Other Selection Methods


Section 1: Types of selection

Welcome to Selection Methods a workbook in the Futures series of workbooks, which help students choose and prepare a career .

Before investing heavily in the training of a graduate, employers have to be as sure as possible that the person is suited to the organisation and will not leave prematurely.

Each year the larger employers face a barrage of applications for graduate vacancies.  In 2009 the Association of Graduate Recruiters reported that for  each graduate recruited there were on average 82 applicants of which 10 make it to a first interview and only 7 to a second interview or assessment centre.

One large insurance company typically rejects 1,000 of the 1,300 application forms received.  The 300 that remain are invited to a preliminary interview.  About 120 of these would make it through to an assessment centre. Only a quarter of those invited to the assessment centre would be selected: 40 recruits from 1300 candidates.

Selection techniques are used:

The smaller to medium sized companies do not usually receive the same number of applications, as many graduates tend to concentrate their job search activities initially on the larger companies. However, they are just as cost conscious as the larger companies and may also use the selection methods described in this booklet to recruit graduates.

Section 2: What are employers looking for during selection?

Before you get to an assessment centre or to any selection process it is vital you have evaluated exactly what the employer is looking for from you.  For example, if you are being assessed on your ability to work in a team, it is crucial to show that you can do this: practically in group exercises and by giving examples of working in a team.

Finding out what you are going to be assessed on shouldn’t be difficult: most person specifications and job description documents which accompany application forms explicitly list the skills that the employer is looking for.   If not perusing the employer’s website will let you know the skills they require.

For example HBOS select graduates based on these criteria:

Examine the job description of a post you are thinking of applying for and list here the skills they will be looking for and selecting against.

Section 3: Psychometric Tests

The British Psychological Society defines psychometric tests as:

any procedure on the basis of which inferences are made concerning a person's capacity, propensity or liability to act, react, experience, or to structure or order thought or behaviour in particular ways'.

Psychometric tests are used by large, medium, and an increasing number of small firms. Over 70 % of larger companies are currently using psychometric tests to gather vital information from potential and current employees.  More and more companies are using psychometric tests for:

They are also used to assess existing employees for:

What do psychometric tests measure?

Psychometric tests may measure aptitude, personality or interests:

Whereas aptitude tests measure your maximum performance capacity, the other tests examine typical or preferred behaviour.

Why use psychometrics in an employment setting?

The main advantages of using psychometric tests are:

Some uses of psychometric tests are:

How do we interpret psychometric tests?

Depending on the structure of the assessment, there are two different methods of interpretation:

1.     Make comparisons between the individual and a reference group (for instance, the general national population of third year undergraduates).  This type of external reference is used frequently in personnel selection to distinguish between candidates in terms of their numerical, verbal and abstract reasoning ability as well as personality.  This type of reference group is called a norm group due to its relationship to the normal curve.


The Normal Distribution Curve

2.     Some psychometrics tests are internally rather than externally referenced, asking respondents to make a choice of preferred styles of behaviour - no comparison group is used.

Psychometric are increasingly online and timed, but can be delivered in formal 'examination-type' circumstances under strictly timed conditions.  Candidates are on separate tables and not allowed to converse with each other.  Candidates are given standardised instructions and usually at least one practice question.  The answer sheet is handed in and scored either then or later. Feedback should always be given.

 
Clearly these circumstances can be a little frightening so it is advisable to practice being tested where possible to learn to overcome 'nerves' which might interfere with performance particularly for aptitude tests which usually depend on how many accurate answers the candidate achieves in the allocated time.  On the following pages are examples of questions of the type you might experience when completing an ability psychometric test. 

You might encounter the other types of psychometric tests during selection, i.e. interest and personality tests.  Whilst their use is rare it is on the increase.  Most notably Marks and Spencer use a personality test to assess potential candidates to their graduate vacancies before they even receive an application form.   However whilst ability tests are widely used, personality and interest inventories use are not widespread.

Example test questions

We cannot reproduce real test questions, however on the following pages are some examples of the type of aptitude test questions you are likely to encounter.  You would complete these under timed conditions, but look through these at your own pace to get a feel for them. Guide times for completing each section are given at the start.  However you should note that most ability tests are designed so that most test takers do not have sufficient time to complete all the questions.

Verbal Reasoning Example Questions  8 minutes

You are asked to draw logical conclusions from the information you have been given. There is always enough information for you to come to the correct conclusion.

1)      Mr Brown lives to the west of Mr Smith. Mr Burton lives to the west of Mr Brown.

Who lives furthest west?      

Answer       __________________________

a) Mr Brown         b) Mr Smith         c) Mr Burton


2)      Susan and Stella like pizza, but Sukie and Sally like pasta. Susan and Sally both like lasagne.

Who likes pizza and lasagne?

Answer       __________________________

a) Susan     b) Stella     c) Sukie      d) Sally

Who likes lasagne and pasta?

