What is an Assessment Center?
An assessment center is a very common tool used in the recruiting process. It’s very popular for trainee or graduates positions because it can increase the possibility to choose candidates that are a really good fit. Through an assessment center, the employer can not only identify the candidate’s professional and educational experience but also evaluate the applicant’s personality traits and soft skills.
What is the general assessment center process?
A typical assessment center spreads over a time period from one to three days. It always needs to take place under standardized conditions. Participating applicants’ numbers are around 2 to 20, in order to make sure the process will stay in an appropriate time span. It can consist of group exercises or individual exercises, where different aspects will be evaluated. Since the assessment center process is quite exhausting, there are always breaks during exercises. However, also during those breaks judges are evaluating applicants through observations and engagements.
Since every company plans their assessment center differently, you should always be prepared for any kind of exercise. To give you a good overview we have provided the most common practices of an assessment center below. By reading them you can go to your next assessment center well prepared and easily pass it.
Introduction of Participants
Most companies start the assessment center with an introduction of everyone. First, the speaker of the event will introduce him-/ herself and give an overview of the company and its practices. Then the judges of the assessment center will continue with their introduction, followed by the participants.
The introduction of yourself is a quite common and easy practice, however the judges will start with their evaluation here. Make sure you prepared a small speech at home, to boost your rhetorical skills and don’t let your nerves forget your own story. Try to explain your personal and educational life in a unique way to stand out among the other applicants and stay in mind. A pro tip would be to make your introduction fitting to the company and position you want to work in. Create a shortcut to your personal experience and give examples. Making a good first impression at this task is not only a great start but can boost your chances to pass the assessment center. For the judges the beginning as well as end of an assessment center will most likely build their key memory on the applicants, without looking at an evaluation sheet.
The introduction process can also take place in another variation. One would be a partner exercise. Here you only introduce yourself to one other person and vis versa. In the end it is your task to explain your partners experience and educational background to the whole group, while your partner will do the same with your information. The second variation would be the individual self-introduction but in smaller groups.
Presentation are also a very common exercise in an assessment center. Here it can be divided into stress presentation and thematic presentation. For both you need to prepare a presentation and present your outcome in front of judges and other participants.
In a stress presentation you will probably get very few times to prepare your speech or even a quite hard topic to talk about. Furthermore, it could be that your time to present your ideas is quite short too. Here the focus is not about the quality of content you present, but on how you react and work during a stressful atmosphere. It may even happen that a judge will cut your word off to ask questions and bring you out of your flow.
On the contrary, the thematical presentation focuses on the content and the way you present it. Topics may variate, but most of the time they are part of the main topics policy, economy, society or specific to the industry area of the company. Here the company wants to judge your general knowledge about recent topics in the world or related industry field. Keep in mind, the presentation should be made out of a professional view and based on theories of facts, and not on your own opinion. Especially if you have to talk about a political thematic, be careful not to judge anything and stay on a neutral position.
In a group discussion your social skills will be tested, as well as your rhetorical skills. Most of the time a topic of recent events or related to the company will be chosen. It is important to discuss from a logical, fact-based view, and not to ignore the opinion of the others. Always stay friendly and don’t interrupt other applicants.
Sometimes there can be a variation of this exercise, where applicants need to choose an own topic for instance. Here it can be helpful to propose a voting. Another variation could be, that applicants get a specific role in which they have to act and answer the questions. By answering according to the roles beleives, it can happen that you have to argue against your own personal opinion.
During the roleplay a sales or complaint interview will be simulates for instance. Most of the time you will be tested alone here, and one or two judges will participate in the roleplay. Here you should focus on your social skills again. Try to stay calm and objective during the play. Here, the judges will act as a provocateur by interrupting you or being mean.
A case study usually involves a quite complex problem, which you have to find specific solutions for. The exercise can be and individual one or a group exercise. It’s important that you stay concentrated and try to solve the problem on a logical basis other people can understand. It may be that there is no ultimate solution. That is to say, you have to consider alternatives and judge which one is the best fit. If a case study has to be solved in a team the judges will also evaluate your participation, teamwork, as well as the role you take over in the group.
Interviews At an Assessment Center
In many companies the assessment center will end with a one-to-one interview. Here the focus will be on your motivation, strengths and weaknesses. Compared to a normal job interview some questions may be:
- What do you think about the assessment center?
- How good do you think you performed?
- Which was your weakest performance?
- Is there anything you would like to change about your actions?
However, also make sure you prepare yourself to the common questions of normal job interviews. This includes you should know about the company and position you want to work in.
It’s normal to be nervous about your upcoming assessment center, but if you have practiced the main sectors of an assessment center process beforehand and show the best version of yourself at the date, you can definitely master the test. Always remember Big Brother is watching you that day, not only during the exercises, but also in breaks, while lunch or even while leaving the area. Good luck!
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