The vast majority of recruitment processes usually consist of one or two interviews and then hopefully a job offer. However, some companies like to do things differently, and they often choose an alternative approach that provides a much more in-depth assessment of all the candidates that look good on paper, in order to see which ones would make the most suitable hires. This is achieved by asking candidates to attend assessment events, which typically last a whole day, and consist of a variety of exercises designed to identify the individuals with the necessary skills for the roles being recruited.
Companies like assessment events because they allow a team of recruiters to spend a lot more time with the candidates, and see how they perform in a number of different situations, which gives them a much better insight into which individuals have the skills they need. Even though it might not seem like it, these events are also a great opportunity for candidates, as it gives you the chance to demonstrate what you can do, rather than just talking about it in an interview.
The Structure of an Assessment Event
While assessment events can vary, depending on the roles being recruited and the skills the company is looking to assess, in most cases they tend to include the following.
Formal sessions - To begin the event, most companies will hold a formal session where they tell you all about the organization, the roles they are recruiting, and what you can expect over the course of the day. This helps to ease you into what can be a very demanding day, and also provide you with the information you need to give your best performance. You may also get the chance to ask any questions you have, and it’s possible that there will be a similar type of session after your lunch break or at the start of the second day, depending on how long your particular event lasts.
Tests and exercises - Once the organization has told you all about themselves and what to expect from the event, you’ll then be asked to take part in a number of different exercises, each designed to test the skills and abilities the company is looking for, including:
Interviews: Most assessment events will include at least one interview. This may be a standard interview with one of the line managers, a behavioral interview with someone from HR, or quite often both.
Group exercises: These allow the assessors to see how you communicate with others and what kind of skills you demonstrate when you’re working as part of a team, all of which help them to understand how well you will fit into their business.
Individual exercises: In most roles, there are going to be tasks that you’ll need to complete on your own, and the individual exercises will tell the assessors if you have the abilities they're looking for. For example, an ‘in-tray’ exercise tests how well you can prioritize tasks, and case studies will show the recruiters how well you interpret business information, and if you can make decisions based on the most relevant details.
Presentations: At some stage in the day it’s likely that you’ll need to give a presentation. This might just be to the recruiters, or perhaps in front of the other candidates as well. Often, you’re not given any prior warning of what the presentation will be about, to test how well you think on your feet, and it may even be linked to some of the other exercises you’ve done during the day. This doesn’t just test how good you are in front of an audience, but also if you're able to compile a presentation with relevant and interesting content.
Testing: Expect to take a number of different tests throughout the event, which may include verbal and numerical reasoning exercises that examine your English and math skills, and psychometric tests that will give the recruiters an insight into your personality and what kind of character you are.
Informal sessions - These are the gaps between the formal sessions and the various exercises you will take part in, and could include simply waiting for the next session to begin, a coffee or lunch break, or even an evening meal if the event is over two days. The important thing to remember is that, as informal as they might seem, it’s likely that you’re still being assessed during these times, so make sure you behave appropriately.
Preparing for an Assessment Event
One of the biggest challenges when you’re preparing for an assessment event is that you’re usually not sure exactly what you’re going to have to do until you get there. If you know what kind of exercises will be included in the event that’s a good start, but in these situations it’s best to try and prepare for everything, so make sure you do the following.
Preparation - Spend time thinking about all the skills you have that are relevant to the role, and any specific experience that will demonstrate how you’ve used them. If you’ve identified any weaknesses you have which might come up in the interviews, be prepared to talk about how you are addressing them. Also, make sure you have a list of your own questions to ask. This will show that you’re interested and will also provide you with useful information you’ll need in order to decide if the role is right for you.
Practice - From answering interview questions to giving a presentation, practicing these skills with family and friends before your assessment event is always a good idea. If your assessment event is likely to include some kind of tests which you don’t have any experience of, you might want to try and familiarize yourself with any practice versions that are available, so you’re not at a disadvantage on the day.
Making Sure You Perform Well
When it comes to the actual day of your assessment, there are a number of things you need to remember if you want to give your best possible performance.
Pay attention to all verbal and written instructions you’re given throughout the day and you’ll avoid any silly mistakes.
You’re being assessed on your performance over the whole event, so don’t let one bad exercise affect how you perform in the others.
You’ll be measured against a range of criteria the employer wants to see, not how well you compare to the other candidates, so focus on your performance, not theirs.
Don’t try and second-guess what the recruiters want to see or hear, they’ll be able to see right through you. Have faith in your skills and abilities and simply be yourself.
Assessment events can be long and demanding, so no matter how tired you feel, make sure you stay motivated for the whole event.
At the end of the day, if you have the skills and abilities that the recruiter is looking for, performing well at an assessment event is about understanding that and simply being yourself. Genuine candidates who can demonstrate the relevant competencies, and get on with the other candidates and the recruiters over the course of the day, will always be at the top of the list of individuals the company wants to progress to the next stage.