Clueless about assessment centres? Read on...

I recently attended a Skills for Success session with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), who came in to talk about assessment centres. If you are like me and don’t really know what an assessment centre involves, then this session was great practice for the real thing.

Most graduate schemes use assessment centres as part of their hiring process, and this can involve tasks such as presentations, debates or discussions. These tasks are designed to reflect actual tasks employees have to carry out within the organisation and therefore are an excellent way to determine which candidate is most suited to the job.

The aim of this session was to show the kind of task you could face at an assessment centre and so we were given a business case study for a fictional global retail company that had run into a few problems recently. Our task was to work in small groups and outline recommendations to improve the company. Typically you would have twenty minutes for a task like this and in this time you need to come up with several recommendations and be ready to give a five minute group presentation.

An important tip CIMA pointed out is to highlight several key points and give a detailed explanation for each, rather than simply listing as many points as possible. By doing this it will not only prove that you have a good understanding of the case study, but it will also be show you have thought about the structure of your presentation.

This task was particularly good at highlighting key skills that candidates need to consider for assessment centres: teamwork, communication and organisation. Being able to work effectively in a group; getting your ideas across and listening to the ideas of other people are what companies will look for in candidates. Finally, organising your time and sticking to the time limit is also crucial to create a coherent presentation.

Between all of the groups there were many different and interesting recommendations given ranging from budget advice to incorporating new technology. Overall I found this session a great insight into assessment centres and, as a biology student, I found it a particularly good lesson on how businesses work.

Eleanor (Student Blogger)

For more advice on preparing for assessment centres, including online talks and DVDs, take a look at the 'Assessment Centres' section of our website.
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