How to stand out at an assessment centre
At Royds Withy King’s assessment centre I did a group exercise, a written exercise, a critical reasoning test and a face-to-face interview. Here is my advice to help you stand out from the crowd if you are attending a similar assessment event.
There is no ‘I’ in team
Turn your thinking on its head and start viewing the other people at the assessment centre as your teammates, rather than your competitors. You are all likely to be feeling the same trepidation. Smile and say hello to everybody as you arrive on the day and build up rapport from the start.
Recognise that each of you will have something to add that is of value in terms of your experience and your ideas. Four out of six of the candidates at the assessment centre I went to were offered a training contract with the firm. The success we enjoyed is in no small part thanks to us treating one another with encouragement and friendliness throughout.
Being a trainee involves working with a myriad of different people. It goes a long way to making a good impression, if you show that you can do this with ease.
Speak up (but don’t shout)
The group exercises can be painless if you have followed the above advice.
Make sure that your voice is heard, but keep a good ratio of listening to talking. Slow down and be considered in your responses. Actively listening is a key trait of a successful trainee.
If there is a member of your group who seems particularly nervous or quiet, ask them direct questions and take the time to guide the rest of the group into listening to them. This will give you the opportunity to show your skills of facilitation and the other person will be heard.
Do your homework
Researching the firm and what they do best, goes without saying. Even more importantly, if there is an element of the day for which you can fully prepare, ensure that you do. Ahead of my assessment centre, we were given the details of a topic we would be required to write about. I made sure that I was fully equipped to do this and it gave me confidence to know that if nothing else, I would perform well in that part of the day.
Appearances are not everything but…
This may seem like an obvious and superficial tip, but make sure that you dress both comfortably and professionally. In my experience your demeanour will follow suit (excuse the pun).
There is a huge amount of research to suggest that we all make judgements within the first few moments of meeting somebody. Give yourself a head start by making the right first impression.
The whole day is an interview
Manners cost nothing but they can be very revealing. From the moment you walk in to an assessment centre, you are under the microscope – it’s not just your interviewers who will be getting an impression of you. Smile and show an interest in everybody you meet, from the first person who greets you, to the person conducting your interview. While still being authentic, your conduct should match the culture of the firm.
Be your (best) self
Don’t be afraid to be direct about what sets you apart. I am not your typical trainee in the sense that I am older than most, worked in a different industry for some years and have three children. It is likely that your unique life experience to date, is what has got you this far, so don’t abandon it at the door.