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Assessment Centres- the Myths and Realities

Assessment Centres- the Myths and Realities

More and more of us will come face to face with at least one assessment centre during our careers. Probably more. Here we look at the facts and fiction of this important career stage.

It will be incredibly nerve-wracking

True. It is a daunting prospect, especially as there is usually a lot at stake. None of us like the idea of being assessed and coming up short of the mark. On the plus side, most candidates report that the day wasn’t nearly as bad as they’d thought.

There will be confrontation in the role-play

False. There may be conflict of some kind but it isn’t always going to take the form of shouting. There may however be resistance to overcome or compromise to be reached, challenges where you need to assert your authority or show a confident approach.

The inbox or written exercise will be very difficult

True. It’s not that the exercise itself is designed to be especially hard, but it’s the area that most candidates are out of practice and therefore most apprehensive about. There are strategies you can apply in order to improve your performance and you do need to put aside time in advance to prepare- just as you would for any important exam.

Being assessed is off-putting

False. You will honestly forget that they are there once your role-play gets underway. Thinking about it is worse than the reality. If you are going for internal promotion find out if you are likely to be assessed by your direct line manager- some organisations try to avoid this.

The day will fly by

True. Candidates all comment how the day goes by in a flash because you are so engaged in what you are doing. You’ll be tired at the end from all the concentration you have needed.

People who have done assessment centres before do better

True. There is no advantage in terms of the content of the exercises or knowing how to ‘perform’ on the day. But experienced candidates may have an advantage in terms of knowing what to expect from the exercise format.

You will enjoy it more than you expect

True. Overcoming any challenge leaves a sense of accomplishment. Many candidates enjoy dealing with issues that are probably familiar, but in a simulated environment.

There no point putting yourself up for it unless you are sure you’ll do well

False. It’s hard to know how you are going to do (although you can gain performance feedback from a professional service LINK). Even if you suspect you aren’t ready its worth giving it a go to get experience and gain the feedback which the organisation should offer. In this session (usually a phone call for external candidates) make notes to help you understand what you do well and what you could improve.

You have no idea what is expected of you

False. Some people feel that this is the case but that’s probably because they haven’t done anything to prepare in advance (find out more about the steps you can take here LINK). The assessment criteria are often spelled out in black and white in the lists of desired competencies you may be supplied with.

You will understand the relevance of the activities once you have completed the day

True. The ‘hoops’ you have to jump through will make sense after the event. If you have an exercise where you have to manage under-performance member, deal with a complaint, or resolve a complex issue, they should seem relevant given the role you have applied for.

You will feel unprepared whatever you do

False. If you took your driving test without any lessons or exam without revising you wouldn’t be ready. Assessment centres are the same- the more work you put in beforehand, the more prepared you will feel. Researching the organisation or studying your role/ professional area is unlikely to do as much good as honing your assessment centre techniques. You’d benefit from targeted, specialist guidance if you haven’t done this before. LINK

You’ll be no better off afterwards if you don’t get succeed

False. Attending an AC is always good experience and pushing yourself a worthwhile activity. Keep an open mind whatever the outcome, even if you are frustrated by the result there will be points you can learn if you are receptive to this and pursue getting feedback on your performance. This will put you in a much better position the next time a job you really want comes along.

Article written by: Hannah Vallance

Hannah Vallance is a Chartered Occupational and HPC Registered Practitioner Psychologist, she has over ten years experience of designing assessment solutions.

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