Making the Grade; These Days the Global Players Want to Have a Good Look at How You Perform and What Kind of Personality You Are before Offering You a Job. Margaret Coles Reports on Assessment Centres Designed to Do Just That

Article excerpt

Byline: MARGARET COLES

IF you are aiming for a job in management you may find that the familiar routine of an interview, handshake, and letter in the post no longer applies. You may be asked to go to an assessment centre, the option favoured by many large companies, including sector leaders such as PricewaterhouseCoopers and Unilever.

Group exercises, presentations and a variety of tests may await you. These can include psychometric tests of your spatial reasoning, maths ability and verbal fluency, and others to assess your personality. And this is all before you even start the job.

Huw Thomas, 22, a graduate trainee accountant at PWC, spent half a day at an assessment centre. Thomas, from Llandysul, near Carmarthen, had already passed an initial interview and maths tests. He recalls: "Six of us took part in a discussion. We were put at our ease, and it was made clear that we were not in competition: each would be assessed on his merit. We spent an hour trying to solve a problem facing an imaginary company."

Group discussions are designed to test your ability to present reasoned arguments, listen, negotiate, be assertive, work with others and lead. Thomas says: "You have to take an active part but not dominate the discussion."

He also had an in-depth interview with a partner. "I had a clear idea of what they were looking for and had prepared," he says. "I treated it as a two-way thing. I asked about training - I wanted to be sure of being trained for an accountancy qualification - and how the company was developing its future direction."

Lunch was taken with people in the first and second years of the graduate training programme.

"We could talk freely about what it was like to work here, day-today," explains Thomas. "It confirmed two things that are very important to me -- that I would have responsibility at a very early stage and that I'd be working in a team."

Dr Harry Tolley, of Nottingham University's School of Education, says many good candidates fail to do themselves justice because they do not know what to expect on the day. …

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