, a job description will help you do this. Then consider your past, where have you demonstrated these before successfully and be ready to describe in detail examples of these at interview. Speak to your consultant for more advice.
Most people offered jobs after assessment experience at least one exercise that they felt went badly. The message here is that nobody is perfect, and it is expected that you will find some exercises tougher than others. Don’t loose heart if you have one bad exercise, the overall experience will account for this.
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