What to Expect from an Assessment Centre

One of the most common steps in finding a job as a graduate is attending an assessment centre. Before I’d actually been to one I was so confused as to what it would involve, would I be doing tests, would it last all day, would it just be me there? Most employers/recruiters aren’t actually very good at communicating what an assessment centre is and what you would actually have to do, so I thought I’d put together a little guide based on my own experiences. I’ve been to a few over the past few years for various internships and job applications so whilst I do have a pretty good grasp, it’s important to remember that each will be slightly different depending on the company and the role you’ve applied for.

Essentially, an assessment centre is a group interview held at the company offices, usually taking a couple of hours. It’s a great opportunity for you to present yourself to employers, as well as a chance to have a look around the office and see if you can get a feel for the company culture, which is so important! You’re there to be interviewed, but you have to also make sure the company is a good fit for you.

Will this be my only interview?

In my experiences, unfortunately not. Assessment centres are usually the first or second step (after a phone/video interview) in the application process. Assessment centres can have anywhere between 6-20 applicants attending, which in itself is pretty varied. I recently attended one where there were 29 of us and it was honestly a total disaster. The more people there are the harder it is to make yourself stand out, but stick around till the end of the post for my tips on how to best present yourself and succeed!

I have also been to assessment centres for recruitment companies, where the interview is only for you to get accepted on to their books and not for a specific role. If you are attending an assessment centre like this, I think the most important thing is to be enthusiastic. You’ll have further interviews for the specific roles, so the recruiter is just testing your ability to present yourself.

What will I be doing?

All the assessment centres I have attended have followed roughly the same format. After waiting for the whole group to arrive, you’ll be taken to an interview room, usually a large table with chairs round the outside. The company will then give a short presentation about themselves, highlighting what they do and a bit more about their culture. This is a great chance for you to find out more about them and their style. If I find my mind wandering during this first section then it’s not a great sign that the company is a good fit for me.

This is usually followed by some icebreaker exercises. Introducing yourself with a fun fact – prepare two or three in advance because this has come up at every single one and it’s not a great start if you don’t have one thing to say about yourself! There will then be some group/partner exercises, whether that’s you doing a mini interview with your partner and then presenting them to the group or working together on some sort of group task. I’ve had everything from working together to rank the most important items if you were stranded on a desert island, to having to come up with a product and pitch it to the whole group. Honestly, these group exercises usually have little to do with the role itself and are just a chance for the interviewers to see how you work in a group, so my best advice here is to listen! Make sure you are actively listening to your group members, commenting on what they are saying and offering your own ideas.

There will then usually be a short break, which is such a great chance for you to go and have a nosy round the office! Whether I need to or not I always try and go find the bathroom during this break so I can have a little explore, as you get a much better feel for the office and the people working there when you are by yourself compared to being led around in a group.

Then comes the one to one interview. I’ve written a separate piece on how to best prepare for an interview, but this is your chance to shine. This is when you really need to get your personality across and show why you specifically want the job. The group tasks are great for them to see you working in a team, but the individual interviews are where they will test your competency and determine why you actually want the job.

Sounds fine right?

It is! An assessment centre might seem intimidating, but it’s also a great chance to meet some fellow job hunters and find out how their experience is going! I’ve met some great people over the past few weeks and getting to share my thoughts and difficulties with them and hearing theirs is actually very comforting. Finding a job in a graduate market is so difficult, but really everyone is in the same boat!

One thing that isn’t quite so nice is that unfortunately there can be cuts throughout the process. I did not realise there was going to be cuts when I recently went along to one and I was absolutely shocked. Halfway through they split us in to two groups and half the room were taken away. There’s no other way to describe it other than savage. However, if you do find yourself in this situation and you aren’t successful you have to see the positives – no point in you wasting your time and going through the one to one interviews if they have already decided you aren’t a great fit.

So here are my ultimate do’s and dont’s. After your first one, they really do become easier as you will have a better idea of what to expect! Hopefully this post has given you a bit of an understanding of the process, don’t forget to share it with anyone who’s currently looking for a job and might need some advice!

Do’s

  • Listen to everyone
  • Speak to the other candidates whilst you are waiting – not only is it a nice thing to do, having an ‘interview friend’ will make you more comfortable
  • Bring water and a notepad and pen
  • Give a firm handshake
  • Be confident!

Dont’s

  • Sit on your phone while you are waiting – first impressions count
  • Treat it like a competition
  • Talk over anyone
  • Sit in silence – it’s a hard balance between talking and listening but sitting in silence won’t help you either!
  • Expect it to end on time
What to expect from an assessment centre, pinnable graphic by londonsnewgirl

Learning to be Patient

Patience is a virtue, sadly it is a virtue I do not possess. Sitting around waiting for something to happen is not how I roll. As Queen B once said,

Destiny is for losers. It’s just a stupid excuse to wait for things to happen instead of making them happen.

