If your application for a school leaver programme is successful, you might be invited to an assessment day. “A whole day?” I hear you cry. Yes, that’s right! The final step of the assessment process may well last a whole working day.
Just because you’re a school leaver it doesn’t mean that employers will go easy on you. Many companies put school leaver candidates though the same assessment processes as graduates.
This might all sound rather daunting, but don’t worry! You won’t be taken into an interrogation room and pummelled with questions for 24 hours whilst an incredibly bright light is shined directly into your eyes! You will, however, be assessed using a number of different methods, such as group exercises, psychometric tests and face-to-face interviews.
So what actually is an assessment day?
Large employers use assessment days to test candidates’ suitability for school leaver programmes. These extended assessment sessions are usually saved for applicants in the penultimate or final stage of the application process, so if you’re invited to one, you’ve got every right to be delighted. The employer already thinks you’ve got the skills to pay the bills; they just want to put you through your paces to confirm the potential you’ve already shown on your application form.
Assessment days are designed to be the most accurate and fair way of testing your suitability for a school leaver programme. They usually involve a mixture of tests, interviews, and exercises; all of which will give you the opportunity to demonstrate your brilliance to the recruiters. Therefore, if you mess up one exercise, you can pull it back by excelling in the others.
What does an assessment day involve?
The format of an assessment day will vary from company to company. It might involve a series of interviews: such as group, panel and individual interviews, or you may be required to complete a range of tests, group exercises and interviews. You may be asked to give a short presentation or perhaps even complete a written exercise, an in-tray exercise or a ‘case study’ exercise.
Often, assessment day exercises are designed to reflect the type of work you’ll be doing during your school leaver programme. The employer will also be looking for other qualities, such as leadership skills, communication skills and how well you work as part of a team.
As part of the assessment day, you might be required to sit a psychometric, aptitude or numerical reasoning test. But, of course, an assessment day doesn’t just involve hours upon hours of testing. You will also get the opportunity to meet managers, recruiters and current trainees at information sessions or social events. These are an ideal opportunity for you to find out more about the company and its culture.
How can I prepare for an assessment day?
You might want to meditate non-stop for seven days and seven nights; you might want to get back to nature and live in a tree house for a few days; or you might want to strut around your house, pulling shapes and psyching yourself up like Usain Bolt. However, we’d recommend that you research the company thoroughly first.
Get on the internet and check out the company’s website. Do a cheeky search on Google and read any recent articles about the company. You might also want to think about your own strengths and weaknesses and what you feel you can bring to the school leaver programme.
The first and last thing you should do, however, is go back through the job description and your application form to refresh your memory. Without a doubt, the majority of the interview questions you’ll be asked will be based on what you said in your application and the key attributes they are looking for in a candidate.
There will probably also be a social event incorporated into the day, so prepare a list of questions you want to know about the company to ask the current employees.
What about during the assessment day?
You should treat the assessment day like any job interview and go dressed in smart business attire, so put that old pair of jeans and that ‘I Climbed Snowdon the Hard Way’ t-shirt back in the wardrobe.
One of the biggest challenges at the assessment day will be keeping focused. It’ll be a long tiring day, so it’s important to stay motivated. Pay close attention to any instructions and make sure you pace yourself during timed tests.
The employers will also be interested in how you interact with others. Be sociable, polite and friendly. Shake hands with everyone you meet, unless it’s the bus driver on the way to the assessment day.
There’s not much point in trying to scupper the chances of the other candidates. There will usually be more than one place on the school leaver programme up for grabs anyway. Don’t try to trip the others up! After all, you might find yourself working alongside a few of them in the future.