Group exercises for assessment centres and team dynamics

April 11, 2012

You have probably already worked as part of a team or group as part of your course, in a part time job, volunteering or in a society or sports club.  So why are you so afraid when group exercises come up at assessment centres?

Group exercises come in many shapes and forms and really what you are being asked to do is not the point. e.g.

  • Build a house out of coloured paper according to these criteria…
  • Make a bridge out of straws that will support a 500g load.
  • Read the business case and come to an agreed recommendation.

The task is often completely unrelated to the job, what they are looking for is how you behave.

So what’s the best advice? Read the rest of this entry »


Read all about it! Skills for assessment centres.

March 15, 2012


Just bought a load of new books to help with those tricky issues of how to behave at assessment centres.

Books on working with other people, managing teams, managing time, leadership, business writing etc

Plenty to have a read through.

What happens at an assessment centre?

November 18, 2010

It’s that time of year and lots of you are getting invited to assessment centres (well done you!)

One of the top questions at the moment is how do I prepare? 

One of the tricky things to prepare for is a group work or group discussion task, after all you don’t know what you will get.

So in response to popular demand we are running a 2 hour workshop (on 2 dates) where you can take part in a typical group exercise as well as receiving information on other aspects of assessment centres including psychometric testing. Read the rest of this entry »

Assessment centres for internships – what, why and how to do well!

January 14, 2009

Groupwork at assessment centreIf you’ve been applying for internships with big companies for the summer, and you’re lucky enough to pass the first hurdle – the application stage – you may well be asked to attend an assessment centre (or ‘selection day’) at some point. You might wonder why employers would go to so much trouble (and expense!) just for an internship, but internships can often lead to offers of graduate jobs so companies are often thinking long-term when they recruit an intern and want to invest carefully.

So what are they about?

Assessment centres generally involve a series of activities which aim to give the recruiters more of a picture of what kind of person you are and how you might perform in the workplace. In addition to the ‘social’ bits (e.g. meals and drinks), as well as presentations from the company, assessment days may include some or all of the following:

  • Group tasks – you might be asked to work in a team to solve a hypothetical problem, e.g. choosing between different bid proposals, or to do something practical, e.g. build a bridge which meets certain requirements.
  • In-Tray (or E-Tray) exercises – here you have to work through a set of admin-type tasks (usually in the form of e-mails, memos etc) and prioritise each one, saying what action you would take. Get more info and tips for in-tray exercises in our ‘In-Tray Exercise’ guide.
  • Psychometric tests – more on these in a later blog post, but you can find out more about them and take practice tests in the Psychometric Testing section of our website.
  • Presentations – this can vary from an initial self-introduction to the rest of the group and assessors to a formal presentation on a topic of your choice (or one given to you in advance). Sometimes you’re asked to do a presentation to report back on a case study. Download our guide to Presentation Skills.
  • Interviews – see our earlier blog post about interviews.
  • Case studies – this could be an individual or a group exercise. You’ll be asked to analyse a lot of information relating to a particular case in a limited amount of time and recommend a course of action.
  • Role plays – these will generally relate to the area of work you’ve applied for, e.g. if the department is client-facing, you might be asked to role play dealing with a difficult customer (played by the assessor).
  • Written exercises – you might be asked to write a business letter (e.g. in response to a complaint) or a short essay on a given topic.

Recruiters use these to test how you tackle different tasks and they generally have a list of ‘competencies’ that they’re assessing against, so the key to doing well at assessment centres is to think about what skills and qualities the employer is look for and to perform the tasks in such a way that demonstrates these skills. However, be careful though not to try too hard – the assessors will often spot a candidate who is behaving unnaturally or ‘out of character’!

So, what skills and qualities are employers looking for? Companies often list these on their website or at on-campus presentations, and you will usually find clues in the questions they asked on their application form! But in general, the types of characteristics they tend to look for are: excellent communication skills (including listening, good questioning, summarising etc), teamwork, problem-solving and analytical skills, organisation and time-management, and creative thinking. Leadership may also be sought, depending on the organisation and type of role applied for.

More help and resources from us…

We know assessment centres can seem pretty daunting to a lot of students, so we have various resources to help you at the Careers Service:

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