Assessment centres are the cornerstone of corporate and graduate level recruitment, and so the importance of understanding them cannot be overstated. An assessment centre is longer, more intensive and, often, more collaborative than an interview, and can involve group tasks, interviews and assessment exercises. All of this, naturally, can be stressful for graduates and applicants, so why do companies put you through this?
Simply put, assessment centres are the single best way to determine how you will perform in real-life work scenarios. Instead of assessing you on your ability to answer interview questions, they provide recruiters with the largest volume of reliable information possible about you and your abilities. An assessment centre will often ask the applicants to apply knowledge and skills in context, which means that the ability to make decisions under pressure or solve problems as they arise will often be looked upon more favourably than a high intellect or extensive experience. As candidates are selected on merit and not on some of the superficial factors which can influence interviews, this method is both fair for applicants and accurate for employers.
Successful assessment centres will utilise relevant information gathered properly to make decisions relating to the applicants’ suitability for a specific role. Assessment centres are costly to the employer and for this reason they are utilised predominantly by corporations rather than small companies. Examples cover both the public and private sector from the Police to consultancies (such as Accenture, Ernst & Young, KPMG, PwC) to a range of other large corporations, including RBS, John Lewis, Unilever, Shell, BT, and IBM to name just a few.
Understanding the purpose of assessment centres and what employers are looking for will stand applicants in good stead when entering them. Listed below are five of the most common key competencies graduate programmes may be looking for when holding an assessment centre and some techniques to demonstrate them:
Strategic thinking – does an applicant think strategically when faced with a team challenge?
Failing to show your ability to think strategically during an assessment centre can be detrimental to your overall performance. Approach problems logically, efficiently and with a degree of adaptability, and ensure that your strategies are clear and concise.
Time management – does an applicant manage their time efficiently when faced with tasks?
Show your potential employer that you know how to make the best use of your time, particularly as they will be the ones paying for it! Plan your time well during tasks to make sure you complete them, and be sure not to waste time as this will be viewed unfavourably.
Organisation – does an applicant work efficiently, organising their tasks and resources?
Make sure to demonstrate to the organisation your ability to be an efficient and organised employee by preparing and planning throughout the assessment centre. This is not only a quality that many employers seek in their staff but will help you to perform to the best of your abilities in the group tasks.
Communication – does an applicant know how to communicate with others clearly, concisely and professionally?
Being able to both get your own point across and understand those of your colleagues is a vital skill in the world of work, and one which is vital to demonstrate in assessment centres – particularly if you are faced with team exercises. Avoid disputes and misunderstandings by communicating with clarity.
Leadership – does an applicant have an instinct for leadership and can they manage a team?
Employers may well look for natural leadership skills in potential employees, particularly in situations where they are looking to make a long-term investment in people. Therefore, when faced with group tasks, taking the initiative to lead a team can reflect very positively on you. Passivity and disengagement are to be avoided, and even if you do not take the lead on the task it is important to remain engaged and to contribute actively.
Due to its specificity and intensiveness as a recruitment technique, practicing the format prior to attending an assessment centre can be invaluable. Clearview Minds offers mock assessment centres where you will be guided through the process in preparation for the real thing. Find out more and sign up here.