My advice for the assessment centre
27 Feb 2017
I’ve had quite a few conversations about the assessment centre with potential graduates, so I thought that I should probably crystallise my advice on this – so here goes!
Research online general advice on assessment centres, the kind of tasks used that you can prepare for, and I’d particularly advise you to look at video recordings of assessment centres. It felt very clear seeing first-hand how certain behaviours come across, and that can give you the opportunity to make an informed decision about whether you want to come across this way!
I found the assessment day really enjoyable (with hindsight of course, as on the morning I could barely eat I was so nervous!). It was also quite a realistic impression of what a day in the life was actually like in the NHS, especially for general managers. I'd therefore make sure that after all the nerves have settled after the day, that you found it enjoyable. I found it very straightforward in what they’re asking you to do, there aren’t any sneaky trips or any tasks about being in the Atlantic Ocean in a raft – everything is relevant to the NHS and they utilise practical scenarios that you might really come across. However you don’t need any prior knowledge about the NHS to do well, although general research would be a good idea, including getting in touch with the scheme on Twitter, reading these blogs etc. as well!
My general tips on behaviour are to make sure that you speak – you won’t get any points for a really good idea that you kept in your head: they can’t mind read you. On the other side of this, make sure you don't interrupt other people! It looks really bad. The fact that assessors cannot mind read also plays into demonstrating that you’re listening – you might really be paying attention to what another candidate is saying, but if you don’t actively acknowledge this by your body language, nodding, smiling, and actively engaging with the person they won’t know this. Do listen to people, and build on what they’ve said.
The one thing I personally found most useful for the day was to get into a mindset where the thing I wanted most was for the other candidates to do well as well. This meant in tasks I was more likely to interact with other candidates and say 'that's a really good point Emma, and I'd just like to add...', or ‘You made a good point about the impact this would have on patients James’, or ‘Do you have any thoughts on this?’, or simply make more eye contact and smile reassuringly and nod. This was because I was coming from an attitude of wanting them to do well and put them at ease. Trying to draw out quieter people is something you'll do naturally if you're coming at it from a mindset of wanting others to do well. Funnily enough, this also puts you in the right frame of mind to perform well on the day.
It’s really hard to give advice for the day, as it will depend on your background. Before the assessment centre day I had one loud friend who advised me I needed to speak up (as I was so much quieter than them) and I had one quiet friend who advised me I needed to take a step back and listen (as I was so much louder than them). In the end it will be personal to your background what you might need to prepare or work on. If you’re not sure try and ask for advice from people you trust to give you an honest answer!
Don’t worry too much – the score is aggregated throughout the day, so if you think you’ve performed badly on a task try not to worry and throw yourself off future tasks. You really can’t predict it and you may have done better than you think! Good luck!