No recruiters want candidates to fail. They've invested too much in the assessment process.
An assessment centre for a job with an investment bank, fund management or asset management firm typically lasts one or two days. It brings together a group of candidates who undertake a series of exercises and assessments. These can include group exercises, a presentation, a series of aptitude tests or a case study linked to the job function that you have applied for.
In this article we talk about assessment centres as if they are happening in a face-to-face environment. As of October 2020, social distancing restrictions mean that employers may run assessment days online instead. Check graduate careers sites carefully for details about what will be involved and contact recruiters if you would like more information about what to expect.
If you attend a virtual assessment centre, much of the advice in this article will still be relevant. We also have a new article specifically about virtual assessment centres.
What are graduate recruiters looking for at an assessment centre?
Assessors want to see:
- your enthusiasm and drive to work for the employer in that role
- your research on the company and the job
- that you have the required competences, eg organisation and communication skills. Every test, exercise and interview will match you against selection criteria outlined or implied in the recruitment literature
Group exercises on investment banking assessment days
Group exercises include discussion groups, exercises that involve role-playing a specific brief, leadership tasks, and, most commonly, job-related scenarios that test your ability to operate in a task that approximates the area you have applied for.
Remember that by your actions and words you must help the group to complete the task and promote your own cause. Be considerate of others’ views and offer to do a role of responsibility such as time keeping or note taker.
At some assessment centres you will be asked to give a presentation, usually to a mixed group of candidates and assessors. Here are a few ground rules:
- A structure is helpful to prevent your mind from going blank and will help the audience keep track too. Use whatever form of notes you feel comfortable with, but never speak from a script
- Don’t attempt to fit in too much information or your audience will switch off. Five minutes is only enough time to present four big ideas or messages
- Much of the message of your talk will be transmitted non-verbally, so your body language can make a huge difference to your presentation
- You may be invited to use a flipchart, an overhead projector (OHP) or Powerpoint slides – use these to your advantage to support and back up your presentation
Passing psychometric and personality tests
These are often used as part of the assessment process (although not necessarily at an assessment centre). You might have to retake tests you’ve already taken to prove that you can get the same results under pressured situations or take new ones.
General ability tests assess general intelligence. Expect to be asked to use complex information, in the form of words, numbers and diagrams, to solve problems using logical or lateral thinking.
Tests designed to examine specific abilities are also common. These are most likely to be numerical or verbal reasoning tests, which will be specific to the job you have applied for.
Personality tests help to give them a better picture of the kind of person you are. They are not in-depth analyses of your innermost thoughts and there are no right or wrong answers. To be successful, honesty is the best policy.
Just be yourself and try to relax – this will make the whole experience much more enjoyable for you and, as an added bonus, you’ll have a much better chance of making a good impression.
‘Candidates shouldn’t be too distracted by nerves,’ one recruiter told us. ‘Nobody wants them to fail! We have invested so much money in the recruitment process leading up to the assessment centre; we genuinely want them to do well and be the right people for us to recruit.’
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