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Career Planning Guide

Career Planning Guide

Assessment Centres

Assessment centres are designed to test candidates’ suitability for the role, the team, and the organisation. They can be in-person, digital or both. The may utilise a range of different technologies and techniques and can run over a few hours to a couple of days.

Success is based on your ability to meet strict company criteria and allows the employer to see what you can do, rather than what you say you can do. It is NOT a personal battle with fellow candidates.

During the Coronavirus Pandemic, many organisations moved their in-person assessment centres online. Many may now choose to run all their assessment centres remotely, whilst others may choose to combine in-person and digital activities.

Assessment centre activities explore candidates’:

  • Employability
  • Competencies
  • Skills
  • Strengths
  • Personality
  • Aptitudes
  • Commitment
  • Understanding of the company / sector / job role

Depending whether in-person or online, activities may include:

  • In-tray or E-tray exercise: Often an individual exercise on computer, testing a range of skills, including analysis, decision-making and time management. Assessment Day have online In-tray and E-tray exercises you can try.
  • Written exercise: the format varies depending on what the employer is seeking to measure. Target jobs have some really good guidance on written exercises. 
  • Aptitude tests and personality inventories: these measure a talent/skill or potential to acquire it. They establish or confirm competence for a job and they are a predictor of how well someone is likely to perform certain tasks in a given job. Sometimes you may have to repeat tests you’ve taken remotely in the earlier stages of the assessment process; often employers will do this to ensure that it was you that took the initial test. Assessment Day and Target Jobs have practice aptitude tests you can take!
  • Group task/discussion: can be led or leaderless and will be closely observed. Remember to respect the opinions of others, actively listen and bring others into the conversation. In a digital assessment centre, make sure you observe virtual meeting etiquette; following instructions e.g. these may be using the raise hand function as a cue you would like to speak. Mute your microphone unless you are talking. Remember to time keep! Assessment Day have some online examples of group exercises for you to look at and try.
  • Case study exercise: May be run on an individual basis or in groups and may involve role play. They are used to test your ability to analyse information, come up with solutions and express yourself. Hypothetical industry-related problems are increasingly popular. Target Jobs have some great advice on coping with case studies. 
  • Presentations: topics can be set in advance or on the day. Assessment Day have some examples you can try.
  • Interviews: You may be interviewed a number of times during the assessment centre. Each interview may have a different focus e.g. competencies, strengths or technical knowledge. Or they may combine all these elements. Interviews may be run on a one to one, panel or group basis. Target Jobs have some helpful advice on interview techniques, as well as our job interviews page!
  • Social event: usually part of the assessment. It can take different forms, including a lunch or dinner or even be part of the office tour. It is used as an opportunity to assess your ability to interact in a relaxed setting. Remember to remain professional at all times, interested, inquisitive and enthusiastic and don’t let your guard down.
  • Virtual Reality – introduced over the past few years into in-person assessment centres. At Accenture’s previous graduate assessment days, candidates were set a range of tasks using immersive AR and VR technologies. These include entering an ‘Egyptian tomb’ to use problem solving skills to crack a hieroglyphics code, or performing the typical everyday task of running a conference call with a client from within a digital rendition of an Accenture office.  The VR assessment gives candidates a level of physical immersion which compels natural behavioural responses, giving Accenture insight into how they might act in their role at the firm.
  • Escape Room: “The escape room is an innovative way to assess the problem solving and creative thinking abilities of candidates, as well as how they collaborate and work together,” Hannah Crawley, Nationwide Building Society. Nationwide’s escape room was a 25-minute challenge in which candidates solved a series of clues that helped them to uncover the padlock combinations to five boxes, the last of which held the key to escape from the room.

Previous Microsoft Assessment Centre

  • Tour of the office  – An opportunity to interact with current interns and graduates to ask about your potential work environment.
  • Group Activity – problem to solve using Microsoft products. Analyse the problem, come up with a solution, work collaboratively, and present your issue and solution to the assessors.
  • Individual Case Study – 1.5 hour to complete case study and presentation. Provided with a laptop with information to review and analyse. Explain and present a solution to assessors.
  • Face to Face Interview – two interviews. First focuses on competencies and motivations. Second interview also competency based but includes questions around your assessment centre performance.

EY’s Assessment Centre

‘Generally it runs the same as an in-person event, candidates will join us in the morning for a welcome speech from a partner and an overview of their day. Once the speech is over they’re asked to sit a numerical reasoning test, then they’re given access to our assessment portal, impact.

On impact they will have their timetable for the day along with links to each of their assessors, their time slot will be 90 minutes and will cover two out of three of the same assessments they would experience in person. At this point some candidates may have a slot that is in a couple of hours’ time and therefore will be asked to return at that time.’

  • Review the research you’ve already carried out into the organisation, the role and yourself. E.g. what drives and motivates the organisation? What does a typical day look like in the role and what skills and experiences are required? What positives can you bring to both the role and the organisation?
  • Read all the information sent to you from the organisation about the assessment centre. Often you will be given the details of someone in the organisation who can offer further help and advice – don’t be frightened to contact them.
  • Take the example tests or activities the organisation provides in advance of the assessment centre. Practice the activities above using the resources provided via the links in this guide.
  • Via your networks or LinkedIn Alumni, can you find someone who has recently taken part in an assessment centre at the same organisation to discuss their experience?
  • For in-person assessment centres; know where to go, how to get there and how long it may take. Give yourself plenty of time to arrive cool, calm and collected.
  • For digital assessment centres, check your technology, your background (blur it if possible) and ensure you can’t be disturbed on the day – put a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door if you need to. Be aware of online meeting etiquette e.g. use the raise hand function to show you want to contribute to the conversation and mute your mic when not speaking.

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