I was hoping to publish this post last week but got caught up in the Easter break and so it’s a little bit late (sorry!). But anyway, I wanted to chat about my experience a couple of weeks ago with an assessment centre…
Now, until I came to university, I didn’t even realise that assessment centres existed let alone what one was, but once you’ve looked at a few job posts it’s not long before you get an understanding of what they’re about. For those that probably aren’t so familiar, assessment centres are becoming increasingly common during the job application process nowadays and are often used when hiring larger numbers of people or for assessing skills which wouldn’t normally come across very well in an interview (like your leadership skills or how you interact with a group). For jobs in scientific research or manual work they’re not normally that useful but are a lot more common in teaching jobs or the business side of retail.
The assessment centre was for a tutoring position that was available to all PhD students across the university to apply to be a mentor for A-level students who are part of a progression programme that is offered. These sorts of programmes are intended for students that are doing well at school but come from backgrounds where finding out about and applying to university is not easily accessible. The whole idea is to give these students a taste of what studying at a university can be like, and how they can get the information and experience they need for them to be able to apply for a degree. Whilst I was studying for my A levels, I also had the chance to take part in something very similar at Leicester which was one of the deciding factors in my choice to study here and so I thought how great it would be to get involved with other young people that are now taking part.
This was my first ever invite to an assessment centre and so I was really intrigued to find out what it would be like. When I arrived at the venue I was asked to sign-in, given a name badge and assigned a number ready for the group activities later. There were around 20 of us in total, split into 4 groups and to kick off the afternoon we had a brief introduction activity where we all had to introduce ourselves, our research, and why we were applying for the job. This then led onto a briefing session where we were all given information about what the purpose of the role was and what would be expected of us if we were successful. The last half of the session then had another interactive session where we had to work together in our smaller groups to categorise good and bad research questions and then present our opinions back to the rest of the big group. To finish there was a short question and answer session for anybody to get a final chance to ask any further questions that they hadn’t had answered during the afternoon.
Overall, I had a really great experience with the assessment centre and I have since been offered a position as a student tutor! I really liked the fact that the afternoon consisted of both a briefing and assessment activities because I know it really helped me to relax knowing what was expected of me throughout the session. There was also a really nice feeling of being able to decide whether the job was right for me (and not just them assessing whether I was right for the job) which you definitely don’t experience during an interview. I know some people are put off jobs that require passing an assessment centre and I know that this one was probably a bit more informal than others, but I definitely found it a surprisingly enjoyable experience. And a whole lot easier than being interrogated in an interview.
What are other people’s experiences of assessment centres? Do you find them easier than interviews or prefer the more traditional approach?