Are you about to face a business simulation as part of an assessment centres event for the first time? Then these tips from our assessors and previous candidates will help you prepare.
Why are assessment centres used by employers?
Assessment days and business simulations are growing in popularity because they are a great way for you to show employers what you can do, rather than just tell them what you have done as you would in an interview. The tasks you complete are designed to help you demonstrate your competencies, both hard and soft skills, and how you behave in certain situations, such as your ability to:
- think logically,
- make decisions with limited information,
- interact with team members,
- as well as show your natural leadership style.
It’s very difficult to put on a mask for a full day, so this experience can be very valuable for organisations who want to find people with values that match theirs.
Top ten tips for assessment centres
What are the tips our assessors would give every candidate? We’ve listed them here, and also included a ‘key learning point’ a successful candidate gave us after they were appointed following an assessment day.
Prepare in advance.
- Do your homework. Be familiar with the materials you are given because that’s how get yourself into a great position to focus on the task in hand.
- If you are asked to bring pre-prepared material think about how you will share it.
Key learning point: Give as much time to understanding the brief as you can and note the competencies you will be asked to show.
Flexibility on the day.
- Preparing thoroughly is important BUT don’t let it distract you from demonstrating flexibility, and adapting and responding on the day. These are important skills that will help you manage an assessment as it unfolds and are skills employers are looking for.
Key learning point: Be responsive to the dynamic circumstances.
Listen to instructions and run your session.
- Listen to the instructions at each stage. There will be some useful pointers and clues.
- Before you start each section clarify the objectives and tasks for that section.
- Review each stage/round (with your team) for progress against your overall plan and adjust as necessary.
Key learning points: Treat the simulation as you would an important meeting so plan time for completion of each task but be pragmatic, there will generally be insufficient time.
Dealing with other candidates behaviours.
- Address any issues with other candidate’s behaviour on the day as constructively as you can.
- If someone is overbearing, then deal with it quickly revisiting the overall intention. If someone is quiet, include them.
Key learning point: Working with people gets the job done.
Make a contribution, speaking clearly and explaining your thoughts.
- Speak up. Candidates often speak so quietly in their group it’s hard for assessors to hear them.
- In fact, say out loud what you are thinking, deciding or agreeing with. It shows a thought process.
- If someone else completes the bulk of a task, make time to understand what they have done and add to their contribution.
Key learning point: Be ready to contribute on the day.
Don’t get sucked into winning.
- Remember why you are there and what you are supposed to be demonstrating. The overall intention is to use the simulation as a vehicle to display all your competencies, not to necessarily deliver the best result, so work with the team to make sure everyone gets a chance to do that.
- Continually remind yourself what the assessors are looking for and ensure you demonstrate your competencies as fully as possible.
Key learning point: Delivering the best results but not showing all your competencies is not a win.
- Make a good impression all day long. Engage with everyone in a professional manner throughout the day. Don’t get too frivolous as you relax or slope off without a goodbye.
- Dress appropriately. You may not need a suit, but you do need your clothes to be clean and well kept.
Key learning point: It’s still a form of interview, first impressions are important.
Be yourself and have fun – it is a genuine learning experience.
- Embrace the activity and process because a reluctance to engage can appear as an attitude problem.
- Enter into the spirit of it, have a bit of fun and you’ll learn as well as show your skills.
- Be yourself, and don’t bluff with ‘lingo bingo’. It is quickly apparent when candidates have only superficial understanding of the terms they refer to.
Key learning point: Relax and just be yourself – not what you think “they” want.
Work with the others.
- Don’t treat it as a competition. Good teamworking is likely to be incorporated into one of the competencies. Work as a team.
- Be a team player. Leading is getting the best from everyone else, not just dominating the conversation.
Key learning point: Support and constructively challenge others.
Use the breaks to your advantage.
- Look after your energy levels during the day. It will be intense so ensure that you eat well, hydrate and get some fresh air. Do whatever you need to do to recharge your batteries.
- Take a moment to assess how you are performing too. Run through the check list of competencies you have shown and need to show.
Key learning point: Make space in the day to recharge and reflect.
These ten tips from assessors will set you on the right path to success. And remember in any assessment process there will be a report specifically about you. You are entitled to feedback, so ask for a copy. It can be a useful resource to confirm your skills and flag up areas that need further development.