Impress when assessed

By Michael Palmer.

Being invited to attend an assessment day raises a lot of emotions, excitement, nervousness and a fear of the unknown. This post aims to take the sting out of your big day by offering some effective tips. More likely than not, your assessment day will see your performance monitored in three main tasks; a standard interview, a group exercise and a relevant test.

Here is how to cope with them:

The test:

In regards to the test there is little to be offered in the way of advice. The blurb the company send to you regarding the assessment day should tell you what sort of test you are likely to be taking (i.e. numerical, psychometric, written). Brush up on your skills prior to the big day, for example, if you are taking a psychometric test, swot up by taking mock psychometric tests online.

The group task:

Although the group tasks can take many differing forms, they are mainly testing for the same skills; negotiation, problem solving, time management, and most importantly, team work. The assessors will not be too concerned with whether you succeed in the task but more with how you coped throughout it.

Here are some tips that can help you stand out:

1)      Understand the brief – ensure that you and everyone else is sure about what they have to do to begin with, re-read the brief outline if needs be.

2)      Keep an eye on the clock –when making your plan suggest how long each section should take, throughout the task also ensure that you keep the group aware of the time or nominate a timekeeper, this will impress the assessors.

3)      Make sensible, constructive comments – ensure that you contribute and contribute, assessors can only score what they see and hear.

4)      Talk to the group, not the assessors – a sure fire way to be marked down.

5)      Be nice – show regard for the quieter members of the group, ask for their thoughts on the tasks. Demonstrate tact when disagreeing with a group member i.e. ‘that is a good point but perhaps we should think about…’ A domineering attitude will not be looked upon favourably, be relaxed, approachable and use humour if the opportunity arises.

The interview:

For the interview itself, the normal rules of preparing for an interview apply:

1)      Do not be caught out – re-read your CV and covering letter so you cannot be put on the spot by a probing question.

2)      Arm yourself with knowledge – research the company, find out who its competitors are, re-read the job description, read industry magazines or blogs to gain relevant topical information. In short, be as well informed as possible

3)      Sell yourself well – as well as re-reading the job criteria, prepare examples for when you have demonstrated the necessary criteria.  A good way of presenting these examples is the STAR technique which is:

Situation – I was working at a busy holiday resort.

Task – I was asked to encourage more customers into the restaurant.

Action – I started advertising the restaurant to holidaymakers on the beach.

Result – Increased productivity and sales for the restaurant.

Informal activities:

Remember that it is not only during these three tasks you are being assessed but right throughout the day. I am assuming that you are already planning to dress to impress but something you may not have considered if how to act during the informal activities. Whether it is at lunch or during a tour of the building, you will still be being judged. Therefore make sure that you give a good impression of yourself. Be friendly and approachable whilst remaining professional. Use the informal breaks to mingle with any management present (not the point of being creepy mind). Make the most of this opportunity and ask intelligent questions about the company or the industry.

After the assessment day:

Finally, no matter how hard you try, you are statistically more likely to not get the job or internship than you are to get it. If this is the case do not see the experience as a waste of time. When I attended my assessment day we were told out of the 879 people that applied, we were the final ten. Getting to the assessment day is an achievement and proof that your CV is taken seriously. By taking part in the assessment day you not only gain experience in the environment which will make you better prepared next time. You should also use the day to network. I was told that although I was unsuccessful I had impressed the assessors and to keep in touch. I did so and two weeks later I was offered the opportunity to interview for another role. Unfortunately, the role was not in the field I am looking for so I turned it down; still, the value of making an impression and networking at assessment days is evident.  Finally, if you are offered feedback make sure you take it. It is only through learning where you went wrong that you can improve your performance for next time.

I hope this post will help you prepare for your assessment day, good luck!

Check out Michael’s blog for further advice about the graduate job market and follow him on Twitter @mbpalmer

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