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May 03, 2017
Assessment Centre – to go, or not to go?
By: Halimah Awan

Being a bit of an introvert, the words “assessment centre” filled me with dread and reminded me of the kind of reaction people had towards ‘He Who Must Not Be Named’ in Harry Potter. These two words sent shivers down my spine and I’d often found myself asking if I really did want to continue with the application process. However, coming from a family of successful individuals, I knew I had to push myself out of my comfort zone – and boy am I glad I did!

After carrying out the initial assessment centre activities i.e. check-in, getting a visitor’s tag, and awkwardly trying to make small talk with the other equally nervous candidates, we were led up to a small meeting room. Taking a quick look around, I instantly realised how ethnically diverse this company was. I’d been to other assessment centres, but none had looked so much like the United Nations. Every single person in the room was of a different ethnicity, and I don’t mean just the candidates.

We started with an ice-breaker, which was a 60 second talk about any topic. I remember mine was breakfast, which wasn’t great for someone who’d skipped it that day (due to nerves of course, I’m not a daily skipper). I think I rambled on about not eating that morning and how I hadn’t eaten breakfast for several days because it was Ramadan. One by one we spoke for a minute, which seemed to make us more comfortable with each other. The small talk we had started in reception quickly developed into more meaningful conversations and discussions. However, this didn’t last long as the group of ten was soon split into two groups of five.

The group task was actually the part I had been stressing about – what was the brief going to be like? What if I didn’t understand what was required? What if I didn’t have any ideas? What if I was put off by the assessors? And numerous other questions that run through your mind when you’re in a tricky situation. Yet it turned out that my stress had been for nothing. The brief we were given was comprehensible, by asking questions to others in the group I quickly understood what was required. The ice-breaker had worked well. Each one of us had spoken, embarrassed and laughed at each other within 10 minutes of meeting, so asking a question or two about the brief wasn’t hard. Putting forward my ideas is usually not my strongest point, but as we bounced off each other, I found it a lot easier and very quickly became comfortable in my surroundings. If someone had a relevant point, we picked this up and added to it. If there was a quieter member, we worked together to make them more involved and sooner than expected the most stressful part was over. Oh, the assessors? They sat on the other end of the table and I completely forgot that they were even there.

Post this experience, I learnt three things:

  1. Don’t be Monica Geller and try to control every situation. The assessment centre is to see how you can work in a team, prove that you can listen to others as well as put across your own point. Demonstrate that even though you may be strong headed like Rachel you also know your barriers.
  2. Where you can, be Chandler Bing and add humour, or bring something new to the group. Recruiters look for individuality – if you have it, show it. Don’t be Ross and be negative.
  3. Be like Phoebe Buffay, and always voice your opinions (well, most of the time) – bounce your ideas off people and ask questions. Everyone’s in the same situation and if you work together the likelihood of you passing this stage is higher than if you work against each other. Support each other like Joey supports his friends.

In hindsight, nerves can be a hindrance, but in reality, ‘he who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.’

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