Many large organisations use a graduate recruitment day or assessment centre to fill the places on their training schemes for the coming year. These events generally last one day, or occasionally two. An assessment event is your chance to shine and show why you should be employed, but what exactly should you expect?
You’re on Duty 24/7
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that there is never a time you’re off duty. All that small talk with other candidates or a meal and drinks with the previous year’s graduate intake is a chance to both assess and be assessed. Be yourself, and don’t feel you have to talk shop all the time. On the other hand, don’t get roaring drunk, tell inappropriate stories or make negative comments about other candidates or the company. An evening reception provides a great opportunity to chat to staff and get a lot more information about what the company does and what type of people it employs, so make the most of it!
Range of Activities
Most graduate assessment centres will combine several different elements and you will be told the structure of the day when you arrive. Usually, the assessment will include one or more traditional face to face interviews, some sort of group exercise or discussion, and a mix of psychometric, numeracy and/or literacy tests. At each stage, your performance will be noted, and afterwards, the hiring team will get together, compare notes and scores, then decide who gets the job offers.
One of the newer types of exercises which employers are using is the in-tray exercise. This is either done with physical pieces of paper or electronically. Candidates are usually given a range of information to work with, such as phone messages, emails, letters or queries from customers. Their job is to prioritise which jobs to do first, and work through the in-tray as they would in a real-life situation. If you’ve never done this sort of job before, there are simulator exercises online which can help you prepare.
Depending on the company, graduates might be asked to put together a short presentation on a topic given to them in advance. Prepare carefully for your presentation and stick rigidly to the brief. Practise in advance and time yourself to make sure you can get all of your points across in the time given. If you are presenting as a group after an exercise, make sure everyone has equal opportunity to get involved in the preparation and delivery of the presentation.
Be Aware of the “Cut”
One particularly ruthless technique used by many companies is to send some of the weaker candidates home at lunch, or after the first day. This might sound brutal (and it is) but recruiters will take care to do it discreetly. If you have been unsuccessful, ask for constructive feedback - it might help you work on improving things for next time. If you make it through to the end of the process, decisions are generally made fairly rapidly.
Was this article helpful to you? If you have any questions, additional topics or ideas for a follow-up article, please let us know in the comments below!
Where to next? Find out about all our internal graduate jobs.