Tips for Interviews Involving Assessment Centres

No matter how well trained or experienced an interviewer is, there is always the problem of not properly getting to know candidates which can lead to the right person for the job missing out on the opportunity and the wrong person for the job being employed.

The most common difficulties of interviewing involve the questions being asked. In many cases all candidates are not necessarily asked the same set of questions, possibly due to a lack of structure and consistency. It can also be due to the natural progression of conversation when the interviewer feels the candidate has answered a later question during the answering of an earlier question. Whilst this may not sound problematic, interview questions are set for a reason, to see how you react to the question and how you answer. By missing out a question, the candidate and the interviewer could be overlooking vital details which could make or break the success of the job application. There can also be the problem of questions being used which have an obvious answer. A candidate is always going to try and give the answers that the interviewer perhaps wants to hear, however, if the preferred answer is so obvious, how can the interviewer differentiate between each candidate who gives the same answer?

In an attempt to overcome the problems of interviewing, many companies use assessment centres which have specifically composed questionnaires and activities put together by occupational psychologists. The tasks undertaken at an assessment centre are designed to gain a true insight into a person’s abilities which may not become evident in an interview situation.

The techniques used at assessment centres are usually comprised of four parts:

Psychological Questionnaires – these type of questionnaires attempt to measure individual abilities and personality traits.

Group Activities – these examine how a person responds to group tasks and problem solving situations.

Social Activities – usually comprised of a social dinner situation or plant tour, these activities give an insight into how a person conducts themselves in social situations.

One-to-one or Panel Interviews – these are held by experienced senior or line managers.

We will look at two of these areas in particular, namely psychological questionnaires and group activities.

Psychological Questionnaires

It is important that you do not try to fake the answers given in a psychological questionnaire. If an organisation is looking for a particular type of personality trait and you attempt to answer the questions in order to achieve the ‘right’ results, it is highly likely you will be unsuccessful in the job role if you were offered the position as a result of your answers. The term motivated distortion refers to someone trying to present a picture which is untrue and it is highly likely a trained assessor will be able to tell if you are answering the questions truthfully or not.

When looking at a person’s abilities, you really cannot make yourself any cleverer than you are but there is a chance you will achieve only a low score if you try to answer the questions in a way to try and make yourself look smarter. Though, evidence has shown that a little practice with the types of questions that usually assess you abilities will help, at least you will be prepared for the types of questions which will be asked and possibly know how to solve them if you have seen similar questions before.

Group Activities

This area of assessment usually takes the form of a group discussion or problem solving situation. In a group with generally no more than eight members, you will be asked to reach a consensus solution to the given situation.

In order to prepare yourself for such tasks, it is helpful to be aware of the kinds of things an assessor will be looking for from you:

• Communication
• Judgement
• Reasoning
• Persuasiveness
• Problem Solving

If you can remember these characteristics when taking part in a group assessment, you can try to demonstrate them when the opportunity arises. It is very important that you contribute to the group tasks as this will give the assessor something the make comment on. Being an active listener and participating in the assessment is not enough, the assessor will be looking specifically at your contribution to the final solution. Some key ways to contribute are as follows:

Useful Tips for the Assessment Centres

• Learn everyone’s name in the group and use their names as often as possible.
• Summarise other people’s positions and suggestions before contributing your own ideas or solutions.
• Help the group understand you by giving reasoned arguments should other group members question your ideas.
• When appropriate, remind the group of the objective and any constraints of the task.
• Find common ground when possible by highlighting areas of agreement or common values and ideas.
• Towards the end of the task try to make summary statements if you can.
• Make notes and try to take responsibility for conveying the results of the task to the assessor, however, be sure to know exactly what results you are giving and why to ensure you have answers to any questions the assessor may have about your results.

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