Careers & Enterprise are currently running a programme called QConsult which is funded by the financial services firm J.P. Morgan. The scheme is open to high potential undergraduates at QMUL who may face barriers to finding employment. The scheme enables teams of four or five students to work on a mini consultancy project, helping a local business in a growth sector to solve a problem. This summer’s consultancy projects included helping a social enterprise incubator look at its social impact and enabling a video production company to improve its visibility.
For the summer round we had 82 applications and we selected the best 30 to take part in our assessment centre. We put students through their paces, replicating a typical assessment centre that one might experience as part of the recruitment round for a graduate scheme. As we were also supporting and training our students on the day, we gave them an insight into what we were be looking for.
The Team Work Exercises
On the day, students were split into teams of five, ensuring a good gender and discipline balance. They were then given two exercises to complete within their teams.
Exercise 1 required the team to imagine they were in a plane crash in the middle of the forest. They had to leave the plane as there was a risk of explosion. The team were provided with a list of 17 objects from which they needed to choose seven to take with them. They had 25 minutes to do this and five minutes to feed back the rationale for their choices.
Exercise 2 involved looking at one of the QConsult projects, asking teams to present on a variety of topics including how they would research the project and how they would manage their time as team.
How the Assessors Scored Participants in the Teamwork Exercises
Each team had an assessor closely watching individuals within each team. The assessors were looking for three key skills: teamwork, analytical skills and communication skills. Assessors awarded each participant either 0, 1 or 2 points for each of the skills. For teamwork, they were specifically looking for whether team members were listening to others, contributing to the discussion with thoughts and ideas, inviting others to contribute and being flexible/pragmatic. For communications skills, assessors were looking for the ability to explain their rationale for a decision and the ability to offer solutions to problems. For communication skills, they were looking for the ability to communicate ideas clearly, listening and summarising others’ views and diplomatically expressing themselves.
3 Top Tips from the Assessors
As assessors on the day, we would like to share three pieces of advice to help you if you ever attend an assessment centre.
Tip 1: Speak up! It is very difficult to judge or score someone if they are not articulating their thoughts or ideas. Your ideas do not need to be perfect but do contribute something. You are more likely to be marked low if you say very little than if you contribute, even if your ideas are not perfectly thought through. Assessors need to see your thought processes.
If other people are dominating, raise your hand to get attention and then say your piece!
Tip 2: Be Inclusive. Sometimes it is tempting to ‘take a lead’ and tell people what to do, in an effort to shine and prove yourself. We love confidence but don’t dominate the conversations at the expense of other people’s contributions. This is a teamwork exercise and contributions from a range of people will probably result in a more original and rounded outcome.
If people are not contributing, make an effort to bring them into the conversation. Ask them ‘What are your thoughts on this approach James?’ In addition, listen and consider each person’s contribution. Try to see some positives in what other suggest as well as being critical, if needed.
Tip 3: Don’t be late! This may seem obvious but it is worth mentioning because you’d be surprised how many times people are still late for assessment centres! Being late may lead the assessors to make certain assumptions about you, unless you have genuine mitigating circumstances. If you are late for the assessment centre they will question your commitment to the job. They may also start to conclude that your time management skills are poor and that you might not come to work on time or complete work projects on time.
Leave lots of time to get to the venue and practice the route if you have to. It is better to arrive early and have a cup of coffee than arrive stressed and hassled.
Careers Consultant for QConsult supported by J.P. Morgan