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Graduate Scheme Assessment Centre Advice – Preeya, Intern Recruitment Coordinator

You’ve passed your online aptitude tests and have now advanced to the assessment centre stage. Or unfortunately were unsuccessful on your assessment centre and want some tips on how you can better your performance for next time…

Having secured a position on a trainee management graduate scheme, I have put together my top tips and guidance on how to ace this somewhat dreaded, but very crucial stage!

Usually the assessment centre is the third stage in the recruitment process for a graduate scheme, however this can vary depending on the employer. The core purpose an assessment centre is to create an environment whereby you and other candidates can demonstrate key workplace skills. The assessment can be for a full day or half a day and normally comprises three distinct elements:
1) Presentation
2) Short interview
3) Group exercise
For the presentation stage, my key advice would be to prepare, prepare, prepare! Ensure you practice in front of someone a few times and a top tip would be to take some cue cards in with you for prompts. Also, make sure you give sufficient eye contact to the interviewers, speak loudly, slowly and clearly. Clarity here is crucial! I would also recommend ending the presentation by opening the floor to questions.

In my situation, the short interview was formal with two interviewers, but this will vary from employer to employer. I would always say think of all the possible questions that could be asked and ensure you have thoroughly prepared the answers beforehand. Have a firm handshake and don’t forget to smile! I also advise to ask questions about the company to show your genuine interest; be engaged and talk about your past experiences using the STAR technique. STAR is a tool which helps you to discuss previous work experiences in a competency-based manner and stands for situation, task, action, result – to provide real tangible examples of the skills and experience you have. You shouldn’t dwell on one experience too much and ensure you have multiple examples you can discuss. Furthermore, ALWAYS check the job description beforehand and relate your skills back to those in the job – think about what key transferrable skills or experience you have that will be useful for the employer in relation to this role you are applying for. Another top tip is to research the company, their values, what appeals to you about them and what you can add to their business. Finally, always dress professionally with neat hair, nails and polished shoes!

Lastly, the group exercise is used to identify your communication skills, problem-solving skills and how effectively you contribute in a team when presented with a task. You need to contribute, but not dominate; I remained calm but not too quiet. Be aware of what others are contributing and if someone is particularly quiet, ensure you seek their views. Aim to stand out with your confidence without coming across as domineering or aggressive. Stay positive and delegate tasks to other team members by drawing on their individual strengths and weaknesses. You should also periodically try to summarise the group’s progress and suggest the team come back and share their thoughts. My top tip here would be offering to keep a track of the time as this shows that you are reliable and organised. I would also advise to just be yourself, smile and be confident in your capabilities – let your personality shine through! Ensure the task is split equally amongst the group and try to offer unique solutions where possible. However, do remember the interviewers are not searching for you to get the correct solution to the task, but are instead assessing your reaction and responses throughout.

The final piece of advice is that if one person makes a suggestion that you do not necessarily agree with, politely express your concerns and always offer an alternative solution rather than simply rejecting an idea that felt feasible to another individual. In my situation, I applied for the role through recruitment consultants who represented me and invited me to the open day stage – which allowed me to get to know the staff, previous graduates and included an initial informal interview. After I was successful, the recruitment agency called me on the same day with feedback and a scheduled date for the assessment centre. I would recommend applying through a recruitment agency as they can offer guidance and tips on what to expect and can help prepare you for each stage.

Recruitment consultancies like SimkissGuy really understand your needs and specific requirements, helping to maximise your full potential. I don’t think I would have been able to secure my role on the graduate scheme if it wasn’t for the agency! They also stayed in contact with me after every stage, regularly giving me feedback and allowing me to continually improve myself and be better prepared. They also kept in contact with me until I signed my contract and accepted the offer. The regular contact and touching base makes me feel a lot less nervous for when I begin the job in September. Personally, it really opened my eyes that recruiters really do care about their candidates!

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