Assessment Centres

October 30, 2014
Assessment centres can be incredibly stressful, but for most graduate schemes they are a very important part of the interviewing process. It is a chance to find your competitive nature and show off your strengths!

Why assessment centres?

Assessment centres, contrary to popular belief, are not designed to showcase how well you will do in the job. Although the tasks are centred around what you might encounter during the role; in reality, they are very different.

How many times in your career are you likely to have to sit with five total strangers trying to keep your balance as you walk the fine line between not being too quiet and not being too overbearing, while deciding whether a handheld mirror or a piece of rope would be more useful if you were stranded on a raft?

And how many times in your career will you be teamed up with strangers to give a Dragons Den style pitch about the new fast food venture you made up 10 minutes ago, devising an entire plan detailing a company name, product range, brand, strategy, location and pricing structure?

Assessment centres are specifically designed to see how well you cope under pressure. In assessment centres you have to deal with difficult tasks for which there are often no right or wrong answers. Basically, if you can survive an assessment centre level of pressure, you will be able to handle the job. Try to remember it is only one day – one almightily stressful day admittedly – but still just the one. Nerves are to be expected, perfection from you is not.

Dealing with an assessment centre

Keep calm. We know this is much easier said than done, but remember they’re just tasks, not life or death. Focus on how you would approach the tasks if you really were in the job you have applied for. You will have already researched the role and what it entails before you attend the assessment centre, so you will have a pretty good idea about the core skills and competencies they will be looking for.

Don’t second guess the way they expect you to approach things. Obviously don’t ignore blatant instructions, but don’t try to conform to some robotic methodology that you think they will expect from you. Do it your own way – that’s what they want to see. You may not be the conventional candidate, but that can often be a good thing.

If it’s a graduate scheme you’re applying for (and virtually all of these will include an assessment centre as part of the process) then the company is willing to take a punt on talent and welcomes different attitudes and approaches to work. They want to inject new blood into the company to encourage adaptability and change, so show your true colours.

Don’t get disheartened

If one company doesn’t love your style, another one will. It’s perfectly normal not to get the first job you attend an assessment centre for so don’t be disheartened if you don’t then get the job.

View every centre and interview that you attend as experience. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback as well. Be brave, it’s never going to be personally critical and it’s almost always useful to know so you can improve your chances at the next one.