Tips for interview assessments
It’s increasingly common nowadays for candidates to undertake a range of assessments and activities during the job interview process - involving anything from group exercises to individual tests.
So if it's a while since you've had an interview, and the thought of an assessment seems daunting, don't panic. Here are some tips to help you prepare.
You are only likely to be asked to give a presentation if this will be part of the role you are applying for, e.g. sales or training. In most cases, you will be informed of the need for a presentation in advance, but make sure you know the following:
- What your presentation should cover
- How much time you're allowed
- What equipment will be available (laptop and projector, flipchart etc.)
- Whether your software is compatible with the software at the venue
- Whether you need to bring your presentation on a memory stick, or send it in beforehand.
Give yourself plenty of time to practise, so you're confident that you can cover the material within the allotted time. It's also a good idea to take paper copies for your audience - they can be used as a handout, and can save the day if the equipment lets you down.
Unlike most exams, which test your current knowledge and skills, aptitude tests assess your potential abilities or aptitudes in the future. Typical tests include verbal, numerical or perceptual reasoning. These are often used by larger employers.
Aptitude tests cannot be learned, but it’s useful to practise and become familiar with them. Books of aptitude tests can be bought at WHSmith or Waterstones, and some can be completed online. Most university websites have a careers advice section and these often have sample aptitude tests too.
On the day, you will normally get a few practice questions before each test, to ensure you understand what you’re supposed to do. The tests are designed in a way that makes it unlikely anyone will complete all the questions in the time, so don’t worry if you don’t finish.
These questionnaires are also often used by larger employers. They typically measure different aspects of your personality and preferred style. For example, they look for traits such as leadership, teamwork, how you interact with colleagues, make decisions, etc.
The questions don't have right or wrong answers, so you just need to answer them honestly and sensibly. The test administrator is likely to advise you to work through the questions fairly quickly, putting down the first thought that comes to mind, rather than over-analysing each question.
Sample tests can be found online and on university websites
These involve getting a number of candidates together to work on a task or discuss a topic, whilst being observed by recruiters around the room. To help you prepare, think about how you perform in a team. Are you a natural leader? Or are you more of a listener?
If you tend to lead groups, remember it's a team exercise so listen to others and try to not be too overbearing. If you are more of a listener, and good at summarising others' views, remember that your own opinion must be heard too. Employers tend to look for someone who can balance making contributions to the group, whilst showing appreciation for what others have to say.
It might be worth asking someone you’ve worked with to give you an idea of your teamwork approach, to help you understand where your skills lie.
This is usually a series of tasks to test your capacity to carry out real work scenarios with a time limit, e.g. phone messages, requests, memos and information.
Marks will be given for priority, time-management, clear thinking and analysis. Make sure you are clear about your system of working and priority and, if possible, show this in your answers or be ready to discuss this with an interviewer afterwards.
Assessment centres usually involve a mixture of the processes mentioned above, together with further interviews. They are often run as the second/final stage of a recruitment process, and tend to be used by larger employers as a means of selecting one or more candidates from a group.
Sometimes, but not always, they may include a lunch or dinner, or even an overnight stay. So you'll need to make sure you're clear about what will be involved and what you're expected to bring or prepare.
The following points will help you succeed at an assessment centre:
- Focus on each activity as it comes and try to relax
- Take breaks and get fresh air to help you perform throughout the day
- Avoid too much tea and coffee (or alcohol if there's a bar in the evening)
- Be professional at all times. Remember that the informal parts of the assessment centre matter too.