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Getting to Grips with Group Exercises

You will struggle to find a large graduate scheme where the recruitment process does not include some sort of assessment centre. Even small employers are increasingly using assessment centres to help find out who may fit into their organisations. We’ve just delivered of three weeks of assessment centre workshops. Hopefully you had a chance to come along to one of our presentations but if not, this post will help with your preparation – especially for the dreaded group exercise!

Group Image

What should I expect?

  • Group exercises are designed to test your skills and abilities. You may face more than one group exercise and each one will be carefully designed to assess particular areas.
  • Group exercises can take the form of a group presentation, group discussion or role-play, problem-solving, practical activity (if you have attended our assessment centre workshops, think spaghetti and marshmallows)
  • Bear in mind that group exercises will be looking for evidence of the following skills: team working; communication; leadership; time management; listening; motivation and enthusiasm; data analysis; decision-making; influencing; creativity; integrity; initiative.
  • You may be in a small group of 2 or 3 people, or a much larger group.

(Source: Prospects)

How should I act?

  • Always listen to any instructions and read all information given – carefully!
  • Talk to the other candidates from the start of the assessment centre – getting to know them may help you in the group exercise.
  • Group exercises can be mind boggling – you want to be noticed but equally you don’t want to come across as overpowering, domineering or confrontational. It is important to find the right balance. Listen to others but also take the initiative when appropriate.
  • Get involved – no matter how easy you deem the task to be. The assessors are more concerned with how you get to the result rather than the outcome.
  • Never criticise the performance of others within the group – always be constructive, helpful and positive.
  • Think of your role within the group. If you have 15 minutes to complete the task, who is keeping time? You could offer to be time keeper, giving periodic reminders of how much time the group has left.
  • If you notice somebody in the group is being drowned out by larger personalities, try and bring them into the discussion by asking them their opinion. This may score you extra points with the assessor as it shows an ability to take other personas into account in a team.
  • Your assessment centre may include a lunch, dinner or overnight stay. Keep in mind that the assessors will not have switched off – they may use a social event or activity to observe your behaviour. So avoid alcohol and don’t say anything too controversial that wouldn’t be appropriate in a work environment.
  • Finally and most crucially, be yourself. You are doing no one any favours by taking on a different personality for the day. Be true to yourself and if it’s not right for you, better to find out now than after you have signed on the dotted line.

If you don’t get a place, always ask for feedback. Having attended an assessment centre myself, I was naturally disappointed to hear ‘I’m afraid to say you haven’t been successful on this occasion.’ But I was offered feedback and, although it wasn’t necessarily nice to hear, it was so beneficial in going forward with my job hunt, as I knew what I needed to work on next time.

For more information have a look at the video below or visit our Ready to Apply on StudyNet.

(Image credit: B S K)

Image of Katharine Littlefair

Katharine Littlefair is a Careers and Placements Officer in the Careers and Placements Service at the University of Hertfordshire

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