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Assessment Centre Top Hints and Tips

KNOW WHAT IS REQUIRED - The day will have been designed around the requirements of the job. So if you are able to get a copy of the formal job specification this will help as it will detail the ‘core competencies’ or qualities/values/skills and experience required to succeed in the role.

BE YOURSELF - Once you know the required competencies you can adapt your gameplay accordingly BUT it is imperative that you be yourself!

PLAN - Ensure that you are planned – Do you know where the Assessment Centre is taking place, the time of start, the duration, the dress code, etc. Do you have to prepare anything beforehand?

FORMAT - Ask for the format of the day, who will be assessing, what are the expectations, what qualities are they looking for?

DRESS TO IMPRESS - Dress for an assessment centre like you would for a final interview

RESEARCH - Research the company in the same way that you would do for any other interview – see day 6 of sales ‘Career Success Masterclass’. Being well researched and planned will give you confidence.

ASK QUESTIONS - Don’t forget that an Assessment Centres is a great opportunity for you to get to know the company and hiring managers in greater depth. Ask lots of questions and build rapport.

DETAIL IS EVERYTHING - Pay attention to the detail. Often, particularly in group exercises, there will be a couple of ‘Red Herrings’ thrown in. Read every instruction. If you feel it is somewhat vague or misleading then read it upside down! This for some reason helps your brain to really focus in and concentrate on the task in hand. Try it!

UNDERSTANDING THE INSTRUCTIONS WILL NOT BE PART OF THE TESTS - Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Being able to understand the instruction is not the part of the test. Often tasks are designed to be open to more than one interpretation to get delegates engaged and involved. Ask, ask and ask again until you are confident that you understand all instructions.

BIDE YOUR TIME - In sales based Assessment Centres the first half hour is typically a lot of bravado whilst everyone ‘sounds each other out’. Don’t worry if you’re not the centre of attention, the mouthpiece or the ‘stand out’ candidate at this stage. Good Assessment Centres are designed to score against the required competencies throughout the duration of the day. In my experience the candidates that come across as the initial ‘front runners’ normally falter as the centre progresses. It is normally those that are composed, self assured and consistent that succeed. Remember that the assessors and facilitators are looking for those that demonstrate the best match to the required competencies, the right personality for their cultural fit and how committed to each task you are.

RELAX AND ENJOY - Don’t become despondent if you do not feel that you are shining in the first hour, just relax – your chance to shine will come as the day progresses.

DON’T TAKE OVER - In group tasks don’t take over. Unless specified the ability to ‘lead‘ is rarely the prerequisite competency so don’t feel that you have to volunteer to be the ‘leader’ at every opportunity. Normally the facilitator will ensure that at some point during the centre every delegate will have the opportunity to lead and/or take centre stage.

BE A TEAM PLAYER - Get everyone in the team involved, ask for others opinions but at the same time if you feel strongly about a point then you must stand your ground. A very commonly required competency is the ability to be a ‘team player’ yet to be ‘forthright in your own views’.

GET ON WITH EVERYONE - Get on with all of your fellow delegates. This will show you in your best light and you will enjoy the session more.

DON’T SCORE POINTS - Don’t ever belittle someone else in front of other delegates or the assessors (no matter how tempting it may be!)

LUNCH IS PART OF THE ASSESSMENT - Remember that breaks and lunch are also part of the Assessment Process so be aware of manners, swearing, inappropriate topics of discussion and inappropriate behaviour! (this isn’t the forum but I could tell you some absolute horror stories!)

WHAT IS THE POINT? - In Group Exercises don’t necessarily go with the obvious. Think it through. Group exercises are typically designed to be ambiguous to get the delegates engaged and involved.

DELEGATE TASKS – DON’T TRY AND DO IT ALL - One of the best ways to ‘lead’ in a group exercise is to split the group up to work on separate tasks. Group exercises are designed to have four hours work to complete in half an hour – here, delegation is the key.

BE OPEN TO OTHER’S IDEAS - Be open to all suggestions from fellow delegates – don’t completely dismiss any suggestions, they just might have seen through the ‘Red Herring.’

DON’T OVERLY COMPETE - Don’t feel that you have to compete with the other delegates. In an Assessment Centre there are invariably several vacancies and the fellow delegates may one day be your close work colleagues!

MAKE CONNECTIONS - Engage with every assessor, facilitator and employer representative as they will be the ones that score you at the end of the session, As unbiased as Assessment Centres are meant to be you’ll always score an extra few percent if you’ve managed to connect with them.

NETWORK - Even if you’re not successful at your first Assessment Centre it will give you an invaluable insight for the future. In addition, don’t disregard the session as an opportunity to network. As a delegate I once gained a very valuable future client from an Assessment Centre, we kept in contact after the session and he was able to get me ‘an in’ with his new business. Also, you’ll hear about other interviews and job opportunities from the other delegates.

LET THE REAL ‘YOU’ SHINE - Assessment Centres shouldn’t be daunting or scary! They should be highly enjoyable and you may even learn a little something about yourself. Relax, enjoy and the ‘real you will shine through.’

BE POSITIVE - Above all, be yourself, be confident and remain positive and focused throughout the day.

A well designed Assessment Centre should be enjoyable for all. Assessment Centres, especially virtual are becoming more and more common.  So being involved in one, even if you are not successful, will help hold you in good stead for the future.

Remember they should not be daunting. Do your research, ensure that you arrive in good time and that you are planned and prepared. Build rapport with everyone that you meet. Relax, do your best, remain focused, remain positive and you’ll be fine.


About the author

Darren Dewrance

Darren spent six years in sales and field sales before joining the original sales recruitment specialist, Austin Benn, in 1998. After achieving the status of top consultant, out of about seventy at the time, Darren rose from Senior Consultant to Operations Manager of the commercial sector before leaving to join a London based Headhunter in 2003 before setting up Aaron Wallis with Rob in October 2007.

With a natural leadership style, Darren is an expert on putting his finger right on the heart of the problem. His natural commercial instincts have helped hundreds of employers make better recruitment decisions. Darren is married with two children, and when not at work or with his family, he likes nothing more than to be on the side of a river or a lake with a rod in his hand.

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I have used Aaron Wallis to fill a number of our Sales Development Manager roles and I have found them to provide a very professional service. I will use their services again in future recruitment campaigns.

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Aaron Wallis helped me secure a position I really wanted. Giles sought to keep me updated with all the details preceding interviews and after with feedback. I would highly recommend Giles and Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment.

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I have to say coming across and having dealings with Aaron Wallis proved to be very successful. Being highly experienced did not seem to count for much during my job search bit a conversation with Robert Scott gave me a real confidence boost and enabled to get a position at the age of 63. Great service!!!

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Aaron Wallis (and in particular Rob Scott) have been fantastic throughout the recruitment process, and even a few months down the line, still continues to care. Rob clearly cares about each individual and has a wealth of knowledge and expertise, which shows in the work he does. Each candidate is not just a number, and the support received from Aaron Wallis has helped me get a career which I truly enjoy.

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Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment are a very friendly and professional recruitment organisation who listen to your needs, work with you and act on your behalf which sets them apart from many of their competitors who in my experience are willing to throw anything at you. We discussed my history, my preferences and my wishes - one opportunity was introduced. It was perfect. I start at the end of June.

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