Graduate Assessment Advice

The assessment centre - A daunting task or walk in the park?

The old cliche failing to prepare = prepare for failure bears true in the vast majority of applicants that come to our assessment centres. As a graduate not so long ago I am fully aware that assessment centres can be a daunting experience without knowledge of what to expect, approaches to take, tactics to use. Going through this however as a prepared applicant and an unprepared applicant are two very different experiences. This is very evident to those that are assessing meaning the better applicants will often shine through based on this alone. Key hints from both an applicants and Corus Graduate recruitment specialist perspective are included below;

(1) Research

My advice as a first step would be to learn as much as possible about the company from two perspectives – the first of these from a generic overall perspective, i.e. company performance, position in marketplace and recent news articles. The second approach would be from a function specific perspective; an example being if applying for an Engineering position, look in the press and websites for any information on that company relating to that function. Having these references ready can put you ahead of other applicants.

As a second step, in terms of research it is also beneficial to learn as much about the particular sector as possible, i.e. market conditions, competitor positions, and again up to date press articles.

The final aspect in terms of research would be looking into as much of the actual job description as possible and using ways in which you can give linked examples to expectations of the role. All of this background information is an excellent starting point.

(2) Concentrate on your application form with added info

At this stage you must remember that you have been selected ahead of other candidates and are now definitely in the running for a possible position. Therefore something on your original application form has impressed those that have invited you to assessment centre. It is then advised to concentrate on your own application form / CV and work further on the strength areas with added examples. There is a strong possibility you may be asked to expand on various areas of the application form so use this to your advantage; and once again be prepared. Similarly, look for any possible weakness areas and be ready for probing questions on these.

It is useful to analyse the application form for various competencies that recruiters may be looking for. There is a strong likelihood that these competencies will once again be assessed at assessment centre stage so again be ready for this in terms of relevant examples / experiences you can draw from. It is useful to have multiple examples ready in order to avoid repetition of the same experience. It must be remembered that it is through these experiences and examples that one candidate will differentiate themselves from the next. Many application forms will contain similar qualifications, degrees studied, etc. Key areas that differentiate candidates include relevant work experience, skills developed through charity work, involvement in University societies, sporting achievements, experience of travelling / different cultures, etc.

(3) Work on style / approach / presenting / communication

Given the above information there is now one final step in preparing for success at Assessment Centre stage; the ability to communicate and get messages across effectively. This is a further key attribute that can lead to this differentiation. Advice I can give in terms of this is to become involved in debating societies, take the lead role where possible at presenting at University / to large groups. One of the key ways to overcome nervousness in these areas is practice. Confidence can be built through practice. Therefore, use any opportunity possible; speak to people at careers centres for interview tips, simulate the interview situation with friends / careers centre staff, look at the role you take in a teamwork exercise etc.

Overall, the key is maximising opportunities throughout the overall recruitment process of not just Corus, but any graduate programme recruitment process. From using the full 100 words if that is the word count requirement in answers; to spell checking answers; to being prepared for any possible questions at interview; Preparation, Differentiation and Maximising opportunities are key.

GCHQ