CAREERS BLOG: Assessment Centre Activity Afternoon Q&A

UoY Careers Imagine the possibilities LARGE dark green Blog written by Rachel Jenkins, Employer Liaison Assistant, Careers

Assessment Centre Activity Afternoon – 19th November 2014


  • Kelly McDonald: Careers Advisor (Chair)
  • Rebecca Fullam: Nestle
  • James Brazill: IBM
  • Sarah-Annis Brookes: PwC
  • Helen Taylor-Chadwick: Hiscox 

Event Summary:

Are you preparing for an assessment centre, or planning on applying for a graduate job or internship scheme next academic year?

This is your chance to put questions to a panel of graduate recruiters from IBM (non-technical team), PwC, Nestle and Hiscox. Following this, you will be able to try the tasks and activities that an assessment centre can present to applicants.

During the afternoon you will have the opportunity to sign up for two of four taster sessions – places will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis. The four sessions are:

Psychometric Testing – PwC’s interactive presentation will provide you with an insight into some of the judgement and reasoning tests used by major recruiters. This is an opportunity to gain some insider tips and advice. 

Case Study: Group Activity – Nestle’s case study is designed to assess how you think, solve problems, express solutions and work alongside other people. 

Role Play – Hiscox’s mock call exercise highlights the importance of providing excellent customer service as well as insider knowledge of what it is that assessors look for.

Group Exercise: Problem Solving – IBM’s group activity tests your logical thinking and problem solving abilities, as well as your interaction within a group.

Panel Q & A: 

  1. What is the best way that candidates can prepare for an assessment centre? 

Helen (Hiscox) advised that candidates should really make sure they have done their research on the company. This is a good way to show your interest and that you have taken the time to research them individually. By contacting employees from the organisation via email, phone or LinkedIn this could be a good way to get insider information that you may not have found from their company website, which in turn will help to make you stand out.

Go to as many practice assessment centres as possible. Whilst you can practice online and read up on what to expect, its always helpful to attend a practice one and see how they run (Sarah, PwC).

Rebecca (Nestle) noted to make the most of the call from the employer when you are invited to attend the assessment centre. It is a good opportunity to ask them questions, find out what the day entails and again show your interest.

  1. What should candidates avoid doing at assessment centres?

Rebecca (Nestle) advised to avoid trying to blag your way through it. The key is preparation. You need to do your research on the company but also the industry you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for a HR graduate scheme, you could really impress the employer by researching about how the company structures their HR model.

James (IBM) highlighted the importance of being yourself. The reason you are at the assessment centre is because the employer has seen something they like on your application and they want to hear more about you. It’s important to be yourself and not who you think they want you to be.

Helen (Hiscox) reiterated this idea of being yourself by referring specifically to Hiscox’s work culture. She explained how the company took on a very flat culture approach with an open plan office to emphasise this. Hiscox actively searches for a variety of employees with different personalities. Therefore, the importance of being yourself at assessment centres is crucial.

  1. When searching for key competencies during assessment centres how can candidates that have come straight from University demonstrate their capability against those candidates that have had more professional work experience?

Sarah (PwC) stated that PwC understand that University students may not have a significant amount of work experience. The company’s main emphasis is looking for individuals who are willing to learn. It’s important for you to highlight how you have achieved some of the key competencies from what you have already done. For example, you could highlight your commitment to your University sports team and how this built upon your team working skills or how managing your University deadlines and part-time job developed your organisational skills.

James (IBM) reiterated this point further, by explaining successful candidates at IBM’s assessment centres are those that have plenty of examples prepared on how they have demonstrated the key competencies. It is always encouraging to see a student that has committed themselves to a variety of social and academic activities and not just focused on one aspect.

  1. What would you say the common themes are for candidates that are not successful? 

Sarah (Pwc) raised the difficulty candidates often face during the group activity stage. They perceive a group activity to be them against the rest of the group, which is the opposite attitude we are looking for. Everyone is assessed individually.

James (IBM) contributed to this point by explaining the candidates that try to encourage quiet members of the group to share their viewpoints are actually more valued because they are showing their ability to engage with everyone, rather than trying to take control of the group and be the only member heard.

  1. What would be your advice to a candidate that felt their confidence was starting to dip after one of their tasks did not going so well?

Helen (Hiscox) advised to keep calm and not panic. Specifically at Hiscox you are assessed by 4 individual people, so whilst you might not have done so well in one section you can certainly improve in the others.

Rebecca (Nestle) advised that it is best to treat each exercise separately and just to focus on the one at hand rather than worrying about what you should have done in previous exercises. It is important to remember that they can even out at the end of the process.

  1. Are assessment centre days tailored to the positions that are open? 

The general consensus was that the assessment centres were standard throughout. However, James (IBM) highlighted that IBM’s assessment centres are generally the same but there would be more maths based activities for candidates applying for analytical positions.

  1. What would you say is the best way to prepare for the tests and written exercises that assessment centres can involve? 

Rebecca (Nestle) advised to practice online as much as possible. The more tests you go through the quicker you will get at doing them and the more confident you will feel.

  1. Part of PwC’s assessment process is to carry out a work style preference test, what does this entail? 

Sarah (Pwc) explained how this is used at the start of the application process to look into how a candidate likes to work. They are asked a series of questions that they have to mark as least like them and most like them. The advice that Sarah gave for this part of the application was to answer them as quickly and as honestly as possible without thinking into the questions too much.

  1. How far outside your typical behaviour should you go during the assessment centres? 

Helen (Hiscox) reiterated her point of being yourself and showing your personality. The company wants to match you with the correct role and ensure that you are happy taking it on. It definitely has to be a two way process.

James (IBM) noted that there are so many different roles available that it is best to show your true self and be matched up to the right role rather than one you would feel uncomfortable doing.

  1. What is the best way to answer “why do you want to work for us?” 

Sarah (PwC) discussed how a candidate should be honest about applying for other companies but make comparisons as to why PwC is different for them. It demonstrates that the candidate has researched around the company and paid interest to specific facts them.

James (IBM) advised that it can be useful to name drop if done in the right way. A candidate could explain there was an event on campus where they met a certain employee from the organisation and they motivated them to apply. This shows you are engaging with the company.

Number One Top tip from the employers 

Rebecca – Make sure you have researched the company and industry. Preparation is key!

Sarah – Get a good nights’ sleep and make the most of the process. You will have the opportunity to talk to a range of people, so ensure that you use this.

Helen – Remember that everyone is in the same position as you. Try to make friends with other candidates as you may have to work together during the exercises.

James – Break the ice with candidates as soon as you arrive and make the most of this networking opportunity.

One thought on “CAREERS BLOG: Assessment Centre Activity Afternoon Q&A

  1. Pingback: Practice Makes Perfect | University of York Careers

Comments are closed.