How to be successful at a recruitment assessment centre

So you open an email about that facilities management job you really want, and – well, it’s good news and bad news. The good news is you’re through to the next round, so all that time spent on the application was worth it. The bad news is there’s an assessment centre.

However, an assessment centre needn’t be an ordeal, if you know what to expect and do some preparation. The great thing is that any work you do will be useful for all job assessments.

You can train for tests

Many assessment centre tests start by looking at your numerical, logical or abstracting reasoning. If you immediately think “I can’t do maths, this is hopeless,” you’re defeating yourself before you get there. You can raise your scores on all of these tests considerably by practising. Thanks to the internet, there are dozens of sample papers and questions you can use. Also, a visit to your local bookshop will pay dividends – there are books on how to pass numeracy or verbal reasoning tests.

Treat the assessment as you would the interview

Don’t imagine you can dress more casually because this isn’t the interview. The interviewing team may well be around, and first impressions count. So get there on time, dress smartly, have the appropriate kit with you – calculator, biro, pencil, eraser. Try not to look nervous and be polite to the reception staff – they are sometimes asked for their impressions of candidates!

Understand the role of the assessment

Most organisations do not rank candidates by result, then choose the top ranking candidate for the job. In many cases, as long as you have performed reasonably in terms of the requirements for the role, that’s enough. Sometimes, people who ace the tests are ruled out because the recruiter feels they wouldn’t be sufficiently challenged in the role and should perhaps be applying for a job that would use their skills more intensively.

Some people are very verbal, others very numeric – the assessment is simply to help build up the picture of what your strengths and weaknesses are, not judge your ability to do percentages, for example.

Psychometric personality tests

These are the tests that candidates often feel most uncomfortable about, but there’s no reason to worry about them. Think of them as the “round peg, square hole” tests. The employer is trying to make sure that the sort of person they need is the sort of person you are. Otherwise, they run the risk of recruiting someone who doesn’t fit in, doesn’t enjoy the job and leaves soon after arriving. That’s an expensive mistake for the employer.

Psychometric tests are not about how nice you are, how successful you are, whether you are a people person, or any other qualities. It’s about whether your behaviour profile is likely to sit well with the job behaviour profile. Even in a specific field, such as facilities management, someone could take a test and the results could rule them out of one job but make them the preferred candidate for another role.

So practice the test skills you can improve on, and as for the personality test – don’t take it personally – it’s not a judgement on you.