Answer       __________________________

a) Susan     b) Stella     c) Sukie      d) Sally


3)      Joan and Jack have more money to spend than Fred, although Chris has less than Fred. Peter has more money to spend than Fred. Who has the least to spend?

Answer       __________________________

a) Joan       b) Jack                 c) Fred                 d) Chris      e) Peter


4)      Toby, Rob and Frank all take a packed lunch to work, while Sam, Jo and Tony buy a meal in the canteen. Frank, Sam and Jo travel by bus. Jo, Rob and Tony are married.

Who is married and has a packed lunch?

Answer       __________________________

a) Toby     b) Rob          c) Frank      d) Sam        e) Jo       f) Tony

Who does not travel by bus and buys a meal?

Answer       __________________________

a) Toby   b) Rob      c) Frank      d) Sam       e) Jo      f) Tony


5)   In reverse order of fastest runner over 100 metres, the slowest is Janet, then Marcus, Eric and Angela, who almost loses to him. After training, Janet beats Eric although Marcus fails to beat him. 

       Who is fastest after training?

Answer         __________________________

       a) Janet                           b) Marcus   c) Eric                   d) Angela

       Who comes last after training?

Answer         __________________________

       a) Janet                           b) Marcus   c) Eric                   d) Angela


6)   Fred, John, Garth and Joe all have similar jobs although Fred and John are the only ones who have full time work, the others working on a part time basis. John and Joe travel to work by train, while the distance to work is short enough for the others to walk. Only Fred and Joe own cars.

       Who owns a car and travels to work by train?

Answer         __________________________

       a) Fred                             b) Joe                   c) John       d) Garth

       Who does not own a car and travels to their full time job by train?

Answer         __________________________

       a) Fred                             b) Joe                   c) Garth      d) John


7)   In a bookcase, a copy of A Winter’s Tale is to be found underneath the shelf on which is found The Horse’s Mouth. The Last Days of the Third Reich is on the shelf above A Book of Practical Cats. On the top shelf is The Wind in the Willows. The Horse’s Mouth is on the same shelf as Justine, whereas A Book of Practical Cats is on the shelf below A Winter’s Tale.

      Which book is on the bottom shelf?

Answer         __________________________

      a) A Winter’s Tale b) The Horse’s Mouth c) The Last Days of the Third Reich

       d) A Book of Practical Cats       e) Justine   f) The Wind in the Willows

Which two books are on the same shelf?

Answer         __________________________

a) A Winters Tale and The Last Days of the Third Reich

b) The Horse’s Mouth and A Book of Practical Cats

c) A Book of Practical Cats and The Wind in the Willows

d) None of these


Example Numerical Reasoning Questions 8 minutes

You are given a series of numbers. Your task is to see how they go together to form a relationship with each other. You then have to choose the number, which would go next in the series, choosing from the answers provided underneath.

1)      0.25  0.5    1       2       4       ?        Answer____________________

                                                                             a)12   b)16   c)8   d)10

2)      0.55  0.65  0.75  0.85  0.95  ?        Answer____________________

                                                                             a)1.05   b)1.5   c)1.15   d)9.5

3)      2       7       12     17     22     ?        Answer____________________

                                                                             a)26   b)28   c)23   d)27

4)      1       7       13     19     25     ?        Answer____________________

                                                                             a)18   b)15   c)31   d)33

5) Over the three years, what was the mean (average) profit of Company Y

A £750,000 B £800,000 C £850,000 D £900,000 E £950,000 F £1,000,000

6)  In Year 2, what was the ratio of the profit of Company X to the profit of Company Z?

A 11:8         B 8:10         C 10:9         D 10:1         E 11:3         F 11:10

Example Spacial Awareness Questions

In the first two questions you must decide which of the five bottom shapes is the identical to the original shape and circle it.

Each one of the shapes might be the original shape but turned around and possibly turned over. Try to see the result in your mind. The shape you choose must be identical or a mirror image.  5 minutes

 

In these questions you must chose the correct shape to make up the sequence.  3 minutes


The exercises you have just looked at were included to give you an idea of the type of tests used by employers.Graduate employers will also expect you to have a good command of English: knowledge of grammar, vocabulary and spelling.  Whilst this is rarely measured directly at this level, mistakes in English in your application form, CV or at interview will reflect badly.  At non graduate levels you may also experience tests of the type shown below:

Correct the Spelling Mistakes 2 minutes

Read the following sentences and cross out any words spelt incorrectly. Insert the correct spelling directly above the incorrect one.

