September 8, 2022, by Jackie Thompson
Assessment Centres – My Experience!
By Leo Dobbin, computer science with a year in industry student
An assessment centre can be the daunting final recruitment hurdle, consisting of a full day of activities – often with an interview. Assessment centres can be tough to stand out in. I’d like to share my experience of a successful, albeit troubled, virtual assessment centre experience I had for my industrial placement this year.
Assessment centre preparation
I applied for the Bank of England Industrial Placement Programme – Technology stream. The job description was vague which meant preparation for each application stage was awkward at times.
I received an email describing how the assessment day was being conducted and the different activities I’d undertake. I made sure both MS teams and Tazio (the platform hosting material for the day) were logged in and working correctly. I also checked my microphone and webcam were clear and functional.
The email informed me there would be two group exercises both requiring a reflection document to be saved and sent back afterwards. A 45-minute interview was to conclude the day, with the email providing some competency questions based on the Bank’s values that I would be asked about. I jotted down a few anecdotes to use in response to them, alongside how I could elaborate using the STAR technique to show how each value was demonstrated in my previous experience.
To prepare for business questions, I studied the Bank’s history, values and purpose(s) utilising their website, alongside reading current news articles involving the bank and general economics. I did this to answer questions in previous stages but I took my research depth a step further.
The day itself
I started by watching an introductory video, and then just before joining the first activity, I realised the value of reading emails thoroughly. It mentioned I should set my name on Teams to be anonymous. I had already set up to use my university account on the programme by default and to change this was easier said than done. I eventually joined via a browser over desktop Teams, resulting in me being 15 minutes late. However, the assessor was having connection issues and was therefore late too, so I guess luck was on my side here!
Group activity 1
The first activity involved codebreaking and piecing information together in a group of me and three other students. Admittedly, this part went quite bad. I didn’t understand the goal of the information-gathering task fully, meaning my contribution was sloppy and my team mates had to support me in what I had to do. I also had issues positioning my laptop alongside a second monitor causing unprofessional camera errors. I made sure to mention this in the reflection document.
Group activity 2
The next activity was fortunately nicer. The team had to discuss how to redesign the Bank’s website and use social media to appeal to a younger audience. My experience doing web design for my degree let me shine here. However, rather than acting dominant throughout the exercise, I listened to everyone, agreed/disagreed and shared/defended my ideas when appropriate.
After a brief Q&A session with current placement students (where I should’ve asked more questions on the role), the interview commenced. I presumed this would expand on the previous pre-recorded one by asking more questions about me (such as hobbies, why I chose Nottingham, etc) and my experience. Alongside the pre-given STAR questions too, I was asked a few questions about the Bank and the economy. I answered these well, but the ‘icing on the cake’ that made this the best part of the day was when I queried the interviewer about what I’d be doing in the role. It allowed me to highlight the experience I had as well as show interest and eagerness for the job.
In addition to (hopefully) gaining insight into assessment centres from this blog, I’d advise anyone nervous about one to utilise Careers Team’s resources. A workshop I attended gave invaluable advice on what to expect at an assessment centre and how to ace them! However, performing activities in these centres comes with practice. Learn from your mistakes as you do them!
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