One of the great things about an assessment centre is that it gives you the opportunity to show your strengths to an employer in a number of different settings. Finding out more about the different tasks and exercises that you might be asked to do and thinking about how you can prepare will hopefully enable you to let your skills shine through and minimise your chances of making basic errors.
The exact nature of the tasks that you will be given to do an Assessment Centres depends on the skills and knowledge that the employer is looking for. Typically, the Centre could include both individual and group exercises so that the recruiter can see how well you work with others as well as your ability to organise your own work. If you are undertaking a group task, you will usually be observed by the assessors who are looking for positive (and negative) evidence of how you interact with other candidates and contribute to the team in order to finish a task. In preparing for these types of exercises, consider the qualities that make a good team player. Loud, over-competitive behaviour where a candidate dominates a group, demanding that their opinions are heard is hardly conducive to creating a productive working relationship. On the other hand, you need to ensure that your contributions are heard.
If you are the type of person who prefers to think through an idea for a while before offering suggestions, you may need to step outside your comfort zone a little and get your thoughts ‘out there’ a little earlier because you may run out of time. You may find it helpful to start with ‘breaking the ice’ and, if the other candidates haven’t met earlier in the selection day, you could always encourage everyone to introduce themselves.
In an individual or group exercise, it is really important to make sure that you are clear about what you need to do. It sounds obvious but if you are nervous and keen to get on with the tasks, it is very easy to make assumptions and rush to start. Are you being asked to make recommendations based on a case study and then present them to the assessor? Is the group being asked to reach a consensus decision or put forward a number of alternatives?
There are lots of resources to help you with your preparation for an Assessment Centre. The Successful Applications section of MYSOAS Student Careers Service provides many links to useful resources and some exercises to help you practice. We also have a range of books on topics such as making presentations and case studies in the Careers Service in SL57 – just come by to take a look at these. Keep a look out too for workshops and skills sessions throughout the year on Assessment Centres; these are advertised on MYSOAS Student Careers events calendar.
Claire Rees, Careers Consultant