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ASSESSMENT CENTRES

• What are Assessment Centres?


• Types of exercises involved in an Assessment Centre
• Some final advice on Assessment Centres
• Other Resources

What are Assessment Centres?


Rather than being a place they are an event. They are useful because they
can assess a number of candidates at the same time and a wide range of
skills and capabilities related to the position.
Candidates take part in a number of assessment exercises and several
assessors will observe and rate each candidate on a set of pre-determined
competencies.
What are Competencies?
Competencies are similar to Selection Criteria. They are a set of pre-
determined skills identified as being required for the job or position that you
have applied for. Core competencies can include achievement orientation,
communication, motivation, initiative, teamwork, leadership and
adaptability. Also more recently, emotional intelligence.

Types of Exercises involved in an Assessment Centre


Targeted Selection Interviews
The Targeted Selection Interview (TSI) is a face-to-face interview that, as the
name suggests targets key competencies. The interviewer/s have been given
specific questions to ask and have also been given descriptions of the type of
information that the candidate needs to supply in their reply in order to fully
answer the question.
Before you panic, here are some hints to help you prepare for a TSI. As with
any interview you need to have thought of possible examples of times that
you have demonstrated the competency being asked about. Your example
needs to include:
Situation/Task: a situation/task that demonstrates your strengths in that
competency
Action: the action YOU took within that situation/task
Result: the results of your Actions during the situation/task
Interviewers are looking for a complete answer, so remember where
possible to give all the information and even though it can be difficult to
think on your feet do try to give your answer in a clear and logical order.

Aptitude Tests (Ability Tests)


These are given to measure your level of skill in key job
competencies/selection criteria.

They are generally online. They are not used as the sole decider on
whether you will succeed or not (or they shouldn’t be!), they are normally
used in conjunction with other information such as interviews or other
Assessment Centre activities.

These tests help the employer to know that they are getting the right
person for the job. They also help you in knowing where your strengths and
weaknesses lie. If you are required to undertake testing, be sure to ask for
feedback, unless it has been stated prior to test taking that feedback will
not be given.
The more commonly measured skills include:
•Verbal Reasoning: generally looks at spelling and grammar. Also may
measure your understanding of words, sentences and grammar and
exploring logical relationships
•Non-Verbal/Abstract Reasoning: generally will involve working out a rule
or principle and relating it to another set of instructions or the like
•Numerical Reasoning: from simple arithmetic to reasoning tests requiring
you to draw inferences from some numerical data and using this to solve
another problem
•Clerical Speed and Accuracy: measures speed and accuracy in
checking for errors in data etc and/or classification of sets of data
•Spatial Reasoning: looks at your ability to rotate shapes in space
•Mechanical Reasoning: diagrammatic mechanical problems for you to
solve

Personality Tests/Self Report Questionnaires


These are aimed at looking at tendencies or past behaviours to predict the
future. Studies have shown that often one of the best predictors of future
behaviour is past behaviour. This does not mean you should select
answers that seem the most desirable; some personality tests have validity
scales that measure how you have answered the questions. The key with
personality tests is honesty and common sense.

Presentations
Presentations are often used to assess your communication skills and your
ability to think on your feet. Often you will be told the topic prior to the day
of the Assessment Centre, at other times you may not be aware that you
are expected to present If this is the case you will generally be given 20-30
minutes to prepare your presentation. What qualities do you think the
assessors are looking for?

Role Plays
Role-plays are used to assess a variety of skills, ranging from customer
service to attention to detail. Normally one on one, you will be given a set
of information and instructions and time to prepare. You will then be
expected to assume the role given.
The assessor is generally looking for a desirable outcome to the given
situation which is that their needs are met satisfactorily. Some of the
qualities the assessors are looking for include: your problem solving skills,
how well you build rapport, your understanding of the situation/issues and
of course, your communication skills.
Group Exercise
The group exercise tends to be measuring skills such as teamwork and leadership
skills. The set up is similar to a Role Play, in that you will be given a set of
instructions and information regarding a situation/issue. After a set reading time you
will gather with your assigned group and work on
the situation/issue at hand, whilst the panel of assessors watch on.
It is important to remember to focus on group goals and objectives; it is easy to lose
sight of these if you are consciously trying to impress the assessors. Also
remember he/she who talks the loudest is not necessarily the most impressive.

Some final advice on Assessment Centres


Assessment Centres vary in time, from a few hours to the whole day. They are tiring
so make sure the night before you have a good night’s sleep and a healthy
breakfast. It is important to remain positive throughout the Assessment Centre and
to listen to and read carefully all instructions, and try to be yourself.

Other Resources
The Careers Resource Centre has some excellent books and videos on ability
testing which also include examples of question types, including:
•"Open the Door on Psychological Testing" by G Christie
•"How to Pass Selection Tests" by M Bryon & S Modha
•“How to Pass Computer Selection Tests" by S Modha
•"How to Pass Graduate Recruitment Tests" by M Byron. Photocopying
facilities are available in the Careers Resource Centre.

Good Luck!

CAREER SERVICE Phone +61 (0)2 9850 7372


MACQUARIE UNIVERSITY NSW 2109 Email careers@mq.edu.au
AUSTRALIA Web www.mq.edu.au/careers