I have recently been focusing my attention on graduate programmes. In particular I’ve been interested in identifying patterns that are common across schemes. In order to build my picture I conducted some fairly straightforward research amongst the UK’s largest companies, specifically the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250.
The first thing to note is that while a high proportion of the bigger companies offer graduate programmes, they are less favoured amongst the cohort of smaller companies.
Something else of note is that almost every programme states a minimum entry standard of an upper second class degree or equivalent, usually this means a GPA score of between 300 and 350. They also typically expect a UCAS score of at least 300, sometimes more for specialist areas as opposed to general management.
The application period is usually in the autumn, and if a candidate gets through those two or three stages they will typically be invited to attend an assessment centre in the early part of the following year. Almost all schemes appear to include an assessment centre stage.
So what’s involved here? Assessment centres will involve any combination of the following activities:
- Group exercises, the purpose of which is to see how an individual contributes in a team environment. They often involve role play or group discussions.
- Presentations, where some information, data or case study will have been provided either on the day or in advance, and the objective is to see how the candidate analyses information, synthesises ideas, and/or communicates to a group.
- Psychometric inventories. Companies use a variety of tests to assess personality, ability and intelligence. These tests are also sometimes administered online before the assessment day. Occasionally, and more controversially, some tests have been developed to measure integrity and propensity to display anger. Correctly handled, the employer will use the test results to explore relevant matters in the interview.
- Work based exercises are sometimes used to see how well a candidate executes the type of task they might be required to perform in the job. They are often some type of problem solving (sometimes also done in a group setting) or as an in-tray exercise.
- Interviews are almost always a part of the process, sometimes linked to the other exercises, i.e. interview questions follow up on observations made during the activities. Other types of interviews are technical and competency based, and may be either be HR staff or line managers / departmental colleagues, and set up as one to one or panel.
These are the most common elements but it’s important to recognise that each company is looking for a particular combination of qualities and will possibly have specific tools to explore those factors.
This article only scratches the surface of the assessment centre. There is much to say about each of the above elements, not to mention the various stages that take place even before the assessment centre.
If you, or someone you know is interested in learning how to make the very most of their assessment centre experience, be it for a graduate scheme or other recruitment opportunity, I am running a special workshop on the subject on February 23rd in central London. Further details here https://event.bookitbee.com/e/c7nmy