Find out exactly what to expect and how to prepare...
Assessment days are becoming an increasingly popular way for companies to select candidates. 68% of employers in the UK and 72% of those in the US now use some form of assessment day as part of their recruitment process. Like anything that requires you to perform under pressure, they can be a little unnerving, so read on to find out what to expect and how to prepare...
What is an assessment day?
Assessment days are referred to by various names; sometimes they’re called ‘assessment events’ or ‘assessment centres’, but they all mean essentially the same thing - it’s an event to test a group of candidates and decide on their suitability for a particular job role.
Assessment days will usually take place at a company office, conference centre or hotel. They usually last between half a day and two full days.
Assessment days are a little like a long, in-depth interview process for several people. It’s unlikely that you’ll be invited to one unless the company you’re applying to already thinks you could be suitable for the role.
When you get there, you’ll be given a variety of specifically-designed tests and exercises which will tell the company about your ability to carry out the job in question.
Each of the exercises should deal with a certain aspect of the job description (for example, your ability to problem solve) and give you the opportunity to demonstrate how your skills match with those required to perform that role.
These tasks can include:
- Situational judgement tests - this is designed to find out how you’d behave In a work-related situation. You’ll be given a certain situation, e.g. a customer complaint, and asked to choose from a range of options which outline possible ways of dealing with it.
- Group exercises - these will measure your ability to work in a team, contribute to discussions, delegate responsibility and solve problems. Assessors are often looking for someone who can listen to other people’s ideas, be positive, and articulate their own ideas.
- In-tray exercises - you’ll be given a set of fictional documents, from which you must answer questions and decide on a course of action. A classic example is to be told you’ve just returned from holiday to a full inbox and you have to meet certain deadlines. You’ll be given 12-20 items and a time limit, which can be between 30 minutes and two hours.
- Presentations - you might be asked to deliver a presentation to the group, in which case the assessors will want to see if your’e able to deliver a well-structured, clear, confident presentation.
- Psychometric tests - the most common at assessment centres are personality questionnaires, numerical reasoning tests, and verbal reasoning tests. These tend to be strictly timed (usually between 15 and 30 minutes) and multiple choice.
Example assessment day
09:00 Arrival and introduction
09:15 Employer presentation and group ice-breaker exercise
10:00 Psychometric tests
11:30 Individual task: situational judgement test
13:45 Group exercise
13:45 Assessment interviews
16:15 Individual presentations
How do I prepare?
- Research the organisation and job as you would for a normal interview. Make sure you are familiar with the competencies for the job.
- Read the organisation's website, social media profiles and key literature (e.g. business plan, financial reports and corporate social responsibility strategy), making sure you're prepared to share your views and ideas.
- Research the news, trends, competitors, history and opportunities of the organisation and its job sector.
- Think about how you are going to introduce yourself to staff and other candidates in the introductory session and during social activities.
- You may be asked to deliver a short impromptu presentation on a familiar topic (common ones are ‘The best day of my life’ or ‘My favourite hobby’).
- You can check out others’ experiences of assessment centres in general and at specific employers by surfing jobhunting sites such as www.glassdoor.co.uk and www.wikijobs.co.uk
- A lot of common assessments, such as psychometric tests and situational judgement tests, can be practiced. Ask your school/college careers centre for resources or visit assessmentcentrehq for online practice tests.
On the day
- Don’t be shy - if you have an opinion, share it, and try to be fairly assertive during group exercises
- If you make a mistake, don’t sweat it - it’s far more effective to focus on performing well in the next task
- Remember to listen, and listen well - assessors won’t be impressed by candidates who talk over other people or are unnecessarily critical of their ideas
- Be friendly - you’re being assessed on your general fit for the company, not just your aptitude for the role - so try to show that you can easily get on with a range of people
And that’s it! Remember to ask for feedback after the assessment, regardless of whether you get the role or not. Almost all employers will be happy to do this and it could seriously help you out if there’s a next time. Good luck!
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