Top Tips for Assessment Centres and Group Exercises

Today’s blog is focused on helping you understand what Hiring Managers are looking for from candidates during assessment days and group exercises.

For those of you who are less familiar with group assessment days, we’ll start by briefly covering the basics of how assessment centres work and what you can typically expect from the day.

Assessment days: The Basics

How will you be assessed?

 

The purpose of an assessment day is to measure what you can actually do, rather than what you say you can do. Each exercise is designed to test a specific set of competencies such as creativity and leadership. Key to assessment days is that you are assessed against a benchmark level of these competencies, rather than against each other. You are not battling one another for the same role, instead, all those who surpass the benchmark level of skills and competencies should be offered a place as you reach the standard of candidate they are looking for.

Assessment Centres and Group Exercises

Typical Assessment Day Tasks:

Of course, the tasks you will have planned for the day will vary depending on the role and company you have applied for. Typically, you will encounter two or three different tasks throughout the day such as:

  • Psychometric tests
  • In-tray / e-tray exercise
  • Case study
  • Group discussions
  • Group interview
  • Individual interview
  • Presentation
  • Team exercises
  • Role plays

Examplar Assessment Day:

This example is actually taken from the assessment day I passed myself for a role in London!

Morning:

  • Individual interview
  • Individual skills test
  • Case Study – report analysis and individual presentation in front of three seniors

Lunch:

– TIP: Socialise!!! Your employers will be scattered around having their lunch too; show them you are social by getting to know your fellow candidates!

Afternoon:

  • Individual in-tray exercise
  • Group discussion (based on a case study where we had to assess how the acquisition of another company would affect the marketing of the original company)
  • De-brief with assessment day coordinator – this is when they tell you when you’ll receive your feedback and decision.

Assessment Centres and Group Exercises

Pretty much all assessment days will include one or multiple group exercises designed to assess your communication skills and ability to work in a team. So to make sure you’re well prepared for these, here are our top tips for handling group assessments:

Handling Group Exercises:

  1. Put yourself in the assessors’ shoes: Think about the behaviours they’ll be looking for and the skills required by the role. Approach the task logically with these competencies in mind for every section; unfortunately, assessment days are all about box ticking!
  2. You have two ears and one mouth for a reason: Many people mistakenly assume that this platform is testing your ability to make yourself heard. In actual fact, one of the most important factors your employers will be assessing is your willingness to listen and pay attention to the discussion. So how do you strike a balance between listening to your team’s ideas whilst ensuring you are proving yourself to your potential employer your ideas are being heard?
    • You need to contribute, but not to dominate. Be assertive, but not aggressive. If you are sometimes overbearing in groups, bear this in mind and if you are the complete opposite, try to speak up as much as you can.
    • Encourage others and listen to their opinions, then put forward your own idea and ask everyone what they think. By asking people you are showing key teamwork skills as you are valuing their opinion when working towards a shared goal.
  3. Play it cool: Don’t be cocky. Enter your interview with a relaxed, friendly confidence and this will put your interviewers at ease and they will instantly find you more approachable. If you are quite shy, walk into the room and shake your interviewers or assessors hands and introduce yourself. Be smiley and this will help your fellow candidates find you approachable in the task – in turn opening more doors for you to get involved in the exercise without having to dominate your way into the conversation.
  4. Don’t joke around: this is not the situation to try and be the funny guy in the room – keep things professional!
  5. Think about the company values: If you’re applying to a team-orientated, creative company, then maybe take a more gentle approach and make an effort to get to know your employees. However, if you’re applying to a company with a heavy sales-based, ‘go get’ attitude, then maybe work harder in the group interview to put your point across. Your approach should be tailored to the attitudes the company values.
  6. NEVER put people down, the interview is not a platform to belittle your other interviewees. You’ll only come across as difficult and uncooperative.
  7. Leadership?
    • No leader: These tasks often avoid appointing a leader to give everyone a fair chance to get involved, however, if you want to demonstrate leadership skills without electing yourself as a leader – a good way of doing this is to offer to be the timekeeper. This means you can subtly manage the discussion and help your team cover all the necessary topics!
    • Leader: a good leader delegates and recognises that not all jobs can be carried out by them alone. Identify and use the strengths of your team, and focus your attention on pulling each part together rather than micromanaging everyone’s tasks.Assessment Centres and Group Exercises
  8. Don’t panic! If you mess up on one exercise, don’t panic – assessors will never make a decision based on your performance on just one exercise, they will take a holistic approach to assessing your performance throughout the day! Just don’t let a slip up on one exercise distract you from the next one – move on quickly!
  9. Stay calm! Confidence and ability to handle pressure and prized competencies for Hiring Managers, so even if you don’t have the answer or an idea of how to approach the task – stay calm and go back a step and try again.
  10. Call everyone by their name: If you’re ‘not good at names’…get better! It’s impolite to call people ‘you’ or to point at someone. Make an effort to learn names and this will illustrate that you have strong interpersonal skills too!

What Skills and Competencies will be Assessed?

You will be assessed on some, if not all, of the competencies below, so it’s important to ask yourself which skills you think your assessor is looking for from each task:

  • Communication
  • Problem Solving
  • Team Working Ability
  • Listening Skills
  • Time Management
  • Friendliness, Social Skills And Confidence
  • Business Acumen
  • Leadership Potential
  • Capacity To Deal With Deadlines And Time Pressure
  • Decisiveness And Critical Thinking

So there you have it! We’ve run through the basics of how assessment days are organised, what exactly they will ‘assess’ and how to approach the group elements of the day! We will be writing a sister blog to this, focusing next time on the individual exercises you can expect from an assessment day, including case studies, presentations and in-tray exercises! Keep an eye out for this, but in the meantime, do not hesitate to give our friendly consultants a call

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