Some of you will now have reached the last stage of the selection process for vacation schemes or summer internships and will be “looking forward” to assessment centres. So, what do you need to do to make sure that you are able to see off the last of the competition?
Demonstrate you’re someone people can work with
It’s easy to forget this. Law firms talk about the aircraft test. If you’re being interviewed by a partner how does he/she feel about potentially sitting next to you on a sixteen hour flight? It’s a good idea to try to come across as likeable! This starts as soon as you arrive. Some employers will ask reception for their impression of you. Be courteous and friendly from the moment you walk through the door. Smile!
Remember throughout the day that you are not in direct competition with the people at your assessment centre. The employer may take all of you, or none of you. Show that you can build relationships by engaging with your fellow applicants. Striking up conversations should make you feel more comfortable and will demonstrate that you will get on with people.
Think what you’re doing
Read briefs you’re given carefully and engage brain. You may have a negotiation exercise. Make sure that you take the time to think whether all options are actually viable. Success in this exercise is not normally about “winning” and getting everyone to agree to your brief; it’s about interacting effectively with others and contributing intelligently to the debate. It’s possible there are one or more “red herrings” in the exercise. If you’re the person who spots them, that’ll be a tick for you!
Successful candidates at assessment centres are often those who best structure answers. There are likely to be a number of exercises where you will have the opportunity to showcase your logical thinking. Written exercises call for clear, coherent advice or reports, as do case study exercises where you might be responding orally or in writing. Just as you would plan an essay, make sure you spend time planning your structure at the assessment centre.
Don’t be afraid to have an opinion
Most assessment centres include an interview. Law firms tend to “subject you” to a partner interview, most other employers put you in front of senior members of staff. These interviews can be difficult to predict. Sometimes they focus on your interests, sometimes the news, often you might be asked to address something contentious. Don’t be scared to express your opinion, employers are looking for graduates who are able to articulate views and hold an argument. You do need to recognise, however, that you might be talking to people who know much more about the topic than you. There may come a point when you realise that your argument is untenable or just plain wrong. That’s the moment to acknowledge that you might have been mistaken. Remember that employers are not expecting the “finished product”. You will not be marked down for changing your view. On the contrary you’re likely to get credit for recognising when you might have been mistaken. That’s pretty important in the workplace!
Try to enjoy the day
This might sound tricky but many students tell me that they do enjoy assessment centres and they tend to be those who are successful. Relax! Generally everyone wants you to do the best you can, employers have already spent a lot of money on their recruitment by the time you get to the assessment centre. They are hoping to be able to recruit you!
Have a look at my YouTube resources on assessment centres for lots more detail.