Word Meanings – Synonyms  5 minutes

Identify the word in the list which is the closest in meaning to the word given

  1. Delete –     amend, erase, change, adjust, evaluate
  2. Pied –        dark, musical, intoxicated, dappled, colourful
  3. Suave -      urbane, slippery, oily, clever, handsome
  4. Concise -   organised, neat, succinct, detailed, explanatory
  5. Repose -    lean, erect, build, rest, fasten
  6. Toxic -       poisonous, powerful, inflammatory, evil, dangerous
  7. Latent -      loud, creamy, secret, misplaced, definite
  8. Robust -     tough, clean, hard, firm, vigorous
  9. Profane -    noisy, clear, obscene, unpleasant, unusual
  10. Coarse -     sharp, dirty, blunt, rough, lumpy

You can sample other ability tests and personality exercises online.  There are free practice exercises on the following sites, although you will have to pay a fee to take a full version of the tests:

ASE Personality Questionnaires at: www.previsor.co.uk

Morrisby Organisation Tests at: www.morrisby.co.uk

Saville & Holdsworth ability and personality tests at: www.shldirect.com

FURTHER READING

The following books contain practice exercises of aptitude or personality exercises:

Barrett, J. (2008) How to Pass Advanced Aptitude Tests: Assess your potential and analyse your career options with graduate and managerial level psychometric tests London: Kogan Page.

Barrett, J. (2004) Aptitude, Personality and Motivation Tests, London: Kogan Page.

Carter, P. (2003) IQ and Psychometric Tests, London: Kogan Page.

Kourdi, J. (2004) Practice Tests for Verbal Reasoning, Hodder Arnold.

Tolley, H. & Thomas, K. (2006) How to Pass Numeracy Tests, London:  Kogan Page.

Tolley, H. & Thomas, K. (2006) How to Pass Verbal Reasoning Tests, London: Kogan Page.

The sectors most likely to report using psychometric tests are, in order:

  1. Accountancy and Professional Services
  2. Engineering
  3. Public Sector
  4. IT
  5. Law

(source AGCAS, 2006)

Section 4: In-Tray Exercises

Some employers will ask candidates to complete an in-tray exercise to see if they can prioritise and delegate work.  In-tray exercises are useful for personnel selection because they:

Candidates are given a set time for this type of exercise, which is usually not long enough to do all the tasks.   You may also find that not al the tasks are given at the exercise start: you may begin work and then be given more tasks to do as the exercise progresses.

Try the exercise that follows either on your own or with your group.  Give yourself 15 minutes only to read through and prioritise the tasks to be done.

Don’t forget, you don’t have to do everything yourself. Decide what you are going to do (as Managing Director) and what your secretary, Chris, could do for you.

Read the background information to the company first.

 

PENNINE FOOTBALL CLUB

The Green

Halesford

KL7 2FH

Elaine Robertshaw

19th September

Dear Ms Robertshaw.

We will be holding our AGM and disco on October 20th this year, 8.30pm, and as you kindly sponsored us this year, we wondered if you would be willing to attend to present the trophies to our ‘Players of the Year’?
I do hope you will agree and look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Jack Beardsley

Prioritise the information you have in order of importance, with the most important items at the top. Give your reasons for your ranking.

Items & who deals with them

Reasons

   

Check out your responses with the suggested priority list on the next page.

The suggested priority:

Items & who deals with them

Reasons

1. Telephone message 1 – see factory manager to discuss his future; also check out telephone message 4 (missing consignment) – Chris to ask Sales Manager to deal with this and arrange a meeting between the Manager & Elaine for later in the day.

2. Elaine to talk to Finance Manager about telephone message 2, plus item C on the memo, and also to prepare for meeting with Sales Manager.

3. Elaine to contact the journalist today (telephone message 3) to check on his deadline for the article. If necessary, arrange to meet him, or answer his questions over the telephone.

4. Elaine to meet Sales Manager to review last month’s sales figures.

Elaine to ask Chris to deal with the remaining items in this order:emo item B (Chris to shop around for more favourable terms)

Memo item D (Chris to arrange a meeting between Elaine, Finance Manager & Phoenix Software)

Letter – Chris to check Elaine’s diary and book date in. Chris also to draft a letter from Elaine to the Club Secretary.

Memo item A: Chris to draft a letter from Elaine to all staff about the Christmas party.

Urgent –the manager is a key member of staff, plus he should know why the consignment of games has gone missing. Elaine can contact Debenham’s immediately after this meeting.

Urgent – there is a need to check on the credit worthiness of this company before goods are sent; other items can be dealt with at the same time.

Important – good public relations are important and the deadline for the article may be very close.

Important – the company needs this information to identify shop and store buying trends in the lead up to Christmas.

All these items are less urgent and can be dealt with by a competent assistant, like Chris.

The most important thing with this task is that you can justify why you have made each decision.  You may not get the same result that we have listed above, but as long as you can justify each decision and it makes business sense then you will do well in an in tray test.

Section 5: Group Exercises

Group discussion with other applicants for the same post is often a feature of assessment centres (see section 8), but not exclusively so. Other organisations may bring job applicants together to discuss a job related issue.

This is to see how well you can work with others in a group and how positive, confident and assertive you can be.

