October 30, 2018, by Carla Froggatt
Halloween Special: How to Take The Fear Out of Assessment Centres
By Kathryn Moss, Employability Officer
With Halloween approaching, we thought we’d tackle one of the scarier aspects of applying for jobs: attending an assessment centre. But fear not it doesn’t have to be a horror story!
In fact, assessment centres are a great way to find out more about the environment that you could be working in and get the opportunity to meet potential colleagues. Think of them as an employer’s sixth sense: they want to get a sense of how you will behave and perform in their business.
They are also a two-way process: you can work out whether the company is a ‘right fit’ for you and the company can see if you’re the ‘right fit’ for them. They want to know how well you work as part of a team, how you approach a problem and how you respond to unfamiliar situations. The workplace is full of situations that you can’t prepare for in advance and they want to know how you will react.
Trick or treat?
First things first, employers are not trying to trip you up. They want you to do well and will try to help you prepare. You should have been sent an information pack or email briefing you about the day. Common activities they will highlight are presentations, group tasks, interviews and in-tray exercises.
It is a test environment though, so it is normal to feel nervous, especially if it’s your first one. Fear of the unknown can leave even the most confident quaking in their boots. But as we know the key to a good scare is often the element of surprise, we’re going to lift the veil on some of the areas we know you can expect to face:
1. Group exercises don’t have to be ghoulish
Usually, you will not know the topic of the group exercise until you are about to take part. The employer is looking at how you approach a task as part of a team; what role do you play and how do you interact with others to overcome a problem? There is little you can do to prepare for this, so try not to spend too much time worrying about this part. The main thing is that you be yourself.
The recruiters do not want to see a competition of who can shout the loudest. They want to see your best qualities shine through, not how argumentative you can be. Target Jobs have some good examples of the types of tasks you might be asked to take part in
2. Staying sane under pressure
In-tray exercises are a simulated task that you will complete alone. Usually, you’ll get some preparation time to think about your approach. They are designed to examine how you react under time pressure, and how you juggle conflicting priorities.
Don’t jump in too quick or you might lose your head! Give yourself time to read all the information carefully. Think logically about how each step you take affects the next step. Often, when you hand in your work at the end of the time slot, you can submit your notes too. This is your opportunity to demonstrate how you have approached the task and show the assessor your logic. Here are some example in-tray exercises.
3. Don’t get spooked by psychometric tests
You might be asked to complete psychometric tests as part of the day. These are designed to test different parts of your personality or your aptitude. Common types include situational judgement, and verbal and numerical reasoning.
Do you know what’s great as a Nottingham student though? We’ve treated you to free access to Graduates First – practice makes perfect and that is certainly true for these tricky tests. We also run workshops on how to prepare.
How to take the nightmares out of the night before
So, the day is approaching and the nerves are setting in. How do you stop your dreams turning into nightmares as the assessor morphs from a smiling employer to the menacing Freddy Krueger wielding his psychometric tests at you?!
Firstly, remember it’s okay to be a bit nervous. In fact, it is completely normal. And there are some tactics you can use to keep nerves at bay. In addition to doing preparation, it’s important to look after yourself. Don’t cram all your preparation into the last minute – use that time to get yourself in a good headspace. What activities do you find calming? Maybe it’s listening to some music or going to a yoga class. Do something that will help you get an early night and good night’s sleep. Another good tip is to plan your journey in advance. The last thing you want to be stuck in is a traffic jam after all your hard work!
If you have an assessment centre coming up, we can help. There is some excellent information available on our website. We also offer interview and application support appointments where you can get one-to-one advice, or you can attend a mock assessment centre.