Assessment centres: doing the right thing

A day at the assessment centre sounds scary, but it's designed to get the right job for you

In-house HR departments could be the route into your ideal job - but your interviewers may know nothing about technology or engineering; may have only the barest idea of what the job they’re interviewing for is about, and may be in a hurry to fill the slot. It’s not the best way into a career.

So if you get invited to interview at an assessment centre than congratulations, because it means the firm with the vacancy is doing a proper job of recruiting you.

You can expect quite a lot to be thrown at you during the day: role play, group work, CV-based interviews and experience-based chats, tests and presentations.

It sounds tough.

However, the fact that a firm has outsourced its recruitment is good news. It means it wants to save money (but not in a bad way); it will want to cut the time taken to hire people, make the process cost less, and make sure the candidate is happy in the job - and that the appointment is a permanent one. In other words, it wants to make recruitment professional, and this is also to your advantage: you’re being interviewed for a career, not a dead-end job.

Assessment centres are also quick and efficient. You shouldn’t be kept waiting; your interviewer will never call in sick; and you’ll hear how you did very quickly. You should also get proper feedback (in-house HR teams may be embarrassed to tell you how you really got on; assessment centres have no such inhibitions. They’re being paid to judge how you did.)

You can’t perform at the highest level for such a long period; expect some sections of the day to go less well than your star turns, and don’t despair if some answers or exercises go a bit pear-shaped.

And if you don’t get the role you went for, that job didn’t have your name on it. Professional recruiters are paid to find the candidate who really fits the job, rather than scrabbling around and making do, as many HR departments have to do when faced with a position to fill.

Another job might well have your name on it instead, and the recruiter can find it for you. (Recruiters often keep your CV and put it forward for other posts as they come up.)

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