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What to expect from an assessment centre for a consumer products graduate scheme

Graduate recruiters use assessment centres to assess candidates' skills in action. Key competencies are often assessed using a range of tasks including group exercises, presentations and social situations.

The assessment centre is the last stage in the graduate recruitment process and consists of a day or two days of activities undertaken with a group of other candidates. Assessors want to see candidates putting their skills into practice in a range of situations that are closer to the everyday reality of working life than the traditional job interview. Candidates are usually set a mixture of individual and group exercises. One of the key skills tested at an assessment centre is teamworking, and you should aim to make a positive contribution to group exercises without being domineering.

Assessment centre exercises for consumer goods roles

The assessment centre is likely to consist of some combination of the following:

  • Social time (unlikely to be formally assessed)
  • Group exercise, often a discussion
  • Case study, often combined with either the group discussion or presentation
  • Presentation
  • Confirmation psychometric test
  • Interview or interviews (expect competency-based questions)

Danone invites candidates to take part in a video interview before selecting applicants to invite to its assessment centre, the Danone Leadership Academy, which includes group exercises and numerical and verbal tests.

Not all consumer goods companies run assessment centres; Procter & Gamble makes its final selection based on two rounds of further interviews. Unilever calls its assessment centre day a selection day.

How to handle social time at a consumer goods assessment centre

Assessment days are structured, relatively formal occasions, but include social times that are more free-form. It’s important to remember that even if you are not being assessed, your behaviour will make an impression. Be friendly but professional, and do chat with other candidates at break times or over meals. Remember that assessors are trying to get an idea of how you would fit into the workplace, and aim to behave the way you would in the office if you got the job.

The assessment centre is likely to be attended by a mixture of representatives of the company. Recent graduates, recruiters and senior managers or directors may all be present. Be prepared to play it by ear – if you find yourself sitting next to the head of the department you’ve applied to at dinner, you’re going to need to try to make conversation. On the other hand, you should avoid being overfamiliar or unduly pushy.

Recruiters and senior employees are likely to want to put you at ease in social situations, so they can see you at your best. Try to be responsive and take your cues from them.

What to expect from the group exercise

The group exercise may be a discussion based on a briefing paper, and the group may be expected to explore different possible courses of action based on the information they have been given. For example, the discussion may be about budgets or strategies. It is likely to last for around an hour.

What to expect from the presentation task

L’Oréal asks each candidate to study a briefing pack and give a presentation on the course of action they recommend. The nature of the case study and the presentation depends on the graduate scheme applied for. For example, a candidate for the commercial scheme might be invited to pitch a product line to a store.

The presentation exercise is also an individual task at the Unilever selection day, rather than being undertaken by a group.

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