4 Group exercises at assessment centres
You have considered how to communicate your experience of working in teams in the application and interview and also how the STAR strategy might help you structure the evidence you want to provide. However, another way that employers check for teamwork skills during the interview process is by holding group assessment activities. These types of activities can be more popular in public sector organisations, as well as banks and retailers. They are less likely to be used by smaller organisations who may not have the resources to run these (as they can be costly in terms of needing experienced staff to cover the activities for the duration) and manufacturing companies.
Interviews alone are thought to be an unreliable way of assessing whether a candidate is right for the role and will be successful in the job. Using a group exercise at an assessment centre or as part of the interview can increase an employer’s changes of finding the right candidate.
Activity 4 A day at an assessment centre
Take a look now at this example of a day at an assessment centre that has been produced by EU Careers. If you have not had experience of interviews or more formal panel interviews and assessment centre activities before, this short video will give you a sense of the kind of group interview and assessment activities you could expect.
In the video, one activity the candidates took part in involved the six candidates sitting around a table and reading a brief from a sheet of paper. Observers then entered the room and sat behind them so that they could see what was going on and make notes on the performance of the candidates.
- What kind of activity would you expect them to be taking part in here?
- Have you had experience of this type of group assessment and if so, how did it feel?
It is likely that the kind of activity the candidates are taking part in is either a discussion, perhaps related to a particular aspect of the role, a topical issue, or a problem-solving exercise where they need to agree on a solution. You will look at the kinds of activity that tend to be used in more detail later.
If you have taken part in this kind of activity at an interview, it is normal to feel a range of emotions. Very few would actively enjoy this type of situation and most would experience some level of anxiety or fear. Knowing that this is how others are likely to be feeling can itself be helpful. Knowing what an employer is looking for can also be helpful and encouraging. You will look at this next.
Now read through this case study of a group assessment activity the Open University Careers Service organised as part of the recruitment of four new Careers Advisers.
Case study 1: Open University assessment centre activity
I work for the Open University Careers Service and recently our team has doubled in size, providing the opportunity to recruit four new Careers Advisers into our team. As part of the interview and assessment process we wanted to provide a group activity which would enable us to test for group work skills and specific competencies which would be difficult for us to observe in either an interview or presentation.
The role of Careers Adviser at the Open University has a unique set of challenges as the team is spread across the country and nations and communicates virtually. We also work as a team to produce resources for students which can include running webinars, moderating forums or responding to student enquiries in a Facebook Live chat.
For a Careers Adviser to be successful in this role there are specific competencies we need to see apart from their ability to provide excellent guidance and experience of supporting students in Higher Education. These include resilience; adaptability; ability to work under pressure; willingness to have a go and take the initiative; confidence and social skills.
To assess these we replicated a forum activity for student careers queries. As a team the candidates had to cover the student queries that were posted in the live forum and also ensure that they covered the new posts that were coming through during the tasks. The candidates had 25 minutes to complete this task and afterwards they gathered round the table to discuss how they found the activity.
For some of the candidates this was a new activity while others were more familiar with this kind of format. We made it clear that we were not testing their knowledge of careers information, but were looking instead at their approach to the task. Specifically we observed how they operated as a team to complete the task and how they felt about the activity.
At the end of the interview process candidate feedback was that they had found the range of activities to be both a useful guide to what was expected from the role as well as enjoyable and a fair way of assessing their skills.