If you are invited to an assessment centre then it will probably involve at least buffet lunch or in some cases an evening dinner. This is the part of the recruitment process that is not formally assessed and is meant to be an informal way for you to find out more about the organisation and its values.
However, these social events do provide the assessors with an opportunity to see how you engage with your peers and to see what questions you ask incumbent managers and recent graduates. They also provide an opportunity for the assessors to see how you act in an informal social environment. The assessors need to be confident that you are going to be a good ‘ambassador’ for the organisation, particularly if your role is likely to involve socialising with clients or people from other organisations.
No one is expecting you to display the wit of Oscar Wilde or the etiquette of a Victorian courtier, but the ability to engage in polite conversation with strangers and to behave socially within the conventional norms is essential.
It is all too easy to disparage small talk and etiquette as being irrelevant, out-of-date and at odds with modern notions of unbridled self expression. This attitude is fairly common among people who have not spent much time outside of their own peer group and who therefore fail to see the relevance of a more or less universally agreed ‘code of behaviour’ which transcends age, background and social class. Whatever the merits of this argument, the fact remains that employers want people who know ‘how to behave’ socially.
Approaching Other People
If there is a coffee break or buffet then your main aim is to chat with as many people as possible in order to show off your social skills.
If you are being introduced to someone, first look at the introducer and then at the person you are meeting and if offered shake hands. Listen carefully to their name and repeat it in conversation as soon as possible to help you remember it.
If someone approaches you, then you should give them your full attention. Listen for any information that you can use to formulate a question and get the conversation going.
If you wish to approach someone or a group of people, do it from front so that they can see you coming. Say the other person’s name if you know it; if not, smile put out your hand and say ‘Hello I’m ………’ then add some information that will identify you and /or outline the reasons for presenting yourself.
If you want to move on to another individual or group then you need to do this politely and take into account that the people you are with should be acknowledged before you move on.
It is a good idea to indicate your empty coffee cup or glass and say ‘I think I’ll go for a refill, it was nice speaking to you’ or something similar.
If others have joined your conversation and it is not possible to move on without
interrupting things it is still important to make eye contact and leave with a smile or a wave.
If you are being selected for a management or graduate level position then it is a good idea to brush up on your knowledge of current affairs and global news. The international publication ‘The Economist’ is probably the most useful publication to study for this purpose. It is published weekly, is widely available and covers world & business news in an appropriate level of detail.
You should also read the most recent copies of any relevant industry specific magazine or newspaper. This will enable you to discuss any topical issues that crop up over lunch or coffee. You may feel that this level of preparation is 'over the top'. If so, then try to imagine yourself engaged in a discussion where you don't have the faintest idea what the other participants are talking about, and knowing that the assessors are listening critically to your contribution. At the very least, this kind of experience will undermine your confidence and cause you to under-perform, even on exercises that you have prepared for.
In addition to being up-to-speed on the latest industry and world news, being good at small talk is an impressive asset. It creates the impression that you are a relaxed and confident person and that you would be a good representative for the organisation, especially if your future role involves client contact.
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What is an Assessment Centre?
Who uses the Assessment Centre?
What are the Different Types of Assessment Centre?
What Format Does an Assessment Centre Take?
Who are the Assessors?
What are Assessment Centre Exercises?
What is an In-Tray Exercise?
What is a Presentation Exercise?
What are Group Exercises?
What are Role Play Exercises?