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

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!

How Blogging Can Help Your Career

If you’re reading this post then there’s a high chance you’re already a blogger yourself or a regular reader of blogs. Blogging is a great creative and therapeutic outlet and the benefits of blogging are numerous; it’s cathartic, a space for creativity and has also introduced me to so many wonderful people.

Whilst blogging is still just my hobby, it has had a profound impact on my experiences of looking for a job. Despite my 2.1 degree from the 2nd best university in the UK (we are clearly very proud of this) and the numerous sporting and academic activities listed on my CV, it is actually the small paragraph at the bottom of the second page that catches the eye of most interviewers. “Tell us a bit about your blog, what made you get in to blogging?” Having a blog and regularly blogging speaks volumes to recruiters and interviewers as it displays so many skills and attributes, so if it’s not already on your CV, here’s why it should be!

Creativity

Whilst I’ve already acknowledged that blogging is a creative outlet for me, it can also act as a portfolio of work that you can show to interviewers to display your creative skills. Not only does it demonstrate your writing skills, there are also the photographs, post, site layouts and so many more facets that show your creative skillset to potential employers. This is particularly important for any job where creativity is an essential part of the job description. I’ve been looking at jobs in marketing and many of them list strong writing capabilities as a key attribute, what better than a digital collection of passionate writing to illustrate your skills?

Attention to Detail

Re-reading and editing posts is probably my least favourite part of the blogging process, however it is incredibly important to me that the quality of writing and content on my site is of the highest possible degree. Producing grammatically correct and accurate content illustrates to employers that you have an eye for detail and are able to produce quality pieces to a high standard.

Organisation

The vast amount of time it takes to have a blog stands as testament to your organisational and planning skills. Most bloggers don’t simply pick up their laptop when they have a few minutes, bash out a post and that’s them done. Blogging requires a great deal of time, forcing you to plan ahead and manage your time wisely. It demonstrates an organisational ability which almost all job descriptions I have ever read have listed as a key requirement.

Initiative

As well as demonstrating creativity, starting a blog requires initiative, a further attribute that is often discussed during interviews. Having the confidence to put yourself online and the drive to continue to post regularly, shows employers that you have the initiative and determination to start with a concept and follow it through.

Social Media Management

With an increasing number of jobs and industries turning towards digital channels to promote their products, social media is playing an ever growing role in business and marketing. Since we are now in 2019, it’s safe to say that almost everyone will have either a Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest account, or all of the above! However it is the extra skills that you develop as a blogger that set you against other candidates. Scheduling platforms such as buffer and Hootsuite, co-ordinating a promotion plan and forward planning layouts are all tools used by most bloggers to increase their reach and reader base.

Collaboration

Most industries will require you to work with either clients or other businesses to achieve objectives, requiring strong lines of communication and often working to a brief. If you have been lucky enough to work with brands as part of your blog, then this is something you should definitely be mentioning in interviews. Whilst you may have worked with a make-up or fashion brand that has no relation to the job you are applying for, the skills you have gained from the experience are extremely attractive to employers and will impressive any interviewer.

Have you ever been asked about your blog in an interview? Please share in the comments if you have any other skills you’ve gained from blogging that would be beneficial in a job hunt! There is also the pinnable graphic at the bottom of the post if you want to save it for later and look back when you’re writing job applications or preparing for an interview!

How blogging can help your career, pinnable graphic.