Group assessment days are a standard part of the recruitment process in many industries. Whether the idea strikes fear into your heart, or you see it as yet another hoop to jump through, it’s time to change your outlook. Approached the right way, they can be an opportunity to shine.
Demonstrate your soft skills
Group assessments offer a more rounded view of who you are as a person, giving you more chance to demonstrate why you’re right for the job than a standard interview would allow.
Oliver Savill from AssessmentDay.co.uk, an online business which helps graduates prepare for the recruitment process, explains that group assessments are intended to simulate a working environment, with the primary motive being to evaluate a candidate’s soft skills.
‘They’re trying to simulate the challenges you’ll face as an employee, so it really helps to get into the mind-set of a potential employee,’ he says. ‘Pretend you really have to face their fictional task and have to solve it with a group of your friends.
‘Adopting a mind-set is very different to “acting”. Acting is being someone you’re not; getting into a mind-set is about actively solving something you would encounter in an unfamiliar environment.’
What they typically involve
Group assessments might typically include five to eight candidates, and the task set could involve anything from reaching a collective decision on who should escape a sinking ship to debating a topical subject. Graduate exercises tend to be more business related, such as discussing and deciding the details of a notional new product launch.
Assessors will be taking notes on candidates’ behaviour – looking for a display of the key competencies sought for the role in question.
Oliver says: ‘The competencies each company look for will vary, and even differ role-to-role. As an example, they might be: leadership; decisiveness; analytical thinking; collaboration; and planning.
‘Each assessor will have a scoring sheet on which they observe and record the behaviours of between one and three candidates. If assessors don’t observe you doing something they can’t award you the credit for it. So if you’re thinking something during the exercise make sure you articulate it.’
Stay on target
So how do you know which competencies the assessors will be looking for? Paying close attention to the job description and combining that with what you know about the company culture should give you a clue.
If you tend to stay in the background in group situations, force yourself to make some positive and well-thought-out contributions to the discussion. Whereas if you know you can be overbearing sometimes, make a conscious effort to dial that tendency down.
Recruiters will need to know that you’ll fit in with their office culture – and that you really are a “team player”, as you have promised on your CV.
When it comes to the actual content of the assessment, you don’t have to have the best ideas or “win” the task at hand – you simply need to demonstrate that you can work well with others and get them on your side.
It can also help to show an awareness of the time constraint placed upon the group, making efforts to prevent circular discussions or to re-focus things if necessary.
Oliver comments: ‘Don’t make the classic mistake of thinking you are in competition with the other candidates in the group exercise. Employers will be looking to hire staff that get on with other people, support colleagues, and collaborate for an effective outcome.
‘The group exercise is no different: you will probably get marked down for being a confident bully.
Assessors may even award marks for you noticing that someone else in the group hasn’t had a chance to contribute and you saying, “Sorry Bob, I think you were cut off there. What was it you wanted to say?”’
The exercise set may also give you a hint of what might be to come if you took the job.
Oliver says: ‘The other take-away from the group exercise is that this task probably bears a lot of similarity with the real job. So it’s a good time to ask yourself “is this job what I thought it was, and will I enjoy it?”’
So in summary – as with many recruitment situations – be yourself as much as possible, but yourself at your very best. Handled well, a group assessment is a great opportunity to give employers an honest view of your working style and personality.
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