At an assessment centre, there inevitably will be some ‘ice-breaker exercises’ introduced early in the day to get people working together, but in other situations candidates may simply be brought together and given a task to work on. Some examples of tasks are:

Example one 25 minutes:

You are an elected member of the Deedale District Council.  The Council is complying with government regulations by putting its refuse collection service out to tender.  The closing date, which has been known for three months, is 1 April at 11:00 a.m.  Four parties have indicated they intend to submit a tender.

At the appointed time for opening tenders, the Mayor announces that one has previously withdrawn, one has not been received, the Council’s own tender is for £500,000, and the fourth tender is for £700,000.  The Chief Executive says that Refuse Away LTD. had contacted him that morning to say that they were putting in a tender, but it might be a few minutes late.

It is known that Refuse Away LTD’s tender is likely to be the cheapest and might well be below the Council’s own bid.  The Chief Executive adds that, if they accept the later tender, and it is less than the Council’s then the Council will have to make its refuse collection staff redundant, which obviously will not be popular.  If they refuse to allow the late tender, and it is less than the Councils’, then the Department of the Environment and the Audit Commission will be furious and will make life uncomfortable.

How do you proceed?

Ten minutes into the exercise a messenger arrives with the tender bid from Refuse Away LTD.


Example two 45 minutes:

FOSTERING AND ADOPTION CAMPAIGN

Cambridgeshire urgently needs to recruit more carers for the 355 children who are looked after by the County Council.  We need people to undertake both time-limited and permanent placements. Single people are welcome to apply as well as couples. We want to attract a wide range of applicants. We are particularly short of carers in Cambridge itself. 

We have been given a budget of £35K to run a recruitment campaign to recruit more carers.

You are part of the marketing team given the job of devising and co-ordinating the campaign. Within the time available your group needs to achieve the following tasks:

Agree a theme for your campaign including a slogan

Decide how you will deliver the message to the public: i.e. what methods will you use and to whom will you target your campaign.

During these tasks several assessors are used to rate you on each of the competencies that the company is selecting for.  Each assessor observes one or two applicants. 

Often the content of the discussion is less important for selection than the way in which you interact with others – think about the competencies you identified in section two – these are the factors you will be rated on.

You will be given a time limit for completing the exercise but will not usually be warned when time is running out. 

Top Tips

WHAT ASSESSORS DO NOT WANT TO SEE

What type of behaviour do you think assessors do not want to see from individual group members?

Jot down your thoughts


ASSESSORS DO NOT WANT TO SEE:

Individual group members:

BUT…

Section 6: Presentations

Exercise

Think about presentations you have seen or heard in the past. What were the elements of both good and poor presentations? 

Good

Poor

   

A GOOD PRESENTATION

IN A GROUP PRESENTATION, THE FIRST PRESENTER SHOULD:

ALL PRESENTERS SHOULD:

A POOR PRESENTATION IS THE OPPOSITE OF THE POINTS ABOVE

THE INFORMATION YOU PRESENT

You can present information in a variety of ways, but the most popular and effective tend to be by using:

If you attend an assessment centre, the chances are you will just have a flip-chart to work with.  However, other organisations may invite you to prepare in advance.  This gives you more opportunity to prepare a professional looking presentation – but the expectations of the employer are also higher in this situation.

Always prepare back-up materials in case the technology doesn’t work, or fails during your presentation.

Whichever medium for presentation you use:

Keep your words and images clear and simple.

Text Box: Don’t forget, above all:

Look at the audience, look friendly, smile and look interested






Section 7: Interviews

Many employers are now using telephone interviews to make an initial selection of applicants. This can be followed by an invitation to attend a panel interview.

Whatever type of interview you encounter, preparation is essential and a vital key to success.

The Importance of Preparation

If you have an interview pending, you must brief yourself on the organisation beforehand.

The Kompass directories available in the library or www.kompass.com contain information on company products and services and classify companies by geographical area, economic sector, trade activity and competitor groups. The Kelly directories, also available in the university library give information on small firms in any region or district. There are also specialist trade directories, e.g. media, retail, legal firms, available at Leeds Central Library, free of charge.

Most organisations now have web-sites so check these out for relevant background information; take a particular note of Mission Statements or any long or short term company plans, as these can be useful for you to mention when asked what you know about the company.

You could also telephone or write to the organisation and ask for marketing information, annual reports or other free data on the company.

Telephone Interviews

Telephone interviews can be challenging because you cannot see the interviewer's non-verbal reactions to what you say. Conversely, the interviewer cannot see you. This places all the weight on your phone manners, clarity of speech, tone and the content of your answers.

If you are expecting a telephone interview, keep these points in mind:

Before the phone call

Make sure you put a note on your door explaining that you cannot respond for the next half an hour, try to encourage others in your house to go out whilst you take the call.

Treat the phone interview as you would a face-to-face interview.

If you expect a telephone interview, conduct a mock telephone interview with a friend to gain feedback on your voice quality and speech.

