Assessment centres / Job market

How to do well in an assessment centre group task

The group exercise is a common part of many assessment centres as it allows an employer to see how you react in a job simulation whilst working with others. Teamwork is a skill that you will see crop up on many job advertisements and, even when not explicitly stated, it will likely be a crucial skill for most graduate roles and internships.

What is the group task?

A group task at an assessment centre is usually a discussion-based task with a set brief that requires you to work with other candidates to reach a conclusion. Now, that is quite a vague description but this is because a group task will be specifically designed to draw on similar skills or scenarios to the role you’re applying to. You could be presented with a brief for a task that you could very well be faced with in the day-to-day of this role should you be offered it.

the group task…

On other occasions, applicants have been given a hypothetical task that is completely unrelated to the job (e.g. you’re stranded on a desert island, what three items would your group take with you?). Either way, the purpose will be to see how you put the skills required for the role into action. You may also need to present back your ideas to the assessors at the end. Make sure that you achieve what the brief is asking in the time that you have.

What is an employer assessing you on?

This, too, will vary from employer to employer. Some employers may share information as to what they’re looking for in their invitation to an assessment centre but most will keep their assessment criteria under wraps. The reason for this is that they want you to act as you typically would in this situation so that they can get a genuine feel for how you work within a team and how you make decisions. So be authentic to the decisions and actions you would make and don’t try to perform what you think the employer wants to see or imitate those around you – go with what you think is best.

One thing that is clear is that there isn’t necessarily a right answer to what you are doing. The activities are subjective and the assessors are much more interested in seeing how you come to a conclusion as a group than just the conclusion you reach. Assessors will observe you continually throughout the activity, not just when you might be asked to present back your ideas. There could be as many as one assessor per candidate present. They will want to see that you have taken all of the brief into consideration and that you have worked together effectively.

So how can you make sure that you show your ability to work as part of a team?

Typically, people working within a group will fall into specific roles naturally when coming together. This doesn’t mean that you will always fulfil the same role when participating in a group activity nor does it mean that any one role is what an assessor is looking for. More so, it means that there are several ways that you can contribute to the efforts of the group.

Work together and everyone can succeed

Some people are more confident as initiators – suggesting ideas to help the group reach an agenda. Others may be more confident developing those ideas into something tangible or mediating between conflicting ideas within the group. Whatever you feel most confident contributing to on the day will be helpful so be sure to get stuck in with the task at hand.

How you interact with your fellow candidates will be crucial.

Praise ideas that you think are effective and provide reasons for what you are thinking. Use your teammates’ names when you address them and develop on what they are saying to keep the conversation flowing. Use open body language: face people when they are speaking and use physical affirmations to show that you are really listening to what they are saying. Nodding, smiling and employing good eye contact will go a long way in making your teammates feel comfortable as well as highlighting that you can actively listen to your co-workers.

If you have the opportunity to meet your fellow candidates between activities on the day, say ‘hi’ and get to know them. A team that knows each other, even in a small capacity, will work better together.

Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that your fellow candidates are not your competition here. An employer could progress everyone or no one to the next stage of selection but shouting over your teammates to make sure you are seen is not going to be perceived as a team player. Work together and everyone will be able to show their collaborative working ability.

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