Human Resources

Assessment Centres

Posted by Katie Stewart, 20 Feb 2017

Last year I blogged about the interview process so thought this year I should cover the next stage – the assessment centre.  I remember getting the email inviting me to Assessment Centre; I was convinced I had ruined my chance – who jokes about water in their interview?  I was so excited to be invited to the next stage and couldn’t wait to get home and book my slot. 

If you get an email inviting you to Assessment Centre, book your slot as soon as you possibly can.  Although it might feel too pre-emptive, diary management is an essential skill to have, particularly in this role and I would advise checking March is up to date now so you know easily what you can or can’t commit to if the email arrives.  If you get an email that informs you you’re on the standby list, don’t give up hope – spaces can and do become available at the last minute and you might get a call to attend, possibly at very short notice.  Be prepared, have something ready to wear in case (you can “recycle” your interview outfit, no one will remember it unless it was particularly unusual!).  If you don’t get offered the chance to attend assessment centre this year, don’t let it beat you, getting through to interview is a huge achievement, spend the year getting experiences and apply again next year or in the future. 

A few short weeks later, the day arrived – 19th March 2015, I got up at “silly-o-clock” terrified of arriving late and arrived into Leeds super early.  I have a ‘slight’ reputation for a poor sense of direction so studiously studied the directions in advance, allowing me to confidently set off from the station – in the wrong direction.   Thankfully, I recognised that I was going the wrong way and rerouted myself, arriving with plenty of time to spare.  There’s a café just outside the Leadership Academy and a few people gathered in there on arrival (an unplanned meeting but everyone was easy to identify by the pristinely ironed or pressed, formal workwear and nervous demeanour), after coffee, those of us in the café made our way in together. 

We had been sent some information to read in preparation for the Assessment Centre, we were told the information would also be accessible on the day. I chose to familiarise myself with the information but not memorise it but questioned my choice when I arrived and others were reeling off information, had I made a big mistake?  I have not seen the guidelines for this year so read carefully as anything could have changed, there may or may not be pre-reading, I just don’t know

The day started with a welcome and introduction to the day, the Academy, the NHS before candidates were split into groups to be taken to their offices and allocated workstations for the day.  As a management trainee, you will need to manage your time, juggle different tasks with different deadlines and contribute to different work streams; the assessment day is very similar to that.  In your job, there won’t be anyone to remind you of every commitment and the assessment centre is quite similar.  You will have your own, personalised schedule/diary for the day, be aware of your commitments and stick to them.  Try to avoid being distracted by other people coming and going, remember, it’s like working in an open plan office and you should soon be used to it.  Don’t compare yourself to others; I remember panicking that others, including the girl next to me (Hailey), printed reams of paper for one exercise yet my notes were much shorter.  There isn’t always a right or wrong – Hailey and I were both successful despite our different writing styles.  

My top tips for assessment centre:

  • Read anything you’re sent prior to the assessment centre at least twice, bring whatever you’re instructed to bring such as degree certificate, ID etc

  • Keep an eye on social media, the NHS Graduate Scheme put out lots of useful things which you might find helpful to read

  • Dress appropriately – I wore a dress from the Next workwear collection and a black cardigan but there were a range of outfits, mostly suits

  • Read everything at the assessment centre, follow instructions and use your time wisely

  • Don’t panic if something goes wrong – be it that you don’t do one task as well as you would like or that you knock a glass of water over the desk (yes that happened to another current trainee)

  • There are enough places on the scheme for every person in your assessment centre to get a place so try to think that you’re competing with them for a place rather than against them

  • Chat to the graduates that are there to support you and the Leadership Academy team

  • Learn from the experience

After the assessment centre, all candidates are offered the opportunity to receive feedback on their performance.  When I received mine I could almost see myself sat in the academy that day in March, it was spookily accurate and really helpful to enable me to reflect on the day.  The feedback gave me the chance to learn where my strengths and weaknesses are, it gave me points for development which raises my consciousness and awareness in some situations.  As assessment centres are increasingly used in recruitment, it’s definitely valuable information for the future.

Good luck to you all, it’s a good experience, busy but fun!

Katie Stewart

Katie Stewart

Katie Stewart intake

Since graduating I have worked for charity, corporate firms and a small family business, I got a feel for business and looked at different organisation structures.

I once worked closely in HR and realised then that Human Resources is what I wanted to do.

I met my husband whilst volunteering as a Community First Responder for the North West Ambulance Service, we're community orientated people and there isn't a better buzz than helping to save a life.

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