Before the interview, prepare talking points for the call including the skills and talents you would bring to the company, specific achievements, reasons why you want to work for the organisation.

Have some key facts about the organisation at hand. You are likely to be asked ‘what-do-you-know-about-the organisation’ type questions.

Have some specific questions to ask them about the job or organisation.

Make sure you have your CV and a copy of your original application to the organisation near the phone.

Have pen & paper ready to take notes.

Try and take the call in a quiet room away from distractions.

When the phone rings

Telephone interviews can make you nervous; this can sound in your voice. To overcome this, breathe deeply and relax. Make a conscious effort to slow your speech, as when we are nervous our voice can speed up.

Smile, it changes your speech and the person on the other end can sense it.

Write down the full name and title of the caller, along with his or her phone number or Email address.

If you think of a question or comment while the interviewer is speaking, jot a note on your talking points list, so you remember it later.

Take notes, and before ending the call make sure you know the next step in the process: dates, times, venues, who is doing what and when.

Do not hang up until the interviewer has hung up.

If you are invited to a second stage of selection, send a formal follow-up / thank you letter.

A telephone screening interview can precede a panel interview.

Panel Interviews

Panel interviews will involve three or more interviewers, each of whom will be concerned with a particular line of questioning. There may be a mixture of personnel, specialist, technical and general management staff. Some panels, particularly at assessment centres, may also have observers who do not ask questions but concentrate on your answers and your general demeanour.

What Questions Will You Be Asked?

Most employers will ask questions to find out if your skills, values and personality match those required for the job, and that you are genuinely interested in working for them.

Exercise:

Have a look at the advertisement below for a graduate management trainee for a carpet manufacturing company in West Yorkshire.

Put yourself in the shoes of this employer. If you were interviewing graduates for this post, what questions would you ask them? You will notice that no particular degree is required, so the emphasis is likely to be on abilities and personality.

Think of six questions you might expect an employer to ask and write them down before comparing your answers with those below.

You may have asked questions relating to:

Questions directly relating to communication skills are not that common in interviews, as applicants tend to be assessed in this by how well they answer the questions.

If you struggle for answers, one way ofdoing this is to think of the STAR approach:

Describe a situation, or

 

...a task that you have been involved in where you demonstrated the skill required for the job, and then

...describe what action you took, and

... the result of your action.

But it’s not just about what you say, it’s also about the way you look and conduct yourself at the interview.

AS YOU GO THROUGH THE DOOR

Appearance

Feedback from employers suggests that one of the main reasons for rejecting job applicants is because they look scruffy or their appearance suggests they won’t fit in to the organisation.

Plan to wear smart, somewhat conservative clothing. For most graduate posts, unless it is a very informal post, men are advised to wear a shirt and tie with a suit or colour co-ordinated jacket and trousers.

If your mum likes it, it’s probably right for the occasion.

As you face the interviewer(s):

Smile!

If there is more than one person in the room, ensure that you make brief eye contact with all of them. If you avoid eye contact with anyone they may be offended and begin to be suspicious of you

Do not sit down until invited to do so

Do not offer to shake hands unless the lead interviewer proffers his or her hand. In a panel interview it is unlikely you will have to shake hands with everyone.

THE FIRST FEW MINUTES

The first few minutes of the interview are the most important, in terms of you establishing and maintaining a good impression.

There will usually be a short prologue from the lead interviewer, e.g. Thank you for coming here today. I would like to welcome you to....And now I’ll introduce the panel members. On my right is....

Look at that person, smile, nod, ‘hello’ and generally acknowledge their presence.

The lead interviewer may go through the format of the interview, establishing its structure and the timing. During these preliminaries look at the speaker in a relaxed way and indicate in some way that you are listening and understand what is being said, e.g. by nodding.

THE MAIN EVENT

You will normally be asked some fairly straightforward questions at the start of the interview to help you relax, although you must be prepared for anything. Sometimes, however, the first question asked can be the one that makes you think the hardest:

Aim to answer a question like this in less than two minutes. They don’t want to hear your life story, but they want to see if you can cope with such an open-ended question and communicate succinctly under pressure.

You need to think about ‘yourself’ in relation to what the company wants from its trainees, e.g. good team-workers, well-organised etc. So pick out those bits of ‘yourself’ that are relevant to the organisation.

SOME OTHER TIPS

Try and appear confident, but without seeming to be brash or arrogant

ANY QUESTIONS FOR US?

Have some sensible questions ready to ask them. The best questions to ask are about:

At the end of the interview you are likely to be told when you will hear the result of the interview, if not ask when you will know.

Assessment centres can take place in a variety of premises eg, hotels or conference centres.

Assessment centres allow employers to combine a number of selection exercises to produce a rounded picture of the ability and personal characteristics of any candidate for a job vacancy or for promotion within the organisation. Typically, assessment centres attempt to measure the following dimensions of a candidate’s overall ability:

The larger the company or organisation the more likely it is that they will use assessment centres to select staff.

