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Getting Through Assessment Centres (Part 2)

In last week’s blog we looked at assessment centres and discussed that whilst most companies have their own variations on how they like to run these, there are generally four core components that you will have to go through;

  • A case study
  • A group exercise
  • A role playing / selling exercise (for sales based roles)
  • Psychometric testing

 We explored the case study component in significant detail last time, as this is usually the most time consuming part of the assessment. So this week we’ll cover the remaining three components.


Group exercises

If your assessment centre involves a group exercise then you’ll be placed into a group with some or all of the other candidates (and in some instances actors) who you’re in competition with, and be asked to undertake a task whilst being assessed for the skills associated with the job.

This will feel like a really un-natural thing to be asked to do, as it puts you eye to eye with the very people you’re competing against. As a result, you’ll be put under a very different set of pressures to working alone, however this is precisely why this type of activity is used, as it provides the assessor with a more holistic view of your capabilities and personality traits.

The key is to remain optimistic, open minded, logical and most of all calm. If someone’s trying to dominate the group, you’re going to need to find a way to assert yourself without causing an argument!

From experience, candidates that we've worked with have been exposed to a range of different group exercises such as;

  • Discussing a business issue then finding and presenting back a proposed solution
  • Working through a written case study together (possibly linked to your individual case study)
  • Discussing current affairs or industry specific topics such as what people think the future strategy should be regarding the NHS

If you’d like to read more about the different types of group exercises that are used in assessment centres then simply Google search ‘assessment centre group exercises examples’ and you’ll find a wealth of unlimited examples you can review.

Role Playing / Selling Exercises

Role playing exercises in Pharma assessment centres usually follow a similar format where the participants are given a fictitious scenario, some detailed ‘inside information’ and some outcomes that are needed to be achieved.

You’ll be given time to prepare for the role play, so just like with the case study, use this time to really think about the key issues in the briefing pack and what you need to do to overcome them. You should also use the time to get into character as the assessors will want to be able to picture how you communicate in real-life. Some hiring managers believe your ability to act is a reflection on your ability to sell!

The context of the role play could be anything from a Key Opinion Leader refusing to endorse your product through to an influential GP with a poor understanding about your drug which is leading to it being excluded from local guidelines. It might also be set outside of the Pharma industry, as the core skills they’re looking for should ideally be transferrable across industries, so be prepared for anything.

If you’re applying for a Sales Manager job you may have to meet with a difficult or poor performing member of your team to uncover what the issues are and create a plan to manage their performance. You’ll be expected to remain emotion free, objective and open minded. By the end you’ll need to have a clear path laid down as to what you see as the issues, what you expect as an outcome and what the consequences will be if things don’t turn around.

Role Playing

Some people struggle to get into character for role playing exercises, however it’s important to remember that this is a critical part of convincing the assessors you can do the job, so remember that you’re only going to get credit for what you say and how you act. Here are some top tips we always give candidates;

  • Create a plan based on the brief. Write down your pre (and then post) discussion objectives
  • Draw up a list of questions you want to ask. Make sure you use open questions to expand on the conversation (who, what, where, why, how)
  • Use active listening by paraphrasing the responses you get to confirm you have understood the person you’re speaking to. Pick up on and mirror their terminology
  • Use your ears and mouth in proportion (i.e. listen twice as much as you speak)
  • Once the conversation is underway you’re going to have to be flexible and think on your feet a little, so don’t get flustered if the discussion goes off track. Just revert to your pre-call objectives and questions to keep you on track for a good outcome
  • Read up on body language to help reinforce everything you say

Psychometric testing

The ‘psychometric test’ is assessing your ability and methodology of using your brain, so don’t be fooled into thinking this is the easy part of the assessment or that there are no right and wrong answers.

There are a number of different tests or components of tests that employers use;

  • Verbal reasoning: one of, if not the most important test in sales based roles (for obvious reasons)
  • Numerical reasoning: also commonly used in the commercial world
  • Logical reasoning: especially important if you’re going for a managers role (either now or in the future)
  • Personality tests: which is about investigating your working preferences and character traits

To prepare to succeed you should search the internet for ‘online psychometrics tests’ where you will find a wealth of resources that you can utilise and get a feel for how they work to give yourself the best chance of success. Take a few tests and sense check your answers to work out where and how you can maximise your score. And as always, keep calm and carry on to the end of the test.

One important tip is do not worry if you don’t finish the Verbal or Numerical Reasoning tests. It is very common for people to run out of time. Don’t rush through it - make sure that what you do complete is to the very best of your ability.

Right, you’re done! If you’ve put the thought and preparation into your assessment centre in line with the advice we’ve given in the last two blogs, then you’ve done everything within your grasp to convince the employer to hire you.

You’re probably feeling pretty tired right now so go home, relax and forget about everything until tomorrow. Well done!

If you’re interested in looking at your career options and would like to speak to a member of the team simply call 0131 553 6644 or email