The internet is awash with well meaning but useless advice about your assessment centre. We can put the record straight.
- I need to revise
Most ADCs have a strong behavioural component i.e. assessors are looking for evidence of your competencies. If the organisation was interested in your knowledge of technical, procedural or legislative information they would probably set you an exam instead. Usually it is not the technical skills which make an individual stand out as an excellent employee or manager; it is more about their attitude, manner, personal approach- how they interact with others and how they get the job done.
- I need to know the organisational competencies inside out
ADC exercises tend to be pretty fast-paced. Once you get started, a lot of what you might have memorised will fly out of your head. That’s why these exercises are so effective at uncovering your real core behaviours, and not just getting a snapshot of what you think you need to say and do. Read through the competencies to get an overview, a sense of what is important to the organisation. You might want to bear in mind themes which stand out, like ‘this firm really values team working or partnership working; this one prioritises competitiveness or ambition’. But most of the competencies will be fairly general and ‘common sense’ so there’s no point getting too hung up on them. You will perform the exercises as it is natural for you- and that’s what they want to see.
- I’ve heard the context for the assessment exercise is a charitable foundation/ public sector/ commercial/ global organisation. I need to study these
The context for ADC exercises isn’t important. It just sets the scene and it sets a level playing field i.e. it doesn’t matter what different experience the candidates have, whether you are an internal candidate or completely new to the organisation, a graduate or from overseas for example.
All the information you need will be contained in the documents you will be given. You will also have time to get your head round it. Just remember that many of the responsibilities of a manager are similar irrespective of the situation and how you handle them is what is important.
- I should find out what is being assessed by each exercise
In the same way it is almost impossible to speculate on how you have done after an exam, it is a waste of time trying to figure out exactly what was being assessed by each exercises. It won’t help you to know in advance and it won’t help you to ponder it after the event! Each exercise is crafted to give you the opportunity to demonstrate a range of different, relevant skills. The exercise instructions explain what is required of you. You just need to resolve the issues presented to you as well as you know how.
- How can the assessors tell what I am really like?
The ADC exercises are generally pretty practical. They give you a chance to do instead of just say (which is the problem with interviews). For example, you might say how important it is to work with others, to listen and collaborate, build on the ideas of others and acknowledge their contribution when questioned about team working in an interview. But put you in a group discussion type exercise and you don’t actually do any of these things! In fact, your behaviour might be the exact opposite, and that will tell the assessors a lot about what you are likely to be like as an employee and member of a team.
- I should find out how other people tackled the tasks/ questions assigned
There won’t be any ONE right or wrong way to complete the different exercises. Each one examines lots of different skills; you will do better in some, less well in others. How you tackle each task will be unique to you. Don’t worry, the exercises are designed this way.