Posted by: Sky | January 30, 2014

Your Guide to Assessment Centres 1: Preparation

spongebob__are_you_ready__bubbles_by_catz537-d5o1ap0Hello, fellow job hunters. Never been to a graduate assessment day? Neither have I- until today. You’re anxious and uncertain of how torturous the whole process will be? So was I. Assessment centres always sound so daunting. Starting with the worrying joyful news that you’ll be closely observed (and judged) for about 6 hours it gets even worse better when you think about delivering a presentation in front of your competitors, just waiting there for you to trip. However, better get your assessment centre caps ready, as they are an unavoidable part of many companies hiring process. 

I survived one today and rushed back here to share my experience and some honest advice with you. In part 1 I’m going to give you a few tips about preparing for the the big assessment day. Whereas part 2 (to be released in February) will concentrate on tricks that will come useful on the day itself.

Tip no 1 – Be prepared to impress with your knowledge

First things first, you need to know your stuff. What does the company do? Where does it stand in the market? What recent changes took place in the industry? Everything.

Remember, your assessors will be choosing from a room full of people. All with similar educational backgrounds and similar experience (since you all got there in the first place). Therefore, if you want to stand out, you need to be better prepared than everyone else. Majority of the questions I got asked today were about the industry and why I want to do/ am suited for the job. That’s because the three main things employers are looking for are passion, industry knowledge and commercial awareness.

So, before the big assessment day arrives, make sure you’re aware of what services the company provides, know at least a few of their clients, follow the news such as changes in senior management, financial performance and possibility of big events such as mergers and acquisitions.

Tip no 2 – Practise for the psychometric tests

Majority of assessment centres will have some form of psychometric testing. Varying according to the job role it could be numeracy, verbal reasoning, spacial awareness, or a job specific character tests.

First, find out what kinds of tests you will have to do. Secondly, practise them. I know that this might seem unnecessary, however, even though you were the king/queen of the maths class in A levels, those numeracy skills might get rusty, especially when you’re tired, nervous and asked to solve the problems in limited time.

Ideally, you should practice timed tests so you get used to the way the questions are presented and working under pressure. I found this website to be useful, as it allows you to practise a number of different tests for free.

Alternatively, contact your University’s Career Service and see if they offer practise psychometric testing.

Tip no 3 – Conquer with your self awareness

Once again, remember that you are being assessed in comparison to everyone else. Make sure that you are being remembered for quick, informed and intelligent answers, rather than long pauses and ‘excuse-me-I-don’t-know-how-to-answer-this’s’.

I think the best tip I can give on self awareness is… tell yourself the story of yourself. Sit back and think where you want to go and how you got to where you are. What qualities enabled you to get here? Imagine that you’re writing a book and you need to explain the reader what thoughts and ambitions are bubbling in the protagonist’s head.

Also, I would recommend thinking through a number of questions you might be asked. No, do not memorize the answers as you’ll sound rehearsed. However, running possible questions through your head will make you feel better prepared, less stressed and you’ll seem more confident.

Make sure you know how to answer these:

  • why do you want to work for the company?
  • what interests you most about the role?
  • we are looking for someone with x, y and z skills. How do you meet these requirements? (the list of skills will be individual to the job and should be listed in the job ad)
  • what is your biggest weakness?
  • what would you bring to the company?
  • what skills and knowledge from your degree will you be able to use at this job? (asked if your degree doesn’t match the job)
  • do you have any questions? (the answer is YES!)

Tip no 4 – Dress to impress

Even though they say dress smart casual, tip it more towards the smart. After all, you’re there to impress. A good tip I’ve once heard is choose something that you would wear on the first day if you got the job.

Majority of the men at the assessment center wore suits. Although I don’t see you going wrong with some dark jeans and a nice shirt. Women wore dark dresses, skirts and blouses.

My final tip would be: prepare your outfit beforehand. When I was ironing my blouse the day before I accidentally burnt it. Luckily I had enough time to find an alternative outfit. You don’t need the added stress of being unprepared.

Enjoy it

If you have honestly prepared for the assessment day then the last thing I can tell you is relax and enjoy it. I had so much fun learning more about the company that I already was passionate about as well as meeting the competitors and making friends with them. The good thing about assessment centers is, even if you fail to shine at one task, you might amaze them at something else. Just be confident and be yourself (the confident nice version of yourself).

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Responses

  1. As always – some excellent tips Sky! I’d also like to highlight our Careers Service Psychometric tests page http://www.ncl.ac.uk/careers/jobs/applications/tests.php and Assessment centres page – http://www.ncl.ac.uk/careers/jobs/applications/assessment.php – which have some more useful information and advice. We also offer sessions on these, including a practical practice assessment centre session. See our events pages for more details – http://www.ncl.ac.uk/careers/events/workshops.htm

    I personally would be wary of wearing even dark jeans to an assessment centre – I think the ‘smart casual’ label can be a bit misleading, though I think that can be entirely dependent on the sector (I know you are looking for something more in the creative field but jeans would probably be inappropriate for say the finance sector!)

    Well done for getting through to the assessment centre – and let us know the result!

  2. Thanks for sharing the links Claire! I was looking everywhere when I was preparing for the psychometric tests but couldn’t find them.

    And you are right about the dress code, I forgot to highlight that the companies I’m going for are more relaxed and creative.

    I got invited back for a number of interviews and am waiting for results now. Fingers crossed 🙂

    • Great to hear about the interviews Sky – I will certainly keep my fingers crossed for you!


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