Interviews / Job market

Assessment Centres – 5 Lessons from the Bake Off Tent

If you have got through to an assessment centre, well done! Give yourself credit for getting to this stage in the recruitment process. There are quite a number of parallels between a typical assessment centre and The Great British Bake Off (bear with me, read on…)

Selection, highs and lows, going away and meeting new people, friendly judges (well hopefully) who want you to put in a good performance but who ultimately may need to say goodbye to you. Even if you aren’t successful, you are going to leave a better baker/candidate than when you arrived and learn something from your experience.

You may be nervous about what your assessment centre will entail. I’m sure that all the Bake Off competitors had similar nerves. So here are five lessons we can learn from GBBO to help you succeed and avoid your very own Baked-Alaska gate or soggy bottom moments.

kitchen utensil1) Preparation is key

Many of the successful contestants on GBBO spent hours at home perfecting their bakes and bringing in lovingly-made, intricate and creative displays to showcase their bakes. They carefully considered what equipment or gadgets they would need in advance. Often recruiters will re-test you at assessment centres, to make sure you really did complete those tricky online tests and that your clever friend didn’t do them for you – so make sure you have your pencils, pens, rubber, calculator and wrist-watch (not a mobile phone!) to keep track of the time.

Recipe Card2) Read the instructions

Not reading the instructions, even if Paul Hollywood has emphasised this very carefully, has been the downfall of many a Bake Off contestant. Fans will recall many bakers forgetting to add an essential ingredient or omitting a vital method. Whether tackling an individual or group exercise, take time to check you have understood what you are meant to be doing.  This will ensure you keep on track and don’t go off at a tangent.

Children Baking at School3) Show team spirit and participate

GBBO is designed as a competition but you can’t help but love the contestants who finish their bakes early and run over to lend a hand to those struggling to finish icing their bakes on time. Showing support for potential work colleagues is a quality which will score you brownie points (Yes, sorry that was a really bad one – I can hear the groans!). If you are struggling to come up with a creative idea of your own in a group exercise, speak out and tell other group members that you like their ideas. If you fail to contribute anything to a group discussion (just as Iain Watters didn’t have anything to be judged on having tipped his melted Baked Alaska into the bin), the assessors won’t be able to score you.

Group of friends eating cupcakes4) Highlight your unique selling points/ ingredients

If an individual interview forms part of your assessment centre, this is your chance to show your unique strengths and how they apply to the company. Just as the Bake Off competitors who added lavender or goldenberries to their bakes are memorable, think about what you want your special ingredient to be? What will make the recruiter look back and say, I really enjoyed meeting the candidate who told us all about setting up their own ‘Cupcakes for Charity’ Society – ‘they’ve got lots of get-up-and-go!’.

Woman Looking Inside Fridge Full Of Unhealthy Food5) Enjoy the process but don’t over-indulge

Assessment centres are designed to simulate the work environment, it’s a two way process. So, ask yourself – are you enjoying the tasks? If not, this could mean you won’t like working for that organisation. Mel and Sue’s banter in BBC One’s version of GBBO certainly helps the contestants to have fun and relax.  If there is a social element to your assessment centre you could be sat next to a future boss at a formal dinner, so don’t relax too much and make sure you keep your conversation professional.

Some contestants have added booze to their bakes with mixed success. I certainly remember Mary Berry’s reaction when she took a bite of drizzle cake with rather a lot of gin in it. Don’t be tempted by a free bar or alcohol at your assessment centre. A recruiter recently told Warwick careers staff that they had caught one cheeky candidate helping themselves to beverages in a fridge to take home with them!

On a final note, if you are reading this and are about to attend an assessment centre, I hope that you rise to the occasion (look out for my stand up tour in the summer) and that you are rewarded in true Star Baker fashion with a job offer or proceed to the next stage in the process.

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