Between 6 and 20 candidates attend each session, with typically 12 in each selection group, and the assessment is likely to take at least one full day. However, group and individual exercises, including aptitude tests, may be presented first and only those candidates who do well at these go forward to the interview stage.

What to Expect

Candidates who are invited to attend assessment centre selection have done very well to get this far - but still have a long way to go before they are accepted into an organisation.

This is an opportunity to see how candidates relate to other people and can handle pressure. You will be observed the whole time you are at the centre.

On the following pages are two examples of assessment centre programmes for two large employers with management training schemes for graduates:

HOTEL CHAIN

The hotel chain assessment centre selection process:

The exercises include:

  1. Introductory ‘ice-breaker’ (something to break the tension).
  2. A battery of ability tests, testing numeracy, written English, ability to think logically and testing memory.
  3. An individual presentation: 5 minutes verbal presentation by each candidate on a given topic.
  4. Two group exercises, involving around six candidates per group. One exercise would typically involve discussion of decisions & choices facing, say, people shipwrecked; the other group exercise would involve an analytical business scenario.
  5. All candidates complete a self-perception questionnaire to measure what contribution they might make to any team.

The candidates depart and the assessors confer and discuss the performance of all the candidates.

ROAD TANKER COMPANY

The road tanker company assessment centre process:

The assessment involves:

  1. A tour around HQ and the depot led by some recent graduate trainees. The candidates are observed to see how easily they can talk to depot staff and other people they encounter.
  2. On their return from the tour, one half of the group await an individual panel interview, whilst the remainder work on their own to prepare a presentation.
  3. At lunchtime all candidates dine with company assessors and recent graduate trainees. The candidates’ social ability is being assessed over lunch.
  4. The panel interview lasts for 45 minutes, whilst the individual presentation involves candidates giving their personal responses to a business problem and financial case study given to them earlier.
  5. A final exercise involves all candidates in a group exercise where they are presented with a problem to discuss and resolve. Each group summarises the results of their discussion on a flip chart to present to assessors.

Assessors then confer. All candidates have been given scores against pre-agreed criteria.

All candidates are offered feedback.

The Common Elements

In the two examples shown, the common elements included:

But don’t forget you might also encounter:

Plus, a small number of companies might also ask you to get involved in:

So be prepared for anything!

What These Employers Are Looking For

These two employers, typical of many, are looking for graduate trainees with the following characteristics:

HOTEL CHAIN

ROAD TANKER COMPANY

Successful Candidates

It is obvious from these examples that great stress is placed on finding trainees with the right blend of competence and social skills, and, as these are commercial organisations, some business awareness, too.

The same desirable characteristics recur:

The Role Of Assessors

Observers or assessors will note your performance at an assessment centre. These are usually experienced members of an organisation, drawn from Human Resources departments and other operational sections of the recruiting company. Some companies may also bring in recruitment consultants to give an outsider’s view to the process.

Your performance is evaluated against pre-agreed criteria and the observers/assessors will confer to compare notes and scores made about each candidate. Candidates who score overall below pre-agreed criteria would not be offered training places, unless there were exceptional reasons to mitigate against low scores.

At a group discussion session for every six candidates there would usually be three assessors who observe two candidates in particular, whilst observing the overall current and flow of the discussion. If things go wrong in a group, assessors would not normally intervene but let events take their course to see how individuals responded to a difficult situation.

Each assessor will usually see all candidates in action at most stages during the day or days.

WHAT THE ASSESSORS ARE THINKING & RECORDING?

The sort of questions the assessors will be asking themselves when they observe your behaviour in groups include:

The Role of Graduate Trainees

At most assessment centre selection days, graduate trainees within the organisation are usually invited to talk to candidates informally about work and training in the company. In the majority of cases, these graduate trainees play no formal part in the assessment of candidates, and are there to give candidates an informal point of reference, information or support.

However, with some organisations, the graduate trainee is part of the assessment process and his or her opinion canvassed about candidates. Indeed, they may have a view of a particular candidate that is at odds with the general consensus, particularly if they have been at close quarters with that candidate in the hotel bar the previous evening!

It is advisable then, for applicants to ascertain the role of graduate trainees present before the selection exercises start. If you are not told, ask.

Read On…

We end this section with two short articles to read on the following pages.

The first deals with the pitfalls of lunch at an assessment centre. Applicants are being assessed all the time – including at lunch.

The second is an eye-witness account by a careers adviser of what happened at an assessment centre – when none of the applicants was selected to go onto a final stage of selection. Why did this happen?

The Pitfalls of Mealtime

 

Section 8: Assessment Centres

Assessment centres can take place in a variety of premises eg, hotels or conference centres.

