Assessment centres are widely used amongst employers (not just apprenticeship ones!) to test out whether you’re right for the role by assessing you against the skills required, whether this includes your adaptability, decision-making, or planning abilities.
But don’t fear! These mysterious ‘centres’ aren’t as shadowy as they seem and are actually a great way to prove your talents, meet the employers and gain an understanding of what might be involved as an apprentice with them!
We’ve put together this blog post as a quick guide on what to expect on the day of your assessment centre, with a quick breakdown of all things from group interviews to presentations – you’ll be prepared in no time.
First, what is an assessment centre?
An assessment centre will consist of different elements designed to measure your aptitude, your fit for the role, and importantly, what you’re like as a person. You might have to prepare for these different tests (like a presentation) in advance, but someone will let you know beforehand if that’s the case. If your testing is a surprise on the day, everyone else will be in the same boat so don’t worry.
You probably won’t be expected to undergo all of these different processes, but it’s better to be prepared so you stand out from the crowd of fellow applicants! You’ll normally be assessed by a combination of HR consultants and managers who will discuss your performance before reaching their final decision.
The night before and arrival
These things might be obvious, but we like to be thorough! The night before your assessment centre, plan your route to ensure you arrive on time. Arriving late won’t make for the best first impression after all.
Before you attend the centre, identify the skills and experience the employer wants by reading the job description and checking the company website to gain a few ideas of the values they have. Compare these against your CV to make sure you have examples of your experience ready to pull out if needed.
If you have been told to prepare anything for the assessment centre, have this done in plenty of time, so you can go over your notes. When you arrive, introduce yourself to your fellow candidates. This will help make you feel more comfortable when coming up against tasks later and show that you’re approachable and confident before the testing even starts.
Employer presentations and ice breakers
After arriving, you’ll probably be given a short presentation on the company, its history and values, followed by some short ice-breaker exercises. You won’t be assessed on these ice breaker exercises so don’t worry about your responses here.
Ice breakers are used to help introduce you to the other candidates you might work with later in the assessment centre. So, you might want to prepare that ‘interesting fact about yourself’ titbit or ‘flavour of ice cream you’d be and why’ answer in advance!
These are designed to assess your reasoning and behaviour as strong indicators of your potential job performance. Most assessment centres, for apprenticeship and other roles alike, will involve some form of testing like this.
These tests are normally quite short and involve a variety of different activities. There are plenty online that you can use as practice for free, this will help you learn what to expect and feel prepared for whatever is thrown your way.
A group task will assess your contribution to a team, mainly through a roleplay, debate, presentation, or a work-based problem. You’ll be placed into a small group of other candidates and work together to form a solution.
Normally, no member is designated as a leader, so you might be asked to take turns leading discussions. In a roleplay, you might be provided with a particular role with some background information about what is involved in that position. A common roleplay scenario involves a mock meeting where you’ll have to contribute a few ideas based on the info you’re given on the day.
Throughout all group activities, ensure you actively participate and make your points confidently. Don’t interrupt or criticise others and relate everything back to your brief. Make a point to include others and offer appreciation for their ideas, and most importantly, stand up for your suggestions if someone challenges them!
Your individual task might vary depending on the apprenticeship you’re applying for. You could complete a written exercise or online test, normally with a set amount of time to do so. Read all the instructions before you begin carefully – it’s easy to make a silly mistake when you’re under pressure!
The written test could include creating an essay, a collection of emails, summarising a document, or even a report on a given topic. Often, online tests include answering questions based on information you’ve been given to analyse. Other times, these tests are a workplace simulation of sorts; you’ll receive ‘emails’ from colleagues in which you have to respond appropriately.
You may be required to complete a presentation, which you’ll normally be informed of before the assessment centre. The employer will set out the length of time the presentation must be and the topic to present on. It’ll be down to you to put together an interesting project.
Presenting can be nerve-wracking, especially in front of the people who’ll decide if you get a job or not. Know your presentation from memory and have something to refer to if your mind goes blank. Remember, these presentations will check your communication skills, ability to evaluate information, and public speaking talents, so brush up on these if this isn’t your forte and practice!
This is one of the most important parts of the assessment centre. An interview will normally be on a one-to-one basis, or occasionally a panel, with current employees in the team. This is a great opportunity to explain your strengths and experience and show off that you’re the right person for the role.
For the interview, make sure you know your CV by heart! This is where the interviewers will get a lot of material for the questions they ask, so it’s crucial you know what this might include. For more tips about interviews, check out our other blog posts here!
If you’re looking for more information about how to prepare for your assessment centre, reach out to one of our recruiters that are managing your application. They’ll be able to point you in the right direction and guarantee that you’re ready for the big day.
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