Assessment Center: How to Succeed in a Group Exercise

By Beatrice Giusti

When applying for a new job you might not only be asked to do a common job interview but also to participate at a so called assessment center. Assessment center are commonly used by large graduate employers who have to recruit a number of new candidates every year. It consists of structured activities and exercises designed to simulate tasks and situations you may come across in the job.

Candidates who are invited to an assessment center usually have already past a first filter test, like a telephone screening or common job interview. They are evaluated simultaneously with other candidates who are considered for the same position. This allows a direct comparison of the candidates and, as a side effect, increases the pressure on each individual .

We have come up with five key things that are important to remember and will make you stand out in the eyes of your assessors.

1. Active communication

It's crucial to demonstrate that you are able to listen to the opinions of others. That means being able to actively listen to others and responding to what they say rather than just waiting for them to finish so you can make your point. When you're expressing your ideas be clear, concise and confident.

2. Build on ideas of others

Being able to listen to the ideas of others and build on them suggests you're an active listening. It's also a way of showing support and encouragement for others and their suggestions. For example you can recognise the merit ideas using these sample sentences: i really like that idea, and it would allow us to, etc.

3. Engage everyone

Assessors will always be looking for your ability to manage and improve a team dynamic. Performance of a team depends largely on the effectiveness of all members, so do what you can to get everyone involved. Ask the quieter members of the group for their input; address them directly using their name: Brad, what do you think about that idea? 
When everyone has put their ideas across, it's good to suggest a democratic approach to decision-making.

4. Understand the brief

It's really important that you understand the brief so that you're able to contribute effectively. Before the team picks up speed, suggest that each person quickly summarises his or her understanding of the brief, so you're all on the same page. By suggesting this you can listen to what others think first and use their understanding to support your own opinions .

5. Motivation and timekeeping

Remember to use positive language in support of others ideas. When you have successes within a team activity you should congratulate people: well done everyone, that was brilliant, etc be the one to manage timekeeping or ask someone if they would be happy to keep track. If you've got an hour to complete the activity and there are four parts then plan how long to allocate to each part and keep the team on track.

Overall, to be successful in a group exercise you have to get the most out of others and manage the team dynamic in a positive way.