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Assessment Centre advice that really takes the biscuit…

Biscuit PhotoIt’s been a long time coming, you’ve been through the online application form, faced off hundreds if not thousands of other applicants along the way and now it’s time for the toughest challenge yet. It’s down to the cream of the crop, those who have been identified as having the potential to go all the way. All that stands between you and success is Paul Hollywood, Mary Berry, and a series of challenges in the Bake off Tent.


Well, perhaps not! But hopefully you can see the comparison between this and an assessment centre. By the time you reach this stage in the recruitment process you will have evidenced to the employer that you have the skills needed to do the job, you will have fought off a huge amount of competition and now is your opportunity to show this in practice. You just have to show that you are the best candidate in the room, a supportive team player who works well with others.

If you are an avid GBBO viewer you will be aware of the format the show follows:

Signature Challenge

The Signature Challenge is a tried and tested bake that the contestant often makes for their family and friends. Think of this as an IT test; something you do often and are familiar with. You likely use Word and Excel for your course and it is just a case of applying your knowledge in a different setting. You can practise these in advance if you are nervous; use the self-help guides from Information Hertfordshire to remind yourself of the most commonly used formulae in Excel. There is information available about In Tray exercises and other word based tests on CareerHub.

Technical Challenge

The surprise! A bake using the ingredients and recipe provided by the judges but missing vital instructions designed to test the knowledge and skill of the bakers. The contestants have no knowledge in advance as to what the challenge is going to be. This is likely the most intimidating part of the experience and is like the group exercise portion of an assessment centre; you know it is coming but you have no idea about the topic. Here are some top tips to help you:

  • Read the information provided very carefully
  • Check how much time you have available
  • Be sure to take an active part in any discussions
  • See if there is an opportunity to stand out from the competition by volunteering to do a presentation

Whilst you might not know exactly what task you will be set you could attend a mock assessment centre in advance and get a better understanding of what sort of tasks will be used so you are more confident when faced with the real thing. You never know if you’re lucky the same topic could come up, just like the happy baker who is particularly adept at a pastry encrusted poached pear whilst everyone else is clueless.

Cake photo

Showstopper Challenge

Finally, a bake to impress the judges. This is like the actual Interview; it is your chance to really show what you can bring to the role, reflecting on your experiences and letting the employers knows about the skills you can bring to the company. Don’t forget that each part of the process is judged separately so if disaster strikes and you have a soggy bottom in the signature bake you can pull it back by acing the showstopper. The same applies with the assessment centre try to maintain a positive approach to each task.

But what happens if someone sabotages your ice cream?

It’s unlikely that you are going to have to make a Baked Alaska as part of your assessment centre but if something does go wrong then don’t storm off à la the Iain and Diana scandal. Show the employer that you can stay calm and professional even under pressure.

And most of all try to enjoy the experience. If you find you’re able to relax a little you might make new friends along the way and hopefully you will walk away with the most coveted Prize, the glass Bake off winners cake stand… Or even better, a Graduate Job.

If you want to be sure you have your interview technique perfected why not book a mock interview with a Careers Adviser before the real thing? You can do this through the CareerHub homepage.

Image Credit:ilkerender Mrs Magic via photopin cc

Helen Meyer Photo

Helen Meyer is a Careers Advisor in the Careers, Employment and Enterprise Service at the University of Hertfordshire

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