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A guide to assessment centres

What are assessment centres?

Many larger organisations like to use assessment centres as part of the selection process. The aim is for the employer to ensure you have the skills and background you claimed in your initial application and to see how well you perform at various tasks, usually with a focus on group exercises. Most assessments last no more than a day, although full weekends with an overnight stay are not uncommon.

Attending an assessment centre can be a nerve-racking prospect, but once you get stuck into the group exercises you’ll probably enjoy it. They are also a great way to show off qualities that may not be clear from your CV or application letter – your creativity, positive attitude, friendly demeanour and good work ethic – all very important in an effective engineering or technology role.

What can I expect at an assessment centre?

Interviews

Although you may have had an interview earlier in the selection process, additional interviews may form part of assessment centre activities.

Psychometric tests

Aptitude tests examine skills such as numeracy or verbal reasoning while personality tests build an impression of your character and how you behave in workplace scenarios. Usually done under timed conditions.

Social events

While tea and lunch breaks help keep people refreshed, they are also a chance for you to get to know the other people being assessed, and for your prospective employers to see how you behave in social settings.

Presentations

Communicating ideas is an important part of any role in engineering or technology, and presentations will show your ability to take complicated material and relay it to others.

Group workshops

Collaboration is a crucial part of engineering and technology, so employers may test how you work as part of a team through paired exercises or group activities.

Business simulation exercises

In-tray/e-tray exercises are paper/computer-based tasks which provide a realistic impression of common workplace activities. They usually involve dealing with several tasks in fast turnaround times to see how well you manage and prioritise your workload.

Tips for success

Be yourself

It’s easy to assume the ‘type’ of person the employer is looking for, but to have got this far means you must have at least some of the qualities they are looking for. Don’t be tempted to ‘act up’ to what you think they want, as this will appear false and directs valuable energy away from the activities that really will get you noticed.

Prepare in advance

Assessment centres are stressful enough. Make it easier for yourself by familiarising yourself with the programme, and look online for practice tests and advice from others who done it before you.

Stay positive

Some of the tasks you are asked to do – especially in group activities – may seem pointless or basic, but as well as succeeding at the task, employers look for people who approach work with a positive attitude.

Find out more about the company

Assessment centres are not just for employers to find out more about you. Use the opportunity to find out more about the company, how it works and how it differentiates itself from the competition. Even if you don’t get selected, this valuable industry insight could help when you apply elsewhere.

Put cooperation above competition

Yes, you do want to outshine the other candidates at the assessment centre, but most employers value teamwork far above the desire to ‘kill the competition’. Be confident and show your capabilities – but remain cooperative and friendly with other candidates. And don’t forget – your peers at the assessment centre may well end up becoming your colleagues in the workplace.

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