More healthcare employers are holding assessment days as part of their recruitment process. If you’re invited to an assessment centre, here’s how to prepare, what to expect, and how to impress on the day.
Why are they used?
‘Some employers use assessment days when recruiting a batch of nurses for a pool of jobs, but for many trusts, they’ve become a standard part of the recruitment process,’ says Cathy Taylor, Careers Advisor at the RCN.
Staff selection days aim to create an environment in which candidates can showcase a range of workplace skills and competences, giving the recruiter an idea of how they would perform in the actual job.
You may be assessed on communication, teamwork, problem-solving, task management and leadership skills, through activities like role-play, group discussion, presentations, psychometric assessments, and work sample tests.
Here are some of the types of tests you may encounter and what to expect.
Group exercises, sometimes called group discussions, are a common exercise used by employers. You will be presented with a workplace scenario or problem. The group must then discuss the issue and agree on the best course of action. The assessors are not evaluating the solution that the group comes up with, but each individual’s contribution and performance within the discussion.
You are being assessed on your communication, diplomacy, problem-solving, teamwork, persuasion and leadership skills, as well as your ability to work under pressure.
‘You need to support the group in completing the task that has been set. Show yourself as a good team player – flexible, full of ideas but willing to listen to and help expand the ideas of others,’ advises Cathy.
You need to contribute, but be careful not to dominate.
‘If you tend to dominate in groups, ensure you don’t talk over other people and listen carefully. If there are quieter members of the group, ask them their views and draw them into the discussion. If someone is being overbearing, don’t shout them down. Try to ensure everyone has the chance to contribute,’ says Cathy.
If you tend to keep quiet in group situations, do your best to participate.
‘Speak clearly and confidently. Remember to introduce yourself and refer to other people by name, which demonstrates your ability to build rapport. If you haven’t contributed many ideas, adopt the role of time-keeper, reminding the group to stay focused on the overall objective and summarising progress from time to time,’ adds Cathy.
Role-play exercises allow the recruiter to judge how well you interact with others, if you can think on your feet and how well you deal with conflict. The exercise usually takes place on a one-to-one basis, between you and a well-briefed actor, with the assessor observing. You will typically be given 10 minutes to read the briefing information, with the role-play exchange lasting for 20-30 minutes.
‘Keep in mind that you’re being measured on how well you demonstrate the required behaviours, not that you necessarily provide the “correct” answer. You generally won’t have time to explore issues in depth, so keep your line of questioning focused. The recruiters will assess your planning and analytical abilities by how well, and how quickly, you’re able to come to the main issue,’ says Cathy.
Verbal and numerical tests
Verbal tests assess your ability to understand written information and evaluate arguments based on the text. Numerical tests are designed to measure your understanding of tables of statistical and numerical data, as well as your ability to make logical deductions.
There are plenty of practice tests available, which will give you a good idea of what to expect. Visit http://www.shldirect.com/practice_tests.html and select verbal and numerical reasoning tests.
Occupational personality questionnaire
These are designed to give recruiters an idea of your personal attitudes and behaviours. The test is not concerned with your abilities and there are no right or wrong answers. Instead, it looks at how you see yourself, the way you relate to others, and how you deal with problems and challenging emotions. The test is taken online, and you’ll be sent a username and password to log into the site.
You can find practise tests at http://www.shldirect.com/personality_questionnaire_examples.html
Written and work sample tests
These are designed to measure your ability to carry out key aspects of the role. Before you sit the test, you will be given a full briefing and background information.
You may be given the presentation title on arrival at the assessment centre, and 30 minutes to prepare before you deliver it. Presentations normally last for 10 minutes and you may be given access to aids, such as PowerPoint and/or flipcharts.
Before the day
Read through the information the employer sends you. As well as details about the date, location and start time, it should also tell you how the day will be structured.
Check to see if you have to complete any tasks before the day. You may need to work on parts of a case study or create a presentation. Make sure you bring all documents you’ve been asked to bring.
Read the job description and person specification carefully – the skills and behaviours listed will be those that are evaluated at the assessment centre.
Practice skills you think you might be tested on, such as clinical skills and drug calculations, and practise role-play and giving presentations with colleagues to build your confidence.
Make use of your careers service. Many run practice sessions for assessment centres. You may be able to practice psychometric tests or attend sessions to help you prepare for group exercises.
On the day
To ensure you have a successful assessment, you need to make a good first impression. Be yourself, remember to smile, and approach tasks with enthusiasm. Listen and follow instructions carefully. If you’re unclear about anything, ask.
‘If you don’t perform well in one area, remember that you can make up for a weakness by doing well in another type of assessment, so don’t be disheartened if parts of the day don’t go well,’ says Cathy.
‘Try not to second guess what you’re being assessed on – but at the same time, assume that you’re being assessed at all times. Good luck!’
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