Assessment centres allow employers to combine a number of selection exercises to produce a rounded picture of the ability and personal characteristics of any candidate for a job vacancy or for promotion within the organisation.   Typically, assessment centres attempt to measure the following dimensions of a candidate’s overall ability:

The larger the company or organisation the more likely it is that they will use assessment centres to select staff.

Between 6 and 20 candidates attend each session, with typically 12 in each selection group, and the assessment is likely to take at least one full day. However, group and individual exercises, including aptitude tests, may be presented first and only those candidates who do well at these go forward to the interview stage.

What to Expect

Candidates who are invited to attend assessment centre selection have done very well to get this far - but still have a long way to go before they are accepted into an organisation.

This is an opportunity to see how candidates relate to other people and can handle pressure.   You will be observed the whole time you are at the centre.

On the following pages are two examples of assessment centre programmes for two large employers with management training schemes for graduates:

Hotel Chain

The hotel chain assessment centre selection process:

The exercises include:

  1. Introductory ‘ice-breaker’ (something to break the tension).
  2. A battery of ability tests, testing numeracy, written English, ability to think logically and testing memory.
  3. An individual presentation: 5 minutes verbal presentation by each candidate on a given topic.
  4. Two group exercises, involving around six candidates per group. One exercise would typically involve discussion of decisions & choices facing, say, people shipwrecked; the other group exercise would involve an analytical business scenario.
  5. All candidates complete a self-perception questionnaire to measure what contribution they might make to any team.

The candidates depart and the assessors confer and discuss the performance of all the candidates. 

The Road Tanker Company

The road tanker company assessment centre process:

The assessment involves:

  1. A tour around HQ and the depot led by some recent graduate trainees.  The candidates are observed to see how easily they can talk to depot staff and other people they encounter.
  2. On their return from the tour, one half of the group await an individual panel interview, whilst the remainder work on their own to prepare a presentation.
  3. At lunchtime all candidates dine with company assessors and recent graduate trainees. The candidates’ social ability is being assessed over lunch.
  4. The panel interview lasts for 45 minutes, whilst the individual presentation involves candidates giving their personal responses to a business problem and financial case study given to them earlier.
  5. A final exercise involves all candidates in a group exercise where they are presented with a problem to discuss and resolve. Each group summarises the results of their discussion on a flip chart to present to assessors.

Assessors then confer.  All candidates have been given scores against pre-agreed criteria.

The Common Elements

In the two examples shown, the common elements included: Psychometric exercises

But don’t forget you might also encounter:

Plus, a small number of companies might also ask you to get involved in:

What These Employers Are Looking For

These two employers, typical of many, are looking for graduate trainees with the following characteristics:

HOTEL CHAIN

Road Tanker Company

Successful Candidates

It is obvious from these examples that great stress is placed on finding trainees with the right blend of competence and social skills, and, as these are commercial organisations, some business awareness, too.  The same desirable characteristics recur:

The Role Of Assessors

Observers or assessors will note your performance at an assessment centre.  These are usually experienced members of an organisation, drawn from Human Resources departments and other operational sections of the recruiting company.  Some companies may also bring in recruitment consultants to give an outsider’s view to the process.

Your performance is evaluated against pre-agreed criteria and the observers/assessors will confer to compare notes and scores made about each candidate. Candidates who score overall below pre-agreed criteria would not be offered training places, unless there were exceptional reasons to mitigate against low scores.

At a group discussion session for every six candidates there would usually be three assessors who observe two candidates in particular, whilst observing the overall current and flow of the discussion.  If things go wrong in a group, assessors would not normally intervene but let events take their course to see how individuals responded to a difficult situation.

Each assessor will usually see all candidates in action at most stages during the day or days.

Rounded Rectangle: When you notice assessors at an assessment centre: 

DON’T try to establish eye contact with the assessor
DON’T address your remarks in a group to the assessor
DON’T look at the assessor for help to rescue the group if things go wrong

Just ignore the assessor – it’s hard, but you have to try.

WHAT THE ASSESSORS ARE THINKING & RECORDING?

Eye-Witness

A university careers adviser spent a day at an assessment centre and recorded her observations of the process – and the candidates. This is shown below. None of the candidates were selected to go on to a final stage of selection.

Observations of an Assessment Centre

The company was a prestigious IT company specialising in IT solutions for the legal industry and attracted many applications from graduates for its training schemes.

Structure

The event was run over one day in the company’s training room by two staff from Human Resources and one company director.   Ten graduates had been invited to the event and the aim was to identify those from each assessment centre to take forward for individual interview the following week.

The day included a welcome address, presentations, individual and group exercises, a tour of the company’s premises, the opportunity to speak to recent graduate trainees and lunch.  It closed with a question and answer session. 

The Company Presentations

This was broken into two stages:

1. Company introduction

The applicants were given an outline of the company structure, products and clients.  Considerable emphasis was placed by the presenters on the culture of the organisation, company values and the type of person that they were looking for to fit in.

