I’ve recently been chatting to a number of Graduate recruiters, people whose job it is day in and day out to search for and select the graduates that will join their company and, hopefully, drive the future success of that organisation. I’m always asking what is it that separates the successful from the unsuccessful candidates at assessment centres. I get the same response time and time again, best summed up by this Head of Recruitment at an Investment Bank – “At the end of the day – do I like the person?”
Really? Is that all it’s about? Well, no, of course there’s more to the recruitment process than that. There are tests to perform, interviews to impress in and exercises to show what you can do, but … and it’s a big but … so much of it is simpler than all that …
Assessors. Walk a mile in their shoes….
They’re working hard for companies that are ambitious and demanding more and more of them, they’ve got pressing deadlines, clients and bosses to keep happy, and then they’ve been asked to take a whole day of their precious time to assess the next generation of graduates/interns. Many of them will enjoy this break from the norm and the buzz of meeting new people and seeing new talent, a few of them will be overstretched and frustrated. What they all have in common is that their day is about to get a whole lot better if they meet someone who greets them in a friendly and professional manner, is appreciative of their time and has bothered to do their homework so that they can clearly articulate what they’re going to offer to the company.
You’ll be assessed by many people
The great thing about assessment centres is that it’s a collective decision-making process. The chances are you’ll be assessed by at least 3 or 4 people throughout the day. So, even if you didn’t click with one person there are a number of others who’ve seen you too. But here’s the real crux; you’re not being assessed by 3 or 4 people, you’re probably being assessed by 10+ people that day. In fact, anyone you come across in the company. I know Directors who make a point of always asking receptionists what they thought of each candidate as they came in. Are you friendly and professional with everyone you meet? If not, chances are it’s been noted.
At a recent conference an employer panel featured managers and recruiters from the public sector, banking and pharmaceutical industries. They were asked “What are the things that make a positive or negative candidate at an assessment centre?” Barely were the words out of the audience member’s mouth when the answer shot back … “Oh, it’s the little things, how they come into the room, how they greet you”. Another panellist agreed, “Absolutely, it’s so annoying that candidates turn up and they’re not smart, they don’t look you in the eye and they have a limp handshake”. In chimed another panel member, “There’s no bigger switch off than when they don’t know about your business”. So, what is it that they wanted to see then? Some commercial understanding, some work experience examples to draw on in interview and natural enthusiasm and interest.
Body language counts!
So, while there is lots to prepare for with an assessment centre don’t forget to prepare a few basics too – smart suit on, turn up on time, shoulders back, looking up, smiling, firm hand shake. Display your genuine enthusiasm to be given the opportunity of the assessment centre. In return you might just cheer up someone’s day … and find yourself with a job offer.