If I want something, I go get it or set the wheels in motion to get it. I think its this dogged determination that’s got me to where I am today, about to start a job in my dream city of London and about to move into my own flat with my boyfriend. I am just far too excited for everything to simply sit around and wait for it to happen – I want to do it now! I want to be heading off to work with Ed in the mornings and catching the tube at the weekends to meet my friends for lunch and generally being settled in to life in the city.

However the past few weeks have taught me an important lesson, that sometime’s life doesn’t work that way and you really do just have to be patient. By the time I start work I’ll have had 3 weeks of ‘me time’ that I could have spent doing anything I wanted. Yet, I have still spent some of that time thinking about how I wanted it to go quickly instead of just enjoying the moment. It’s now less than a week till I start work, a terrifying thought in itself, yet this week I am determined not to let it just pass me by. We should all be making the most of the moment (cliché but true) rather than just waiting for the next thing to happen. In order for me to be patient I really do have to slow down. I don’t need to be living life at 100 miles an hour, considering sooner or later it’s going to speed up whether I like it or not!

I am so lucky that this free time has really allowed me to get in to a blogging grove, I absolutely crushed my personal blogging targets for August and I have so many exciting posts planned out for September already! So when I find myself sitting around with nothing immediately obvious to do, I jump on my laptop and play around on Canva, read up on SEO or scroll through twitter to find new blogs to read. This week I want to make sure my blog is in the best possible place before I start working full time, as I know just how hard it is to maintain a regular schedule amongst the stress of full time work, especially as we will still have our 3 hour round trip commute for the whole month before we move. That’s three hours that I would usually spend a day blogging, so I will need to find the extra time from somewhere, yet if I can pre-plan or schedule a few posts then hopefully it will be a smooth transition.

It has also meant that I have been able to help Ed out to make his first few weeks at work as easy a transition as possible. I make sure that all his work shirts are washed and ironed when he’s at work, so it’s all ready for him to wear when he needs it. A small gesture but it means that he doesn’t need to spend his time doing it when he gets home late at night, allowing us more chill time together. Another great thing to do if you’re trying to be patient and wait for things to happen is to try and learn/improve a skill that will be useful for whatever it is you are going in to. Whilst I’ve already talked about the skills that blogging gives you that are relevant to the workplace, I also want to improve my excel knowledge and refresh some of my powerpoint skills to make sure I’m raring to go when I begin my new role. Having a few weeks before I start to do this is such a great opportunity to give myself the best start possible so I should be making the most of this!

So if you, like me, struggle with being patient then I guess from a fellow struggler, learning to use your time productively is a great way to make yourself feel like you are still achieving things and moving forward. Whether that’s helping out family, spending more time with friends, planning in advance or teaching yourself a skill, trying to think of it as a positive period of time that is yours to grab and make your own will really help.

Are you good at being patient? Let me know in the comments how you do it!

PS. Have also attempted to combat the boredom of being so impatient by binge watching Australian reality TV shows on netflix. Instant Hotel and Back With the Ex are golden. Yummy Mummies is next on my list!

Learning to be patient pinnable graphic

Dear Diary… I GOT A JOB

Perhaps the most exciting post I’ve written since I started blogging again. So far on londonsnewgirl you’ve all read about my journey trying to find a job in London. I’ve talked about everything from interview prep to dealing with rejection and now I can finally share some good news – I’M EMPLOYED! Well, I will be when I start full time on September 9th.

What an absolutely whirlwind of a job-seeking experience. I knew the day would come when I’d actually get a job but finding motivation when I’m sitting in the house watching Ed go off to work and dealing with rejection was pretty damn hard. I’ve recently written about how hard it is to be a graduate and that post had such an amazing response. I’m glad I can now be an example of how hard work can pay off and help others who are struggling with their job hunting experience.

So what’s my job? For various reasons I don’t want to go in to too much detail, but I’ll be working for a publication coordinating their German adverts. A job in media that uses German? Quite literally a dream! The office is on fleet street and I thought my mum was going to cry when I told her. I’ve always loved writing and journalism, so to have my office on a street that is so iconic makes moving to London feel all that more real. I’m right in the heart of the action and I don’t think that is ever going to stop being exciting!

As I had to go through a recruitment company to get an interview for the role, I had three interviews in total! One assessment centre, an initial interview with the company and then finally a presentation. Luckily for me the process was rather speedy in comparison to others and exactly a week after the first interview I received a job offer.

One thing nobody ever talks about though is how scary it is actually accepting it! I’d been working towards a job offer for months, but as soon as I actually had one I was full of nerves. What if I don’t like it? What if I am not good at it? Am I about to make a mistake? I’m a chronic over-thinker so this probably doesn’t apply to you, but after reconciling myself to the fact that yes, I probably will absolutely love it and yes, they wouldn’t have offered me the job if they didn’t think I’d be good at it, I was thrilled to accept.

So now I have a week or so to sort myself out. Finish collecting some final pieces for my dream work wardrobe, make sure we lock down a flat now that we both have jobs and ultimately enjoy my last little bit of Summer Holiday freedom. The thought that I’m about to start the rest of my life is a little doom and gloom and I’m trying to see it as such a big opportunity to finally start achieving some of my long term goals!