2. Training and Development

This was followed by an outline of the graduate development programme, on the job training and training courses offered to those that were selected.

The Exercises

The applicants were then asked to work on exercises, individually at first.

Icebreaker exercise

All the applicants were asked to create their own coat of arms on an outline of a shield using a given template with sections on home and family, work experience, hobbies and interests and one secret about themselves (something unusual or extraordinary).  They were then required to present their coat of arms to the whole group.  This wasn’t just a piece of fun -the assessors were looking at the presentation and communication skills of each candidate

In-Tray exercise

Next, each candidate was asked to do an In-Tray exercise, which involved deciding what to do with and prioritising the following tasks: an incoming phone call message, a customer email, a site visit report reminder, a forwarded email, training course preparation and project tasks.

They were also asked to prepare and present a five minute presentation on one task outlining why they prioritised it in the way they did and how they would deal with it.

Again, the assessors were looking for specific skills in handling this task: reasoning ability, commercial awareness as well as presentation skills.

Aptitude Tests

Third, there were individual aptitude tests divided into parts A – F:

A: Numerical Deduction

B: Correcting the Spelling Mistake

C: Word Meanings – Synonyms

D: Acuteness (Find the missing letter from a circle of letters)

E: Spatial Recognition (shapes)

F: Physical Recognition (diagrams)

G: Critical Dissection (drawing logical conclusions)

Group Exercise

Finally, there was a group exercise. The applicants were put into groups of four, each representing the management team of a construction company specialising in selling pyramids.  Their group task was to submit a tender for the construction of pyramids to the Pharaoh of Egypt, the tender to be submitted in the form of a five minute presentation.  The features they had to consider were size, location, timescale, cost, production of a scale model and slogan.  The task brief was accompanied by supporting information sheets.

What the Selectors Were Looking For

The selectors were looking for a range of skills: teamwork and leadership, in particular, plus contribution of ideas, how to make the team more effective and competitive, collaboration, manipulating the strengths of others in the team, reasoning and decision making. The candidates would have been aware of this in advance, as this information is normally found in the job specification sent to all prospective job applicants.

General Observations

The exercises were ranked in order of importance by the assessors:

1.    group exercise

2.    in tray exercise

3.    aptitude tests & icebreaker

Each assessor used a scoring grid with the following assessment criteria when observing the graduates:

·        achievement drive

·        initiative demonstrated

·        adaptability

·        innovation & creativity

·        service orientation

·        leadership skills

·        influences on them, e.g. other group members

·        good communication skills,

·        team work.

Lunch, Meet Graduate Trainees & Question and Answer session

The candidates had a buffet lunch with the opportunity to question graduate trainees about their experiences with the firm.  There was a closing question and answer session. During this time the applicants were still being assessed for their enthusiasm, interest in the organisation and motivation to succeed in the company.

The Applicants

There was a very mixed picture presented to the assessors. Some candidates did well at some activities, but not all activities. It was not the candidates’ lack of intellectual ability that let them down, but their failure to deal consistently and effectively with social encounters on the day.

Ø      There was a very quiet candidate who found it hard to participate, was obviously very nervous and struggled to contribute orally.  

Ø      There were one or two who came across very confidently when presenting material…

Ø      …but there were examples of applicants who dominated groups, one almost denying any contribution from the others. 

Ø      However, there was also a good example of someone trying to encourage silent group members to make a contribution. But another group, led by one young man in particular, seemed to put very little effort into the group exercise, almost seeing it as a bit of a joke.

There was also rather too much evidence of the applicants trying to get to know and get along with each other at the expense of taking time to speak to the graduate trainees of the company.

The Verdict

The candidates generally made little of the opportunities to ask questions and so evidence of their motivation and interest was lacking. This overshadowed the good performances by some applicants, with the result that none of the applicants were selected for the final interview stage.

          *****************************************

The Importance of Preparation

This eye-witness account emphasises the point that employers often reject whole groups of applicants at assessment centres if they are not suitable.

Text Box: “Candidates can impress by listening to instructions carefully and remaining upbeat and enthusiastic throughout the day, even if they feel that a particular exercise has not gone so well for them.  It is also important to work well with the other participants and to demonstrate your team playing abilities.”

Sarah Moyles, 
Graduate Recruitment and Development Manager 
Mouchel Parkman

Despite good efforts by some candidates in group work, all of them let themselves down badly by their apparent lack of interest in the company.

This suggests a lack of preparation, either of finding out information about the company that they could use as a basis for their questions, or a lack of initiative in asking any questions!

It is always a good idea to have questions ready to ask, or better still, use the company presentations at the start of the day to take notes and to jot down a few questions to ask over lunch – and particularly to put to the graduate trainees. As can be seen from this example, and earlier, they can play an important role in the selection process.  It is simply foolish to ignore them.

Sources of information

The careers websitehas useful resources

Derived from © Leeds Metropolitan University