The graduate hiring process frequently includes assessment centres. Employers gather a group of applicants, who will go through a series of exercises, tests, and interviews to determine whether they are qualified for graduate positions within the company.
A group setting makes it much easier for recruiters to evaluate how well you work with others, how you convince and persuade others, how people react to and around you, and how well you adapt to different given scenarios. Plus, it allows them to test and observe your capabilities and abilities on the spot instead of just interviewing you. This results in a much fairer and more efficient selection process.
What to expect
Employers design assessment activities to test for skills and abilities needed by their the organisation. Often, you will be expected to complete some combination of the following:
- Group work exercises
- Aptitude and psychometric tests
- Business-related case studies (usually for more commercial IT roles like technical sales)
The key to succeeding is to actively demonstrate your commercial awareness ̶ that is, considering the business contexts of your tasks and how your proposed solutions may affect the organisation. You must be prepared to justify this to your assessors throughout the process.
Here are some tips on how to get through the various assessment centre tasks.
Be a team player in group exercises
Most companies value graduates with the ability to work in groups, as employees often have to collaborate with others in order to complete tasks. This is especially true in tech, where developers often work on projects in teams.
Group exercises test your problem-solving and communication skills, as well as your ability to work in a team. Typically, these tests will require you to tackle a job-related scenario or case study. Examples of such tests include group coding sessions, role-playing exercises, mini-hackathons, or other similar activities.
Your goal is to promote yourself while also helping the group reach its objective. The easiest way to accomplish this is to establish yourself as a solid team member: someone who actively contributes work and ideas, but is also adaptable, willing to listen, and able to help others grow their ideas too.
Communicate clearly in presentations
You may be required to give a presentation at some assessment centres, typically to a mixed audience of candidates and assessors. Here are some guidelines:
- If you have the ability to choose a topic, choose one that you can speak about naturally and with a decent degree of knowledge. Don't pick a topic just because you believe that it will impress others.
- Create an outline for your presentation. Not only will this help keep your thoughts organised, it can also help the audience follow along with your presentation.
- You can write down notes in any format that you find convenient, but you should never, ever read from a script.
- Don’t attempt to cram too much information in or your audience will start to lose interest. Try to focus on just three to four key takeaway points.
- Your body language can significantly impact your presentation. Try to stay calm and collected, avoid fidgeting, and don’t back away from your audience.
- You could be asked to use PowerPoint slides or charts. Use these just for visual aids or to illustrate key points. Avoid putting in too much text.
- If you are tasked with putting together a presentation on the spot, make sure you factor in time for a quick practice run.
Demonstrate your aptitude through tests
Psychometric tests are used by employers to evaluate whether or not you possess particular traits and abilities needed for the job. Even if you took these tests during the application stage, you may be required to retake them during the assessment centre so recruiters can double-check your results. There are various types of tests to expect.
The first type is ability tests, which are designed to evaluate whether you have the basic competencies for the job you are applying for. These can include programming tests, numerical and verbal reasoning tests, or logical problems. Expect to use a combination of your existing knowledge and logical and lateral thinking to solve these.
The second type is aptitude tests, which test your ability to learn something new. Candidates who can pick up new skills faster are in high demand because employers need their staff to be adaptive and flexible. For example, if you are applying for an IT graduate programme without a technical degree, you may be asked to do a coding aptitude test.
The final type is personality tests. These assess your typical behavior and preferred day-to-day approach to situations. Employers use this to determine how well you might fit in with existing teams. These tests have no right or wrong answers, so just approach them as honestly as possible.
Demonstrate professionalism by helping others succeed
Lastly, always remember that you are evaluated against the employer’s criteria, not competing with other candidates. Work together with your teammates and fellow candidates and support each other in order to complete the tasks set. Avoid being overly competitive or trying to tear each other down.
It is entirely possible that everyone who passes the assessment centre walks away with a job offer, since you were all already shortlisted beforehand. You never know who might end up being your colleague tomorrow!